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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 12/20/06
brought to you by FanboyPlanet.Comics of Santa Clara

She-Hulk #14
writer: Dan Slott
artist: Rick Burchett

Sure, it's everything you always wanted to know about Awesome Andy but were afraid to ask. It says so right in the title of the story. For some two dozen issues or so, who knew they could ask?

The inclusion of the Awesome Android in She-Hulk's supporting cast seemed like just another stroke of Slott brilliance, a cool hulking figure showing up for comic relief in a book that spent most of its time being comic relief itself. Yet what has made this run of She-Hulk interesting (if not always successful) has been Slott's ability to make us look again at things we've taken for granted in the Marvel Universe.

This huge lump of clay is no different. For years, we've seen him trudge around the office in work attire, incongruous for his literal blockhead. A chalkboard has hung around his neck to communicate, and even that Slott explains as fantastic. I wondered why I never saw any chalk, always marking it off in my head as a sort of Yellow Kid technique.

Suddenly Andy's story is one of compassion, moving even as it raises a smile. Of the many reformed villain stories in Marvel history, this one makes the most sense. Long ago, the Vision proved that "even an android can cry," but despite all his legitimate emotions, that seems to be the one thing Andy can't do. You will believe even an android can have a broken heart, though, thanks to the art.

Rick Burchett's work seemed uneven in the previous issue, but maybe that's just because, unbelievably, it was his first foray into the Marvel canon. With this issue, the art looks a lot more comfortable. She-Hulk looks smart and powerful to match her obvious physical charms, though she takes a back seat here. Man-Wolf looks like a chastised dog. And that blockhead Andy is a tremendously expressive blockhead. This tale also makes a good place to jump aboard or just pick up for a one-off hit. It's a pause before the real ramifications of Civil War take hold, and it may be hard to see how Slott balances this book's tone with that huge crossover. Though the Marvel Universe weaves in and out of this story, it does so in a simplistic way, highlighting the fun of continuity. It hearkens back to a time that Thor hung out with Jane Foster on a day to day basis, and when the heck was that?

Without compromising anything in continuity, Slott (and now Burchett) make this book stand as a reminder that superhero comics can simply be fun.

Even Marvel Comics.

Also on the Stands:

Cable & Deadpool #35: Jason Schachat has stood by this book for a long time, and there's nothing I can find bad about it. Writer Fabian Nicieza really has a feel for the characters, and always finds something new in Deadpool's dialogue to make me cock my head and say "Ambush Bug?" As Deadpool himself acknowledges, this book also has the best plot summary introduction page in the business. So why can't I rave about this book? Deadpool has certainly grown on me, though I have an unnatural antipathy for any character I associate with Rob Liefeld's fertile mind. And maybe that's it. I just cannot find it in my heart to give a damn about Cable. Not even Ultimate Cable. Maybe you can.

Elephantmen #5: This one has a great premise that has fluctuated in weight. That's no sleight against the title characters; it's just that the stories have been uneven. Richard Starkings reminds me with this issue, however, why I think his concept is cool. Despite some jokiness - a good-hearted camel named Joe, for instance - this issue has some heart-wrenching moments and magnificent art. Could HBO come calling to do a movie?

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #15: Just killing time in the dark corners of Peter's more obscure history until we can get a new status quo. Yep. That about sums it up, but naturally, Peter David doesn't just phone it in. Instead, he actually causes a little sympathy for the Vulture and gives a cliffhanger that may actually leave you in suspense. Flash Thompson's characterization here may be a little confusing, but then what hasn't been since Peter unmasked?

Ms. Marvel #10: Three cheers to Brian Reed for waiting nine whole issues before mining the only real notable plot point in Ms. Marvel's continuity. He's firmly established her character and gotten some great art from Mike Wieringo and Wade Von Grawbadger. (Their rendition of the Beast is really interesting.) Laying the groundwork for Carol Danvers' emotional instability, as a stand-alone this issue really works. But it just lacks that oomph that makes me want to read more. I can't shake the feeling that Ms. Marvel is the comic book equivalent of Matthew McConaughey.

