February 24, 2010

Give or take a day

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 Ah, so the elderly Phantasm in Batman Beyond looks like Andrea Romano. Note: if you read the version I posted of this earlier in the week, I've expanded on my Crisis of Two Earths comments. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths "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. Brody's Ghost Part 2: MySpace Dark Horse Presents - This actually came out a few weeks ago, but since I don't regularly check MSDHP, it slipped my mind for a while (also, I read it on CBR so I wasn't "ooh, what's next?" and had just made a mental note to do the review when it hit MS...then lost that note). This installment is more focused on who Brody is, what he can do, and why he's roaming the cyberpunkish city being a hero. To go directly to the story, http://myspace.com/darkhorsepresents?issuenu=31&storynum=1 is the link. Crilley does a good job of using his eight pages to establish character, a little of the setting, create an action-packed conflict AND a good resolution. Recommended. Part 3 should be out next week. It will be at http://www.myspace.com/darkhorsepresents?issuenu=32&storynum=1 (there will also be a Beanworld story, hoka hoka hey!) Iron Man 2 Action Figures (Comic Series): Hasbro - And the merchandising begins! As with Wolverine, the first wave of figures isn't actually from the movie, it just has movie branding to whet the market. Of course, the "Comic Series" subtitle is easy to miss, which can lead to confusion if buyers are only really familiar with the movie and wonder what Iron Man's doing facing the Soviet Union. Yeah, I got the Crimson Dynamo (the third armor design, the last one that was all-red), and the cardback talks about Vanko's Soviet masters (never mind that Vanko never wore this version of the armor). These are 4.5" (11cm) tall figures with good articulation and generally good plastic quality. Rather than the weak "clip onto the wrist" energy effects seen on the Marvel Universe figures, the blast effects slip over fists or onto weapon muzzles...it can still look kinda cheap, but it's a big step up. They come with cards for what appears to be an online battle game at ironmancard.com, but that URL redirects to marvel.com right now. One opaque card with the torso of an armor, a clear one with the head and arms, and another clear one with the legs. Each card has a third of an alphanumeric code that you presumably enter online to play your mix-and-match armor combo in the game. I got Crimson Dynamo and War Machine. The assortment also had the MkI Iron Man (comics version), the classic MkV and a stealth armor redeco of the MkV. Crimson Dynamo has some odd issues with his shins, they look warped but aren't. War Machine's clip-on blast effects are kinda sticky, and his shoulderpads are hinged from his torso so they have to be flipped up to raise his arms forward, a rather odd design choice. Both have the standard Marvel Legends sort of hips where you have to pick the axis of the hinge and it's hard to get it to change angle. Other than these issues, though, they're both pretty good figures, with decent paint applications and a generally solid feel (unlike Marvel Universe figures that often feel on the verge of falling apart). Obviously, I can't say anything about the "armor card" game yet. Worth picking up one or two, though. $8.99 at K-Mart, probably $7-8 at Walmart and Target once they show up. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths DVD: Warner Brothers - I picked up the Best Buy exclusive 2-disc set that comes with an Owlman figure. (Target's exclusive had a bonus disc with some JLU eps, but since I already have all the season sets of that I wasn't interested.) The Spectre short is done in the style of a 70s grindhouse sort of movie, complete with deliberate "film defect" effects and overexposure to simulate a reel that's been played a few too many times. Plus, of course, the obligatory funk-fusion soundtrack. It works REALLY well in this style, almost worth the price of admission on its own. Of course, it doesn't have to carry the weight. This is a very good movie, combining "threat to all reality" stakes with a philosophical argument about the nature of free will and whether anything can have any meaning at all in a multiverse. Oh, there's lots of violence as well, including on-camera deaths and a little sadomasochism on Superwoman's part, but this isn't PG-13 just for the occasional spatter of blood or innuendo. Multiversal nihilism is a bit heavy to drop on kids, after all. Okay, yes, it's