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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 12/28/06
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Maybe it's because it's the week after Christmas and publishers figure we're all using our money for the big ticket items we didn't get. Maybe it's that I've been playing Ultimate Alliance for the past two days and that's made me tired, a little cranky and very annoyed at Arcade. (Pity Lon Lopez for the late night phone calls demanding to know just what the heck you're supposed to do with that random bumper car.)

At any rate, no book I read really fits the spotlight criteria. There's some good stuff out there this week, no question, but to get the spotlight a book alternately has to:

a) be either a first issue, stand-alone issue or at least a good jumping on point for new readers.

b) not have had its previous issue hit the spotlight a month before.

c) not have some niggling flaw that bugs the crap out of me so much that I can't put it in the spotlight.

So there you have it. Instead, here are the books I read that are worth talking about this week.

Age of Bronze #24: One of the most unique and worthy books being published today, Age of Bronze takes the Trojan War and makes its events believable. Creator Eric Shanower does this by focusing on the humans, not the gods, and in some ways turning The Iliad into what it was for its original audience: a soap opera. It's beautifully drawn, but it also has the drawback of many of its characters looking similarly beautiful, and a complex plot that's rewarding but hard to tell the players without a scorecard. Thus, it's worth your time, but best to go back and start from the beginning.

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #3: At least on the interiors, the coloring has changed so as not to have the supernatural characters stand out so obviously from the normal humans. Score one for a book that doesn't need my praise to sell insanely well nor will be hurt by my scorn. Laurell K. Hamilton's plot is obviously interesting to fans of erotic vampire stories. But this book just isn't going to attract someone who doesn't already know Hamilton's work. Everyone stands around looking like they're either about to have sex or recovering from having had sex, even when they're fighting. The art takes an absolute backseat to the writing, anyway, as artist Brett Booth definitely has style but little more than pin-up drawing in his toolbox. Panels that should tell the story get cluttered with word balloons and caption boxes, while huge figure drawings pause for a pose. Hmm…sort of like Jean-Claude.

Annihilation #5: …and we go to a cover of Ronan the Accuser posing erotically as battle armor gets forged onto him. Fortunately, Andrea DiVito's interior art is about action and intrigue, with Thanos lying dead, Drax being a tad embarrassed about it and Galactus really needing a bite to eat. This Marvel cosmic event really is changing the landscape, but again, if you don't know who all the players are, it can get daunting. The scope, obviously, is huge, and that, too, gets in the way. We can see, for instance, that Nova will be redefined at the end of this series, but as you read this issue it's hard to remember that that's happening. It may just be best to wait for it all to blow over and then buy the spin-off series with the character you like…say, like Nova.

Civil War: Choosing Sides: Yes, this is actually a second printing, and shame on Marvel for including it in the retailer previews as if it were a brand new book. Imitating DC books like Brave New World but for $4 instead of $1, short little stories fill in a few blanks for those series either launched or deeply reworked as a result of Civil War. Venom gets recruited for the Thunderbolts, Ant-Man sits on the sidelines watching a crucial street battle, U.S. Agent heads for Canada and Iron Fist tells us he's about to put on the Iron Fist costume again. Only the Howard the Duck story truly stands alone, as it's not spinning into a different book. All the other stories add a bit of depth, but they're not essential parts of their sagas. However, for collectors, Marvel does have a Gene Colan cover spoofing Howard the Duck #1

Daredevil #92: Ed Brubaker reveals a mastermind whose plans go back much farther than we might have expected. Along the way, perhaps, the slow rehabilitation of Daredevil in the public's eyes begin. This doesn't have quite the same throat-grabbing tension of Brubaker and Lark's first arc, but it's still good stuff, with a quieter sense of danger.

The Immortal Iron Fist #2: Hopping around in time with different artists depicting different Iron Fists, this book has made me a fan of the character. Or at least continued my being a fan of Brubaker and Matt Fraction. It's a good story upsetting a status quo that I didn't know Danny Rand had - but it's told so well that you can instantly grasp it and move on to the action. If the first issue hadn't been my spotlight last month, this would have been there.

Onslaught Reborn #2: I will not swear. I will not swear. I will not swear. Completely ignoring what little has been done with this world after Rob Liefeld got released from the original project, this book at least sees Liefeld a little more restrained for the first few pages. But it makes no friggin' sense. Franklin Richards escaped into his little world and once again dragged all his heroes into it, who all immediately resume their false lives with no idea that it's been TEN YEARS - though this world's Bucky DOES know it. Halfway through a panel - a panel - Onslaught changes his appearance. It makes Hulk's head hurt, which sort of justifies HIS appearance at the end. I just can't blame the fans anymore, so I'll blame Franklin. He's young. He doesn't understand that this mini-series may make The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl look like Citizen Kane.

What If? Featuring X-Men: Okay, there are two of these this week, so let's combine them. The Age of Apocalypse juncture features Rick Remender's Marvel debut, and because of that, it's worth recommending. But it's bleak, almost unbearably bleak, which has never been my favorite tone with What If -- ?. Not quite as bleak but more entertaining to me is a retake on Deadly Genesis. It gets right to the heart of what Ed Brubaker established in Kid Vulcan's character, whereas Remender has to play with Nate Grey, X-Man, a character that got constantly redefined and was ultimately a cipher.

Wolverine Origins #9: If you're into this sort of thing, let me say that Mark Texeira draws one sexy Black Widow for the variant edition cover. Luckily, the story within puts things back on track and does that thing this book is supposed to do - tell stories that illuminate Wolverine's past. With Black Widow, it's tricky, but clearly Marvel is dumping the World War II story that had her meeting Logan when she was a little girl. Instead, Daniel Way's take makes more sense in exploring both characters, though it also invalidates Richard K. Morgan's excellent pair of Black Widow mini-series. But those barely seemed to fit in the Marvel Universe anyway. Oh, what are we continuity idiots supposed to do?

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

Derek McCaw


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