April 9, 2008

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.
I have something in common with Bill Self.  Rants, Capsules can be found on my 
             homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants 

First Look Comments:

     Books I read over the weekend as First Looks, but didn't buy, so can't
really say much in detail about.  DC has stopped having First Looks, so it's
just Marvel and Image...and there's word that Diamond doesn't want to bother
with the program at all anymore.

     Books for next week -

     Captain America #37: Marvel - Well, we see more of Skull's Master Plan,
and a succession of people give Bucky a Talking To.  There's a Big Reveal at
the end, but the various bits of exposition along the way rob it of most of
its punch.  Well, maybe those lines were intended to increase the punch, but
it all seemed pretty standard "it's not what you expect" weaseling.
     Iron Man Legacy of Doom #1 (of 4): Marvel - Michelinie, Layton and Lim
go back to the whole Iron Man/Doctor Doom time travel storyline from the 80s
and add another chapter to it.  Rather than try to make it work with the
current Iron Man, they pick a point between Iron Man #250 and the present.  I
suppose if you're going to put Tony Stark into an infernal dilemma, it helps
to pick a time before he made it obvious he'd sold his soul....  Nothing in
this issue changed my mind about not ordering this series.  It has a few good
bits, but is mostly ehn.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     X-Factor #30: Marvel - It's kinda unclear what's going on at first,
although some of that is mood-setting, some of it is probably unintentional
obfuscation.  Very much a middle part with lots of hitting but very little
setup or payoff.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Incredible Hercules #116: Marvel - It seems they stopped for beer
between last issue and this.  Just a hunch.  Meanwhile, Athena has some
wisdom for Amadeus Cho, but he's still enough of a kid to probably not take
it to heart.  The main action is a fairly classic "misunderstanding battle",
but Pak and Van Lente effectively make use of various existing plotlines and
continuity to get it to work, even weaving foreshadowing that seems to point
at one crossover so that it might just point at an entirely different one,
whee!  Plus, Thena/Athena fight?  Dude.  Strongly recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn

     Short, relatively spoiler-free reviews of books I actually bring home
(as opposed to reading in preview form in the shop or online).  If I get a
book late due to distributor foulups or whatever, I'll put it in the Missing

     Books of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): The Last
Defenders #2 (of 6)

