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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 06/28/06
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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.

Solo #11
creator: Sergio Aragones
co-writer: Mark Evanier

Sergio Aragones may have been with you all of your life and you didn't even know it. If you read Mad Magazine, you couldn't help but get sucked into his "Drawn Out Dramas" in the margins. Those got animated for more than one "Blooper" show on NBC. According to the bio in the back of this book, Aragones was even on Laugh-In.

For discerning fans, the Mexican-born artist may be most popular for his wandering book with Mark Evanier, Groo the Wanderer. The duo has lent their creative skills to a few other comic staples, with books like The Mighty Magnor and Fanboy.

The surprise here is just how effective the outrageously cartoony Aragones can be at personal reflection and historical epic. His art always seemed perceptive; a book like Solo allows its honesty to shine.

He opens with typical self-deprecation, lampooning his life as a free-lance artist until Evanier calls and reminds him of his deadline. From there Aragones launches into a tale of his past as a some-time actor, entitled "I Killed Marty Feldman."

The title isn't true, but it's a story of a brush with greatness and sadness, and oddly enough, the artist draws a pretty good caricature of the British comedian. (And Dean Stockwell - who knew?) Aside from exposing a corner of Aragones' career many readers didn't know about, it's a well-constructed memory.

Though he also tells another autobiographical story, again within the confines of a good short story, Aragones turns to the Old West for a story that might have fit in his days with DC's Plop!.

Taking the same time period, he shifts over to Mexican history. If you're not careful, Sergio Aragones might accidentally teach you something, and not just about good storytelling. It's definitely a case of history being written by the winners.

As seems to be customary for the Solo series, one story focuses on a regular DC character. As has also been the case for the majority of issues, it's Batman. Longtime collaborator Evanier pens a story that starts out being about the very campy sixties Batman, all the better to match Aragones' art style.

But as the story unfolds, it seems just as fitting for the Dark Knight as most people see him. If the villain had a different name and motif, or if the layouts had been with a more "serious" artist, the story would have fit just as well in a regular Batman title.

This issue takes amazing strides to prove Aragones' versatility. That may not come as a surprise to his most ardent fans, but it's needed. Along with long-timers (not old-timers) like Joe Kubert and John Severin, Aragones deserves a chance to kick the whippersnappers in the pants and remind them that not only does he know what he's doing, he's doing it better than most.

Also on the stands:

The American Way #5 This book has gone from a diverting read to one to put right at the top of the stack. The story gets more and more complex, and never shies away from the ugliness of the culture. It would be nice to believe that our people would be more understanding and our government more trustworthy, but John Ridley's script makes super powers the only thing we have to suspend our disbelief over.

Avengers and Power Pack Assemble #3: Aside from being one of the longest titles this week, Marc Sumerak and GuriHiru's book makes the best kid's read. Yet as the Power family crosses path with Spider-Man, it doesn't seem that farfetched that these events could be happening in a slightly kinder corner of the world. Every Avenger gets kid-friendly without violating their characterization. Most of you won't believe it, but years ago when Power Pack started out, it really was this good and non-insulting to our intelligence as readers.

Daredevil #86: Every major player in Daredevil's world is locked up in Riker's Island. The FBI hopes that they'll all kill each other, and a few of them seem okay with that. In all that, what's the Punisher going to do? Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark prove that just when you think you know a character, he can still pull out surprises. This tale of shifting loyalties packs tons of action into 22 pages, easily handling the good-natured "screw you" left behind by Brian Michael Bendis.

PvP #27: The PvP magazine staff has to undergo sexual harassment sensitivity training. That may be enough for most of you. It's sure enough for me. Scott Kurtz makes me laugh almost every day. With this issue, he also taught me a really bad pun for me to use in the future.

Runaways #17: I just feel obligated every few issues to remind you all that this book totally rocks. It's completely different in tone and feeling from Brian K. Vaughan's other excellent books, Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man, which proves nothing except that dang, he's a good writer.

Savage Dragon #127: After years of a good reputation, this marks the first issue of Savage Dragon I have ever read. Fans of this book must be pleased month after month, because the energy in this thing is terrific. However, it's also head-scratching in the complexity of its continuity. Erik Larsen's style has roughened a bit since last I paid close attention, but that may just be the demands of writing and penciling a monthly book. If you like the Dragon, you'll continue to be pleased. If you've never read the Dragon, join me in looking for a suitable trade paperback to pick up and see if it helps.

Sidekick #1: Paul Jenkins, he who is now copyrighted by Marvel, does a creator-owned book for Image. Sidekick has a clever enough premise, but it also reads like Jenkins is trying too hard to write something funny like The Tick. Now that he has his set-up out of the way, the next issues might morph into something more their own creature.

X-Men #187 Peter Milligan and Salvador Larroca end their run with this issue, and it ties things up fairly neatly for the new team to come in and mess it all up. But that's not why this book got a second glance. It's that in the back (and probably in a few more Marvel books), there's a preview story of the dumbly named Masked Marvel. Guess what? It's actually pretty good, even handling the odd meta-conceit of taking us through a tour of the Marvel Universe's Marvel Comics.

Sight Unseen:

DCU: Brave New World Diamond doesn't list this, but DC does. Who to trust? I don't know, but if this book comes out tomorrow, it's simply the best deal you can have this week with six series launches for a measly dollar.

Elvira #158: Every now and then, I like to look at the Diamond list and wonder: who the hell is buying this book? Granted, it has to be at least three times as entertaining as her last movie.

Eternals by Jack Kirby: This hardcover collects all of Kirby's work on a series that Neil Gaiman thought worth re-examining. Who are we to argue with Gaiman? And if Marvel put it in hardcover, you know they treated the art right. Unless a page or two shows up in reverse.

Lucifer #75: Is this the end of the Morningstar?

New Frontier Action Figures: I love a series of action figures that so perfectly captures the style of an artist, but please don't quote me on that if somebody does a line of "Rob Liefeld Creates…"

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

Derek McCaw

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