March 1, 2013

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

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, Didn't get the Georgia Southern job, but two more site interviews in March. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic #3. In this installment: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, Double Barrel #8, Gygax Magazine #1, Gold Digger #145-146, My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic #3, My Little Pony Micro-Series #1 (of 6), Young Justice #25 (FINAL ISSUE). "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. Update: there's a sequel story for Seraphina that will be included (along with other bonus material) in later printings of the novel. The story can be found at (with the usual caveats about link rot). Dark Knight Returns Part 2: DC/Warner Premier - Issues 3 and 4 of the original miniseries are adapted here. While there's a few tweaks here and there that update it a little (i.e. getting Conan O'Brien to voice David "Not Letterman" Endochrine with Rob Paulsen doing a pretty good Andy Richter impression as the sidekick), it's still firmly a "1980s in the future" story, complete with a President who is essentially Reagan and a strong Soviet Union as a background threat. Or perhaps it was supposed to be a "what if Batman had aged normally since 1938" setting, I haven't really delved into the scholarship surrounding DKR. But the specifics aren't that important, really, the point is that we have a satirically exaggerated version of the time in which the story was written, within which an aged vigilante and representative of a bygone time has to find relevance. Or, as the Shortpacked webcomic pointed out, scared old white men trying to convince themselves they're still in charge and the world isn't slipping away through their fingers. Some elements were a lot more effective as animation, with musical support, than any static images on a page could be. Most notably, the sequence where Superman deflects the nuclear missile and nearly dies. Where Miller used the sort of narration that quickly became a much-parodied cliche, the cartoon avoids voiceovers. Everything is gotten across through movement and music. Similarly, we never hear Batman's internal monologue of "mustn'", it's all pained posture and grunting. And I think it works better this way. I wrote and deleted a lot of stuff about the political implications of the story, but I think I'll just leave it at this: what had read like anti- establishment agitprop when it was written now feels like reactionary fear of the underclass. Same story, different day. Well acted, well-directed, and it's still a powerful story even if it's aged in odd ways. Recommended. $15-20 depending on store, I got the basic DVD. I got book 3 of Quest for the Spark, but haven't read it yet (saving it for on-the-plane reading for one of my job interviews). 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. Double Barrel #8: Top Shelf - These are apparently the penultimate chapters for both Heck and Crater XV. With Heck, that much i spretty obvious just from reading it...he reaches his contractual goal, finding Amy's husband in Hell (if not where he expected to). While there's some introspective conflict this time, it's a lot more about Amy and her husband, and how no matter how good someone else seems to have it, they probably think you're better off than they are. One might expect Hell to be utterly depopulated above the Envy level, the way things seem sometimes. Crater XV, on the other hand, doesn't really feel like it's about to wrap up. Shanks and Pravda spend most of their time this issue in reminiscences about his childhood, while the moon shot plotline hits a barrier of apathy. If anything, it feels like the next chapter will be setting up the sequel. While Crater XV is the second Army Shanks story, it was a "several years later" sort of sequel...the next one will be "several seconds later", unless I miss my guess. Penny From The Front pulls a Serious Plot out of its trenches, making me wonder if the whole thing is being written totally on the fly. The How To column is mostly about the technical side of making a minicomic so that you can distribute samples of your work easily at conventions (and the example minicomic is one of the stories in this issue). Even in this day of ubiquitous webcomics, a physical minicomic is still good advertising, because you've put something concrete in someone else's hands, and they have to look at it at least one more time, if only to toss it in the trash. A beamed URL may never get a second look, likewise a card with an URL on it. Never underestimate the "fiddle with" factor of a minicomic. Recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Gygax #1: TSR - The spirit of the old Dragon Magazine (and the title font, and a lot of the columns and writers) has come back as Gygax. As per the opening lines of the editorial, "Welcome, and thank you. It's 2013, and you just bought a print magazine. Print! Wasn't that supposed to disappear, along with land-line telephones, broadcast television, wristwatches, and Twinkies?" Of course, I bought it as a PDF, so...yeah. But it still retains a very retro feel, from the layout to the subject matter to the old school full page ads (banner ads are ignored, pop-ups are a nuisance, but a nice print-style full pager can be "content" if done right). Because it's intended for print, there's a few hiccups in transition to PDF. But reformatting it for a CBR-style reader would fix the problems with two page spreads (it's probably possible to make a seamless two page spread show in a typical PDF viewer, but SimpleComic does it automatically for you), and Order of the Stick just seems to be the victim of a whoops in importing. Oh, and new What's New with Phil & Dixie, woo. Anyway, with a $8.95 cover price it may be a bit of a hard sell once the initial nostalgia wears off, but I'm okay with $4.95 for a PDF via (it also helps that I have a little store credit built up from the royalties on my own sales there). And there's a good spread of games covered, like Dragon used to do in the early days before it turned into