January 20, 2010

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

The Week's Picks and Pans, plus Awards of Dubious Merit Standard Disclaimers: Please set appropriate followups. Recommendation does not factor in price. Not all books will have arrived in your area this week. An archive can be found on my homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants This has been two of those weeks.... I was too tired after work on Wednesday to hang around the comic shop and wait for books to be put out, so I went home to collapse for a bit and picked up my comics Thursday. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None "Other Media" Capsules: Things that are comics-related but not necessarily comics (i.e. comics-based movies like Iron Man or Hulk), or that aren't going to be available via comic shops (like comic pack-ins with DVDs) will go in this section when I have any to mention. They may not be as timely as comic reviews, especially if I decide to review novels that take me a week or two (or ten) to get around to. Quest for Magic: City of Heroes Architect Entertainment - Why am I reviewing player-created content on City of Heroes? Because the player in question is Bill Willingham, current writer of JSA. The arc ID is 337434, in case you still want to play this after reading my review. Yeah, I wasn't that impressed. This is an arc for levels 46-50...any level of character can try it, they'll just be moved up to level 46 if they start too low (but really low-level characters will lack some of the defenses necessary). My regular Sunday night group did it with a motley assortment of heroes and villains (our main group characters are tied up in a taskforce and one member was unable to play), and we found it...not terribly challenging. We even cranked the difficulty up by three levels (so the villains were L50 and we were all treated as L47), and still cruised through most of the missions without breaking a sweat. Only the third mission, with its poison-heavy Elder Snakes, made us stop goofing around. The plot is painfully predictable, even for people who haven't read a lot of Willingham (and for those who have, see if you can catch the Saker references!). Seriously, at the midpoint I outlined how the rest would go over TeamSpeex and I was proven right in most of the details. ;) The first mission uses a group of custom catpeople villains, one type of which looks vaguely like Kylun from Excalibur. Since they're all claw types, even low level characters should have little difficulty here (few to no special attack types). Statesman appears as an "ally" character, meaning you're supposed to free him and then he helps out, but ours just ran away once freed. Either a bug, or evidence that Willingham has a low opinion of Statesman. The second mission has custom Roman vampires (the Black Legion, founded by a 2000 year old Roman vampire and his human and undead follows) and was a little trickier due to some of the darkness attacks, but it took place in that most boring of maps, the cargo ship. Mission three has the Elder Snakes that you pretty much only see in one mission arc in City of Villains, and they're quite nasty. We died a lot in that mission. The final mission mostly uses recolored Hydra...colored various brown and black shades, so they look even more like walking piles of poo than usual. The only danger we were in was from laughing so hard at them that we accidentally got killed. Not that we needed it, but we got one of the Kylun-alike catpeople as an ally in this mission. There were non-poo enemies in the final few sections, but nothing memorable. So. For a high level mission it wasn't that challenging, it might be more of a trial for characters in the teens and twenties, especially those without defenses against toxins. The plot is predictable to the point of cliche, although the fact that it has a plot beyond "beat up mobs of villains" puts it ahead of 99% of Architect Entertainment missions...probably part of why it has a five star rating. Not that the rating system in-game is very reliable. Interestingly, someone adapted Death Duel with the Destroyers and The Island of Doctor Apocalypse (as Brutal Battle with the Breakers and Fortress of Professor Armageddon) and another person has done a Crushers arc using Mocker (sadly, you can't mix the pumpkin head helmet and the cowl in-game to make a proper Mocker, I tried, you have to use a jack-o-lantern mask pattern). Time-Shifting: Sometimes I get a comic a week or two late because of Diamond's combination of neglect and incompetence. If it's more than a week late, though, I won't review it unless it's very notable. Additionally, I will often get tradepaperbacks long after publication or even sometimes before Diamond ships them, and those will go here. If I'm reasonably sure I'm reviewing something that didn't ship this week, this is the section for it. The Transformers #3: IDW - While parallelling the Bumblebee comic, this one seems only loosely connected to it, as if the two titles were alternate universe takes on where things could have gone after the end of The Transformers #2. Hopefully it'll firm up a bit. One thing that does unify both titles is an unrelenting drumbeat of "authority figures being jerks". Ultra Magnus is like the worst stereotype of an Internal Affairs investigator. Optimus Prime is actually called on his self-flagellation by Witwicky, invoking DRHenry's Law (when a character complains about the stupidity of the plot, you know you're in trouble). Witwicky himself hunts down Autobots who simply want to leave the planet just so he can score points with his dad. Okay, Bumblebee isn't being a jerk, but he's emphasizing the "bumble" part of his name by being spectacularly inept at leading. I mean, sure, a story with nothing but competent good people as protagonists is boring. But so is one where everyone's either a jerk, a loser or both. About the only positive thing about the writing in this issue is that they're careful to name most of the characters the first time they come on screen, in case no one can figure out Don's redesigns. On the other hand, negative points for using "diffuse" instead of "defuse", evoking badly edited fanfic. Neutral. $3.99 New Comics: Comics and comic collections that I got this week and were actually supposed to be out this week, as