     Doktor Sleepless #6: Avatar - "The Mortician of Love" is this issue's
subtitle.  Finally, Sleepless lays his cards on the table (well, as far as we
can tell...it could be another shell game), only to find that there's
something out there in the weirdness of Heavenside that *wasn't* his doing.
A nice little bit, a chink in the "invincible protagonist Gary Stu" image
that the good Doktor's been getting built into.  The backmatter includes a
number of vignettes and a piece on the idea of "burst culture" and how things
like twitter and microstories shouldn't be seen as replacement for print
media, but rather complement.  Recommended.  $3.99
     Scud the Disposable Assassin #23 (of 24): Image - As the penultimate
issue, and given how much is left to resolve, it makes sense that this time
out sees the Final Battle with Jeff, the critter that got the whole series
rolling.  Because, while Jeff is certainly a lynchpin to the entire
aeschatological plot, she's not the prime mover (yeah, Jeff is a she, just go
with it).  Schrab also reminds us that things like life and death are highly
fluid concepts on the current ontological battlefield, leading to some nifty
plot developments.  The issue wraps up with a bunch of pinups, including
something that's a natural fit: Jhonen Vasquez drawing the hellish System.
Recommended.  $3.50 
     Transformers Focus on Decepticons (one-shot): IDW - Gasp, it's not
$3.99!  Of course, it's also more along the lines of an ad you pay for.
Pitch, design sketches, interviews with writer and artist, a roster of who's
going to show up (mainly recycled art as far as I can tell) and then a short
preview in which Decepticons blow stuff up and sneer at humans.  Decent
teaser, but really the sort of thing most companies charge significantly less
for.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99
     Serenity Better Days #2 (of 3): Dark Horse - The actual plot gets a
little service, but this issue is mostly about the crew's fantasies about
what they'd do if they were genuinely rich, not just momentarily flush.  And
Jane can't get laid, but that's really no surprise.  ;)  I think I'd like it
better if it were #2 of 6, because it feels like it's setting up an
anticlimax or at best a rushed ending.  Taken just as itself it's a good
character piece, seeing how the crew behaves when they're in luxurious
surroundings rather than their usual squalor, but that "of 3" really looms
large.  Still, recommended.  $2.99
     Gold Digger v3 #94: Antarctic Press - As the countdown to #100 continues,
more loose threads are tied off, as it were.  Dreadwing and Ancient Gina are
maneuvering their last pieces into position, and the bloodletting is well
underway (metaphorically, at least).  Oddly, the cover give away more about
the first scene than the first scene does, making me wonder if either A) it
was planned for #95, or B) Perry initially planned to take the first scene a
little farther this issue.  There does seem to be a little more of Perry's
trademark "not as clear to the reader as he thinks it is" stuff at the very
end, but also some very good villainous monologue.  Recommended.
     Gold Digger Dreadwing's Mymior #1: Antarctic Press - Mostly an
illustrated text piece, wrapped in a few pages of comic framing sequence,
this takes all of the threads of Dreadwing's life and arranges them in linear
order...definitely a good thing, given how time-twisted his storyline's
been.  Of course, it's all from Dreadwing's sometimes pathetically self-
justifying and rationalizing viewpoint.  Perhaps a little too pathetic at
times, a certain amount of self-blindness is inevitable but at times he
sounds more like a petulant child than a flawed adult.  Recommended.
     Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #15: Antarctic Press - At
this point, OHOTGDU is as long as the original OHOTMU, and it's not done yet!
Thirty-Eight through Vaultron, though, so they're in the home stretch.  Not
that reaching Z would necessarily mean it's over, in the year and a half
since #1 there's been enough new events that an update issue or two might be
in order.  ;)  Oh, and the "Megatron" on the cover is one of the Uompa-
Luompoan mecha.  Recommended.  $3.95/$3.95Cn
     Amazing Spider-Man #556: Marvel - Eh.  There's a trick to mixing humor
and bloody murder, and Wells doesn't seem to have it.  The funny stuff is
good enough, but then clunks badly against the blood and death.  Mildly
recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     The Last Defenders #2 (of 6): Marvel - Welp, while not exactly
confirmed, the "Tony set them up to fail" theory does get some support here,
and it becomes more clear that the series is actually about assembling the
real team.  We lose a few people, some more come on stage, some obscure
backstory is referenced (helped become less obscure by a Nighthawk OHOTMU
entry in the back), and I have to start wondering if "last" in the title
doesn't mean "final" so much as it means "previous".  A tricky thing, the
English language, yes?  Oh...and on top of everything else, Casey trips a
MAJOR nostalgia switch for me with the final page reveal.  The very first
issue of Captain America I ever owned, part of my 6th Birthday presents,
features the plot device on the last page.  :)  Strongly recommended.
     Titans #1: DC - What can I say, Winick hasn't burned through all of his
credit with me yet, in terms of being willing to give his books a try.  The
fact that the execrable Titans East Special was a lead-in to this does set
fire to a little of that credit, though.  In fact, most of this issue is a
bunch of "Titans get attacked" scenes that supposedly take place simultaneous
to Titans East (and we finally get confirmed body counts from that comic),
rather disjoint and going back to certain elements (like being attacked while
naked or nearly so) a wee bit too often.  At least the fan service is equal
opportunity, I guess (naked Wally and naked Kori).  Churchill's art is pretty
standard Jim Lee descendant work, with some poses that look pretty poorly
chosen (i.e. Kori really shouldn't be looking at the reader on the last panel
of her first scene, she should be looking up...but maybe the porno Churchill
was referencing didn't have the right head position).  And for some reason
Nightwing doesn't remove GLASS SHARDS from his back for several hours?
Must've made the flight over to the Titans East crime scene kinda
uncomfortable.  There's such a thing as too much scene-to-scene visual
continuity, you know.  Anyway, it doesn't suck, but it's massively overblown
and for all the set-up we don't get to see most of the attacks actually
resolve.  Just cut to everyone having survived and pondering who was behind
it.  For all the pagecount, it would've been nice to see more than one fight
actually come to a conclusion, yes?  And while I'm wishing for things DC
editorial apparently doesn't care about, a footnote referring to the Titans
East special would have been nice.  I'll give it a couple more issues, but I
can't really recommend anyone else pick this up.  Neutral.  $3.50US/Cn
     Green Arrow and Black Canary #7: DC - It's like a superhero RPG where
the players are trying to be all smooth and cagey and they're rolling the
dice really well, but any time it comes down to the role-playing instead of
roll-playing someone just does or says something cliched and the GM proceeds
to crucify them for it.  It helps that Mia does a lot of this, since she *is*
n00b enough to believe in the cliches, though.  And the one time Ollie makes
the blunder, it's funny enough to overlook the possible out-of-character-ness
of it.  :)  Recommended.  $2.99US/Cn
     Justice Society of America #14: DC - Crowd scene of the Society arguing,
followed by crowd scene of the Society fighting Gog, followed by Last Page
Shocker.  There's some incremental advances in character arcs, but otherwise
it's eight pages of story padded out to a full issue.  Mildly recommended.
     Booster Gold #8: DC - The What If? arc continues, and continues to be as
bloody as any Marvel What If? in terms of racking up body count (they
actually "save" one of the people killed in the main timeline, only to kill
'em off again by the end of the issue).  The overall time war plot gets a bit
of an advance, but like Johns's JSA issue, a lot of this one feels like
marking time to stretch the arc out to a TPB.  Oh, there's good bits nestled
in among the padding, but it's still padding.  Mildly recommended.
     Number of the Beast #1 (of 8): DC/Wildstorm - I'd actually ignored this
completely during solicitations, but following some links on my Livejournal
friends list got me interested enough to give it a shot.  Near as I can tell,
Beatty and Sprouse are starting from a fairly icky premise.  Y'see, the
Wildstorm setting is one of those places where just being superhuman means
you're really really hard to kill all the way, no matter what your powers
happen to be.  You might get injured past the point of ever being able to
heal, but you can still be kept alive in that state.  So we seem to have a
depot for the storage of these "bucket cases".  Of course, it wouldn't be a
very interesting story if all the main characters were just sloshing around
mournfully, so Beatty does something about that.  :)  It's not immediately
clear how things connect, but it does all tie together in the end.  Now,
having not read Revelations, I'm probably missing a fair chunk of
foreshadowing here, but it's an amusing (if slightly icky) story
nonetheless.  And there's some really old (like, two reboots ago) StormWatch
continuity tied in as well.  Recommended.  $2.99US/Cn
     Gen13 v4 #19: DC/Wildstorm - Carlo Barberi draws the first chunk, Kevin
West the second.  The style mismatch is particularly jarring here, and given
that we have several new characters running around in this arc, the
transition left me unsure who was who until I re-read the West bits several
times.  Now, don't get me wrong...I like Kevin West (have ever since he
worked on The Comet for !mpact), and I'm glad to see him getting work.  But a
darkened, frenetic chase scene is NOT the place to switch to an artist with a
radically different style.  It doesn't help that Oliver seems to have called
for some deliberately confusing blocking throughout, either.  A pity,
really.  This has the feeling of a strong story at its core, but either
deadline doom or just poor planning hurt it significantly.  Mildly
recommended.  $2.99US/Cn

