March 31, 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, Ten days ago, snow. Today, mid to upper 80s F. Love Kansas weather. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None "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. Nothing this week. 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 United States: Harper - This is an omnibus edition of a two-volume work originally published in 1987-8 and first collected together in 1991. While the indicia say nothing on the matter, I suspect that this 2005 Harper edition has a new cover, to judge from the art style. And man, is the art different. Some of this is style evolution (plus when the 1960s are covered, Gonick adopts an R. Crumb homage), but even compared to early issues of Cartoon History of the Universe published about the same time there's differences that suggest that he rushed the art on this one, especially in the opening chapters. Combine that with the style evolution, and reading this right after Modern World Part II is...jarring. (Minor nitpick on top of that: the omnibus edition renumbers the pages to be continuous, and the index reflects this, but in-page references in the second half weren't corrected to match the new pagination.) As for the writing, it fits the "thematic chunking" style he's still using to this day, not much of a shift there. Rather than working in a purely linear fashion, he'll take a theme (like slavery or the women's movement) and cover a range of a few decades around the current point in the timeline, then move on to another topic. Some topics get revisited several times, rather than presenting the entire thing from 1585-1991. But it does allow for a more coherent reading experience than you'd get from a "here's what happened in 1856, now here's 1857..." sort of pacing. Of course, the biggest "problem" with the writing is that it ends in the early 90s with a fairly gloomy outlook. Modern World II also ends on such an outlook, but it always comes across less well with a two decade remove, since we now know we didn't go foom immediately. :) Overall, it suffers a bit from rushed art and some pre-computer production values, but it's still a good read. Recommended. $17.99 cover price, $12.23 at (eligible for free shipping on orders over $25, and together with Cartoon History of the Modern World Part II that's just barely over $25). X-Factor #203: Marvel - This one is all Strong Guy and M off on a side story. A bit of psychodrama for each separately, but Guido hogs all the fight scenes. The villain is built up slowly, but a bit oddly. By the time of the reveal, those who would recognize him in the first place will have already figured it out, but those who wouldn't probably weren't enlightened by the reveal, since he's not exactly a traditional X-foe. Recommended. $2.99 Transformers Last Stand of the Wreckers #3: IDW - Ow. After seeing a five page preview, there were predictions that a particular character probably wouldn't survive the arc...but he didn't survive page SIX. That's brutal, but totally in keeping with the Wreckers' schtick. I also appreciated that Verity was neither totally unimportant nor implausibly effective. Definitely one of the better Transformers comics in the modern era. Recommended. $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. The Transformers #5: IDW - I got cover A, with Figueroa's Stunticons. There's a footnote that clarifies that this issue happens after the Bumblebee miniseries, so we have at least one reference point. :) The first half of the issue is Prime philosophizing at Spike, then Spike mulling things over. The second half is the inevitable confrontation with Rodimus's group and the equally inevitable doublecross. Said doublecross involves Figueroa's new design for Menasor, which looks even more like the limb robots are simply being worn as armor rather than being integral to the combined mode...Menasor has a lot of kibble. Prime's bit is a little stock and/or cliche, but at least it makes sense. Bumblebee mainly wibbles, showing little of the character growth experienced in his miniseries. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Adventure Comics #9: DC - Last Stand of New Krypton banner, with s-diamond crossover number 35 (last issue was 30, so there's four parts theoretically missing for me). Again it's split into several short pieces. The lead piece has Querl Dox mostly flashing back on the his predecessors in between parts of the actual story (starting with a "don't read until you've read X!" blurb and ending with a "to be continued in Y!") nails down a few bits of the Brainiac lineage, but deliberately leaves plenty of wiggle room so it can be largely ignored later. (Saying that Vril Dox Jr. is killed because of his own plots blowing up in his face doesn't really narrow matters down or constitute a spoiler.) The Connor/Espionage Squad story does a tiny bit more in terms of advancing the overall plot, but it's still pretty cardboard. The only story contained solely within Adventure Comics, featuring one of Zod's undercover boring. I do not find the focus character interesting, the idea of Sam Lane as a poor copy of Thunderbolt Ross is weak, and the art is nothing to write home about. All in all, I may consider dropping Adventure until the diamond is off the cover. Two unsatisfying nibbles of a mega-crossover plus a weak backup do not equal a book worth my time or money. Neutral. $3.99 Justice Society of America #37: DC - More flashbacks from the future as Mr. Terrific narrates the battle with the Fourth Reich and how it led up to Nazis taking over the world. Months of buildup and hinting I think it would have worked better without the fake suspense, if they'd just laid out six months ago what it was about and told the story forward rather than in Ominous Looking Back Narration. It's strongly hinted that this will be undone by time travel, but I suspect that the reset button will take a different form. Assuming Willingham isn't totally phoning it in, that is. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Astro City the Dark Age Book Four #3 (of 4): DC/Wildstorm - Ghost Rider meets the Punisher at his most irrational, that's pretty much what the Pale Rider seems to be. The pacing feels a bit off here, a lot of montage pages as if Busiek realized too late that he really could have used another issue or two in this book and had to squeeze things down in #3 in order to flesh out events that ended up in #2 or #4. There's also two Inspirational Moments that don't really resonate, although the second one I suspect was supposed to fall flat, feel insufficient to the needs of the day. Mildly recommended. $3.99 She-Hulk Sensational #1 (of 1): Marvel - Well, this is the 30th Anniversary Special for She-Hulk, consisting of two new stories and a reprint of Sensational She-Hulk #40 (the one with the "naked jump rope" sequence). Peter David writes the first one, which is decidedly non-continuity, a bit whiny (as to be expected given that Shulkie doesn't even have her own regular book right now) and full of the usual "pushed too far to be funny anymore" humor that happens when PAD's not restraining himself. I did like the design of Misstro, though. The second piece, by Brian Reed, looks like it might have started life as a Ms. Marvel issue, albeit a good done in one Ms. Marvel issue. And the reprint is what it is, slightly more fourth-wall-breaking than PAD's lead story. Mildly recommended. $4.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #627: Marvel - Roger Stern picks up the writing hat this issue, with Lee Weeks on art. I've been amusing myself the past few issues playing the "could this have been in the can before they decided to fire Peter?" game, seeing how much it would take to excise all references to that event, on the assumption that the rotating writing team might have been caught off-guard by a late decision to change direction and they might have had to go back and do some patching. This one could easily have been set before the firing, just change a few thought bubbles and small talk speech bubbles. :) Anyway, as to the actual story, it's awash in continuity, much of it written by Roger Stern himself. Still, Stern has a light hand with the flashbacks, establishes a mystery and has it (start to) pay off by the last page. Nice, solid storytelling. 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 3/31/10: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Gold Digger v3 #105, Gold Digger Sacred Library #3, Marvel Boy: the Uranian #3. Add Gold Digger v3 #116 Awards: "Well, American History IS Kinda Sketchy" Award to The Cartoon History of the United States "Guzzle Needs A Hug" Award to Transformers Last Stand of the Wreckers #3 "When Did She Pose For That Picture?" Award to X-Factor #203 "I Bet He Could Do It At 150mph" Award to The Transformers #5 "It's Not Bad Science, He Just Wanted Everyone To Think They Were Helping" Award to Adventure Comics #9 "They Gotta Be Captains To Command The Minions" Award to Justice Society of America #37 "Hey, He Stole Han Solo's Gun!" Award to Astro City the Dark Ages Book Four #3 (of 4) "You'd Think Dan Slott Would Own A Nicer Outfit" Award to She-Hulk Sensational #1 (of 1) "Gonna Need To Launder That Costume Again After The Duct-Shimmy" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #627 Dave Van Domelen, "Hang're saying the evil crazy terrorist army doesn't have enough liquid capital to be both evil AND crazy?" - She-Hulk, the Reed story in She-Hulk Sensational #1
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