March 30, 2014

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, Spent almost my entire spring break doing job interview stuff. This is a pretty heavy month, comparatively speaking, in part because a bunch of stuff from the end of February didn't get picked up until March. I've given up on Diamond spitting out Gold Digger in a timely manner, though, and returning to buying directly from AP's online store (so #207-209 will be arriving for me in April). Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #17 In this installment: Justice League: Trapped in Time, Sparks, Transformers: Autocracy TPB, The Dumbest Idea Ever, Astro City #10, Ninja High School #176, Gold Digger Holidays Special #3, Samurai Jack #5-6, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2-3, My Little Pony: Friends Forever #2-3, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #16-17. "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. Justice League: Trapped in Time: DC/WB - This is basically a Superfriends episode (Legion of Doom era) with modern animation and the addition of some LSH elements. So the plot and dialogue are pretty cheesy on purpose. Between the animation style and some of the characterization choices, though, I kept expecting Karate Kid and Dawnstar to find Aang in an iceberg. Overall, I found it a little too self-consciously retro. Bonus features included two Superfriends eps involving time (but neither involving the Legion of Doom), perhaps to try to make the main feature look a little better by comparison. Mildly recommended. $15 or thereabouts. Sparks - The Origin of Ian Sparks: Image Entertainment - The packaging claims this was based on a graphic novel, but the only reason I'd heard of this movie before seeing it on the shelf at Walmart is that one of the regulars on the board (Daniel Ross) is in it. Not a big enough part to be listed on the box, mind you. The aesthetic is a sort of flattened semi-relistic thing like the Spirit movie, which both captures the feel of pulp-era comics and also lets them get by with less expensive CG backgrounds. ;) The acting is...okay. Veterans like William Katt and Clancy Brown turn in good performances, but some of the unknowns are iffy. Maybe they're just not well-suited to the noir-flavored writing. (It bills itself as noir, but it felt more like regular "moral compass on the fritz" pulp.) Oh, and given that Jake Busey (son of Gary) is in it, I kinda expect this to show up on RiffTrax at some point. A decent movie. A little bloody in places, and occasional salty language, but a PG-13 or soft R I'd guess (they didn't get it rated). And it has the advantage of being an actual heroic story (albeit with some rather unheroic actions along the way) that is what it is, rather than trying to deconstruct or ironically sneer at the genre. Recommended. $9.96 at Walmart. 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. Transformers: Autocracy TPB: IDW - A bunch of digital comics were offered for free for the SXSW meeting, so I grabbed the collected edition. It continued in much the same style as the issues I bought, but tended to whipsaw around to get new characters and concepts in place in perhaps overly compressed storytelling (each "issue" is about 8 pages of content). It does a decent job of finishing the origin story of the IDW-verse Optimus Prime, and making the Autobot establishment so thoroughly vile that Raksha might even consider it an honest history. It tried a little too hard to make the "You who have no mercy" scene from the 1986 movie fit into the beginning of the war rather than the end, sort of like how Star Trek: Into Darkness got a bit forced when it tried to make lines frmo Wrath of Khan work. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. The Dumbest Idea Ever!: Scholastic - With the Amelia Rules! series ended, Gownley has stepped back a ways. All the way, in one sense. This is an autobiographical graphic novel about how Gownley went from just another kid drawing comics in his notebooks to a gosh-darned real pro. With the benefit of being told from this end, Gownley was able to give "real life" more of a story structure (something lampshaded in the story itself, where Jimmy and his friends argue that foreshadowing never happens in real life). Amusingly, while the story ends with young Jimmy's decision to go ahead and write a comic about himself and his friends, THIS is not that comic. He wrote an entirely different autobio comic 20 years ago or so, in a rather different style than his current one. So this is a meta-autobio comic. The one thing this doesn't have that Amelia Rules! had is that Jimmy's real life group of friends isn't as conveniently weird and interesting as the fictional friends Amelia was surrounded by. So the result is a little subdued, because as much as he may creatively mis-remember or exaggerate what really really happened, and the raw feed of life isn't as interesting as fiction, most of the time. Still, recommended. $11.99/$12.99Cn Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Astro City #10: DC/Vertigo - The Winged Victory arc ends, and turns into a polemic against the dangers of making everything about some philosophical principle. Like making everything be about women vs. men rather than "remember when we used to DO things?" Other than that twist, it was a fairly standard "hero regains confidence and defeats the attempts to undermine that confidence by punching the badguy in the face a lot" story. