February 2 (books from January) 2018

Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et Cetera

Intermittent 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 Working on my application for promotion...I should hear back by April. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Scooby-Doo & Batman the Brave and the Bold DVD, The Witch Boy In this installment: Scooby-Doo & Batman the Brave and the Bold DVD, The Witch Boy, Ms. Marvel #26, Moon Girl #27, Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands #2-3 (of 6), Deathstroke #27, Deathstroke Annual #1, Justice League #36-37, Future Quest Presents: Birdman #6, The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #5 (of 6), Astro City #50, Invader Zim #27, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #62, My Little Pony Legends of Magic #10, Transformers vs. Visionaries #1, Optimus Prime #14-15, Transformers Lost Light #13, Comic Book History of Comics v2 #1-2, Atomic Robo the Spectre of Tomorrow #4 (of 5). Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Atomic Robo Spectre of Tomorrow #3 (of 5), Empowered & Sistah Spooky #2 (of 6), Kaijumax Season 3 #6 (of 6). Next month will be the first with the new owner having been 100% responsible for ordering, so any books still missing will be purely Diamond's fault. "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. Scooby-Doo & Batman the Brave and the Bold: WB/DC - While the classic Scooby-Doo/Batman crossovers (which are provided as extras on the DVD) are Scooby-Doo episodes with Batman as a guest star, this is much closer to a Brave and the Bold movie with the Scooby gang as guest stars. The Scooby gang passes an initiation test and is invited to join a Gotham City mystery solving organization that includes Batman, Detective Chimp, Martian Manhunter, the Question (voiced by Jeffrey Combs, woot), and (because I guess the rights to Elongated Man were tied up in CW) Plastic Man. A few Bat-villains who didn't get used in the BatB series get in on the act in some of the fight and chase scenes, and the voice talent hews to the BatB and Scooby Doo regulars where there are regulars (i.e. Fred is still Frank Welker, Joker is Jeff Bennett). Excellent (outRAGEous, even) movie. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if they used the Mystery Inc. gang instead, not just because they're far and away my favorite incarnation, but also because their world is closer in nature to that of Brave and the Bold. Strongly recommended. $15-25 depending on format and retailer. 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 iPhone if it's at all possible. Nothing this month. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. The Witch Boy: Scholastic - Molly Knox Ostertag, the artist on Strong Female Protagonist, did all the things on this story. It's...well, "urban fantasy" is the general term for this sort of thing, but it's more suburban. An extended family of magic living near but not really mixed in with normals, with all the men having shapeshifting magic and all the women having ritual witchcraft. The protagonist is a young boy who has no knack for shapeshifting but has been learning witchcraft in spite of the heavy taboo against crossing the gender lines. So, yes, this is an extended metaphor for not conforming to the gender binary, but Ostertag never hits you over the head with it. The story works perfectly well on the surface layer, but also works well on the deeper metaphorical level, including the villain of the piece being a result of how previous generations demonized those who wouldn't live in the gender they were assigned at birth. Strongly recommended. $24.99/$34.99Cn (Aside: I also read the novel _nameless_ by Matt Rossi III this month, which has a lot of the same feel while covering different underlying themes of identity, sexuality, and family.) Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Ms. Marvel v2 #26: Marvel - While the cover of #25 looks like it would have been more appropriate for #27, this issue's cover is perfect. The Supporting Cast adventure continues, mainly focused on Zoe and Red Dagger. Because, well, one of them is competent in a fight. One of the recurring themes in Ms. Marvel has been the importance of the hero as an inspiration to others, both as a positive example and a negative example (i.e. Civil War II). This arc pushes on the inspiration effect hard, especially since most (all?) of the friends trying to fill in for Ms. Marvel don't even know she's Kamala, they're doing this because Ms. Marvel inspired them, not because Kamala is their friend. Recommended. $3.99 Moon Girl #27: Marvel - It just occurred to me...some of what I've been thinking was odd characterization and occasionally choppy plotting may actually be Montclare's intent: the world as seen through the eyes of an impatient kid who knows she's smarter than everyone and can't always be bothered to pay attention to what they're saying or doing. They're not as goofy or even stupid as they appear to be on the page, that's just Luna's perception of their behavior. Or maybe it's just mischaracterization, I could be giving too much credit. The Surprise Villain behind the fake FF is revealed, and doesn't make a lot of sense, so it's *probably* another layer of misdirection. Or bad editing. I guess what I'm getting at is that since DD left, the book's been kind of wobbly, and I'm not sure if it's by design or if the writer's having an off season. Mildly recommended. $3.99 (Technical note: Devil Dinosaur is still in the indicia and on the Diamond solicits, his name is merely missing from the cover.) Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands #2-3: DC - One of the things that bugs me about "villain frames hero for a crime" stories is that the hero's friends often abandon him, and the hero may even think they might have done the thing. Not so here. BL knows it was a setup, his friends know it was a setup, most of the cops don't really believe he did it...but there's just enough pressure from enough high level places that they can't just let him go, and there's just enough cops who DO think he's guilty that bullets could start flying in any confrontation. So, Isabella avoids the more annoying aspects of the "Hero On The Run" plotline with the benefit of long experience. Recommended. $3.99 each. Deathstroke #27: DC - Dealing with Tara Markov is always tricky, because her alliance with Deathstroke in the original Judas Contract storyline involved a strong implication of statutory rape on Deathstroke's part. And if you're going to try to make Slade into a protagonist, particularly in the current "Time's Up" climate, that's a VERY dangerous part of his part to revisit. You can't just throw all the blame on Tara for being a needy psycho (although she was), because Slade clearly participated at least somewhat. The opening scenes of this issue set up the apportionment of blame, and Slade gets quite a bit of it without necessarily crossing a line not already crossed by being, you know, a murderer many times over. While Slade gets some present day time this issue having some heart to heart chats, the main action involves the (probably meant to be) confusing Willow/Forgotten plot. Recommended. $3.99 Deathstroke Annual #1: DC - Slightly awkward timing. This does take place after #27, with copious and welcome footnotes to that effect, but it also seems to take place after at least parts of #28, with a number of bits of dialogue hammering on Why That Character Isn't Here Because They're Doing A Thing. Otherwise, this is a "last nail in the coffin" story after things have mostly fallen apart in the regular issues. Visually, it's a rather weird trip, with Larry Hama doing breakdowns, Denys Cowan on pencils, and Bill Sienkiewicz on inks (which look really rushed at times, especially on the chest logo of one of the antagonists). All in all, it's interesting, but I guess it doesn't really feel like an Annual should. It's not self-contained enough. Mildly recommended. $4.99 Justice League #36-37: DC - While the arc started with "Batman may be overextending himself" as the primary through-line, you can only go so far with that without stepping on a lot of toes in the Bat-offices, so it's really just a crack in the armor that lets in the real threat, a rather effective copycat who has his own ideas about how the League's power should be used. These two issues continue to play at the cracks while also letting the copycat step on stage so both the readers and the League know he exists. While there's been several "anti-Batman" characters over the years, this one has an interesting twist that in some ways reminds me of Anti-Cap in Priest's Cap&Falcon book. Wrath, Prometheus, Hush...they've all been opponents pretty explicitly, but our new copycat is more of a "Here, let me show you how to do it better," but with a somewhat iffy value of "better" in terms of ethics. He's an armchair quarterback who found a way to get onto the field. Recommended. $2.99 each. Future Quest Presents: Birdman #6: DC - One thing about a lot of the Hanna-Barbera heroes is the lack of significant backstory. It's a result of their times: jump into the story with as little explanation as possible. Why does the Scooby gang investigate mysteries? They just do. Why does Space Ghost act like he's part of a trained organization but we never see any other Space Ghosts? He just is. Jeff Parker is well known for delving into untold backstories, and while he doesn't write this arc, it's of a piece with the Secret Origins style of the series so far. They decided that in the case of Birdman, the blank slate past isn't just an issue for the reader, Birdman himself remembers very little of his own past. In this issue it's explained as a result of overwriting much of his identity with the stuff needed for him to be an avatar of Ra, apparently a rather sloppy and destructive process. While his past is still coming out only in dribs and drabs, we also get the full origin of Mentok the Mind-Taker (who is not a judge and has no baliff, although I keep waiting for one). Rude's art isn't as hard to follow as last issue, so maybe he was just having a rough month. Recommended. $3.99 The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #5 (of 6): DC/Vertigo - Penultimate issue time, and it's clear that all three plot threads are going to try to reach something like a resolution in #6, with none of them backburnered for a possible third American Way series. Well, themes will certainly be left unresolved, they're not going to fix racism or government corruption, this isn't that kind of story. But will the major character whose name only appears in a scene he doesn't appear in this issue kill, capture, or come to some terms with the metahuman he fights inconclusively this issue? Will the other major character who isn't named at all in this issue betray Amber (who is also only named in a scene where she doesn't appear), save her, or both? Missy Deveraux does seem to have her major plot point this issue, so her role in #6 will likely be more about playing a part in the resolution of one or both of the other threads. As you might note from my tone here, Ridley continues to write for the trade in the sense of failing to identify most of his characters, and it's so bad that I don't know if some of the names even appear at ALL in this series, instead depending on people to have just read the previous trade right beforehand. In short, he might be an acclaimed writer in other media, but he really has no idea how to do serial work, it's as if his writing is all pronouns for page upon page. There's interesting themes and interactions going on, but this is a story that was not written for this format. Neutral. $3.99 Astro City #50: DC/Vertigo - Astro City is kinda anniversary'ed out, as Busiek admits in the lettercol. The 20th Anniversary, the 100th actual issue, and now a #50. Wisely, he doesn't try to go even bigger and brawlier, but instead returns to one of the first viewpoint characters and catches up with his life. Recommended. $3.99 (Pause to go re-read that issue of Astro City, wipe away tears, return issue to longbox.) Invader Zim #27: Oni - Zim versus a very boring alien who claims to have invaded Earth first. Meh. Getting close to dropping this book. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #62: IDW - Nice Norman Rockwell- inspired cover, even if it has nothing to do with the story inside. I wonder if Price is trying out some new techniques, or was rushed, because the inking is a lot heavier than he usually uses, and the backgrounds are much less active. It's almost as if he just penciled this and the Breekel's "colorist" job also included inking and some of the backgrounds. I can't say much about the story without giving away significant details, but it does help flesh out the world in interesting (well, to me) ways. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Legends of Magic #10: IDW - The pattern established over the last two issues does break, in part because if they kept it up they would only have half an issue to do the big fight against the Sirens. Thing is, while there's some amusing character bits, the team-gathering is already getting kind of tedious in its repetition. Group arrives, one or two of them have a ready solution to the problem faced by the new recruit, problem solved, on to the next. It's a little relieved by the fact Somnambula is genre-savvy and cuts through some of the exposition and explanation, but it's looking like a six part story was too much space to meaningfully fill. It probably would have worked better as a three-parter, compressing most of the #8-11 gathering of the team stories into a single montage-heavy issue. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers vs. Visionaries #1: IDW - You know, when you have to devote the last page to an editorial saying, "No, the character really DID die this time, won't be coming back, nope," it always sounds like a hollow "methinks she doth protest too much" denial. Especially on a licensed property, where if the licensor says to bring someone back, they come back. Not a great start for the series, and it overshadows pretty much everything else that happened in the issue. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Optimus Prime #14: IDW - The muddy and confusing two-parter, even ignoring the muddy and confusing art from Ramondelli, wraps up here. I guess. A clearer writer or artist could have salvaged it, but Barber's trying to be artistic with choppy storytelling, and Ramondelli's still all about the "Sienkiewicz without good underlying structure" (he's not totally black&lensflare anymore, but it's not enough of an improvement). Neutral. $3.99 Optimus Prime #15: IDW - Kei Zama's linework is much clearer, although Josh Burcham's oversaturated attempts to capture how badly comics looked in the mid-80s when old newsprint color separation hit higher quality paper are getting tiresome. And unfortunately there's a major visual element that keeps popping up in this issue that might be literal and might be metaphorical or a projection or something...but I can't tell. I mean, I *think* the giant eyeball planet in the sky is really there, but it seems to get ignored on several pages, or treated as no big deal if not ignored. Granted, Cybertron has gotten blase about world-ender threats lately, but still. As long as he's just dealing with interpersonal interactions in small settings, Barber does a decent job. But the big stuff...someone's failing to get the message across between writer, artist, and editor. A long-feared character shows up, and it feels like "Oh hi, Mark" from The Room. Mildly recommended, mostly on the strength of Starscream's scene. $3.99 Transformers Lost Light #13: IDW - While the issue title "Sardines" does fit what is essentially a "bottle episode," it's not entirely a bottle episode, as some bits take place on Necroworld (yes, that plot thread is picked back up). The main conflict is a prank war, as you'd expect from this lot of misfits stuck in a too-small ship, but there's plenty of other character interaction and conflict, and Ultra Magnus being unintentionally quite amusing. Because he would never intend to be amusing. Or really know how. Recommended...I'd go strongly recommended but it depends VERY heavily on knowing the characters and their backgrounds at least a little, and if you're not already reading this book, it's not the best place to start. (At least Roberts makes sure almost every character gets clearly identified by name at least once.) $3.99 Comic Book History of Comics v2 #1: IDW - Where the first series was more of a linear history of the medium with some overlap as it followed movements and creators, the series looks to be focusing on particular side stories of importance, some of which were touched on in volume 1. This issue, while it sort of bounces around a bit, is mostly about the concept of how comics found ways to attain greater artistic recognition, via graphic novels and some of the work done in Europe. A bit meandering, but interesting. Recommended. $3.99 Comic Book History of Comics v2 #2: IDW - While the cover proclaims a mix of "the British comics invasion" and "Kirby strikes back," this issue has a much tighter theme than the previous one: creator rights. Obvious connection to Kirby, and the British Invasion is told largely through the story of Captain Marvel/Marvelman/Miracleman's legal fun (it stops in 2006, so the current Watchmen creator rights issue isn't touched upon...as a history series, they probably want to wait for things to be at least somewhat settled before covering them). Recommended. $3.99 Atomic Robo the Spectre of Tomorrow #4 (of 5): IDW - The print comic did get a couple of weeks ahead of the webcomic version with this issue. Of course, since I do read the webcomic version, I don't have to wait until Diamond coughs up #3 before I can read this issue. Both of the main plot threads reach climax points here (yes, a story about paperwork and Homeowners' Associations can have a dramatic climax), and interestingly Clevinger seems to be playing with the overt vs. actual importance of each plotline. Oh, sure, end of the world cyborg infiltration etc, but mayyyybe the HOA thing will have a bigger impact on the future of the world? The big blasty plotline is about dealing with literal relics of the past, the paperwork is about getting permission to build the future. I mean, maybe Clevinger just thought it'd be fun to have a paperwork plotline and I'm bringing too many postmodern spoons to the analysis, but then again maybe I'm paying attention to his Patreon posts and reading between the lines.... Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Except I don't appear to be dead. And I'd know. I'm a doctor." - Ratchet, Lost Light #13
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