April 15, 2009

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.
Voltron is coming to Monsterpocalypse, woot.  An archive can be found on my 
             homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants 

"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.

     Dragonball Evolution: Okay, confession time...while I'm not a Dragonball
fan, I have seen the entire dubbed series.  Yeah, from the first episode of
Dragonball through the end of GT, plus most of the movies.  I blame Cartoon
Network putting 'em on in timeslots where there was nothing else I wanted to
watch (although early Dragonball is worth seeking out).  So, I'm familiar
with the entire story, without having a strong emotional investment in it...
and I suspect that puts me in the best possible position to enjoy the movie.
When they take shortcuts in storytelling, I have the background to fill in
the gaps, but I'm not offended at all the changes.
     The movie takes the basic "getting the gang together to hunt for
Dragonballs" theme of the first season and splices it into the King Piccolo
arc and does so in 85 minutes.  So, you know, a LOT is cut out.  They also
trimmed the setting WAY back.  There's still a number of flourishes from the
original, but things like anthropomorphic dogs and random dinosaurs are gone.
To put it in a comics context, this is Ultimate Dragonball, sticking to the
precepts of the early Ultimate Marvel books.  Simplified setting that removes
much of the goofier stuff, characters changed around and often informed by
later events, and so forth.  Things that were major plot elements in the
original become easter eggs and injokes (for instance, Chi-chi still lives in
a castle, more or less, but it's not in a lake of fire or anything).  It also
ages all the kids to 18 or so and makes their motivations commensurately more
mature (i.e. Bulma's not looking for a boyfriend, she's looking to become
famous for solving the world's energy problems).  Probably the most serious
change that comes with this is that rather than being a wide-eyed innocent
who has no context for realizing he's different, Goku is an angsty teenager
who feels left out and has been raised as normally as one could hope when
your grandfather is a kooky old martial arts master.  All told, though, I
didn't really mind.  Like I said earlier, no strong emotional attachment.
And the anime Goku can't really change rapidly enough to get anything
resembling a character arc in 85 minutes.  :)
     All that said, though, I do have a complaint.  The acting is pretty
bad.  You'd think it wouldn't be hard to pull off Goku, but when it comes
time to be earnestly forceful, the actor playing the part still sounds angsty
and petulant.  Other than Randall Duc Kim (Gohan, the grandfather) and Chow
Yun-Fat (excellent as the manic Master Roshi) and maybe Marster's Piccolo
(who is pretty underplayed anyway), it's all people who'd have trouble
getting cast as Power Rangers.  This is always a problem when making a movie
focused on martial arts action.  People with the fighting skills usually lack
the acting skills, and vice versa.  You can only do so much with stand-ins,
especially now that you have to anticipate people eventually having it on
Blu-Ray and being able to tell it's a different person.  (Oh, random aside:
this isn't the first movie I've seen with Duc Kim and Yun-Fat both in it, Duc
Kim had a supporting role in The Replacement Killers, one of CYF's first
made-in-and-for-America movies.)
     All told, it's a bit frantic in its attempts to cram a lot of pieces
into 85 minutes, but unlike Dragonball Z at least the fight scenes don't last
five hours.  :)  

     DC Universe Classics Booster Gold Action Figure: Mattel - Okay, the
other half case hit my area (I saw and passed on Mr. Miracle and the black
redeco of him), so now I have the Blue and Gold together.  And now I have
both of Atom Smasher's legs, heh.  Packaged in a flying pose with Skeets
swooping over his shoulder.
     The mold is mostly the same as Blue Beetle's, unsurprisingly, and some
of the minor variations (like the center of the chest) may be due to the
metalic paint used on Booster smoothing out some details.  The pelvis piece
is different, lacking the trunks wrinkling Beetle has.  The forearms have had
wristbands added, and the hands replaced by closed fists.  No belt, but he's
had his big collar added in flexible plastic.  There's an irregular almost
rectangular hole in the back for plugging in Skeets...and it's not the same
as the hole in Beetle's back.  Maybe they had to re-engineer it.  Like
Beetle, he has clear yellow goggles over a fully painted face.  Identical
articulation to Blue Beetle.  It's hard to tell what the plastic colors are
without cutting into the figure, since they may simply be 100% painted, but
it seems to be a mix of metallic gold plastic, metallic blue plastic, and
some non-metallic yellow on the shoulder joints and some pins.  The paint is
a bit thick, as mentioned, and partially obscures the Legion Flight Ring on
the middle finger of his right hand.
     Skeets is a "plug into the back" accessory, as he often is (well, often
is a relative term here).  A clear yellow swoosh trail, and Skeets himself is
painted gold (a more subdued tone than Booster's) with metallic blue (also
darker than on Booster) visor slit.  The actual design doesn't ring any
bells, although Skeets gets redesigned about as often as the Wasp used to
change costumes, so....  The packaging suggests this is the current version
of Booster, as his base of operations is listed as the timestream, but this
isn't the Skeets seen in the current comics.  I'd be happier if Skeets could
be detached from his swoosh so as to not be stuck in one place, but this line
spends most of its accessory budget on the Build-A-Figure.
     Huh.  My Atom Smasher legs don't match.  The black wash on the right
boot is a lot heavier than on the left.
     Overall, a good figure, and recommended.  $11.88 at Wal-Mart.

