March 3, 2010

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, This is becoming to "new comic reviews" what MTV is to music videos. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Iron Man vs. Whiplash #4 (of 4) "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. MySpace Dark Horse Presents #32 - Reviewing Brody's Ghost Part 3 ( and a new short Beanworld tale ( this time out. I think this marks the first time I've actually read more than one feature in a MSDHP issue. Brody's Ghost Part 3: Where part 2 focused on one of the two ghosts from the end of part 1 and saw Brody out in the city, this part flips it over and looks inward at the training offered by the old samurai ghost. The entire story takes place inside a single structure, with Brody the only living thing present (even the cockroach is dead). It's something of a cliche that no one ever getting training from the Wise Master ever realizes the Wise Master might know what he's doing...they always complain about how insane and arbitrary the training appears, only to discover much later that it did them some good. Crilley neither completely embraces nor subverts this cliche, but its presence is undeniable. Recommended. Beanworld: "First Steps" is a two-pager featuring one of Beanish's secret sketch visits. Pretty zen-koan even for those trippy trips, and it's definitely set after volume 3 (he has his boom'n worked out, and has for long enough that it's not even worth commenting on in the story). A cute bit of whimsy worth checking out even if you don't follow Beanworld (and you should be following Beanworld!). Iron Man 2 Action Figures (Movie Series Iron Man 2): Hasbro - I've now seen the first-wave second-movie series on the shelf at K-Mart, but I decided to wait for them to hit a cheaper store before getting any. The movie series is more gimmick-laden, with launching missiles (War Machine), a light-up chest (Infrared Mission Mk VI Iron Man), etc. They still have the card game stuff, and lots of design similarities (i.e. War Machine has the same flip-up shoulderpads as the comic series version). I recommend giving the light-up-chest one a pass, though, as it has resulted in a head that lolls around. Heartburn Iron Man. $8.99 at K-Mart. Iron Man 2 Action Figures (Movie Series Iron Man 1): Hasbro - These I've spotted at Walmart (two bucks cheaper than K-Mart), it's the MkI-III armors plus Iron Monger in the new size with the card game pieces and stuff. The MkIII comes with a snap-on chest armor extra that folds open in a way that vaguely resembles the exhaust pipes of the Heroes Reborn armor. I passed on all three that I saw on the shelf. $6.96 at Walmart. Iron Man 2 Action Figures (Concept Series): Hasbro - Here's where they play around with ideas that don't appear in the comics or movies, like the nifty Subterranean Armor from the first movie series. The three I saw this week were an assault armor (eh), Hypervelocity Armor (no relation to the Adam Warren miniseries, it's just a Very Fast suit and looks kinda Extremis-ish) and the one I did get, Deep Dive Armor. The Deep Dive Armor is nicely bulky without losing articulation, although the knees look a little skeletal when they bend. Unlike the War Machine design, the shoulder armor is integrated into the joint, so nothing has to flip out of the way. Despite being a radically different type of armor, it contains just enough movie-style armor elements in the design (faceplate and chestplate) to be identifiable as being from that continuity. It's done in shades of metallic blue and silver with accents in greenish yellow. It comes with a lame "clip on the forearm" missile launcher, but it looks complete and armed without the thing. Deep Dive Armor is Recommended. $6.96 at Walmart. Iron Man 2 Mega Bloks Aerial Attack: Mega Bloks - Yes, the merch machine is starting to kick in on all fronts! They also had larger "build and display" figures of the Bionicle size, but I've been giving that class a pass for a while now, just not impressed by them. The two small sets I was able to find include a single minifig, a small testbed set you build (flight testing for the Iron Man Mk IV armor, "shoot stuff at it" testing for the Army Drone) and a zipline flight gimmick. As with most Mega Bloks minifigs of late, the figures are very impressive. Great articulation and detail, and only slightly "kiddified" in proportions. They have ball joints on the neck, shoulders and hips, hinged knees and elbows, swivel waist and wrists. The feet fit onto Lego-style studs okay, but that's the one place where Mega Blok minifigs do tend to be iffy. The Army Drone comes with a backpack set that adds a shoulder vulcan cannon (I expect the