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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 06/21/06
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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.

Casanova #1
writer: Matt Fraction
artist: Gabriel Ba

Take everything hedonistic but still fun about the sixties, throw in a dash of Marvel sensibility, set to frappe and pour it into a glass of Image, and you might have an idea of what Casanova is.

It's not that it's indescribable; instead, it's incredibly comfortable. Recreating the days of true "pop art," Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba have created a book both challenging and good-naturedly silly. If Steranko and Michael Moorcock had tried to have a love child but Mick Jagger got there first, we might be close to approximating Casanova.

Not the famous Venetian lover, Casanova Quinn at least lives up to the roguish implication. Rebelling against his father, a character just as much Nick Fury as Warren Ellis' Dirk Anger is, Casanova has turned to being a world-class freelance thief. It's okay, because at least at the outset, he has a sister that makes papa proud until a mission kills her. But all is not what it seems in this wild rollercoaster ride.

Set in another time and place, perhaps today if Jack Kirby's technology had really existed, the book throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Actually, the sink might be there, but in some sort of extra-dimensional transubstantiated incarnation. Just when you think you have a handle on things, Fraction introduces another wild yet familiar idea, with every page keeping the reader guessing.

Android sex toys mingle with Buddhist monks that have merged into a grotesque version of Le Chiffre called Fabula Berserko. In order to truly defeat an opponent, you have to be really good at staring contests. And then, on the outside of reality stands supercriminal Newman Xeno, head of an organization with an ever changing acronym.

Ba's art has a clean cartoonishness that evokes British comics tradition. The coloring carries on the conceit, in black, white and olive. It works completely, sucking us into a world (or world) that believes itself and definitely has a cool soundtrack, if only the creators would tell us what it is.

Having read a few riffs on Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius, I recognize the influence. Between this and Wildstorm's Desolation Jones, that open source fiction has been handily updated for the twenty-first century, a neat trick for something that was ahead of its time in the first place. In truth, though, Fraction keeps this story far more linear, and if it veers too wildly, it's still just too enjoyable to care.

In a post-script, Fraction claims to be picking up a challenge to match Ellis' accomplishment with Fell, providing a great read for a low price. He has succeeded, and more. Casanova warrants a few read-throughs, and at only $1.99, that makes it an incredible bargain.

It's so nice when literature manages to sneak onto the stands disguised as junk. Somehow, Casanova Quinn would approve.

Also on the stands:

Claw the Unconquered #1: Just like thirty years ago, the popularity of Conan the Barbarian has spawned its imitators. Again, just like thirty years ago, DC (through Wildstorm) responds with Claw. The story of a barbarian warrior with a demon claw for a hand, this follow-up to a team-up with Red Sonja makes a decent debut. How could it not, as it's written by one of the best "man's man" in the business, Chuck Dixon. It's good sword and sorcery, ably supported by solid work from artist Andy Smith.

Ex Machina #21: I love this book for challenging what I think about social issues on a monthly basis. It's not sharp enough to be unsettling, but Brian K. Vaughan continues to prove that the superhero genre can be used for far more than just beating up bad guys and giving us a cathartic exhilaration. We can have our minds stimulated, too, and it would be nice if some of the more mainstream superhero books could figure out how to do that more often.

Justice #6: It's not just the Super Friends Alex Ross wants to rehabilitate; it's the whole DC Universe. The Metal Men make an appearance this issue that should have done Dan DiDio's heart proud. Like every other character that has appeared in this series, damn, they look cool. But it's not just a sally through the late Silver Age; Justice has some of the most solid plotting of Ross' career, with a simple but well-built mystery. All the while, even the lamest of characters become chilling. Even a certain spineless archfoe of Captain Marvel becomes no laughing matter, unless that laugh is rueful that cripes, yes, even that one seems cool.

X Isle #1: In press releases, Boom! Studios likened this book a lot to Lost. That does it a disservice, especially to those readers that don't want to read something that seems derivative of a popular trend. X Isle is something different. If it riffs off of anything, it's more like a Sid & Marty Krofft show actually done with intelligence. A team of scientists get caught up in a freak storm that washes them up on what seems to be a prehistoric island, with all the danger that entails. The characters are pretty well-defined, though at this point they don't stretch much beyond high concepts. Occasionally, the art looks static, but the story keeps on moving and I'm very interested to see what happens next.

Sight Unseen:,

Astonishing X-Men #15: Making our hearts go pitter-pat since 2004.

Eternals #1: Somehow, John Romita, Jr. became a really good artist for the kind of high tech tomfoolery that Jack Kirby threw in all of his books. So he makes a good choice for this revival of Kirby's The Eternals. But really, it's Gaiman spinning the King - face it, it just might not get better than this all year.

Flash The Fastest Man Alive #1: Maybe it isn't the biggest mystery in comics this year, because we really haven't been allowed to feel Flash's absence yet. Who is under the mask? I'm betting we still won't know for an issue or two.

Gargoyles #1: Slave Labor Graphics presents the third season of Gargoyles you never saw. Grab this chance while you still can.

Manhunter #23: This book has pulled a Spider-Girl, coming back from beyond the brink of cancellation. Pick it up if you haven't already, and find out why. Marc Andreyko has created a pretty intriguing superhero, though she might not like being called that. He's also tying her tightly into pre-existing DC continuity, without forcing it. That's no mean feat.

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

Derek McCaw

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