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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 07/05/06
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.

Uncanny X-Men #475
writer: Ed Brubaker
artist: Billy Tan

Going through the stack of this week's preview books at the store, I singled out Uncanny X-Men #475. "This," I said to Steve, "is good."

He looked at me like I was an idiot. "Of course it is," he replied calmly. "It's Ed Brubaker."

So true, and what a relief it is to have a writer that you know will knock it out of the park. Of course, we're in a golden time right now when several can lay claim to that. It's just so surprising when Brubaker, who does gritty really well, can take his approach and apply it to mutant space opera - and have it work.

After the events of Deadly Genesis, the X-Men found themselves having accidentally unleashed a threat to the Shi'ar Empire. Since Charles Xavier and Lilandra broke up, however, the Empire isn't taking any of the X-Men's calls. Both threat and threatened are in this position because Xavier has been manipulative and secretive, and now that he has no power, he can't be either and save the situation.

Instead, he has to gather a team willing to throw themselves into space after what could have been their most powerful member. (At least, if not for the Phoenix.) They may be willing to do the right thing, but some are torn by having to do it for Xavier.

Brubaker and Tan undo at least one of the previous creative team's dangling threads. Though Polaris had left just an issue ago, changed by Apokolips, she gives in to return a bit quickly. Perhaps, however, she is driven by the need to fix one of Xavier's wrongs. At any rate, the changes wrought in her do not go unnoted, just so far undeveloped.

Despite that quick turnaround, the rest of the book seems rooted in X-history without getting bogged down in it. When Xavier recruits John Proudstar, the mutant known as Warpath, he notes that the Native American mutant is absolutely crucial to this mission to retrieve the rogue Kid Vulcan. Why? Because no member of the X-Men has ever hated Xavier more strongly than Proudstar, yet still been brought around to the cause of Xavier's dream.

Few writers can get to the heart of a formerly perfect character's flaws as incisively as Brubaker. Sure, Xavier has been a manipulative jerk in Ultimate X-Men from the outset; it takes real skill to retroactively add that subtext without actually rewriting the old stories. Yet as in his books like Sleeper, Captain America and Daredevil, Brubaker also keeps it clear that Xavier only did what he thought was right, and you can believe his penitence.

Unless Brubaker's setting us up for another fall.

Billy Tan joins a long list of artists that bring dynamic excitement to the pages of the X-books. Already, he's made some subtle differentiations that may get more pronounced as he gets comfortable. It's easy to make everybody pretty, but Tan captures a few demeanors. Nobody has drawn Nightcrawler so outright (and appropriately) cheery since Dave Cockrum.

Yes, this new team should keep fans whipped into a frenzy of excitement about the X-Men. More impressively, they're doing it without Wolverine. Now that's uncanny.

Also on the Shelves:

Batman: Secrets #5: A cool mini-series draws to a close, though ultimately it lacks any great final revelations. Sam Keith laid out this conclusion with the previous issue, and though it has some action, this is much more a denoument than a climax. However, it would be nice if down the road somebody remembered the little character shadings he set up here; this new childhood friend seems a lot less forced than Hush.

Battler Britton #1: Reviving another "lost" British comic, Garth Ennis writes a simply good war story and a surprisingly heartfelt essay in the back explaining the character's history. The writer has long excelled at two-fisted war stories, but there's also a passion here that doesn't always seep into his work. With art by Colin Wilson, Battler Britton makes a promising start; just don't pretend you know anything about the character.

Beyond! #1: Like we really needed a direct sequel to the 80's "classic," Secret Wars. Yet somehow, Dwayne McDuffie makes it work by having the characters acknowledge the previous event, hint at its lameness, then turn it upside down. The heroes (and villains) gathered here are a motley lot; who demanded Gravity team up with The Hood? Heck, who remembers the Hood? However, with this story already having more focus than half of the original event, it just might be that we will care about these C-list heroes and the obligatory Spider-Man.

Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius Super Summer Spectacular: This book is definitely an entry drug into the wonders of the Fantastic Four. Everybody, including the Thing, seems so harmless and fun. Let's face it; they really are that way, and despite the outrageousness of Marc Sumerak's stories, Chris Eliopoulos makes the FF (no Johnny appearances here, though) into a believable family. I'm buying this one for my kids, thus getting them ready for the harder stuff. Blow their minds early, I say.

The Incredible Hulk #96: With all of the talk about Marvel doing another Hulk movie, what fans should really clamor for is for one film to revive the franchise, then launch it into space. We want Planet Hulk: The Movie. Moving into "Anarchy," Greg Pak just keeps delivering surprises, moving revelations and the best Hulk since Peter David.

Jonah Hex #9: The story is a little wonky, so what makes this one worthwhile is Tony DeZuniga, one of the original Jonah Hex artists, penciling and inking. Once again, an old master reminds us he's still got it. So why don't you get it?

Justice League Unlimited #23: This issue is a little more simplistic than an episode of the animated series, but it's still good to see DC willing to keep the continuity alive a while longer. The Royal Flush Gang takes on the League, but it's all told from the witnesses' perspectives. You'll guess the identity of the interviewer fairly quickly, but a younger kid will just be caught up in the excitement.

Kid Colt and the Arizona Girl #1: While they're fun characters, it seems weird that this book ties them so closely into Marvel continuity. Didn't anybody in Marvel's old West just star in Westerns? Why, yes, apparently, as the new back-up character "The Philadelphia Filly" bears no trace of the strange and bizarre, instead being just a fun little tale. Then we get a few classic Rawhide Kid tales, all of them appropriately manly and good glimpses back into Marvel's history.

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #17: Peter David steps in to write an issue guest-starring Werewolf by Night. Somehow, he makes it fun and not the least bit scary, another perfect book to give your kids this summer. That makes three this week alone. Oh, sure, Archie's probably having Summer Fun, too, and that's okay, but it's kid-friendly superheroes we've got to encourage. And no, I don't mean Pureheart the Powerful, though he's welcome, too.

Second Wave: War of the Worlds #4: Michael Alan Nelson has taken the approach of The Walking Dead and transplanted it to H.G. Wells' classic. The Martians in this second wave are pretty much unknowable, but the darkness and fear in mankind's heart - yeah, we probably know that too well. In four issues the cast has gotten almost unwieldy, but the book has been plotted so densely that it's worth sticking around to see how everything plays out.

Talent #2: Religious conspiracy, government black ops and one guy in the wrong place at the right time. Oh, and there just might be an actual angel involved. Throw them all together and you've got this pretty gripping thriller from Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski. Universal Studios thinks so, too, because they already snapped up the movie rights. Reading this, though, a television series seems just as likely, but in either case, this book has talent to spare.

Sight Unseen:

All New Atom #1: No swords, no camouflage vests, but also no Ray Palmer - at least, for now. Instead, it's Gail Simone literally channeling Grant Morrison so that John Byrne can draw all the wild stuff he wants. Somehow, it seems pretty much like a win-win situation.

Ares #5: See how this one wraps up, and how the God of War may be catapulting himself into mainstream Marvel.

Devi #1: Virgin Comics launches its first title, and from last week's free preview sampler, this series looked like it could be interesting, exposing us Americans to a view of Indian culture we just don't often get, and probably really need.

Grimm Fairy Tales #7: I'm not quite sure if this actually has a through arc or not, but at its worst, it's still been a pretty fun read. However, buy it because you like fairy tales being tweaked, not because the cover has drawn you in with its nymphette sexuality.

The Thing #8: Read this and be a kid again, loving Ben Grimm and his …poker …parties. Okay, maybe it's not the best example to set, but the Grimm Poker Parties have been part of Marvel lore for decades. It's always a treat to get to look in on one.

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

Derek McCaw

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