Comics Capsules:
     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): None.  Yeah,
been that sorta month, sorry.

     Transformers Maximum Dinobots #5 (of 5): IDW - Yes, Diamond coughed up
the FINAL ISSUE AND NOTHING ELSE.  I got it on the grounds that if I really
didn't like it, I would avoid the TPB, but if it's good the TPB's probably
cheaper now that getting the first four issues.  And the answer seems to be,
if the latest reorder spits out any issues I'll get 'em, but that's it.  Oh,
by the end of the issue I knew what was going on, Furman is at least that
competent.  But there's plenty of bad or unclear caption placement, awkward
scene shifts, and the fact that two artists are working on different sets of
pages doesn't help.  This does wrap up the whole Scorponok plotline that was
abandoned in favor of All Hail Megatron, although the timing could be better,
given that a recent issue of AHM revealed that part of the resolution wasn't
resolved after all, oops.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99
     Mysterius the Unfathomable #4 (of 6): DC/Wildstorm - Almost all of the
issue is devoted to the "Seuss as sorceror" side story before finally
dragging the ongoing cursed whorehopper plot back in.  While things may end
up all tying together, it felt like an idea Parker wanted to cram in but
didn't think enough of to make the main plot.  And, frankly, I think I'd have
preferred if the Gaust plotline were the main one and the witch a side trip.
Recommended for the twisted Seussisms.  $2.99
     Green Arrow and Black Canary #19: DC - I initially typo'ed the company
as DD, which should make at least one person chuckle for reasons that don't
bear going into.  The Cupid plot reaches a climax of sorts, but no
resolutions to speak of.  Plenty of creepy psycho-stalker stuff, and
stalker-judo employed.  Somewhere between mildly recommended and
recommended.  $2.99
     REBELS #3: DC - Okay, Wildstar is a bit too cute in the naming, but I'm
glad we get off Starhaven fast...Clarke can't draw wings worth a damn.  They
look like dragonscales on hastily constructed racks.  The team's still
getting together, but we do get a name for the entity behind Vril's woes.
Recommended for the writing, but not for the art.  Ick.  $2.99
     Wolverine Saga: Marvel - Most of the free Saga books lately have been a
mix of story summary and OHOTMU-style entries, but this one's all story.  I
suppose Wolverine's too busy for even a precis of his recent activities to
allow room for anything else.  :)  Apparently he has a brand-new guy behind
all his memory wipes and retcons (seriously, if you made a drinking game out
of how many times this book mentions Wolverine's memory being wiped, altered
or suppressed by trauma, you'd die of alcohol poisoning), not that I
particularly care...he'll be replaced in a few years and revealed to be yet
another catspaw of the latest Real Villain.  Still, it's free and a way to
catch up on the trainwreck that is Wolverine's backstory.
     New Mutants Saga: Marvel - Whoa, old school.  There's character
summaries here, but not in the OHOTMU format.  The story summaries lean
heavily on the first thirty to forty issues of the original New Mutants, with
one page given over to the Cable years and one page to everything after
that.  Helpful blurbs tell which TPBs to check out for each sequence.  The
focus on the older material does give me hope for the upcoming new series.
Like Wolverine Saga, this is free.
     X-Factor #42: Marvel - Several plot threads run through this one,
although most of the flash-boom takes place in the future-altiverse one.
DeLandro's art runs a bit too much in the "wooden" direction this issue, but
the story bits are decent.  Recommended.  $2.99
     The Amazing Spider-Man #591: Marvel - I've since heard that Spidey gave
up his ID to the New Avengers as well, but there was a lot less drama.
That's fine, I don't read New Avengers and suspect I'd have preferred this
treatment even if I did.  :) A number of subplots are whipped through thanks
to some plot device doublespeak (which, um, seems to involve some misplaced
math, but let's just handwave it as a non-commuting operator).  A bit of the
Brand New Day plot device is also explained...I get the impression that Slott
is the only person at Marvel who actually cares about making sense of this
whole thing.  Recommended.  $2.99
     Gold Digger #104: Antarctic Press - Well, one of the three GD titles
that Midtown listed shipped.  More examples of how archaeology in the GDverse
functions like being in the military, what with mind-numbing boredom
punctuated by sheer terror.  But more booty shots.  Much of the issue reads
like it's setting up a spin-off title, but Perry tends to do that from time
to time, even when NOT setting up a spin-off.  There's a reason that the
Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe is bigger than either of the
first two versions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, after
all.  Perry's got weapon specialization in Character Creation.  Recommended.
Beep!  $2.99
     Eureka #4 (of 4): Boom! Studios - And the first miniseries draws to an
end, telling the equivalent of one episode of the TV show.  Unfortunately,
it's NOT an episode of the TV show, so there's a good chance that the
largely character-driven end to this story (as in, the actual plot kinda
peters out, but the effect on characters is the main point) will be ignored.
The curse of a tie-in title is that with very few exceptions you're not
allowed to actually change anyone or anything, so it's vitally important that
the plot itself resolves in a satisfying and interesting way, since there's
really no long term payoff.  Still lots of good scripting, just a
dissatisfying plot.  Recommended.  $3.99
     Farscape Strange Detractors #1 (of 4): Boom! Studios - AKA Farscape #5.
What I just said about the curse of tie-ins doesn't count here, because it's
plotted by the series creator and the series is essentially over as far as TV
is considered (sadly).  Should it ever come back to the screen, there's a
reasonably good chance that the events of this comic will be relevant.  Thus,
character arcs are very important, and this miniseries not only continues
those set up in the previous mini, it brings the whole Jothee/Chiana
relationship back into focus.  There's also a bunch of new characters
introduced, apparently just to bring in a plot device, but it's possible
they'll recur.  :)  Anyway, an enjoyable issue, if a bit slow in getting
started.  Recommended.  $3.99