not exactly Deep Philosophy, and there's a few places where the ideas are almost reduced to bumper sticker level, but it's still fairly impressive for an American-market cartoon. The plot is a fairly straightforward "save all reality" bit, and there's at least one significant plot hole in the opening scene, but it generally works well and the romantic subplot fits in smoothly. For those who like chasing easter eggs, there's loads of evil versions of various established DCU characters (evil Outsiders work for Owlman, evil JLDetroit work for the Martian Manhunter analogue, evil Marvel Family work for Superwoman, etc). Fortunately for those not steeped in comics lore, you don't really need to know the origins of any of these extras to understand the story, they all get explained well enough to satisfy the story. However, knowing the "mainstream" versions of various characters does add some depth to the story, and makes the romantic subplot (and its wistful throwaway line at the end) a bit more poignant. Disc one extras are a look at the upcoming Red Hood movie plus the old "previews" of previous DC Animated movies. Speaking as someone who didn't care one whit about the Red Hood story in the comics, I'm looking forward to "Batman: Under the Red Hood" now. Disc two has a featurette on the idea of "Crisis" in the context of DC comics (which I watched about three minutes of before deciding it wasn't worth my time) and the Justice Lords episodes of JLU. The packaging suggests that the Spectre short is on disc two, but it's really on disc 1 and therefore available to people who buy the single-disc version [Correction: the single-disc is not just the first disc of the two-disc set, it's a deliberately crippled one with just the movie, the Red Hood preview and the old "first look" pieces. So you need to get Blu-Ray or two-disc to get the Spectre]. The digital copy appears to be a pure download rather than a locked piece of content on a DVD (as often happens), so all you really need is the code to get it. The Owlman figure goes back to the sort Best Buy included with the JL: Last Frontier DVD, 3.5" (8.5cm) tall and permanently affixed to its base. The arms move at the shoulders, but the cape keeps them from rising above "slap the cuffs on" level. The head turns, no other articulation. I think it's made of light gray plastic, with extensive dark gray paint and some details in black, plus white eye highlights and fleshtone face. The sculpt is very good, and the paint is competently applied (I didn't notie any exceptionally good or bad samples on the shelf). It pretty much just stands there looking vaguely menacing, but it does it well. Worth the $3 more this cost over the Target version (Walmart's two-disk version is $20, so don't even bother with them if you have a Best Buy or Target in town. Strongly recommended that you get some version of this. $19.99 at Best Buy, $16.99 at Target for two-disc, cheaper for one-disc, but then you don't get Grindhouse Spectre. Prices good during week of release, then they go up a few bucks, but if you're not rushing out to grab it you can get it cheaper online anyway. 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. Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers #2: IDW - The time-shifting is kept to a low boil this time and the plot actually moves forward from "now" (although "now" is before Ultra Magnus arrives in The Transformers ongoing, he leaves for that this issue). Roche and Roberts juggle a fairly large cast of characters, most of whom have no real characterization in prior fiction to lean on (either they never appeared in comics or cartoons, or like Overlord they have to get new origins to fit into the IDW-verse). Regardless of who's doing most of the actual scripting, the dialogue really works well this issue, it was a Good Read in pretty much every respect. Roche's art is good, although at times it's a bit too cartoony for the tone he's shooting for. (Oh, and we get to see the rest of Verity's armor, it's not as Fire Convoy as I'd thought it might end up from the view of the gloves last issue.) Recommended. $3.99 Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas #2 (of 4): Marvel - Most of the issue is your standard "superhero misunderstanding" fight scene, including elements that are starting to become Atlas cliches (Bob uses illusions to mess with people and then gets coldcocked, Venus almost wins the fight by singing until someone manages to one-shot her, etc). The actual mystery of the time stuff doesn't really get any work towards resolution, though, and