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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 08/09/06
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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.

Martian Manhunter #1
writer: A. J. Leiberman
artists: Al Barrionuevo and Bit

As one disgruntled fan pointed out at Comic-Con, every time J'onn J'onnz gets a new series, it seems like he gets a new origin. Sometimes he's the last Martian, then he's the last Green Martian, then he's the big spiky headed thing. Let's just count our blessings that he's never appeared to be Gumby.

But those changes have been there for longer than fans want to realize - how many people remember that the whole reason the Justice League Detroit formed was because GREEN Martians had knocked down the satellite? By H'ronmeer's Ghost, if fans would just be happy with the elements of J'onn's origin, he wouldn't have to change it as often as his form.

So let us count another blessing, that in the wake of DC's "Brave New World," writer A. J. Leiberman got the call to inject new energy into the Martian Manhunter. Lieberman, if you recall, had the unenviable task of following up Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee by writing Hush. There he quietly made the character not only his own, but viable and almost (almost) sensible.

With "The Others Among Us," Leiberman asks us to forget what we think we know. For now, we have to go along with a vibe of paranoia. The story keeps the Martian Manhunter off-balance, but before it does that, it knocks the readers off-balance. There's a deep conspiracy within the DCU, and if it's managed to keep hidden this long, maybe J'onn is right to be angry at his previous attempts at assimilation.

The thing that has been hard to remember for long time fans is that this is "New Earth." It's a chance for DC to pick and choose continuity, and at least Lieberman seems to be dealing with what casual fans think they know about the Martian Manhunter. Why he has taken this darker, more leathery look hasn't yet been revealed.

One thing for certain, it does freak out the locals. From the very first Martian Manhunter story, "The Strange Experiment of Professor Erdel," the character's alienness has been a factor, but it's usually quickly swept away. Lieberman and his art team make it front and center, putting J'onnz in an angry depression that may seem out of character, but also might be long overdue.

It's not invalidating the "elder statesman" role that he has held for so long, but it looks like these first few issues, at least, will tear J'onn down and build him back up into something new and edgier. Being the wise patriarch just isn't going to cut it for him anymore.

If it turns out he is still the last Martian (and Teen Titans isn't messing with our heads about that too badly - noooooo), then it will be a long time before he can trust humanity again. However, Lieberman doesn't seem to be compromising the character's basic heroism.

The artwork is pretty solid, though Barrionuevo gives J'onn a little bit too much of a Skrull appearance in the chin. (No claims of rip-offs, please, as the Martian Manhunter predates the Skrulls by at least five years.)

The All-New Atom still stands as the best Brave New World launch, but give this one time: the talent involved keeps flying under the radar, but deserves a lot more attention. This book should garner it.

Also on the Stands:

Brother Bedlam: For genre fans, '70's television is littered with two-hour pilots that set up a really cool premise and then disappeared, like The Questor Tapes or Genesis II. Heck, that's how we got The Six Million Dollar Man. That's how Brother Bedlam feels, like a really cool pilot movie. Except that Keith Giffen got involved, so it's one that no television executive in his right mind would green-light due to excessive violence and glorious lack of taste. A Lutheran priest discovers that he's far more than he thought he was, and has to battle back an attempt to hijack the Apocalypse. There's blood, guts and artist Matt Jacobs freely dancing around the styles of Sam Kieth, Giffen himself and Simon Bisley.

Fables #52: Bill Willingham changes tack a little bit with this issue, dividing it up into a lead story and a back-up to give us a little more background. The main plot moves along, and if it doesn't create any more intrigue, it does show us how deep the Adversary's conspiracy goes. In the back-up slot, Gene Ha illustrates the story of Rapunzel in modern times. Once again, one of the best books out there.

Firestorm the Nuclear Man #28: If the One Year Later trick didn't draw you in, this jumping on point should do it. Stuart Moore brings in a lot from the first Firestorm's past, but does it without leaving new readers behind. Somehow, he also manages to liven up Jason Rusch's backstory in a way that isn't alienating. Moore has not received enough credit for taking this book from one of the worst DC relaunches to the best, but credit also has to go to Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne, an art team that gets stronger and stronger with each issue.

A Man Called Kev #2: The first issue disappointed me, but that may just be because Ennis had to shift tones from the earlier mini-series. Kev has never been presented as a character that had much time (or ability) to stop and reflect, so it's jarring for this mini-series to focus so heavily on his taking stock of himself. Jarring, maybe, but also turning out to be daring and quietly interesting. It's still not the wild ride of the earlier books, but it's certainly adding depth.

Negative Burn #3: This Image anthology book has all the strengths and weaknesses you might expect. Not everything will hit everybody's tastes, and all of it is meant to push the boundaries. I've become a fan of Matthew Smith's "Fade" stories, but I think I'd be happier to just have it in one edition rather than wade through so much stuff that isn't my cup of tea. The first issue of this revival worked much better for me. If you like experimental stuff, pick it up, thumb through it and make sure you're digging enough of the art to justify the $5.99 price tag.

The Savage Brothers #1: The first page makes this seem like Boom! Studios trying to squeeze more life out of the zombie genre that has served them so well. But writers Andrew Cosby and Johanna Stokes have a lot more in mind than that, and I'm glad I didn't dismiss it too quickly. The title characters are barely moral bounty hunters at the End of Days, wading through more than just the undead. However, any ethical morasses they find themselves in may just be too deep for them to comprehend. Somehow, this book ended up being just a heck of a lot of fun. Similar in tone to Brother Bedlam, I'll even hazard that this is the stronger book.

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

Derek McCaw

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