War Machine figure will share this piece), although you have to remove the head to get the harness on and off. The scenery pieces are a little better quality than I've come to expect from Mega Bloks recently, and yes that'd damning with faint praise. At least nothing falls off randomly. Iron Man's set has a place to stick a clear post into the figure's back and fly it around a little next to a computer diagnostic setup. The Army Drone stands on a platform while a laser and flamethrower aim at it, and there's a storage rack for the pistol-like weapons the figure can carry. Both figures also come with clear orange flame pieces that plug into the feet or are held in the hands for the thruster effect, although the drone can't use the hand pieces and its pistols at the same time (a rack for holding the flame pieces would have been nice in either case). The scenery comes with some stickers that have instructions for placement, others that it says to put wherever they look good, and a couple that are meant to decorate other stuff as they're too big to fit on any flat surface of the toys. :) As a sort of "undocumented feature", you can stick the unused harness hardpoint over the top of the flamethrower to fake a flight base for the Army Drone. The zipline involves a piece that you hang over a doorknob or other similar structure, a backpack that plugs into the back of the minifig (so you can't use it with the Army Drone's weapons harness, it's one or the other) and two strings you pull apart to make the figure fly into the doorknob. Whack. Not terribly impressive, and it's not compatible with Lego minifigs, although some other Mega Blok minifigs (like the Halo Spartan armors) have the right sort of peg hole. You might want to wait and see if they release a figures-only pack like they did with Halo Bloks, since the scenery and zipline are pretty unimpressive. And the War Machine minifig is currently only slated to come with a big helicopter, so I'll likely give that a pass. Mildly recommended, but if they come out with a minifig-only pack that'd be strongly recommended. $5.99 at Toys R Us. 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. Justice Society of America #36: DC - Ah, Oblivion War try two. Back in the day, when Willingham returned to the Elementals comic for a second run, he kicked off a mega-arc called the Oblivion War by framing it as the memoirs of one of the characters, years in the future after many horrible things had happened. Exactly where he'd meant it to go never got to play out, because he ended up leaving the book (willingly or not, I forget if I ever even knew the details) and the plot sort of flailed around for a while before the publisher collapsed. It looks like he's doing that again, with this issue's framing sequence being one of the JSA remembering the start of a horrible war years later. The problem is...he oversells it. This isn't a creator-owned property where he can just kill off established characters and have bad guys conquer the world and have it stick. It's too big, it breaks its own suspension of disbelief, so they might as well have printed "Don't fret, readers, this will all be undone later!" on the cover. Oh, there might be lasting consequences of some sort even if time travel or some other plot device is used to retcon it away. As a side note, Willingham fails at basic "relative speed" physics. Neutral. It's not badly written, it's just impossible to make any sort of emotional investment in this story. $2.99 S.W.O.R.D. #4: Marvel - Hm. The story kinda whipsaws around, as if Gillen had planned the arc to last longer and got told as he was writing this issue that he had to cut out an issue or two. The pacing picks up dramatically, and not really in a good way, and then goes into strobing mode. Oh, the strobing is clearly an intentional gimmick to try to build tension, but I don't think it succeeded. The dialogue is generally still good, and Gyrich manages to get a good scene in the beginning, but it feels unevenly recompressed. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Iron Man vs. Whiplash #4 (of 4): Marvel - The details behind the bad guys are revealed, as is the reason for the stupid mistake that got Iron Man clued into them in the first place. The guys running the day to day show were competent and clueful to the end, but the fact they were beholden to unsubtle men brought about that end. Even Whiplash, who's a little more stereotypical as the vengeance-driven hothead, demonstrates a functioning brain after only a little bit of Pointless Fight Scene, AND he shows valid reasons for not simply shaking hands and making up even after the true villains are revealed. Intelligent plotting, good dialogue, good art. It may not have knocked my socks off this issue, and it's pretty sad that "not invoking the idiot plot" should make it notable, but there you have it. Recommended, and Of Note. $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. Adventure Comics #8: DC - Sigh. Not only is there an event banner, but the dreaded Superbook Crossover Shield, indicating this is part *30* of some ongoing storyline. Oh, and they're doing the Marvel thing of putting the old numbering as a ghostly image behind the 8. A pity about the crossover markup, because the cover has so much going for it (namely, eight members of the LSH), but that 30 just drains away the excitement. Yay, a "buy all the Superman books this month if you want to see the beginning or end of the story" notice. On the plus side, the 30 isn't the part of the story, it's just the count within the calendar year. On the minus side, this issue is three stories that are ALL To Be Continued Elsewhere. Loads of Legionnaires in the first two, but it's all either prologue for the New Krypton event, or payoff for stuff that happened in another book. The third story involves Gyrich taking over S.W...well, General Lane and his own "get the aliens off Earth!" force. Meh. Neutral. $3.99 Astro City the Dark Age Book Four #2 (of 4): DC/Wildstorm - Well, one bit of foreshadowing looks to have been a red herring, at least for the moment (although it could always be waiting in the wings to happen again later). With only two issues to go, Busiek is showing a few more of his cards, but even at this point he's probably raising more questions than he answers. Maybe the previous books just have me in a sour mood, but I wasn't all that thrilled by this issue. It's okay, but that's it. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The Mighty Avengers #34: Marvel - It would seem that the old Hank Pym is back, finding yet another way to self-destruct just in time for the book to face cancellation (in case you hadn't heard, all the Avengers books are ending in a few months, they'll reshuffle and relaunch in the wake of Siege) if not slightly earlier. Given how Slott's been writing this book, I expect there's a dodge in there somewhere, a Nura Nal sort of thing. It does seem, though, that Pym doesn't so much grow as fail upward with style. A sort of twisted heroic version of a Xanatos Gambit, if you will. Recommended. $2.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #623: Marvel - You may have seen a brief mention on the news about this issue...but they jumped the gun. While the news story I saw cited #623, the story in question is at least two issues from now. Waid and Peyer are up in the writing rotation, and Azaceta (who drew the Power To The People arc) is back with more Electro. This is a much more explicitly Gauntlet-related arc, although the immediate story is fairly independent of the uberarc. Azaceta's darker more indy-influenced style does suit the creepy new Vulture, to say the least. 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 3/3/10: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Gold Digger v3 #105. Add Gold Digger Sacred Library #3, but this may just be a week where Midtown gets AP stuff earlier than I do rather than later, since Diamond's list doesn't show it. Awards: "Can He Have Lunch Before He Goes Back Down?" Award to Brody's Ghost Part 3 "Love Notes" Award to Beanworld "First Steps" "A Proper Hypervelocity Toy Would Probably Wander Off On Its Own Anyway" Award to Iron Man 2 Action Figures "If They Get A Legion of Super-Heroes License, Would We Get A Blok Blok?" Award to Iron Man 2 Mega Blok Aerial Attack sets "Frames of Reference" Award to Justice Society of America #36 "Is The Cover Trying To Imply That Gyrich Sucks?" Award to S.W.O.R.D. #4 "Fist Of Stark Removal" Award to Iron Man vs. Whiplash #4 (of 4) "I Do Believe You CAN Outthink A Fist, Actually" Award to Adventure Comics #8 "If It Didn't Have Some MASSIVE Drawback, Don't You Think He'd Have Used It On Himself?" Award to Astro City the Dark Age Book Four #2 (of 4) "'Scientist Supreme' Just Means He Comes With Extra Toppings" Award to The Mighty Avengers #34 "Sadly, JJJ's Troubles Are Nothing Compared To Real Life NY Political Scandal Right Now" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #623 Dave Van Domelen, "Oh, you're the new Vulture. Something tells me I should be glad my sense of SMELL is gone. But you can't be any worse to work with than the OLD Vulture. The LARRY DAVID look alike. God, I hate EVERYONE today, why IS that?" - Electro failing to get job satisfaction, The Amazing Spider-Man #623
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