March 24, 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, IDW is now a Premiere Publisher at Diamond. Too bad this doesn't change a thing in terms of small retailers not getting IDW books in a timely manner. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part II. "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. Just a couple quick comments on the Comic Series Iron Man 2 figure of the original "gray armor", which I grabbed because Target was having a sale ($5.99 each). It looks good and is generally solid, but the standard hip joints of the line don't work well on this design. For some reason, the left hand is in a "come here" gesture with crooked index finger. The right is in a fist for the energy blast accessory to fit over, although that armor had no energy blasts. The URL is still redirecting to 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. The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part II: From the Bastille to Bagdad: Harper - The final part of Larry Gonick's multi-publisher decades-in- the-making cartoon history actually came out in 2009, but apparently Diamond never bothered to ship it or even tell my store it wasn't shipping, so I got it from Amazon (along with his Cartoon History of the U.S. since I didn't have it yet and needed more on my order to get free shipping, but I won't be reviewing that this week). In five relatively thick trades (even the ones that never came out as single issues are still laid out as if they were collections) Larry Gonick set out to cover all of human history. Obviously, it's going to be a fairly sparse coverage with biases in terms of what does and doesn't get covered, but by and large he takes the view that if it had a big non-local impact it got covered more extensively. However, the footnote-laden style he used let him go off on all sorts of tangents, so only the most ardent students of history will come away from these books having learned nothing new. This volume is pretty Euro-centric, but that reflects the fact that the period involved was pretty Euro-centric. Colonialism, wars, philosophical movements...Europeans pretty much dominated history. Even the reasonably in-depth coverage of nations like China or Japan in this volume is largely about how those nations dealt with the incursions of men, money and ideas from Europe. Sure, many deep and complex concepts and events get breezed through in a couple of pages, but Gonick's good at packing the essential points into those pages. For instance, he spent two pages on the traveling electrons thought experiment that helped lead Einstein to devise his Special Theory of Relativity, and I'm tempted to scan the pages and show them to my physics class (who just worked out part of the math of that thought experiment in their most recent studio). The "to Baghdad" part uses that part of the world as a microcosm at the end to show how various world power meddling post-WWII (and post-Cold War) has led to some contradictory actions and reactions. All in all, while it gets a bit preachy at times, it's a good and entertaining overview of the past couple centuries. Strongly recommended. $18.99 cover price, I got it for $12.91 at Amazon. 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. Deadpool Corps Rank and Foul: Marvel - I haven't really been following the Deadpool books since the reboot from Deadpool & Cable's ending, but as a guidebook this still covers a lot of the stuff I did follow (and can let me catch up a bit on the parts I missed). It helps that this is also a sort of de facto Great Lakes Avengers/Initiative sourcebook. :) Recommended. $3.99 The Marvels Project #7 (of 8): Marvel - This would be the time that the plot would really get into gear, if this were actually a story with a plot. But it's pretty obvious by this point that the series is really just a bunch of origin stories retold with a thin bit of mystery storyline to thread them all together. Seriously, if the comics didn't stop for 4-8 page origin stories several times a month, the entire tale could be told adequately in one issue. The other day I read an essay that claimed that (among other factors), Busiek's "Marvels" series proved to the Big Two that they didn't need to tell new stories anymore, people really just wanted to buy retellings and elaborations of old stories...and this is almost a parody of that premise. It makes for a decent, if meandering, read though. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Thunderbolts #142: Marvel - Siege trade dress. This is mostly a running fight between most of the Thunderbolts and most of the Mighty Avengers (both teams have had some recent deaths, plus Pym's been busy) as Asgard gets blown up around them a bunch. There's some good thematic moments, such as USAgent versus Scourge (both of them started off as "through a glass, darkly" versions of Captain America) and plenty of chaotic combat. I especially liked Amadeus Cho vs. Mr. X (just because you can read Cho's mind doesn't mean you can follow what he's thinking). A bit gory at times, mind you. Recommended. $2.99 Avengers: the Initiative #34: Marvel - Siege trade dress. The first half is the Avengers Resistance versus Norn-powered-up scrubs at Camp HAMMER, with Night Thrasher making his Fateful Decision. It works pretty well, and has several "it's about TIME" moments. Then the action shifts to Taskmaster's group in Asgard and the three narrative lines that's been following (Taskmaster, Constrictor and Diamondback, although very little of her POV). It ends at about the same point as Thunderbolts, referenced against the main Siege storyline. Boom. Recommended. $2.99 Mighty Avengers #35: Marvel - Siege trade dress. This actually takes place before the other two Siege books I got, including a few pages of interlude where Amadeus assembles the team that shows up in Thunderbolts (and explaining why USAgent isn't wearing his mask there). A big chunk of the early pagecount is devoted to infodump, with Ace and Black Jacquie of GRAMPA (first seen in Amazing Fantasy) playing the role of audience. Apparently #34 took place months ago, in terms of the overall timeline, with all the Reign of Kings stuff (wait, Mighty Avengers were in Reign of Kings? Huh) and various other guest appearances being the result of the M.Avs "keeping up appearances" despite effectively ceasing to be a team at the end of #34. Or maybe they interleave differently, I don't particularly care. :) Anyway, with most of the team busy over in Thunderbolts, Pym is left to deal with the whole Ultron thing that's been simmering in the background, and his master plan for Jocasta and the Infinite Mansion gets even creepier if that's at all possible. Recommended. $2.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #626: Marvel - A bit of a mish-mash of guest characters that might result in some continuity snarls around Siege, but that's not terribly important...this issue's real conflict is between Peter Parker and Michelle Gonzales. The rest of the sturm und drang is just a way to get them both running for their lives together, one of the more dramatic bonding experiences you can have. :) The art by Gaydos is REALLY dark and sometimes hard to follow, although most of the action takes place at night in a construction site, so it may not be a fair demonstration of his skills overall. Recommended. $2.99 PS238 #43: Do Gooder Press - The Big Alien War Story that's been brewing for a while now starts to come together, with the kids ending up pawns of one side or the other. Lots of court intrigue and Big Plan sort of maneuvering, which doesn't exactly play to the book's strengths. There's still plenty of good bits, but the overall story is merely okay. 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 3/24/10: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Gold Digger v3 #105, Gold Digger Sacred Library #3, Marvel Boy: the Uranian #3. Add Transformers Last Stand of the Wreckers #3 and X-Factor #203. (Later note: found both TFLSotW and X-Factor at Hastings on Thursday.) Awards: "Ah, Modernity! Pass The Bullets, Please" Award to The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part II "Well, Great Lakes Initiative Minus Squirrel Girl, But She Got An Entry In Another Guidebook Recently" Award to Deadpool Corps Rank and Foul "Coming Soon, A Miniseries About The Guys Who Played Cap And Bucky In The Faked Origin Story Newsreel" Award to The Marvels Project #7 (of 8) "That's Not How Rain Of Arrows Normally Works" Award to Thunderbolts #142 "No, The Other Skull-Masked Guy Who Fights Captain America...No, Not That One Either" Award to Avengers: the Initiative #34 "Ultron Should Know Better Than To Dismiss Jarvis As Irrelevant" Award to The Mighty Avengers #35 "Her Tail IS Her Moneymaker" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #626 "Not As Scandalous As I'd Expected" Award to PS238 #43 Dave Van Domelen, "Nice speech, kid, but you had me at 'Screw Pym.'" - USAgent, Mighty Avengers #35
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