far as I can tell. These reviews will generally be spoiler-free, but the occasional bit will slip in. Jersey Gods #10: Image - This one feels kinda cobbled together rather than being different strands of one story. The "Helios's Son" plot wraps up with a lot of fighting, dying and somewhat rapid character shifts. Meanwhile, Barock's mom gives Zoe a ride home in a goofy sequence totally at odds with the mood of the Helios story. Okay, I can see how this is trying to approach Barock and Zoe's relationship from different angles...Barock becoming convinced he needs to take this more seriously at the same time Zoe is given reason to want to back out, but it makes for a rather uneven issue. Mildly recommended. $3.50 Transformers Bumblebee #2: IDW - I have come to the conclusion that there are currently two Bumblebees. The G1-style version appearing in this book, wearing the SVI badge and not having Ultra Magnus breathing down his neck, and the neo-movie-ish style in The Transformers who seems to have no interaction with the SVI. The overt plotlines are too tightly connected (for instance, Blurr flees from The Transformers #3 almost directly into this issue) to let the two sides of Bumblebee's life fit together. I suppose it's possible that in the hours after Blurr escaping from Witwicky, Ultra Magnus heads off for another part of the planet, Bumblebee gets the offer from the Colonel and all of this miniseries takes place, and then we splice back into The Transformers #4, but it feels like I'm giving them too much credit here. Guys, this isn't the Marvel Universe, it's two books. It shouldn't be so hard to keep continuity straight. That aside, if I have to choose, I prefer this be the real one and The Transformers be forced to retcon away anything that contradicts. Bumblebee finds his spine in this issue and starts to turn things around, which is much appreciated. Recommended. $3.99 Thunderbolts #140: Marvel - Dark Reign banner. Venus's head trips are a good shortcut to getting inside the heads of a bunch of obscure characters like this, but by the end of it I didn't really care about any of them that I didn't care about going in. Not Parker's best work, and the art varies between overly dark (main artist) and wooden (fill-in on several pages). Neutral. $2.99 The Mighty Avengers #33: Marvel - No Dark Reign Banner, but Osborn's Joker-esque mug is all over the cover. Pym has a very good Clever Moment that has nothing to do with his powers or his science, just a classic psych- out, I approve. Slott also manages to show part of how Osborn can keep the public fooled despite being a lunatic. :) Slott gets a little too cutesy with his "time punch" references, though. Recommended. $2.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #618: Marvel - Given the collage of characters on this cover, it's surprising there's no Osborn at all. To my relief, if only temporary for now, the focus shifts off Rhino entirely, so if he's gonna get killed for dramatic effect it won't be too soon. Good, let him have his happy ending. Anyway, Slott may or may not be undoing a lot of character deaths in this section of Gauntlet (although mostly characters he killed himself recently or even in this issue) in a story that's guaranteed to involve a lot of smoke and mirrors. Marcus Martin's art is somewhat variable in quality, but it definitely has good moments and he captures the Ditko feel very well when it's called for. And Aunt May finally tells off Peter, about time! Recommended. $2.99 Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (of 4): Marvel - The cover sort of gives away the Big Reveal...while most of this issue involves the New Avengers, they're not the "versus" part of the equation. There's a lot of echoes with the Avengers/Invaders series here, although I don't think we're looking at an explicit sequel to that series. This is mostly a "bringing the pieces together" issue, so the actual plot threads are fairly spread out, but I appreciate Parker taking the time to throw in a short scene that re-grounds the Teen Brigade in the modern day. There's a backup story featuring Namora, and while it's more than a little preachy, it fits her character and circumstances. Mind you, it's a little implausible for something to take place in the Marvel Universe, where there's plenty of non-human sapients who are able to communicate for themselves. Recommended. $3.99 The Incredible Hercules #140: Marvel - The third book for me this week with Agents of Atlas in it. For a cancelled book, they're doing pretty well, eh? Silly Hephaestus, you don't need a Hyper-Mind to know the solution to the Prisoner's Dilemma...although the challenge (of the heart, not the head) was more apt than he might have thought. A fitting end to one of the recent subplots in the book. Several pieces of Greek myth get woven fairly seamlessly into the story, as usual of late. The AoA backup moves briskly, keeping the Agents abreast of the main plot but then shifting them from one fight to another. Recommended. $3.99 Gone Missing: Stuff that came out some places this week and that I wanted to buy, but couldn't find for whatever reason, so people don't have to email me asking "Why didn't you review X?" (If it's neither here nor in the section above, though, feel free to ask, I might have forgotten about it!) Current list as of 1/20/10: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Gold Digger v3 #105. Awards: "Hi, I'm A Plot Device, Tee Hee!" Award to Quest for Magic "Emo Prime" Award to The Transformers #3 "Love Glove" Award to Jersey Gods #10 "Blurr And Quicksilver Should Hang Out" Award to Transformers Bumblebee #2 "Aha, So Obscure New Character Is Really Obscure OLD Character In A New Mask!" Award to Thunderbolts #140 "Actually, That Would Be A Better Explanation Of Dark Reign" Award to The Mighty Avengers #33 "The Other Kind Of Oopsing" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #618 "Yes, There Are Still Ham Radio Enthusiasts" Award to Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (of 4) "Creepiest Garage Kit EVER" Award to The Incredible Hercules #140 Dave Van Domelen, "They can level the mansion, but the weird never leaves..." - unnamed former Teen Brigade member, Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (of 4)
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