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Ninja High School #176: Antarctic Press - This was part of a kickstarter campaign to get NHS rolling again, although the issue will be available (with a different cover, IIRC) to whatever retailers can get Diamond to cough up AP books as well. Ben Dunn was involved in the writing of this issue, but Steve Ross gets main writing credit with Dunn on art. Like the short-lived V2, this is moving the story to a new version of the universe, with different takes on characters, etc. However, this particular issue explains it by having the main universe fall prey to a horrible fate, with a handful of refugees going to the new universe in the hope of eventually returning with new allies to liberate their home. A decent start, in that respect. Dunn's art is somewhat inconsistent, as if he's been trying out new style elements and hasn't decided yet which should stick. Mildly recommended. Not sure what the retail version price will be. Gold Digger Holidays Special #3: Antarctic Press - The only new AP book my current store has actually shipped in several months of trying, and I'm pretty sure it's all reprints. At least, the various Christmas and Halloween stories all felt pretty familiar. It doesn't help that it includes two different "Were-rats try to steal Christmas" stories from different years. If anything, the order of the two is wrong, because the first one implies that they were on their way to giving up on the idea themselves, which makes the second one feel like it totally ignored the first. Switching would make more sense. Mildly recommended. $3.50 Samurai Jack #5: IDW - So, the threads of time thing wrapped up in a pretty weak "only enough power to do one thing, and you suddenly need to do something other than go back to your own time" ending. Meh. Buyer's regret on the entire first arc. $3.99 Samurai Jack #6: IDW - Giving this one more arc, if only because the premise of "Jack and the Scotsman get turned into women" has promise. The execution so far is good enough I'll hold on to the end, but I get the feeling I'll be dropping this book soon. Which is a pity, since it's one of the few I get that Diamond has no trouble shipping. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2-3: Dark Horse - Speaking of books on the cusp, Zack Whedon doesn't really seem to have the hang of pacing a comic. It's like he's trying to make each issue cover a whole episode's worth of content, and making a hash of the pacing as a result. A summary of the story in these two issues would sound pretty good, but actually reading it is like watching a show when someone else is randomly hitting fast forward on the DVR. This isn't even a case of "writing for the trade," this is just simple disjointedness. Mildly recommended. $3.50 each. My Little Pony Friends Forever #2: IDW - Discord and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and somehow there's still a planet left when they're done. Whitley and Fleecs have Discord help the CMC run through a whole bunch of scenarios that would be impossible without his magic in an attempt to find ever more outre cutie mark possibilities. And yes, this includes a Star Trek riff, so Discord ends up in Q's magistrate outfit. A bit of fluff, but a decent read. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #3: IDW - Ted Anderson and Agnes Garbowska tell a tale of an adventure had by Spike and Celestia. The premise is simple enough: find some macguffins to use in making a present for Twilight Sparkle's birthday. But since this is Equestria, monsters and natural disasters are part of the equation. This is very much a worldbuilding sort of story, not only reinforcing the "Celestia was deliberately putting Luna through hell in Microseries #10, it's not always like that" point, but also explaining why Celestia doesn't ride to the rescue in the cartoon very often (and when she does, it's often ineffectual). Basically, she wants her students to learn to do things on their own, and has been around long enough to know when her help is REALLY needed, and when her students can do it themselves (albeit with difficulty). Unfortunately, there seems to be a pretty narrow range of problems where Celestia feels the need to act and where she doesn't get jobbed...which I suppose reflects well on the quality of her students. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #16: IDW - Much like the CMC/Discord story the same month, a lot of this is just an excuse to run characters through various pastiches. The ponies in the book try to stay ahead of the Bookworm by creating their own stories, mixing and matching genres with wild abandon. But it's just marking time until a Stern Talking To convinces the Bookworm to mend its ways. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #17: IDW - Ahhhh, Price and Cook return. This one looks like it's going to do some serious exploration of backstory, so there's always the danger of being contradicted by a later episode, but Cook's writing is enjoyable enough that I don't mind if it ends up being a "counterfictional". Celestia dives into another magic mirror (related to the Equestria Girls one, but not the same) and vanishes, leaving Luna to run everything herself for a week before Luna summons the Mane Six to help out. A goodly chunk of the issue involves the backstory of Celestia and Starswirl the Bearded in the time leading up to the Nightmare Moon incident, and promises to explain how Starswirl's understanding of friendship was deficient (at a guess, he didn't think friendship could redeem someone on the other side of the mirror, Celestia did, and at the beginning of the story she went to give it another try). Lots of promise, and a cracking good issue on its own (as opposed to the somewhat tepid "shows promise" reviews of some books above). Oh, and there's a T.rex Fluttershy. As with other Cook/Price books, Katie Cook does a short piece with her own art at the end, in this case explaining how Starswirl got his hat. Strongly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "I hope there aren't any monsters in here." "WHY would you SAY that? That is INVITING that kind of stuff to happen!" - Rainbow Dash and Applejack, MLP:FiM #17
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