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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 08/23/06
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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.

Fell #6
writer: Warren Ellis
artist: Ben Templesmith

Already, I suspect that whenever a new issue of Fell hits, it's going to qualify as the spotlight book. Each issue serves as essentially a stand-alone, though Warren Ellis does have a loose continuity.

First off, Ellis serves up interesting drama without resorting to sensationalism. Detective Fell may have seen too much messed-up crap in his life, but he's believably trying to reconnect with society at large, not just protect it. After reading a lot of Ellis' other smaller projects and Marvel's Nextwave, it's nice to see that Ellis can write of ordinary humans accomplishing mundanely extraordinary things. In Fell, he has a human being.

Part of Fell's connecting rests on his imminent girlfriend Mayko. In this issue, she seems understandably excited to stick a toe in Fell's world, though that might change. Whichever direction she goes, it will be a reasonable character direction. With just a few choice scenes, she already feels like the kind of girlfriend everybody wishes they could get. But is Fell the right kind of boyfriend?

He certainly has a moral center, though again, he may have seen a lot of bad things that could simmer in his subconscious. At this point, he has empathy for those that society might otherwise overlook. It's this quality that gets this issue's disturbing little story rolling.

I'm late to Fell, so knowing exactly where the book's groundwork lies is difficult. Certainly, having Ben Templesmith do the artwork implies horror, but this issue seems far more grounded. What we are capable of doing to each other is horrible enough, but in any case Fell provides Templesmith a great showcase for surprisingly effective quiet moments.

But back to that horror - Detective Fell's chief believes he can save the city by learning magic. He could be joking, but then why is he reading a copy of the Necronomicon? It might simply be Ellis' dark humor, but it could bode something worse in store for Fell.

No matter the case, I'll be reading. It's not just that insanely low cover price of $1.99. Sure, that makes the book a bargain, but it's just a lure. The quality will keep you coming back.

Also On The Stands:

Batman and the Mad Monk #1: Matt Wagner continues absorbing Golden Age Batman tales into something like modern continuity. With this mini-series, he chronicles Batman's first encounter with the supernatural. Even if the powers that be don't let this stand as canon, having it occur early in the Dark Knight's career makes his inevitable distrust of the fantastic more palatable. There's also something solid and pleasing about Wagner's work; it almost feels like we're seeing some classic comic strip play out. Though Bill Finger and Bob Kane were able to tell the original story in far fewer pages, Wagner keeps adding depth and carving out his own little corner of Batman's history.

Claw The Unconquered #3: Werewolf warriors, a demon clone and portents of continuity to come. I'll be damned - the book's grown on me. The fact that it seems to know where it's going helps. Andy Smith's art gets less and less like Bart Sears' and more and more its own cool, bloody creation with each issue. Okay, so it's not for everyone, but if you like scantily clad maidens, ultra-violence, and a hero with an ambivalence about his fate, Claw will satisfy. That's Claw, not Claws, though that might satisfy you, too.

Elephantmen #2: On one side, we get an almost perfect Howard Stern riff. Sure, the guest is a crocodileman, but other than that, the parody is too close to reality. If that makes you nervous, good. Richard Starkings has a really good ear for voices. Flip the book over and you have a story, largely narrated in excerpts from The Book of Job, that explains the crocodileman's condition, and it's not nearly as easy to grasp. From the looks of the next issue's cover, it's the tale that has something to do with burgeoning continuity. It's a cool issue, though not quite as strong as the book's debut.

Fear Agent #7: It's goofy, but still not afraid to be challenging. Every time you think you have a handle on what's going on, Rick Remender throws another curve. Fear Agent is smart, fearless and unpredictable. So, too, perhaps, is its title character.

Hawkgirl #55: Walt Simonson and Howard Chaykin teamed on a book should be old school goodness. Instead, this book has taken forever to move its plot along, and it doesn't even seem that interesting. Hawkman has returned, like we knew he would, but this issue almost completely ignores it. Chaykin seems a bit tired, doing competent work but nothing particularly special, though Simonson has given him ample opportunity to draw lingerie.

The Walking Dead #30: Let me be brief: without breaking any rules, without cheating us, Kirkman and Adlard (and it's definitely a creative team doing this) fooled us with a major plot point. Well played, guys, well played. I hate zombies and I love this book.

Wonder Woman #2: Allan Heinberg gives the Dodsons plenty of chances to work to their strengths. To go along with that, the writer has amped up Wonder Woman's arch villains into something truly formidable for a new era. Heck, he's even managed to reclaim early seventies continuity. And yet what Heinberg has not had to do yet is actually explain any of it. Thus the coolness has a bitter aftertaste, because though this relaunched Wonder Woman is dazzling, it hasn't yet proved to have anything in the way of substance. It does, however, have a smiling Batman.

Sight Unseen:

Absolute Dark Knight: Combining Frank Miller's redefinitions of Batman into one huge volume, which we can all assume to be gorgeous. Some people felt that The Dark Knight Strikes Again was a pale echo of the first work, but really, how could anything live up to the impact of The Dark Knight Returns? Give it another read, because you know you want this edition.

Astonishing X-Men #16: Last issue, Joss Whedon turned Wolverine into a prissy British schoolboy. Can he top that? How about bringing things back full circle to an angry Kitty Pryde, ready to take down the new Hellfire Club?

Jack of Fables #2: This spin-off from (you guessed it) Fables had a fun debut issue. Whether or not we get tired of Jack's constantly blowing his own horn remains to be seen. Of course, Jack blowing his own horn should really be another story altogether…

Justice League of America #1: If the prospect of Brad Meltzer writing the League hasn't already caused you to do this, allow me to describe it: bring your hands up to your mouth and squeal like a cheerleader just awarded the title of Homecoming Queen.

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

Derek McCaw

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