Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 12/21/04
filled with the milk of human kindness this week, and don't
even mind that this is traditionally a week in which comics
kindly try to milk us.
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa
writer: Joss Whedon
artist: John Cassaday
If you haven't picked this book up yet
(and if you haven't, who are you?), issue #7 offers a good
jumping on point. A new arc begins that will surely keep
readers slavering for more.
Why have fans gone ape over this book?
It's not just because of the crackerjack plotting, though
there has been plenty of that. It's not just because John
Cassaday may very well be the best comic book artist working
today, though that would be reason enough. Perhaps.
It may be because Joss Whedon and Cassaday
keep creating a book that seamlessly blends the things that
fanboys love with high quality accessibility. Case in point,
last issue's never named "fastball special." With this issue,
Whedon takes the notorious introspection of the characters
and keeps it from falling into stereotype. Just as we get
drawn in to the characters' self-doubts (all the while they're
fighting one of the Mole Man's monsters), Whedon hits us
with a great but quiet punchline. Our expectations get a
little tweak, and the book just keeps sucking us in.
One of the motivations for the X-Men to
get back into costumes was to be more overtly superheroish
in the Marvel Universe, but the first six issues did not
quite afford them the opportunity. Here, they rub shoulders
with the Fantastic Four, in a far more believable and dignified
fashion than the recent piece o'crap X4 #1.
The combination of the shunned superteam
with the family in the spotlight works really well. Whedon
acknowledges the "mutant tension," but also makes it clear
that the Fantastic Four know full well how heroic the X-Men
really are. Except possibly for Johnny, but Wolverine sets
him straight with a nice bit of repartee.
As you'd expect from the guy who created
Buffy, Angel and Firefly, the dialogue in
this book crackles. Unlike some episodes of those series,
though, it has yet to feel particularly forced. Not every
character is a smart-ass, and even the couple that do tend
to crack wise still have unique voices in doing it.
But back to that great Cassaday art. He takes a somewhat
tired set-up, the umpteen-copied battle with the Mole Man's
monster from Fantastic Four #1 (the first one), and
somehow gives it new life. The creature looks familiar but
different, with a real sense of rage. What makes the artist
so effective is his ability to switch from widescreen action
shots to beautiful emotional tones, and somewhere in between,
such as The Thing and Colossus playing a giant game of Whack-a-Mole.
Trust me, it works.
Though there are lots of great books on
the stands right now, and even some other interesting ones
set in the world of the X-Men, Astonishing X-Men
is currently the best book out there.
Black Widow #4: To be honest, as
time has gone by, it's hard to keep track of what exactly
Black Widow's history is. She's clearly now too young to
have been born in the thirties, as once was posited. She
may very well be older than heroes like Hawkeye (he'll be
back) and Daredevil, with whom she has dallied. But there's
no reason to assume she's near immortal like Nick Fury.
Finally, novelist Richard K. Morgan addresses these issues,
but buried in a taut spy story. There's no need to bring
in the rest of the Marvel Universe here, but you really
should be seeking out this mini-series if you like simply
good storytelling. The Greg Land covers don't hurt, either.
Richard Corben Solo: This second
"Solo" book isn't quite as strong as the first featuring
Tim Sale, but only because Corben takes most of the writing
chores himself. As an artist, he's disturbing, unique and
visionary. The writer has to take a backseat to that, and
isn't as clever as the sumptuous art needs him to be. At
least he provides himself several different milieus to illustrate,
proving his versatility. The one story that may attract
the casual DC fan is one written by John Arcudi, which hopefully
will build more interest in the original Spectre, Jim Corrigan.
Creepy (all the more so because of the art), it also begs
the question: why hasn't somebody put Corben on The Spectre
Wolverine #23: We're in the middle
of a Byzantine plot where Wolverine may not actually appear
much, but his influence is felt on every page. Mark Millar
also shows us just how cold-blooded Elektra can be - and
needs to be to do her job. "Enemy of the State" continues
to be what Stan Lee used to promise all the time, "pulse-pounding
action" and if I may, "fantasy as you like it," while not
compromising on just how dark the comic book world has become.
Worth Noting, If Not Reading:
Excalibur #8: In typical Claremont
fashion, this book has a sprawling cast and is hard for
new readers to acclimatize themselves. The very notion of
Magneto walking around alive irks me because of the undoing
of Grant Morrison's great work on New X-Men. However,
many will want to at least glance at this book because it
follows upon the footsteps of The Avengers, bridging
into the upcoming House of M mini-series scheduled
to shake up Marvel in 2005. Surprisingly, you'd have no
idea of that from the cover. So consider yourself duly alerted
and/or warned. It's not a great book, but completists will
want to know.
Ho, Ho Please....
Red X-Mas: No, it's not a warm tale of redemption. Instead,
it's just a lump of coal in our stockings. Mark Texeira
does some of the worst art of his career (and I have some
of his work on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents) to illustrate a mess
of a story. Please, skip it. Rent the movie again instead.
X-Force #5: You know what hurts
me most? Madrox is a limited series and X-Force
Hey, write to us and
let us know what you think, or talk about it on the