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Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and AwardsIntermittent Picks and Pans of Comics and Related Media 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 While the trees are not all the right height, I rather liked Statesboro. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Love and Capes: What to Expect #6 (of 6) In this installment: Love and Capes: What to Expect #6 (of 6), Transformers: ReGeneration One #86-87, Double Barrel #7, Bandette #1-3, Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine #6, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #2, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes @10, Avengers Academy #39, Ultimate Spider-Man #10, Young Justice #24. "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. Nothing this month. I did get The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, but I have a bit of a backlog on the DVR thanks to traveling the week it came out, so I'll leave it for next month's column. 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. Love & Capes: What To Expect #6 (of 6): IDW - Due to the dual plotline structure of the series, we're in the odd position of having one main plot and a subplot coming to a climax this issue, while the other main plot is in denounment. This lets Zahler give a more complete feeling to the Paul/Amazonia story without having to leave anything important for the next series (and the fallout of the baby plot will naturally be the focus of the next ALL THE SERIES issues, ;) ). And the main plot gets a good mix of normal parenting complications and the background radiation of being in a superhero story. Sure, a lot of fathers have to find someone who can cover for them on short notice so they can be present at the birth, but not many have to get someone who can save the world in their stead. And, for an extra little zinger, the stand-in for Mark has a typically superheroic twist. Strongly recommended. $3.99 at ComiXology. Transformers: ReGeneration One #86: IDW - Cleaning up on Earth, writing Optimus out of the story for now, advancing the plot on Cybertron a notch, but otherwise really focusing on the whole "Scorponok's temptation of Grimlock" plot. Furman drags genetic determinism kicking and screaming into Transformers, clearly taking the Spark manipulation of Beast Wars as inspiration for a plot to turn everyone into Decepticons. The problem is that this plot is laughable on its face, especially when applied to Dinobots. Hopefully it won't be dragged out too long, because it's not like the Autobots have ever been short on members who clearly had their "warrior gene" fully expressed. Neutral. $1.99 at ComiXology. Transformers: ReGeneration One #87: IDW - Well, with one line, Furman does a lot to turn around the whole "Warrior Gene" plot. There's still way too much of Hot Rod being emo, but at least Scorponok isn't all, "With my plot device my victory is ensured! NYAHAHAHA!" Rather, he recognizes that it's merely a very significant edge, and he still has to work to keep things under his control. As a result, the reader (or this reader, anyway) is more willing to give him credit for expecting betrayal...whereas an overconfident mad scientist actually planning for trouble would ring hollow. Mildly recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Double Barrel #7: Top Shelf - Heck is dominated by Hector meeting his father, who's in the circle reserved for sorcerors (the portal to Hell didn't just happen to be there, dad created it). He also finds that his overall goal is farther away than he expected, but the talk with his father goes a long way towards changing his goals anyway. Crater XV actually spends very little time with the supposed star of the story, instead bringing the actual Crater XV characters into the forefront and resolving their current situation. Essentially, this is the end of the first part of the story, adventures in the frozen North. Now it's turning into a more overt space race story. I'm finding it harder and harder to actually read the Penny From The Front installments, which I'm finding just can't make the mix of "Goofy Canadian Antics Eh?" and "War is Hell" work. I did just notice that Alfie is a clear Doonesbury reference, though. The How To column is "How To Spot Blacks," which is not a chapter title that does well when separated from a very clear context. ;) It mainly focuses on the use of black ink areas in comics where there's no color or grayscales, just line work...in other words, comics like those found in Double Barrel. Recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Bandette #1-3: Monkeybrain Comics - After seeing a few people rave about the series, I decided to give it a shot, especially since it's written by Paul Tobin. The artist is Colleen Coover, who I didn't really know well enough for it to be a draw or a turnoff (I vaguely recall her work on Banana Sunday), although while checking out her website I found that Paul is her husband. The title character is a gold-hearted rogue, a master thief who only steals from bad people and returns most of what she steals to the rightful owners (when stealing from other thieves) or charity, but keeps enough to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. The setting is a sort of retro-present Paris straight out of 1950s caper movies and old European comics (a la Tintin). I suppose it could be seen as something like "dieselpunk", like Batman: the Animated Series...people have smartphones and access to high tech stuff, but the overall look-and-feel is a 1950s Paris that never was. Bandette herself is even more stylized than the setting, but it's hard to tell how much is affectation and how much is genuine, as she could simply be a natural product of an unnatural world. The first issue establishes Bandette's basic character and her place in the world, plus her network of helpers. The second develops her rival Gentleman Thief (for all that she's a young lady, she's definitely a Gentleman Thief), Monsieur, while the third establishes that not all criminals in the world are gentlemanly and the Evil Crime Syndicate would kind of like to see Bandette Ban-dead. The dialogue is definitely stylized, verging on camp at times, but Tobin reins it in before it goes too far. And Coover brings a watercolor sensibility to the art (although these days it could easily all be digital) while retaining the core of her usual linework. While I'm not as enthusastic about this title as some others who've read it (and don't find it as good an example of Tobin's writing as his Marvel Superheroes stuff or Prepare To Die), it's pretty good. And at 99 cents for a nearly full-sized issue (16 to 19 pages apiece, they don't worry about inconsistency in length in this digital-only series), it's definitely worth giving a try unless you absolutely hate the Gentleman Thief style of story. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Nothing this time. Floppies: 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. Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine #6: Marvel - I guess they ran out of unused inventory stories, because the comic used here is the "Wizard attacks Avengers Mansion" one from the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes comic. Feels like they're already running out of steam. Unless something dramatically changes, I won't bother reviewing the one or two issues left on my free subscription. My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #2: IDW - Cook and Price continue the fairly high-density (by modern standards) storytelling, relying on Price's densely packed art to help keep it from feeling too shallow. There's three main conflicts in the story, only one of which is engineered by the Changelings that are the arc villains. The middle one felt the weakest, probably because it was something the show has done already, and done too well for 6-8 pages to look good by comparison. I did get a bit of an Amelia Rules vibe off of Price's Pinkemina, tho. No backup story this time, just a map of the area in which the story arc takes place. Oh, and the background pop culture riffs continue to get piled in, with an Optimus Prime doll and at least two Star Trek gags. And a Far Side reference. I did like that not every conflict was solved through the "Love and Tolerate the **** outta you" route, and yet was still resolved through the general idea of being nice to people when possible. Thanks to the unresolved middle conflict, though, they're pulling a JLA next issue, splitting into teams and taking different paths, once again giving us three conflicts for one issue, I presume (with them rejoining for #4). Rcommended. $3.99 Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #10: Marvel - The lead story by DeZago and Jones is another "Outthink the super-genius baddie" tale, feeling a bit redundant after the Wizard story that was reprinted in MSH Magazine, but at least it has a bunch of Marvel Monsters (including Groot) to provide color. (The color in question mostly being orange.) The second story is a "Vision with Pinocchio Syndrome" story, but unlike most iterations of that plot he's been temporarily placed in a body that is no more powerful than a normal human (while his real body is worked on). Pretty good twist on an old story by Clay McLeod Chapman. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Avengers Academy #39: Marvel - Hastings was having a "buy two comics get one free" sale, and since I wanted the two comics that follow this one in the review, I poked around a bit until I could find something of interest. In a lot of ways, this issue is about how Finesse's life is only beginning, how her fate is far from clear and she could still go either way. Everyone else has resolved most of their issues, found love (seriously, Finesse is about the only member of the original Academy class not hooking up in this issue, and even the people who joined after I started reading are mostly in relationships here), been cured of the more horrible aspects of their powers or learned to live with them, etc. But Finesse is almost exactly where she was in #1: socially isolated, with no close connections (she'd apparently been building one up with X-23, but burned that bridge pretty badly), and no particular moral compass. Which I suppose makes her safe from being thrown to the wolves in something like Avengers Arena, since Gage clearly still has things he wants to do with her storyline...any character who finds happiness and contentment in comics should immediately get very worried, because it means the writer might no longer have any ideas for them, and they're tossed into the Disposable Background Casualties bucket. The issue ends with what might be the real high school power fantasy...not having the power to beat up on your tormentors, but having the confidence and skill to do it even without any powers. In some ways, that's a lot better message than usually sent in comcis where Peter Parker is still in high school, as he usually sucks it up and accepts bullying rather than abuse his powers. (The Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon finds ways to let Peter get back at Flash without abusing his powers, so the "accept being bullied" message isn't nearly as bad there as it used to be in comics. And it was even the focus of this week's ep.) Anyway, a decent, if VERY shippy wrap-up for one of the few comics I kinda missed getting when I cut way back. $2.99 Ultimate Spider-Man #10: Marvel - Yeah, I've mostly given up on this title, even with Ty Templeton being fairly regular on it, but the other story this issus is written by Brian "Atomic Robo" Clevinger...so I had to pick it up. Unfortunately, even really good writers can have a few clunkers here and there, and this is one of them. While there's nothing really *wrong* with it, it just felt like a Hostess Fruit Pie Ad-level plot stretched out to half an issue. Unfortunately, Templeton's contribution was even worse. A clear use of the Idiot Plot, there's really no reason it should have dragged out so long. Clevinger's was just padded, Templeton's was put on the rack and tortured out to length. Don't bother picking this up. $2.99 Young Justice #24: DC - As in previous issues, there's a bunch of plot threads running across two eras, although this time almost all of the pagecount is in "present day" (i.e. shortly before season 2's first episode). Most of the threads just advance a little, with probing and gathering information, but the Match-zarro fight that gets the cover focus does wrap up in this issue. Of course, with only one more issue in this arc, I suspect a lot of stuff is going to be left as danglers for the next arc. We know Kylstar can't take everyone off to fight his war, because there's not enough time for them to get back, but he could get to do what happened in his original comics appearance and take away some of the villains (who may or may not be seen in the next arc). Unfortunately, Cartoon Network decided to pass on getting a season 3, hopefully, the comic lasts long enough to do a wrap-up arc covering what happens to any danglers. #26 is too close to have been planned for that purpose. While this arc will definitely read better in the trade, thanks to the "short bits of half a dozen stories" style, the small bits of character business make it a good read even in floppy form. Recommended. $2.99 Dave Van Domelen, "I still think you'd make a really hot super villain. Maybe put a BOOB WINDOW in the suit, some STILETTO HEELS..." "I am going to PUNCH you." - Mettle and Finesse, Avengers Academy #39