it looks like another big fight next issue. The backup story is a cute shaggy dog story starring Jimmy Woo. Mildly recommended. $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. The Transformers #4: IDW - This issue is narrated by Thundercracker, focusing first on his experiences after betraying Megatron and then his view of the Autobot/Decepticon alliance that Hot Rod (now going by Rodimus Prime) is trying to hold together. The tone is definitely wistful, as Thundercracker things the wheels are going to come off this at any time, and he's starting to think humanity may actually be superior to Cybertronians. It's an interesting character study, although it does slow the plot down quite a bit in order to backtrack over TC's past. At least the "Two Bumblebees" question is avoided this issue, BB doesn't show up. Recommended. $3.99 Official Index to the Marvel Universe #14: Marvel - Also finally got #13, which finishes off X-Men and Iron Man, shifting to X-Men the Hidden Years and War Machine respectively. #14 gets through the rest of Amazing Spider-Man (being weekly since Brand New Day does tend to leads to a LOT of issues), finishes War Machine and then covers a plethora of Iron Man minis (including Hypervelocity). The tag end of X-Men the Hidden Years gets a handful of pages, but this issue is pretty dominated by Iron Man stuff. And that's it for this volume...the next one starts in May, covering Avengers, Thor and Captain America, a bit tighter a theme than "they had movies recently". Recommended as a reference. $3.99 Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #1 (of 5): Marvel - Strictly speaking, there should be a volume number of a year qualifier on the title, but there isn't. Like previous update minis, every issue runs A-Z rather than covering a chunk of the alphabet, and there' another A-Z of half-page entries at the back. A mix of actual updates to characters who'd been in previous installments, and entries on those who never got an entry. Plenty of disentangled retcons in the mix here. Recommended. $3.99 Thunderbolts #141: Marvel - SIEGE trade dress (they're not settling for a banner this time, it's all Civil War again with unified cover designs and logos). And since none of these characters are major it's side story time as the T-bolts get sent to steal a plot device from Asgard. There's no signficant repercussions from the ending of #140...oh, people are freaked out about it, and it keeps getting mentioned, but it doesn't really shake up the command structure. Ah well. Sepulveda's art is okay, but his faces don't really look right, nor does how he draws hair on most of the characters. Paladin comes off particularly poorly in that regard. Mildly recommended. $2.99 X-Factor #202: Marvel - Not strictly an Event Tie-In, but the whole "can't tell the good guys from the bad guys" theme is all over the place, both in the narration and in the core plot. The angst levels get a bit high, although it's not specifically Mutant Mutant Angst Angst. Cansino's art is generally good, although a crucial panel late in the issue makes Layla look more like M due to a combination of inks and colors (plus blocking the scene so that the tattoo on Layla's face is hidden) [Later note: the artist screwed up even more...he did draw M there, and the colorist tried to make it look more like Layla]. Doom tends to steal the show in all of his scenes, but is he not Doom? Mildly recommended. $2.99 I Am Iron Man #2 (of 2): Marvel - Finishing up the adaptation of the first movie. The compression effects hit a lot harder this time, though, and the adaptation would really have been better served by 4-6 issues than a mere two (although they are extra-length issues, it's still not enough). One place where it does expand on things, though, is the final scene with Nick Fury, which runs a bit longer and leads into the "Iron Man 1.5" miniseries that starts shortly. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The Marvels Project #6 (of 8): Marvel - Okay, the narration from Angel has definitely hit "soporific" at this point. The drama of the events just doesn't make it through intact, and even the art feels somewhat lifeless. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Ms. Marvel #50: Marvel - FINAL ISSUE. Hi, I'm the anticlimax! The reason Mystique went after Carol is revealed, and it's not particularly interesting or original. The mystery of the fake Mar-Vell is resolved in the most obvious way possible. And the story wraps up with some dialogue that even the people speaking it recognize is lame. There's a Noh-Varr backup that feels like it expects readers to have been following Dark Avengers or even some other book I don't read. All in all, a rather unsatisfying conclusion to a series that intermittently showed a lot of promise. Neutral. $3.99 Avengers the Initiative #33: Marvel - Roughly a three-way split with a few short side sequences. Two of the threads are "personal story" reactions to being in on the main Siege story, through the eyes of Diamondback and Taskmaster. They're good character pieces from Gage, but inevitably suffer from being about people who are watching the main plot, and not about the main plot itself. The third thread has the New Warriors-based group attacking Camp Hammond as Donyel struggles with his Big Moral Dilemma. This one will actually get to have something of a resolution, even if Gage isn't allowed to do anything significant to the Hood along the way. Recommended. $2.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #622: Marvel - It's almost not correct to talk about the main story and backup, as the second story starts before the staples. Van Lente writes the Gauntlet-themed story in front, tying up some danglers from, um, 1971 but not really tying that much into the main Gauntlet plot (just the "old foes return" theme...there's no indication that the shadowy prime movers of The Gauntlet are involved here). The Twilight mocking is a bit perfunctory, though. The second story catches up with Flash Thompson and looks at all the reasons why he DOESN'T have regenerated legs or cyborg parts or power armor. And it certainly makes sense...there's too many monkey paw situations when you live in the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel Universe (see, for instance, the Lizard...even improving on his formula as Komodo did still makes you lizardy), and too many people trying to take advantage of those desperate to regain limbs but too poor to simply buy commercial grade parts. Recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger v3 #115: Antarctic Press - I'm not sure what the cover has to do with anything inside, maybe the story changed tracks after the cover image had been submitted to Diamond. Anyway, the story is a done-in-one break after the whole Penny and Ace thing wrapped up, dealing with the problems of a minor background character who's been kicking around for a while. A bit heavy on the infodump (since the character has to get fleshed out all at once), but otherwise a good story. Recommended. $2.99 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 2/24/10: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Gold Digger v3 #105, SWORD #4. Add JSA #36 and Iron Man vs. Whiplash #4. Yeah, Diamond's batting 0.500 for shipping IMvWL. Awards: "Yeah, The Ghost Is The Least Creepy Aspect Of This Situation" Award to Brody's Ghost Part 2 "Ivan Vanko Would Have Loved To Have Seen That Suit, Though" Award to the Iron Man 2 Comic Series Action Figures "I Prefer Enlightened Nihilism" Award to Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths "Until All Are Getting Along! Wait, No..." Award to Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers #2 "To Be Fair, Tony Wasn't Really An Alcoholic Yet At That Point" Award to Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas #2 (of 4) (Unless there's a retcon I missed) "Why Does Anyone Trust A Guy Named Swindle?" Award to The Transformers #4 "So, A Thirty Year Gap Between Amazing Fantasy #15 and #16? I Didn't Know Warren Ellis Wrote For Marvel In The 60s" Award to Official Index to the Marvel Universe #14 "Googam Ga Joob" Award to Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #1 (of 5) "Sorry, You Must Be Level 20 To Use That" Award to Thunderbolts #141 "Doom Only Disapproves Of Shipfic When OTHER People Do It" Award to X-Factor #202 "Shoulda Drawn Rhodey To Look More Like Cheadle To Ease The Transition" Award to Iron Man: I Am Iron Man #2 (of 2) "I Later Learned That Everyone Else Had More Interesting Lives Than I Did" Award to The Marvels Project #6 (of 8) "Willingham Did It 25 Years Ago" Award to Ms. Marvel #50 "You Know, A Faceful Of Godly Blood Could Be A Good Thing" Award to Avengers: the Initiative #33 "A Faceful Of Spider-Man Blood Is Just Icky, Though" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #622 "If She Were Fully Dweebed Out, She'd Have Called Kylie 'Jinpei' Instead" Award to Gold Digger v3 #115 Dave Van Domelen, "Brought the cavalry?" "I brought the MARINES." - Superman and Martian Manhunter, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
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