The Pirates of Coney Island #3: If you want a book dripping with attitude, this one certainly has it. The concept, too, is cool, and a sequence of the "pirates" boarding a convertible has some cool to it. But Rick Spears and Vasilis Lolos seem to be trading more on attitude and cool than clean storytelling. The basic concept is clear, but the art is muddled, making it hard to tell characters apart and the story just makes huge leaps in logic. Accept it for what it is, I guess, and I accept that this book just isn't meant for me.

The Sensational Spider-Man #33: This may be the best Aunt May story ever told. Brian Michael Bendis did much to rehabilitate the character in Ultimate Spider-Man, making her a lot younger than Lee and Ditko let us assume, but Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa takes exactly what Lee and Ditko established and runs with it. This is the Aunt May who lectured Peter Parker from her hospital bed about gumption. This is a woman whom fate placed in the unexpected role of parent, and who sometimes has trouble letting go of it. Sean Chen's art has a bit of blockiness to it, but he nails the real key moments. Finally, we've got a story that will seal Aguirre-Sacasa's legacy on the character in the way Roger Stern did with "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man." This issue isn't quite as powerful as that classic, but it is a character-defining moment.

Thunderbolts #109: Whoo, boy. Out with the old and in with the new, huh? That's what this issue is all about, clearing the decks so that the new status quo can take place. Once again, Fabian Nicieza is a yeoman-like writer, always delivering something entertaining. But at this point, the title is mired in double-crosses and continuity shifts. If you haven't been reading Thunderbolts, this will leave you lost. Nicieza tries to sum up everything, but it's just too much to swallow before Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato step in with a relatively clean slate.

Union Jack #4: Maybe you want to wait for the trade on this one, since it is the fourth of four issues. But you will want to pick it up, because Christos N. Gage delivers an action-packed story that balances political intrigue with sharp superhero characterization. At the end of this, I might not care about Sabra or Arabian Knight very much (cool to see them, though), but man, Union Jack suddenly has a bold, plucky characterization that I want to see again. And Mike Perkins' art isn't too shabby, either. This has been one surprisingly solid mini-series.

Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade #1: Boom! Studios' first major licensing opportunity hits the stores today, and if you're one of the faithful of either company, you're going to be pleased. Backstage at the play I'm in, my friend Ron Talbot has been raving about what a great writer Dan Abnett is on the Warhammer novels. Heck, I liked the guy's work on Resurrection Man. So it comes as no surprise that this first comic book outing is approachable despite being very obviously steeped in gaming mythos. The artwork is solid, the coloring is, of course, beautiful, and the whole effect is just bone-crunching. I'll admit, however, that hardcore sci fi war books rarely do much for me, and at this point, the story doesn't offer me any way into characterization. With this, it's about the sweep, it's about the big picture, and that's just not where my interest lies. But I predict this Warhammer won't fall - Boom! Studios has another strong one.

X-Men: First Class #4: Marvel needs a few more books like this. Written to appeal to a true wide-range audience, First Class presents a rich story, done in one issue. It has ties to an earlier tale, and probably sets up something later on, but it doesn't matter. You could give this to someone for Christmas and they'd be hooked. Jeff Parker also makes you wonder why this original core team of X-Men didn't have the staying power of the new. Each character is distinct, fun and heck, Parker even dusts off Dr. Strange as well as Brian K. Vaughan has with The Oath. So you want the proverbial stocking stuffer? Try this, which came in a close second place for spotlight book of the week.

Shout Out Back a Week:

Green Lantern Corps #7: Keith Champagne pulls a bit of a Brad Meltzer by adding some interesting subtext to the Corps. He's not retconning anything, just offering a different point of view. If he can carry it off through his whole arc, this is going to finally be the book that puts Champagne's name on the map as a writer (a bit overdue), because it may change how you think about the Green Lantern mythos. Not particularly hyped by DC, you should pick it up because a year from now, it's likely to be one of those "dang - I should have bought it" books.

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

Derek McCaw

 

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