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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 01/09/07
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Squadron Supreme:
Hyperion vs. Nighthawk #1

writer: Marc Guggenheim
artist: Paul Gulacy

This week's spotlight pick doesn't make for the most comfortable read. In fact, it's rather disturbing, and regardless of your domestic politics, it will get to you. But you could get lectured about Darfur, agree on the horror of what's going on there and still feel lectured. Through Marvel, Marc Guggenheim gets to couch it in a superhero story, with the conflict that everybody knew had to be coming.

For those intrigued and just picking this book up on a whim, yes, that's a thinly disguised Superman/Batman analog on the cover. Unlike Superman/Batman, however, they're fighting for good reasons - or at least what they individually think is right - and their conflict is pretty clear.

These two will never be the marquee characters they parody, and thus Guggenheim can follow a long tradition of using them to tell a story that provokes readers. Yet he gets the grittiest. Though J. Michael Straczynski, who revitalized the concept, has flirted with real world issues in the regular title, it's still been with fictionalized events, heavily altered by the participation of superheroes.

Here, though, the horror is so pervasive that even the efforts of Nighthawk are like a bee sting to it. Committing acts of violence (against those that arguably deserve it) catch attention, but the political landscape is so screwed up that the masked hero's interference merely distracts from the larger violence. And hey, nobody seemed to be talking about that in the first place.

The status quo of Hyperion and Nighthawk don't matter. All you need to know, and Guggenheim establishes right off the bat, is that they have philosophical differences about their responsibilities. The writer quickly establishes Hyperion's attitude, and you can get Nighthawk's from his physical responses. Actually, Nighthawk barely speaks in this book, but his archetype is so powerful that we can feel his impact throughout.

Of course, Paul Gulacy's artwork itself makes an impact. One of the best artists around, Gulacy does dynamic layouts, but provides some devastatingly quiet moments. He pulls back from some of his signature moves in order to make the violence against innocents personal, and it makes for a tremendous issue.

The issue at its heart, the genocide in Darfur, is almost overwhelming. One comic book isn't going to change the world, but Guggenheim's heartfelt plea at the back of the book, along with websites listed, may at least wake a few people up.

There aren't any easy solutions. Guggenheim's writing hints that his story won't offer any, either. But this may be the most important comic book hitting the stands this week. Luckily for its legacy, it's also damned good.

Also on the Stands:

Agents of Atlas #6: Despite its popularity, Marvel has rarely had a sense of history and legacy in its books. Sure, Roy Thomas created the Invaders and staked a claim for the 1940's, but the company still had a huge gap. Creators have taken shots at it from time to time, but it hasn't been until recently that it's really worked. Most of the attention has gone to Ed Brubaker, a skilled and deservedly popular writer. But quietly Jeff Parker has been building a foundation, and if you haven't been reading this title, you're missing out. Unexpectedly, this has turned into one of my favorite mini-series of the year, with solid writing and the best art of Leonard Kirk's career. This isn't just adding a sense of history, though - it's also been fun, something in short supply in the Marvel mainstream.

The Amazing Spider-Girl #4: Right now, if you're reading this book, it's best to just completely cut free of any concept of continuity. It's a decent read, but it occurred to me that what was once "Spider-Man's future" may now be our present. Certainly, Tom DeFalco borrows from real life figures of today; it's hard to imagine somebody would rip off "The Dog" ten years from now. It's a solid book, just not gripping, but perfect for some young reader between 9 and 12.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #16: Resolving another little corner of his own creation, Peter David delivers another decent book. Along the way, he's given Peter another "power" that other writers seem so far to have utterly ignored. Taken on its own, this issue is good, but woven into the grand tapestry of things, it's further proof that Civil War the event is a runaway train, and nobody seems to be trying to get ahold of it.

New Excalibur #15: It's tough to write a team book when your main point is that the team just doesn't like each other. At least Frank Tieri tries to correct a continuity gaffe between this book and Black Panther. Otherwise, it's just the least likeable X-Men (and Captain Britain) arguing with each other, while the most believable if unlikely redemption in X-characters gets undone for no good reason except to leave Chris Claremont with a bit of a mess to straighten out when his health permits his return. This title was shaky from the start, and it really hasn't straightened up.

New X-Men #34: Yes, in the wake of House of M, we have approximately 198 mutants left. And has anybody noticed that every single one of them seems to be featured in a team book? It's really hard to keep them straight, but credit goes to the creative team of this one that their story works even though it's hard to get a grip on the characters. Still, Kyle and Yost continue succeeding in their quest to make us like X-23 (who, by the way, still has a series of her own - she's just like her big brother).

Runaways #23: Just when you think you've figured out where the book is heading, Brian K. Vaughan pulls the rug out again. Once again the team has an enemy within, but for heartbreakingly understandable reasons. Not much actually happens here, just young superkids trying to sort through their griefs. It seems like the end of the world when you're an adolescent - and of course, with their abilities, it could be.

Thunderbolts #110: It's hard to get a grip on this one. In Frontline, we're seeing Norman Osborn being manipulated by an outside force; here, he's perfectly in control of himself and, by extension, the Thunderbolts. We've got a missing piece. With that, it's still an interesting book, but not particularly likeable. Well-written by Warren Ellis and well-drawn by Mike Deodato, Jr., it's missing (on purpose) the key element that the previous team had - people striving for some sort of redemption. Unless you count Penance, who seeks his name without any hope of actually achieving it. Ellis throws in some elements of social satire, too, but ultimately, this is an ugly book at its heart. That might work for a few issues, but it's as radical a rethink in many ways as that Fight Club take Marvel tried a few years ago. Designed to get you to suddenly pick up the book in excitement, it's an idea whose time will pass quickly, or worse, really came about twenty years ago when DC did it as Suicide Squad.

Wolverine Origins #10: Plodding like The Blob after a bender, this issue does finally manage to accomplish a couple of things. We see Wolverine as a caring foster parent for Jubilee, totally beating us over the head with the idea that of course he has a genetic son that he's never even seen. The carbonadium synthesizer issue gets resolved, and then, just for kicks, Daniel Way throws in a truly shocking moment followed by a cliffhanger that just doesn't quite make sense. It's a week for ugly books, and unfortunately, this one follows the trend.

Sight Unseen:

Green Lantern Corps #8: This book suddenly took off last month, deepening its impact and importance to the DC Universe. Chalk it up to Keith Champagne, a writer/inker who really loves the lore of DC continuity and expands it without warping it and claiming that's what it looked like in the first place.

Martian Manhunter #6: The change of costume still doesn't make much sense other than to finally give J'onn J'onnz a new costume, but this mini-series has been surprisingly good. Maybe, just maybe, it will finally give J'onn the respect among fans as a solo hero that he deserves.

Superman Batman vs. Aliens Predators #1: Really, I have no clue, but this just seems so ridiculously over the top that I've just got to know.

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

Derek McCaw


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