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 4/9: Amelia Rules #20 still missing, add Prince of
Heroes #3.


"Angels In The Out Of Left Field" Award to Doktor Sleepless #6

"Dresser For Success" Award to Scud the Disposable Assassin #23 (of 24)

"Everybody's A Critic" Award to Transformers Focus On Decepticons

"I Don't Think Book Was Really Kidding" Award to Serenity Better Days #2 
     (of 3)

"Zero Some Game" Award to Gold Digger v3 #94

"Facebook For Dragons" Award to Gold Digger Dreadwing's Mymior #1

"...Twenty-Four, Thirty-Six" Award to Official Handbook of the Gold Digger 
     Universe #15

"Knocked The Stuffing Out Of Him" Award to Amazing Spider-Man #556

"It's Priest's World, Yandroth Just Lives In It" Award to The Last
     Defenders #2 (of 6)

"Gonna Need Ta Check Yer Pool Filters" Award to Titans #1

"Constructive Fetishology" Award to Green Arrow and Black Canary #7

"Okay, Maybe If Someone Asks You If You're A God, You Should Say No" Award
     to Justice Society of America #14

"At Least It Wasn't Decapitation This Time" Award to Booster Gold #8

"Eh, Just An NPC" Award to Number of the Beast #1 (of 8)

"The Good Thing About Everyone Gunning For You Is You Can Duck" Award to
     Gen13 v4 #19

     Dave Van Domelen, "Pounds per square inch...faceplate strike...target
stress points in rear shoulder seams...crush chest beamer...dismantle battery
package...tear off both power cells..." - She-Hulk in her Happy Place, The
Last Defenders #2 (of 6)
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