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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 11/30/04
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Once again, we take a look at some of the books coming out this week, paying careful attention to one that deserves your attention and your hard-earned shekels...

Deadshot #1
writer: Christos N. Gage
artists: Steven Cummings and Jimmy Palmiotti

Once upon a time, Batman had a minor enemy named Deadshot. Originally presented as one of many mirror images of Bruce Wayne, Floyd Lawton languished in relative obscurity until DC took a chance on reviving the Suicide Squad in the eighties. Maybe not all that surprisingly, that book, written by John Ostrander, sparked a die-hard following that also catapulted Deadshot into the spotlight - one that the character as written by Ostrander would absolutely shun.

As his name suggests, the character's power is unerring aim. Strangely enough, the name "Bullseye" was already taken. What made Deadshot interesting was a conflict between his cold professionalism that overtook his private life and the deep-seated desire to take care of his own. Of course, things did not go well, as a throwaway reference in his new mini-series grimly attests. If you don't know Floyd, then let it be a sick surprise.

The past may be past, but for a character like Deadshot, who tends to kill things rather than truly deal with them, it's ironically never dead. And so writer Christos N. Gage can construct a scenario that echoes Deadshot's situation in the pages of Suicide Squad and a late eighties mini-series without seeming outright derivative.

Despite a loner attitude, he still finds himself working within a team. This time, however, it's a strictly mercenary proposition, not one where the leader could blow his arm off by remote. As long as he's "alive, free and ...paid" he's fine. Though Killer Frost (which one? I don't know -- Firestorm has me very confused) offers Floyd intimacy, he cuts her off simply. "I want a service performed, I go to a professional. Everything else is a waste of time." There's no malice. For that matter, there's no anything.

When a past (and a future) he didn't even know he had rears its head, he goes about securing it with the same mechanical detachment. And therein lies Gage's tale.

A character like Deadshot taking center stage can be hard to root for. Nothing about Gage's writing compromises that. Ultimately, you may find Deadshot's goals for this story noble, but he himself is not. Because of this, I'll also lay odds that it won't end well for any of the characters concerned (the previous mini-series was also infamously bleak).

Yet the characterization is strong and interesting. For a taciturn man, Deadshot does a lot of talking, overplaying the man of few words by repeating them over and over. (A trick mimicked in his animated Justice League appearance.) The rest of his teammates, though not given much space, have distinct personalities. Whichever one she may be, for example, this Killer Frost is not a man-hater without being man-hungry in its place.

Using Cummings and Palmiotti on art also provides an interesting twist. The storyline would seem to call for something gritty, but this combo has something clean and precise in style, just as Deadshot himself would be. Even scenes in "the projects" are well-lit. It's not exactly a brightly colored world, but there has to be an acknowledgment that Deadshot and his ilk are still costumed characters. The art team has, however, redesigned Lawton's costume to seem much more believable without losing his "super" appearance.

Welcome back, Deadshot. I hope you do better this time.

Runners Up:

Captain America and the Falcon #10: I'm actually a little confused by the events in this book, but I really like the concept of M.O.D.O.K. The character gets a bit of a redesign with this storyline, and if you like giant heads that slaughter everything in sight, this book is for you.

Exiles #55: Welcome to a world in which Kulan Gath was never beaten back by the X-Men. Instead, somebody else got him. As a result, even the dimension-hopping Exiles have no idea who they once were, forced into an existence as wild refugees from a game of Dungeons and Dragons.(tm) It's fun, with a few good twists. Only the surprise ending won't come as a surprise to those that have been paying attention.

Justice League Unlimited #4: DC has usually done a good job with these child-friendly books, which are everything people claim we need more of in the industry. The stories are accessible, well-told and stand-alone. This issue takes place on Rann, and though the Justice League's presence is almost superfluous to that of Adam Strange, it's still a fun book with a nice thought-provoking theme for kids.

Spider-Girl #81: Amazing Fantasy blinked. The girl appearing there is about to be relaunched as "Arana," which is fine and dandy because I've now read Spider-Girl, and Arana is no Spider-Girl. Once upon a time this book was set in the future, but I'm guessing that the future caught up and now we just call this alternate reality. No matter; like Justice League Unlimited, this is quality stuff for kids. They won't wonder why Mayday Parker tends to recap her situation aloud; they'll be grateful that somebody let them into the storyline. Marvel seems to be leaving this title out of "Marvel Age" for no better reason than spite; it's definitely one of the strongest all ages books they have.

Sight Unseen:

New Avengers #1: Quit your whining, you Hawkeye loving babies. Wolverine and Spider-Man are here as the new Abbot and Costello, and the world's a better place. Okay, so maybe I'm not that sold on this book, but it looks to be interesting. Forget the mawkish and vaguely ridiculous Finale and check out this rebirth.

The Ultimates v.2 #1: Speaking of rebirths..."widescreen" action at its best. Considering the tawdry relationship of Millar and Bendis, we can expect that each month they will be putting "their" Avengers through the paces to see who can outdo the other. I'm looking forward to it. Provided this book actually does ship this week.

On Life Support:

Firestorm #8: aka "The Book I REALLY Want To Like But Can't." I was willing to go along with the whole not understanding what's going on thing for several issues, but eight has pushed me past my limit. Could we get this Jason Rusch guy to do one thing heroic? Just one? Even Spider-Man at his lowest loser point still did the right thing.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw

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