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 4/15/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe
#22, Transformers Maximum Dinobots #1-4, Transformers Revenge of the Fallen:
Alliance #2, Jersey Gods #1-2, Booster Gold #17, Gen13 v4 #27, Dynamo5 #20,
Cthulhu Tales #12, Gold Digger Maidens of Twilight #2, Transformers Spotlight
Jazz and TFS Drift.  Add Gold Digger Maidens of Twilight #3, Gold Digger Tech
Manual #2 (although the usual "AP books can ship different weeks to different
regions" caveat applies).


"A Long Way From Spring Green" Award to Dragonball Evolution

"I Cannot 'Get Off Your Back,' Sir, I'm Pegged There" Award to the Booster
     Gold action figure

"Grimlock Gets Out Of Puberty" Award to Transformers Maximum Dinobots #5

"Would You Hit Me With A Pole?  Would You Feed Me To A Dhole?" Award to
     Mysterius the Unfathomable #4 (of 6)

"Don't Taze Blondes" Award to Green Arrow and Black Canary #19

"But Can She Find The Gamilons?" Award to REBELS #3

"At Which Point My Memories Of Reading This Comic Were Mysteriously Lost"
     Award to Wolverine Saga

"All You Need To Know Is This: Bird-Brain Appears On Twice As Many Pages
     As Cable" Award to New Mutants Saga

"He Must Be On The Virtue Server" Award to X-Factor #42

"Family Reunions Just Got More Awkward All Around" Award to The Amazing
     Spider-Man #591

"My Syllabus Isn't Nearly As Interesting" Award to Gold Digger v3 #104

"Isn't That The Plasma Energy Chamber?" Award to Eureka #4 (of 4)

"Actually, The Scarrans Are Acting Completely Normally" Award to Farscape
     Strange Detractors #1 (of 4)

     Dave Van Domelen, "Well, Spidey?  Baby brother?  I think we've all
learned a valuable lesson today..."  "Dear God.  Make her stop."  "Dude, I've
been trying for years.  Just ride it out." - Invisible Woman, Spider-Man,
Human Torch, The Amazing Spider-Man #591
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