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From Box Four 11/05/07
brought to you by Illusive Comics and Games of Santa Clara

Since Jason Schachat hasn't broken down in quite some time (I've seen him, he looks good, healthy, well-rested - what's made the difference? He's not reading comics), let me attempt a bit of a rundown to fill the long-open void.

I have one more motive. Because of an extreme crunch in my day job, the very raison d'etre for Fanboy Planet fell off the radar. We should be first and foremost about comics, and in the month of October, I barely got enough time to read them, let alone write about them. So I'm going to try two different columns in a much more bloggy style. Here, writing about the books that came out the previous week, the things flashy enough to catch my attention. Or the things I was stupid enough to keep buying long past the point I should have given them up. Then we'll also cover Marvel's retailer previews, graciously provided to us by Illusive Comics and Games.

As it was Halloween last week, publishers tried their best to give us scary little specials - the most frightening of which had to be the cover prices. For $5.99, you could pick up Infinite Halloween, a high-powered crapshoot of short stories exploring the dark side of Dan DiDio. The venerable face of DC actually penned a story himself there, but I'll be honest - I still didn't pick it up. Too many other books vied for my attention, and I was already picking up an extra DC Halloween special in the form of Robin Annual #7

. It wasn't meant to be a Halloween special. Instead, the story penned by Keith Champagne and drawn by Derec Donovan would have been the new direction for Robin's solo title before an editorial shake-up changed everybody's plans and assignments. The lead story has a lot of promise; Champagne gets into Tim Drake's head pretty well and creates a great new villain for him. Where Donovan worked before I don't know, but his work here is pretty impressive. I like art that looks like it could easily be animated, and Donovan has that look.

In the back-up slot, Champagne tackles Damien, Son of the Demon, in a story designed to lead into this week's issue of Batman. Preluding quite nicely to "The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul," it also highlights why I don't yet like Damien - no matter how you slice him, he comes up amoral. That's not Champagne's fault; it's just unclear if DC intends for Damien to get a major character push or not.

Damien behaves badly in Batman #670, a spoiled brat whose one redeeming grace may be hero worship of the man he believes to be his father. Writer Grant Morrison drops a hint that things may not be as they seemed a couple of story arcs ago. Frustrating, really, when you consider that not only will Morrison not be handling this storyline on his lonesome, but it's a crossover within a crossover.

Who cares that Ra's al Ghul will be coming back in a major event when in six months we've got a Final Crisis that will wipe everything out anyway? Heck…I'm still reeling from "The Sinestro Corps War," another event within an event that has me fatigued, confused, and just glad that I get to see all those Green Lanterns.

As for that actual crossover, Countdown To Final Crisis #26 finally changes its title to reflect its purpose - and gains a little clarity. No, it's not those helpful Earth numberings on the cover; nobody's going to pick this up because the brand spanking new Earth-15 appears inside. These are all arbitrary anyway.

Instead, what makes this one useful is that Monitor with anger management issues standing up and explaining what the heck has been going on. It's a shame that in 26 issues the plot couldn't actually make sense, but it it's Wednesday, this must be exposition, and I find myself grateful for it. We also get a glimpse of a black-clad version of Superman. For some reason, we all love seeing new versions of Superman. Don't we?

DC gambled heavily this week that we do, as both Justice Society of America #10 and Action Comics #858 feature different Supermen. Okay, so Action is supposed to be the regular one, but Gary Frank does draw him inspiringly like Christopher Reeve, and it is dealing with a reality that supposedly no longer existed in this continuity - the classic Legion of Superheroes, right down to Saturn Girl's decidedly 1958 haircut. It's the follow-up to the somewhat confusing "Lightning Saga" (see? Another crossover within a crossover…), and all I can say is that Frank's artwork has me completely hooked.

As for Justice Society of America, it gives us the Superman from Kingdom Come, whom my daughter recognized as being "in the wrong outfit." Don't try explaining these multiple earths to an 8 year old. Instead, distract her with Pokemon. At least with this issue, it became apparent that though Power Girl remembers the multiverse, she currently doesn't know there's more than one Earth. So really, we're back to the status quo of Hypertime, where only the Big 3 knew. Now only the Big 3 and Booster Gold know.

…and Donna Troy and Red Robin and Kyle Rayner know. Last month they visited another Earth, that of Wildstorm, which apparently right now is entering another huge crossover/reboot. Let me call it Armageddon, because I think Midnighter: Armageddon #1 serves to launch it all. Competently written by Christos Gage and smoothly drawn by Simon Coleby, it still only proves its own point - the Wildstorm Universe is so extreme and edgy that every event has the potential to be an over-the-top disaster, especially for The Authority. In general, you're better off sticking to the regular Midnighter solo book than picking this one up. Of course, it's Monday, so I'm probably too late.

You know what else is too late? Ultimate Power #8. Maybe Marvel meant to make fun of Countdown, because even with (I think) just one storyline, it's confusing to remember who double-crossed who and why. Both versions of the Squadron Supreme show up, which is reassuring for those who remember Mark Gruenwald's masterpiece fondly, but let's face it - if Greg Land didn't draw moist lips parted in a come hither way as well as he does, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Off in Independent Land, we should be having a conversation about Kyle Baker's Special Forces #1. Inspired by true news stories involving the U.S. Army's current recruitment tactics, Baker has created a blistering satire that really isn't funny at all. He's clearly thrown in a little sex to go with the violence in order to get you to pick up the book, but be careful. Baker will also make you think. And you should. I took a chance and held my breath, afraid I'd get burned. Instead, I read this after watching Michael Moore's Sicko and got a good one-two of being angry at the world today.

Thank heavens, then, for Evan Dorkin and Sara Dyer repackaging some old stuff with new material and releasing it as Biff-Bam-Pow #1, secretly from Slave Labor Graphics. It's just goofy fun, and it made me more annoyed than angry that Dorkin and Dyer don't produce more work.

Heck, they're almost as lazy as Jack, the titular character of Jack of Fables #16. I don't want to spoil a thing. It probably seems odd that I look forward to a book that's a spin-off of another book, but it's just always good and fun, even when it's deadly serious. This issue, Jack proves that another Vertigo trickster, John Constantine, still has a lot to learn.

So that's it for this week's look back. Tomorrow, I'll look forward.

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

Derek McCaw


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