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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 06/07/06
brought to you by FanboyPlanet.Comics of Santa Clara

Each week we look through the upcoming releases to offer our two cents as to what's hot and what's not. You can agree with us or not, but spend your money wisely.

Tag #1
writer: Keith Giffen
artist: Kody Chamberlain

Two weeks in a row, I have to give this slot to the hardest working man in comics business. Keith Giffen, go ahead. Jump back. Kiss yourself.

We're in the midst of a zombie renaissance. It seems like every publisher has a zombie book in its catalogue (except maybe DC - but then, they've got The Spectre). Boom! Studios has even carved out a niche with a zombie anthology book and scattered one-shots.

But all these have to bend over backwards in order to find something new and interesting to say with the genre. More often than not, they poke fun, and Giffen has written his fair share of stories that do that.

In the case of Tag, however, Giffen has found a genuinely new angle.

Mitch is having a very bad day. After a date in which he and his girlfriend Izumi break up, a rotting corpse shambles (albeit pretty fast) up to him and reaches out. "Tag!" it rasps, "you're it!"

Unfortunately for Mitch, this is one macabre children's game. The corpse immediately revivifies into a handsome young man who babbles about pictures in his head before running off. When Mitch wakes up in the hospital, he's technically dead. Except he's still conscious, though his autonomic nervous system has apparently shut down.

The zombie story gets a shot in the arm here by offering it a creepy combination of playfulness and hope. Though Mitch has no apparent craving for human flesh, he does have visions that will drive him to pass this curse on to someone else. Giffen has also taken the risk of making his protagonist kind of an ass when alive, challenging the reader to find empathy for this bizarre situation.

On one level, Tag does borrow elements from Ringu and Stephen King's Thinner. But it becomes its own creature, setting up a good sense of mystery and growing revulsion even though the curse does not seem to be a danger to the general public.

This is a tale of personal horror, made all the more vivid by Chamberlain's fairly realistic sketching. The very mundanity of the character design makes it all more immediate. To match Mitch's pragmatic acceptance of his dilemma, the coloring remains muted.

Tag isn't high-octane horror, splattering vivid blood and guts around. It captures that elusive feeling of dread, creating a mid-level of compelling storytelling that still allows for the imagination to run wild. Along with books like 7 Days To Fame, this makes a case for quality graphic work that the movies just aren't doing. It's not big enough (or really, mindless enough) action for the silver screen, but it's just right for reading.

Also on the Stands:

Batman: Secrets #4 From the awesome cover to the beautiful art inside, Sam Kieth keeps delivering some of the coolest Batman art to come down the pike in a long time. The story takes a bit of a dip here, saving the biggest revelations and confrontations for its final issue next month. Though quirky, this is definitely worth a look.

The Exterminators #6: After a cockroach apocalypse in the last issue, The Exterminators starts on a new arc, making a perfect place to jump aboard. The story builds on what has come before but won't leave new readers cold. Those with a fear of black widow spiders need not apply, though. Hardier fans will get another dose of a great new series from Vertigo.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #9: Maybe Peter David is rehashing information from an earlier story, but if he is, he makes it feel brand-new. This is a strange and disturbing origin for a new Hobgoblin from the future. It's likely that the character can stick around bedeviling our Spider-Man; really, Hobby's own future Spidey seems a lot less interesting, even with more arms and eyes.

Hector Plasm: De Mortuis: Creepy, weird stories from Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde, building a nice continuity in one solid comic. It does appeal to those readers with more "goth" tastes (not necessarily gothic), but the stories pull a lot of fun reversals and take risks with the character. The only downside is the price of $5.99, but it does pack a lot of story of "the Benandante."

Invincible #32: Robert Kirkman has taken all the things that made Marvel work in the sixties and adapted them to modern day techniques. So how come his Marvel work doesn't have the same snap it does here? Invincible is in the middle of a storyline, but even if you haven't been following it, you should sample with this issue and then go back and get more. It's more fun all the time.

Jonah Hex #8: The book gets a new artist with Dylan Teague, who has a simple but effective style. Unfortunately, he also splits his duties with Val Semeiks, who's not a bad artist, just very different. It makes for a jarring switch, lessened by another solid story by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. They've captured the vibe of the original Jonah Hex series but deal with issues in it far more honestly than could have been done in the seventies. Every issue is worth a look.

Manifest Eternity #1: Scott Lobdell and Dustin Nguyen deliver a story combining space opera with fantasy. It's too soon to tell if it works, but the idea seems fun enough. Unfortunately, the characters haven't yet really grabbed my interest. Pay no attention to the ad for the videogame Rise of Legends on the back cover, though you could probably play that game sooner and reach a resolution faster than this book will.

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #16: The perfect, perfect book to give your kid who's into Spider-Man. Zeb Wells never quite broke into fandom's heart with his earlier "adult" work, but here he writes a Spider-Man that all ages can enjoy. Catch this now, because it could mark his getting another shot at higher profile work.

The Walking Dead #28: Once again, praise for Kirkman's independent work. His passion pours into every issue, as he throws in plots that make chilling sense. It's not just the flesh-eating zombies that are scary in this book; it's us. And yet it never defies belief. Charlie Adlard's art is just stylized enough that even the weak-stomached can still get swept up in the story and bleep over the gore.

Sight Unseen:

Civil War: The Front Line #1: A crossover so big they managed to get two extra mini-series out of it. I'm not sure what will happen here that couldn't have happened in the regular series, but we're going to eat it up, aren't we, kids?

Grimm Fairy Tales #6: This is more of a buyer beware thing. The covers to this comic have been ridiculously salacious. The interiors, however, seem more reasonable and truer to the source stories of our Disney-fied fairy tales than you might expect. Come for the story; don't be disappointed when you don't get nearly as much titillation as you thought you would.

Wonder Woman #1: Allen Heinberg and Terry Dodson relaunch the Amazon. Right now I'm just not seeing the minuses to this.

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

Derek McCaw

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