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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 04/04/07
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Runaways #25
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: Michael Ryan

Really, this one is a no-brainer for fans of Joss Whedon. A team of troubled and confused teen-agers have discovered great evil in their background. Overcoming that evil, aka their parents, aka a criminal organization known as The Pride, the runaway youths struggle to balance the needs of a ďfoundĒ family with continuing to kick crimeís butt. Need it be mentioned that the most effective derriere-kickers happen to be the female members of the team?

Runaways creator Brian K. Vaughan left the series by removing the somewhat supernatural element and nemesis that drove the team, which allows for a little more freedom. Only the Pride seemed to know about their cosmic overlords, and their kids need room to explore the Marvel Universe.

So Whedon debuts by taking them back to New York City. Their previous trip, it seems, sparked the interest of the Kingpin, which makes for a classic Whedonesque confrontation between the kids and Wilson Fisk.

For newcomers drawn to this book because of the new creative team, the story does a decent job of catching things up to speed. Itís forty-three or so issues to summarize in three pages, but Whedon and Michael Ryan provide just enough information for newbies to understand the personal conflicts, and just why these awkward kids could be feared. Then they get things rolling in a new direction.

Except itís not really new. Whedon was a longtime fan of the book, perhaps because he already had its themes resonating with his own. As such, it feels like no change in the writing at all, and thatís kind of a good thing. This book had already been known for smart, realistic characterization and tight plotting. Hey, itís still here.

New artist Ryan also feels like a good fit. His style differs slightly, but in no way drastically, straddling the slightly more manga feel the book sometimes had with a more standard Marvel style. Importantly, as a penciler (heís inked by Rick Ketcham), Ryan is a good actor, and the kids look like kids.

In several scenes, Whedon and Ryan prove that the Runaways still have a lot to learn. Luckily for us, the creative team knows perfectly well what itís doing.

Also on the Stands:

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #19: Oh, so now that itís been revealed why Peter Parker is in the black costume, we can do some referencing to it in other books. Thatís lame editing or timing which leaves a bitter taste on this otherwise decent Spider-Man story. Thatís decent -- not great -- as itís also clearly a story meant to sucker in those intrigued by Spider-Man 3. Black costume, Sandman and -- oh, wait again -- ďBack In BlackĒ isnít even a proper event. Itís just a time period in Spider-Manís adventures when he wears a black costume to boost sales. Even though Peter David is a great writer, this is the sort of marketing event that drove a lot of us away from the character in the nineties.

Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears #3: The first issue had me intrigued. I missed the second issue, and now this third one has me kind of lost, with not much happening except for a little of the ultra-violence that Clayton Crain draws so well. This Ghost Rider (if thatís who it is) doesnít flaunt the flaming skull, preferring a relatively more subtle appearance. Garth Ennis is trustworthy enough, but right now, the initial heat from this book has died down.

The Immortal Iron Fist #4: This, on the other hand, delves into the unknown history of a Marvel B-list character without losing the reader. Maybe itís because we can see the direct connection, or maybe because itís tied more firmly to the Marvel Universe proper. Or maybe because Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are simply two great writers working at the top of their game with love and affection for Iron Fist. Theyíre bringing back an old enemy, and even if you donít know who that is, they devote time to effectively building his menace. I donít know who that enemy is, and I find myself caring.

Heralds of Galactus #2: Other than teaching a new word -- ďproemialĒ -- this mini-series hasnít really had much to offer those who donít drool over its basic concept. Keith Giffen has a good grip on the cosmic, and, supported by Scott Kolins and Andrea DiVito, tells decent stories. But theyíre mostly forgettable, just vaguely keeping these characters in the readersí minds until the next big event.

The Incredible Hulk #105: The next big event, of course, is World War Hulk andÖoh, cripes, he should wipe out the Illuminati. Greg Pak doesnít kill time with this; he ends Planet Hulk with a real sense of tragedy, and a sense of nobility to these alien races that had formerly been characterized as villains. That includes the Hulk, Greenskin, Sakaar -- whatever you want to call him. The end of this will have you on the edge of your seat for next month. Come on, Hulk, and Öbring your friends.

Madman Atomic Comics #1: Mike Allred returns to the character that made him famous, and gives us a lot of philosophy instead of the fun the series originally had. Thatís okay; this is a creator in a state of growth and change. That reflects in his art, as Allred and his colorist wife Laura experiment with a few different textures. Thatís befitting a loony character being forced to confront the inconsistencies in himself. Hopefully whatever emerges from this exploration will still have some of the fun, even if he does end up being a bit weightier than before.

Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #2: Writer John Layman captures the tones of both Sam Raimi and Robert Kirkman well enough in this prequel to Marvel Zombies. Ash sure reads like Ash. And the last page -- well, I donít know whether to laugh or be utterly horrified. But then, thatís how itís always been with this concept. Itís not for the squeamish, but some of you sick bastards will really dig this.

New Excalibur #18: The old Excalibur did a lot of dimension-hopping; itís a concept that Chris Claremont seems to love. Heís also fairly good at keeping the concept streamlined, so for what itís worth, itís easy to jump on to this issue -- as long as Captain Britain is a character that interests you. Everyone else gets minimal time, and the villainís motivation seems a little forced. Itís not bad; itís just not on the top of the read pile.

Zemo: Born Better #3: Having lost track of the machinations of Zemo over the years -- I fell away from Thunderbolts -- this mini-series has me guessing. Fabian Nicieza has created a complex character. If you think heís a villain, thereís plenty to disprove the theory here, but itís also hard to give in and just call him a hero. So instead, Iíll just call this a book that makes me really want to read the conclusion. Not because it should end -- some of it does feel rushed -- but because itís been a surprisingly good read.

Sight Unseen:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2: All I can say is that this book might, I say might, just get my wife to read a comic book.

Omega Flight #1: Yet another spin-off of Civil War, but this one has Beta Ray Bill. Iím at least going to flip through it, and Marvelís counting on that.

Savage Tales #1: This oneís for Ric Bretschneider. Sword and sorcery and salaciousness all in one package. Okay, I canít vouch for the salaciousness.

Welcome To Tranquility #5: More and more people have figured out how good Gail Simone is. This original series set in a retirement village for superpowers has been lots of fun. So why not pick it up for yourself?

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

Derek McCaw


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