March 27, 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, Two good interviews, now waiting to see if either wants to hire me. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None this time. In this installment: Bone: Quest for the Spark Book Three, Atomic Robo Two-Fisted Adventures: Enter the Tyrantula, Transformers: ReGeneration One #88, Young Avengers v2 #1, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #4, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #5, My Little Pony Micro-Series #2. "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. Bone: Quest for the Spark Book 3: Graphix/Scholastic - Ah, so this is a trilogy. From the pacing of the first two, it really didn't feel like the story was over half over already, but Sniegowski manages to avoid feeling rushed here nonetheless. The last of the new characters get brought into the story in the opening chapters, heavily mining Sniegowski's "Stupid, Stupid Rat Tales" comic for characters and settings. The resolution is a bit cliche, in the sense of "Villain seeks to acquire the one thing that can destroy him, and when he acquires it, it destroys him." While one of the major plot threads in the series was Tom Elm's bildungsromans, at the end he's back on the farm with a Wizard of Oz style appreciation for the boring life. His destiny has been fulfilled, and his story may well be over without him ever meeting a princess or even visiting a town significantly bigger than where he grew up...almost an anti- bildungsromans in some ways. He's done adventuring, and there's not much of a hook to get him back into it. On the other hand, Sniegowski doesn't wrap everything up with a bow, as there was a second main thread on the Bone side. And the epilogue pretty much breaks that one wide open and establish that if there's a next novel, it's going to follow the Bones. It's entirely possible they'll swing by the Elm farm and ask Tom for help, but it doesn't feel like that'd be a chapter 1 sort of thing (or even a book 1 thing). Taken together, the three books tell a similar story to the original Bone comics, but more compactly. Recommended. $10.99/$12.99Cn 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. Atomic Robo Two-Fisted Adventures: Enter the Tyrantula - This is a digital-only comic that was done as an Emerald City Comicon exclusive giveaway, then sold on ComiXology the next week. It is a tablet comic like the Ultimate Spider-Man Infinite thing, a sort of virtual colorforms where the same background will be used for several pages, with characters and inset panels moving across it. Unlike Spider-Man Infinite, though, it's just unreadable on anything smaller than a tablet screen. As far as the story goes, there's not much. Psycho ex-employee has become fixated on Robo in the "I'll prove my genius and my love by building a mechsuit and beating Robo to scrap!" fashion, and the comic is an extended fight scene between the two. A cute read, some good fight scene dialogue, and clever use of the medium, but I don't see Tyrantula joining Dr. Dinosaur in the pantheon of memorable Atomic Robo foes. Recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Transformers ReGeneration One #88: IDW - Rodimus runs around in sets left over from the Nucleon storyline of the first series, while Scorponok goes about infecting everyone with the Hate, Warrior Gene. A very forgettable issue, and I'm back to teetering on the edge of dropping the title. Neutral. $1.99 at ComiXology. Young Avengers v2 #1: Marvel - I got this (and the original Avengers #1) as part of the "Server Stress Test" free comic thing Marvel did through ComiXology in March, leading to crashing the servers. The issue title is "Style > Substance," and at least for the first sequence that's quite true. You really need to read it in full page format, it loses something on the small screen. Once past the first scene, though, the story pretty much ignores the Big Deal that ended it, and moves on to the personal story of Wiccan and Hulkling. Yes, this is going to be a decompressed "assembling the team" story, with a young (dunno why he's a kid, don't much care) Loki manipulating events in a somewhat more indirect way than how he caused the original Avengers to meet up. It's telling that the only one of the five heroes who seems to actually be active in their own costumed identity is the new (to me, anyway) one, and her costume is Street Clothing Chic. All in all, though, the writing is so CLEARLY "for the trade" that I don't really feel like picking up #2-3 (which are available now). I might pick up the trade, though. Normally $2.99. 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 #4: IDW - Everyone's back together, time for the big climactic fight scene as the magic comet plot device thing passes overhead. Cook faced a tricky challenge here...Chrysalis was defeated in the show by powers not directly accessible to the heroines this time (barring a deus ex guest-star), but at the same time simply using the plot device as the sole source of victory would feel kind of hollow. I think she managed to pull it off, though, creating a situation where sheer power on its own isn't enough, nor is the whole "magic of friendship" sufficient, and it takes a combination of both. So, it wasn't just the Usual Solution (meaning Chrysalis could still be a credible threat in the future), but it also wasn't just the EI/AD-style plot device of the week (which is rarely satisfying). In the backup tale, Cook draws what was happening to keep the Princesses (and Spike) busy in the meanwhile, so that none of them could show up as a deus ex guest-star. As usually happens when the plot must be served and there's a big fight expected, the humor levels drop off a bit (although the Greek Chorus of the Cutie Mark Crusaders keeps stuff going in the background). And some of the pop culture references fall a little flat, but they can't all be winners. Still, a solid ending and a good read in itself. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #5: IDW - #4 was delayed, but #5 wasn't, hence two issues in one month. The second arc follows in the footsteps of the first by bringing back one of the Big Bads from the cartoon, but this time in a way that gives the imprimatur of canon to a long-standing fan theory. The arc also brings in a new writer (Heather Nuhfer) and artist (Amy "mini-ma" Mebberson). Mebberson opts for a much cleaner background style than Price, so fewer background pony references, and she sticks a bit closer to the official models. One odd artistic choice was that Mebberson uses the model for Luna as she appeared briefly at the end of Season 1, Episode 2, with the more violet-toned fur and non-starry hair. It's possible this is meant to take place some time during season 1, but Fluttershy not fleeing in terror would tend to argue against that. (Twilight refers to Luna's role as guardian of dreams, but it's certainly plausible for Twi to have known this long before it was revealed to the audience in Season 3.) Then again, maybe someone will comment on the look next issue and there'll be a plot driven reason for it. Still, kinda odd. Back to the actual story. It feels a little thin, but I think a lot of that is the less cluttered style in use. There's really just the foreground story, without the background stuff that Cook and Price used to flesh it out. And I'm always a little worried when fanon gets canonized, even deuterocanonized in a tie-in medium. But it's a decent start and promises some high stakes. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Microseries #2: IDW - My first reaction to the actual plot was that it took "persistence is a virtue" and made it into a fairly dull resolution. But on second thought, I realized that Dash didn't simply keep trying the same thing over and over until it worked, she did actually try something qualitatively different at the end. Not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing that this wasn't hammered home more clearly. One thing that bugged me more rather than less on reflection was the presence of a television reporter pony as a sort of Greek Chorus (given how often I'm using that term in reference to MLP comics, maybe I should come up with a pony-style pun for it). While the tech levels in Equestria would certainly support television, if they had it we'd have seen more evidence of it in the cartoons. Perhaps he's a newsreel reporter (educational films exist as seen in "Hurricane Fluttershy"), or simply a town crier with a weird gimmick. ;) Ryan Lindsay's scripting, while amusing, doesn't seem to really find the right voice for Rainbow Dash. A lot of her dialogue (and monologue) sounds more like it should come from Pinkie Pie or Twilight Sparkle. Granted, Dash is being put in an unfamiliar situation, and she has to think differently to solve it, but it still doesn't quite sound right. I picked up cover B, for one of the most awesome Frazetta Conan pastiches ever. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "We're here for your tears and your broken little heart. We'll drink up your sorrow and feast on your fear. We've swum in sadness you wouldn't believe. Ponies sobbing off the shoulder of Orion. We've watched rainbows glitter with sadness near the Tannhauser Gate. All these moments we collect in time, your tears our rain. Little pony...time to cry." - Evil Cloud, MLP Microseries #2
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