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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 09/07/06
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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.

Jonah Hex #11
writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
artist: David Michael Beck

A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker asked me why they're called "comics" if they're not funny. I gave a typically long-winded answer about it referring to an art form that started out being just humor before branching into a variety of other genres. I'm not going to backtrack and say that Jonah Hex is comic, though it has moments of humor. However, I realized that as much as I get into a variety of different books, the ones I keep gravitating back toward, regardless of genre, are the ones that I consider fun, if not funny.

Jonah Hex qualifies way more often than not, and because Gray and Palmiotti keep pulling each issue off as a stand-alone story, though definitely woven into a larger tapestry, it's a book that anybody can pick up. You can pick it up for the first time and have as much fun, I hope, as I did reading this issue.

Guest-starring El Diablo, this issue alludes to events in the first issue, but again, the writers recap enough information that new readers won't be lost. They've also got the art down of not making it awkwardly expository; instead, the circus freaks out to see Hex swing from "The Hanging Tree" only reference the earlier story enough to explain their motivation to the gunslinger. Sure, lots of people want Hex dead, but they've all got their reasons.

What Hex had done, though, was a righteous act, and most of these circus folk are uneasy about their brand of justice. That earlier story illustrated a piece of Hex's moral code. This story, however, illuminates a different side of the scarred cowboy. Though he won't admit it, Hex has need of friends.

It's poignant and subtle, burrowing into his gruff exterior. But what pushes the book into outright fun territory is that his friends are all DC's Western heroes from the sixties and seventies.

Taking El Diablo back from Vertigo, Gray and Palmiotti have fleshed out the character a bit more. He's a cursed man, but still capable of living a life of sorts. In a few panels, they make Lazarus Lane into a fully-fleshed character, a perfect foil for Jonah Hex and definitely at odds with his supernatural alter ego. With this issue, the writers also tie him more strongly into the modern-day El Diablo, who recently appeared in Infinite Crisis after years of inaction. (As a side note - DC, collect that Gerard Jones/Mike Parobeck series. It was ahead of its time.)

David Michael Beck steps in on the art chores and it's an impressive job. Fully acted, neatly staged, the art is just busy enough, rewarding a couple of read-throughs. It's also pretty life-like, capturing the thoughts of its characters and doing a good job of contrasting the dirt of the frontier with the efforts of people like Lane to keep clean.

It was a good week for comic books. But none gave me the smile that Jonah Hex did.

Also on the Stands:

American Splendor #1: Harvey Pekar gets some Vertigo money. If you're already a fan, you're already planning to buy it. But if you don't know Harvey's work, or only know the movie from a few years back, now is the time to give him a try. His honesty - especially towards himself - is strangely compelling. Clearly, the great artists that jump on board to illustrate him agree.

The Cross Bronx #1: It's amazing how effective Michael Avon Oeming's somewhat cartoony style can be at portraying gore. Yep, it's still gross, but it's in the service of a gritty police story that may or may not have a smack of the supernatural. Detective Rafael Aponte carries the visible weight of the world on his shoulders as he seeks out something he hasn't in quite a while: justice.

Emissary #4: Credit Jim Valentino for trying, but every time Emissary goes somewhere new, it steps back into the obvious for twice as many pages. Somewhere in here is an honest attempt at an adventurous meaning of life story. More often than not, the characters come across as flat and behaving according to stereotypes.

Jack Staff #11: So…hard…to…follow. And yet so cool. Paul Grist's art and storytelling have a nice cleanness. How it all ties together is confusing at this point, but the mini-stories (which appear randomly and disappear whence they came) at least maintain an interior logic. It's not for everyone's taste, and I don't know if this is some sort of experimental narrative or just how British comics used to work before we took over, because that's what we always do.

Manifest Eternity #4: Dustin Nguyen's artwork has evolved a bit, and it gives the book a nice unique sheen. The story, however, still doesn't feel as cool as the artwork makes it seem. While the idea of a science fiction universe taking on a fantasy one seems cool, this book is just moving along at a glacial pace.

Mystery In Space #1: Captain Comet and …The Weird? The WEIRD?!?!?!?! Okay. Enough of that. Jim Starlin injects a little Starlin-drive into one of DC's most overlooked cosmic characters, quickly and efficiently establishing a supporting cast that we can actually care about. The Weird might not be so easy, as in his previous appearance (a mini-series with the Justice League, drawn by Berni Wrightson), he was a character literally in search of a personality - and that still seems to be the case.

Noble Causes #23: The soap opera has gotten more convoluted even as the art has gotten less impressive. This is a book starting to peter out, eschewing plot development for longer fight scenes. Early issues rocked, but it's been hard to stay interested in this one.

Sidekick #3: Rick Veitch did it years ago with Bratpack. But Paul Jenkins has added a couple of new wrinkles - certainly a more modern take on the selfishness of superheroes, plus undeniable charm that keeps trying to lift this book above mediocrity. It's not at the top of my pile, but one worth flipping through.

Y: The Last Man #49: Brian K. Vaughan can't spin this thing out forever, and indeed plans to bring it to a close next year. But he still keeps throwing us curveballs without letting us feel manipulated. For every answer, a new question arises. And then characters realize they may have accepted the wrong answer. It feels real. Maybe too real.

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

Derek McCaw

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