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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 03/22/06
brought to you by Brian's Books 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.

Supergirl and
the Legion of Super-Heroes #16

writer: Mark Waid
artists: Barry Kitson and Mick Gray

Every one of the "One Year Later" books has had a level of accessibility, but none so concisely summing up the status quo as this title. Partly that's because it's not directly tied into the Infinite Crisis, and if much time has passed between issues, that was by Waid and Kitson's choice, not editorial mandate.

Of course, they are shaking things up, but the event forcing the title change plays out organically, not as a stunt.

Before you get to that, though, the first five pages do a good job of establishing the new status quo. After fourteen issues of being at odds with the adult world (and one great "bridging" issue last month), the Legion has now been accepted.

Unlike their original incarnation, these teens aren't well-behaved. But Waid and Kitson, truly a storytelling team, deftly prove that most of us would be driven crazy in this society. Adults live their lives locked away mentally and physically, taking decorum and modesty to a ridiculous extreme and lost in cyberspace. A sense of community seems non-existent. Are we sure this is the thirty-first century?

The new truce between the Legion and the police is uneasy, and the super-heroes definitely have the brashness of youth. Yet if they're not careful, the Legion could become just another cog in the machinery of thirty-first century society. Waid utilizes that tension just a bit, as the members clearly do not all agree that they should be public servants.

When a giant fireball comes hurtling toward Earth, though, all differences get put aside, even if the government is using them as just another "resource." Then there's the matter of this mysterious "S" symbol on it…

Just as we get comfortable with the new status quo, Waid and Kitson handily throw in a wrench. We are reminded once again that this is not the Legion some of us grew up on; Waid has promised in more than one interview that there may be an explanation for them, too. After all, why should they change just because the past does? (These continuity-wide events have always played havoc with the logic of this title.)

Having Kitson co-plot helps add depth. Check out the look of an inspired little boy, and the various non-powered Legionnaires working on their headquarters. This is what we should be seeing more often in real life - inspiration and an excited joy. As a designer, Kitson also blends a believably futuristic style with just enough concrete detail so as not to be disorienting.

Though this makes one of three "One Year Later" fates for Supergirl, Legion of Super-Heroes should be the most fun. It's certainly one excellent comic. Perhaps this is why Cartoon Network held off on their Justice League Unlimited Legion episode until this upcoming weekend. In a rare moment of corporate synergy, they could conceivably actually send people into comic shops to find a book that matches the show.

Long live the Legion - and Supergirl!

Runners-up:

The American Way #2: 1961 has a nice soft glow about it, doesn't it? Writer John Ridley reminds us that we had anti-Soviet paranoia and a quiet cultural racism bubbling underneath to undermine that hopeful time. But there was still hope, and even if it's being manipulated by a slick ad guy, there seems to even be some sincerity to it in the operation of the "Civil Defense Corps." This book has some clever characterization building that keeps it from just being a satire of the Justice League, but it's seeing where Ridley is going with his plot that should keep you coming back.

Ares #3: After Asgard fell, the other gods should have started quaking in their boots. Michael Avon Oeming knows that, and though this book spotlights the Grecian god of war, he's using a vast knowledge of world culture for this tale. At first glance, Ares should be a morally ambiguous character, and hard to like as a father, but Oeming makes that a difficult judgment to stand by. His son clearly loves him and has also clearly been taught a great deal about honor - more than Ares' disdainful half-brother Hercules has ever possessed himself. The different cultures clash and blend very well here, too, a tribute to some really nice work by Travel Foreman.

Catwoman #53: Who's a good Fanboy? Who's a good Fanboy? "One Year Later" for Selina Kyle brings up something that could fit into old Earth-2 continuity, as the erstwhile Catwoman has a baby named - Helena. Mysteriously, Batman brings the baby girl a teddy bear (with no bat symbol in sight on it). And there's someone else leaping the rooftops in the leather and spandex. It's an intriguing new status quo with mysteries that look not so much mysterious as a natural progression.

Daredevil #83: Matt Murdock will be nobody's bitch. Ed Brubaker believes it, and you'd better believe it. The other thing we'd better believe (until somebody tells us differently years from now) is that Foggy Nelson is dead. DEAD. Bendis thought he'd left the new creative team in a tough spot. The new guys are making it even tougher and loving it.

The Incredible Hulk #93: Though most of the alien races seem new to us here, they're still explored far more coherently than in Annihilation. That's due to our being able to focus on a character we know and love: the Hulk. With an intelligence level somewhere below the grey version of the character, this space barbarian is having adventures Conan could only dream of - and under the plotting of Greg Pak, they feel just right.

John Constantine, Hellblazer #218: With Constantine off the magic pipe for a while, Denise Mina has put him exactly where he doesn't want to be. Remember when we didn't know who Brad Meltzer was? I have a sneaking suspicion we're going to feel that way about Mina - out of nowhere and building rapidly toward being a fan favorite.

Manhunter #20: The status quo doesn't actually feel all that changed with this book, though clearly a year has done some things for Chase. Still, it's as solid and interesting a concept as it was the previous nineteen issues, so do yourself a favor and pick it up.

She-Hulk #6: Thumbs up for Eros, indeed. It's about time somebody picked up on the consequences of Eros' power, and Dan Slott is just the man to do it. For those not in the know, this is a guy who constantly emanates the equivalent of a psychic roofie. Combined with his utter cocksurety (wouldn't you?), this makes Eros, also occasionally known more humbly as "Starfox," the guy all the other guys at the Avengers' parties hate. It also makes him, at best, a serial date rapist who can indeed use the excuse "she wanted it," except that he made her want it in the first place. Slott treats this with more humor than should be comfortable, but he does acknowledge the dark undertone.

X-Factor #5: Ryan Sook's absence is felt. Replacement artist Dennis Calero is competent, but spending way too much time doing obvious riffs on iconic images that it's distracting. Rictor spends several pages as James Dean, until Calero has no established pose to steal - then you wonder who Rictor is supposed to be. It doesn't exactly overpower Peter David's excellent plotting, but it leaves the book weaker than it should be. Hopefully, the artist has gotten it out of his system, because he will be on the book for a while.

Sight Unseen:

Hawkgirl #50: Walt Simonson, the man who gave us Thor as a frog, writes. Howard Chaykin, an artist not afraid to mix it up with sex and violence, draws. How can we not be there?

Living in Infamy #3: I picked up the first issue after Comic-Con (thanks, Carr) and somehow missed that the second came out. It's a nice premise with a witness protection town of supervillains, trying to stay reformed and not attract the attention of the big guns they ratted out.

Squadron Supreme #1: J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank move over to Marvel Knights. We'll lose the swearing, I think, but we'll keep the intense plotting that was nicely set up by…

Supreme Power: Hyperion #5: Read this one first. It will explain a lot about the conflicts we can expect in the new Marvel Knights 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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