an almost pure house organ. Recommended if you are, or used to be, a tabletop gamer. And if you have small children, you might find Cory Doctorow's "DMing your Toddler" article useful.... Gold Digger v3 #145-146: Antarctic Press - The the footsteps of the Baen Free Library, simple PDFs of Gold Digger issues are being put online as part of the #200 celebrations (all 50 issues of the B&W series, all of the color issues, but not the original miniseries that I've been counting as v1). Subscribers to the AP Blast mailing list got an early link (sorry, won't spill the beans on it, wait for it to go public), so I went ahead and read the two issues I hadn't yet bought. As bare-bones PDFs they're not as readable as a ComiXology conversion or a paper comic, but they'll do for now. :) #145 suffers from the sort of Wrong Cover Syndrome that plagues the series. It actually follows logically from the FINAL PANEL of the issue, but shows an event that hasn't even happened yet in #146. #146's cover is at least thematically correct, although the specific event shown on the cover doesn't happen. Yes, I know that for solicitations Perry has to have the covers done much farther ahead of time than he has to get the issues themselves done, but this close to the 200th issue Big Event Thing, it undermines the reader's confidence that he knows what he's doing when the covers are so badly off. At a guess, #145 was running long with all the fight scene stuff (which was pretty good fight scene, mind you) and didn't quite make it to the scene from the cover. Rather than push #146's events back, he just cut to that story, but the final battle went rather differently than the original notes. Given how long this has been a problem, I'm kind of surprised Perry hasn't just switched to fairly generic covers so that he can make these last minute changes without the dislocation. Cover problems aside, the actual final stories work pretty well, and the abundance of simple fill patterns in the backgrounds is at least used to good visual effect so it doesn't feel like a time-saving exercise. Recommended. $3.99 in paper versions (ComiXology is only up to about #100, but charges 99 cents a piece for the issues it has). 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. My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #3: IDW - They definitely seem to have hit their stride here, and it's equally clear that the target audience is more at the brony end than the little girl end. As evidenced by this: Almost every turn of the page brought more laughs, whether from Cook's writing, Price's art, or a combination of the two. Strongly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Micro-Series #1 (of 6): IDW - A parallel series, one-shots focusing on a single "Mane 6" character. Naturally, it leads off with Twilight Sparkle, and the story is written and drawn by Thom Zahler of Love and Capes. He does a decent job of staying on-model for the existing characters, but his regular style tends to creep in on the new character this issue (a glasses-wearing archivist pony who I keep expecting to go check up on Darkblade's Equestrian equivalent) and some of the backgrounders. The story itself is one of those mysteries that's obvious to anyone who knows literary conventions, but still has clues here and there so that any kids reading this might be able to figure it out from those (I didn't even see half the clues on first read-through, but that's because I wasn't really looking...the solution was obvious even from the solicitation). While set before the S3 finale, it does share some thematic elements with that story. Namely, that if there's a mismatch between the destiny determined by your cutie mark and what you're able to do, you tend to be pretty unhappy. And it doesn't matter if the mismatch is because of a failed spell, or because of a loss of confidence in the abilities you do have. It's one of the more disturbing bits of Equestrian cosmology: you're not considered grown up until you find your destiny, and once you have it there's no changing it. If anything prevents you from following it, you're going to be miserable...elderly ponies with cutie mark destinies tied to physical prowess are bound to be pretty much out of luck. Yeah, kinda deep for a kiddie show, and certainly not something the writers intend to be front and center, but the setting hangs together well enough in general that this sort of analysis isn't totally groundless. (i.e. a totally shallow and stupid show wouldn't invite this kind of thought, disturbing implications would be dismissed as being accidental results of sloppy writing.) Oh, and speaking of reading too much into things, the denounment of the story could be taken as the first quasi-canonical confirmation that there was a sort of League of Extraordinary Equestrians predecessor group to the current Mane 6, and that Twilight Sparkle isn't the first pony Celestia took under her wing in the 1000 years since losing Luna. A pretty good story, although it moves a bit slowly in places and it's built around an anti-climax. Recommended. $3.99 Young Justice #25: DC - FINAL ISSUE. I don't know if the decision to cancel the comic came before or after the decision to not renew the series, but at least they wrapped up the intermezzo here. Weisman resolves the Kylstar thread pretty much the same way he did it originally back in the early 90s Captain Atom comic, but puts an interesting new twist on the Brainiac idea. The rest of the issue is setting up elements for season 2, like how Bibbo got replaced by a Krolotean, and the specifics of how Queen Bee engineered the death of Beast Boy's mother (thereby making some subtle revelations about Marie Logan). Also, Dick Grayson is a slut. ;) Recommended. $2.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Oh no, the vampiric jackalope and the chupacabra are natural enemies. They'll fight for dominance over the rights to eat us. (horrifying off-panel violence that nearly makes Pinkie Pie vomit) Nature is so fascinating..." - enrapt Fluttershy, My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic #3
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