January 2012

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

Intermittent 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 Phone-interviewed for the tenure-track job here, went pretty well. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Atomic Robo the Ghost of Station X #4 (of 6), Sanctuary #4 (of 6), Gold Digger Holidays Special #1 "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. Marvel Mega Blok blind-bag minifigures wave 3: Mega Bloks - Marvel's licenses seem to oscillate between Mega and Lego. I generally prefer Mega's minifigures, due to the greater articulation and level of detail. I got a few of the third wave on a whim, although none of the figures in the assortment were Must Gets for me. I got a Silver Surfer because it's an easy bag-feel, it's pretty good. I ended up with two Magnetos, good representations but they come with yet another recolor of the Dragons Univers round hide shield accessory...weak. I got Reed Richards, in two-tone blue "4" outfit (movie inspired?) with a cannon accessory for no very good reason. A better accessory would have been extenders for limbs, but they're kinda doing these on the cheap. And I got an Iceman, which disappointingly is just the Silver Surfer mold in clear plastic with mottled white paint, rather than a new mold with facets. If these are the last Mega Blok Marvel toys for a while, the line is going out with a whimper. Digital Content: Unless I find a really compelling reason to do so, I won't be turning this into a webcomic review column. Rather, stuff in this section will be full books available for reading online or for download, usually for pay. I will often be reading these things on my iPod if it's at all possible. The Comixology app has been getting progressively more broken over the past few weeks, giving unhelpful error messages like telling me I need to purchase the app I'm already using before I can do anything. At first, logging out and back in fixed it, but when I went to try to buy Transformers: Autocracy #1 it just wouldn't work no matter what I did. I've been through a few rounds of tech support on it (the problem is related to the fact I changed my Apple ID to point at a different email address), and at least I can now buy on the webpage and then download to the app, but it's moderately annoying. Atomic Robo: the Ghost of Station X #4 (of 6): Red5 Comics - Well, now the price a month after release is $1.99, so that 99 cents was definitely a fluke last time. :) The first part of the issue is a fairly standard, if well-done, chase scene as Robo and the Tesladyne crew try to get away from a bunch of high-tech opponents who seem to have an unjammable means of tracking and targeting them. Meanwhile the b-plot about the case of the vanishing room is in the theorizing stage. But then the dovetailing becomes more obvious, truckers and ham radio operators get involved, and things really take off. Strongly recommended. $1.99 at Comixology, $3.50 cover price. Sanctuary #4 (of 6): Slave Labor Graphics - I've been keeping an eye on SLG's site waiting for this issue, but creator Steve Coughlin beat me to the punch by comping me Comixology copies of the first four issues (I may go ahead and buy the PDF at some point as well, just to have a complete set that isn't dependent on Comixology's reader app). The next layer of the mystery clears up (those who did the actual murdering of the panda are pretty much revealed), but that just brings in the new mystery of who's behind all of this. Coughlin does a great job here of creating the illusion of revelation while actually obfuscating things even more thoroughly, and the humor (both dark and otherwise) fits the story well. Strongly recommended. $0.99 at slgcomic.com in a variety of formats, or available on Comixology. Transformers: Autocracy #1 (of 12): IDW - This is being plugged as a "digital-first" comic, but after reading the first third of an issue (they're releasing it 8 pages at a time) I doubt this was specifically created to be digital-first. If it were, then the panels would come closer to fitting in the smartphone screen proportions. Comixology's app does a decent job of compensating for uneven panel sizes, but a true digital-first comic wouldn't need the help. This is the content of a 4 issue miniseries being released twice monthly in 8 page chunks through Comixology, at 99 cents an issue. So, overall it's slightly cheaper than the Diamond-mandated $2.99 issues. ;) It picks up after the events of an entire series that I haven't read (I've only been gone from IDW books since last AUGUST, and already I might as well never have read their books for all that I know what's going on), with a rebuilt Orion Pax working as an enforcer for Nova Prime's increasingly corrupt and autocratic Autobot regime. While not in continuity with the Exodus/Exiles novels, it's totally in keeping with their theme that the Decepticons were at least initially the good guys, freedom fighters against a corrupt government (something that's been an undercurrent in the licensed comics for quite some time now). The art has a dark tone to it, a semi-painted look with lots of shadows and murk, but not in the "bad Dreamwave colorists" way. More of a "Blade Runner concept art" look. The overt plot is pretty much "How Swindle got his brain stuffed in a filing cabinet" while setting up the general idea that there's a hole in Orion Pax that needs filling before he becomes a monster. The story's pacing suggests that at the very least the 8-page-chunk concept was there from the start, even if the art suggests digital delivery wasn't the original main plan. Maybe this was going to be a backup story in the original pitch. I suppose I could ask writer Flint Dille, but I'd rather just speculate. :) As a 99 cent character sketch, it's worth a look. Too little story so far to judge it on that level, though, so I'm witholding overall recommendation until after I've read the first three installments, the equivalent of a regular first issue. FCHS #1: Adhouse - This is a result of trying to track down the problem I'm having with Comixology. Not the comic itself, but the fact I read it. I needed to try acquiring and downloading a book within the app to see if I'd made any progress fixing things, and this was the first free book I ran across that looked like it contained a complete story (as opposed to DC's Digital Sampler). It's a B&W line art slice of life story about several high school kids on the last day of their Junior year. Lots of drama and breakups, pretty standard events. The anthill is kicked over this issue, so that future issues can rebuild. It's okay, but neither the writing nor art really hooked me. I prefer my high school stories to have a dash of the unreal (heck, during the countdown to the bell ringing on the last day, I was half-expecting something bizarre to happen...but no, school just let out). Free sample issue, so worth checking out if high school dramas are you cup of tea. I didn't much care for high school drama while I was living it, and I like it less now. ;) Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Nothing read since last time. Floppies: If I actually pick up some monthly issues, they'll go here. Given my reluctance to put money in Diamond's hands, though, these would likely only be review copies or stuff found in oddball places. And no, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? And like floppy disks they may be a doomed format. Young Justice #12: DC - A nested flashback story, with the title team appearing only a little bit at the beginning and end. The layers peel back through the aftermath of Batman and Talia's failed relationship, and we get the origin of this universe's version of Clayface. The offbeat framing works pretty well, and Hickman even squeezes in a bit of Aqualad characterization. Recommended. $2.99 And now time for another order of Antarctic Press books! Gold Digger v3 #133: Antarctic Press - Consider this to be the end of act one in the new Dynasty arc. The protagonists land in the middle of a really bad situation, kick as much hinder as they can and win a small victory, but the Empire still has their Death Star at the end of this particular battle. Fortunately, Perry didn't feel the need to impress upon the reader the seriousness of the story by killing any of the series regulars. Lots of death implied, and fates worse than death (but hopefully reversible), but no cheap angst shots. Recommended. $3.99 ($4.99 online with shipping) Gold Digger v3 #134: Antarctic Press - It's the start of the second act, the traditional place for infodumps and the like. The main hazards this issue involve traps (which are pretty much de rigeur for the series) and angst. And accidentally falling into someone's cleavage and getting lost forever, I suppose. But that, too, is de rigeur for the series. Perry works against cliche by having the cause of the doom NOT being someone acting in a careless or stupid way...the victims took every precaution they could think of, but got blindsided by something no one expected. Solid storytelling, leavened with cheesecake. (Or is cheesecake unleavened?) Recommended. $3.99 ($4.99 with shipping) Gold Digger X-Mas Special #5: Antarctic Press - Four stories and a few pinups. The first two are based around songs (Xane acting through "Santa Baby" doesn't work for me, unfortunately), the third sort of is, and the last is a Chicken Fighter crossover (not so much a plot crossover as the old kind of "visiting Earth-2" crossover). Generally one of the weaker holiday specials, and it doesn't make me want to try out Chicken Fighter. Mildly recommended. $3.50 ($4.50 with shipping) Gold Digger Holidays Special #1: Antarctic Press - This feels like it's made up of stuff that didn't quite make it into the 2011 Halloween or X-Mas specials, since it's a mix of those two themes (Halloween gets one pin-up and one story, Christmas gets one pin-up, two stories and the cover). However, they certainly weren't left out for quality...everything in this issue is by Fred Perry and the stories are much better than those in the 2011 X-Mas Special. Strongly recommended. $3.50 ($4.50 with shipping) Dave Van Domelen, "We need a convoy. (room is silent) For SCIENCE. (everyone volunteers)" - Atomic Robo, Ghost of Station X #4
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