April 27, 2017

Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et Cetera

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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants I understand why people like Squirrel Girl, I just don't like it myself. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Smoketown #1-2 In this installment: Iron Fist (Netflix), Totally Awesome Hulk #18, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #18, Ms. Marvel v2 #17, Deathstroke #16-17, Astro City #43, Hanna-Barbera the Flintstones #10, Invader Zim #18, Mega Princess #5 (of 5), Ragnarok #12, My Little Pony Legends of Magic #1, My Little Pony Friends Forever #38, Optimus Prime #6, Comic Book History of Comics #6 (of 8), Smoketown #1-2. Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Gonna assume I'll never see Mickey's Inferno from Diamond, adding it to my Amazon shopping list. "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. Iron Fist: Marvel/Netflix - Just some quick comments on the resolution of the season, since I only got ten episodes watched in March. I stick by my theory that this all makes more sense if the K'un-Lun monks deliberately select or breed sociopaths for the Iron Fist job, people who they expect to do the job without a thought for their own lives or the morality of their situation. If you see Danny as basically a decent guy who was pushed into this sort of mold and is trying to find his way towards a better path, this season works pretty well. But this is still just fanon on my part, and taken for what it does say, it's mediocre. Also, the final resolution is a total Disney Cop-Out, in which the hero gets to ostentatiously refuse to kill the villain, but the villain ends up dead anyway. I don't consider my time wasted, but there's so many ways the series could have been better. I bought but didn't get around to watching the Judas Contract DVD (MST3K Season 11 is eating all my focused watching time). Maybe will review next month. 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 iPhone if it's at all possible. None this month. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. None this month. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Totally Awesome Hulk #17: Marvel - Weak ending, pointless angst at the end (seriously, Cho is surprised that an old-school spy active since the 1950s might be cool with killing enemies?), and the book's heading into an X-Books crossover. So...dropping now. This book had a lot of potential, but never seemed to get the chance to live up to it. $3.99 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #18: Marvel - (Note: this book is not going to tie into Secret Empire.) The Doombots arc wraps up with Luna learning a Very Special Lesson about Needing Others. And if I sound like I'm being sarcastic, good, I got the tone across. It really feels like Reeder worked on the outline for this months in advance, but when it came time to actually write the issue had lost all enthusiasm for it. A summary of the events hits all the right notes, it just felt perfunctory in the execution. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Ms. Marvel v2 #17: Marvel - (Note: this book is not going to tie into Secret Empire either, but I expect there will be mentions, or at the least Kamala will show up in other tie-in books.) It's just sort of a month for disappointing resolutions, I guess. Most of this issue is solid, taking the idea from the end of #15 and running with it on the superhero side, while also showing the positive and negative fallout of the Nakia subplot. But just as it looks like the arc will end in #17 (the classic "the plan was clever, but no plan survives contact with the enemy" twist), it just sort of...ended. Plan worked, I guess? It felt rushed, but less "the writer couldn't figure out how to end it" and more "the writer was suddenly told to wrap it up a month early". Mildly recommended. $3.99 Deathstroke #16: DC - This is mostly Deathstroke ("Twilight") versus Deadline, with a brief interruption to move the battle to the more photogenic Cloisters (if you can justify setting a superhero fight at the Cloisters, do it). There's a bit of time spent on the Jericho/Dr. Villain and Rose plotlines, and the main question asked in pretty much every part of the issue is "Do you even know why you're doing this?" Nice thematic connection, even if the actual story elements are all over the place. Recommended. $2.99 Deathstroke #17: DC - The next issue blurb in #16 is "Next: Everybody Finds Out." While not EVERYBODY finds out EVERYTHING this issue, a lot of shoes drop. And Hosun gets kissed, which may be the most implausible thing to happen. Slade spends a lot of time arguing motives with his suit's AI, leaving the reader to wonder how much of the reasoning is really just the thin justification the AI claims, and how much is real. Basically, it continues the "Do you even know why you're doing this?" theme from last issue. Wintergreen (the live one, not the AI) seems to be the only one fairly secure in the answer to that question, but of course no one's listening to his advice...maybe his middle name is Cassandra? :) Recommended. $2.99 Astro City #43: DC/Vertigo - So, the purple dude whose name escapes me and is not mentioned in this issue as far as I can tell is back and trying to play narrator again to line up the pieces of the big important story he's been occasionally yammering about since this volume began. Someone finally puts him in his place and takes over narration...frankly, I'd rather this new character took over permanently. :) Anyway, this issue tells the origin of the Gentleman, aka Fred MacMurray in a tux as a superhero, the setting's obvious Big Red Cheese homage. (Aside: there does not seem to be any reference to "Save Some Time For Love" in the origin story, a movie in which MacMurrey was briefly dressed up as a superhero for a dream sequence.) Recommended. $3.99 Hanna-Barbera The Flintstones #10: DC - Russell actually manages to get three main threads running through this issue. The main one involves Clod finally getting his war against the lizard people, in a pretty obvious "I didn't realize Trump would cut MY benefits!" allegory. It's broad and slathered on with a trowel, but works as a satire...the reality is so messed up that any attempt at satire's going to have to go overboard. The other two threads are different views on the meaning of art, as Wilma gets into working on the creative end of the new movie industry, and Fred becomes a consumer of product at the aptly named "Plato's Cave". Both threads end up with amusing bits of misdirection: one fooled the reader, the other fooled a character. Recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #18: Oni - Fed up with Invaders who get all the cushy assignments (some literally, like conquering the planet of the couch people), Zim decides to pad his resume with some easy wins. He decides to become Burrito King by invading a local texmex fast food place and taking over. This might have worked, but he makes GIR his cook. Amusing light fare with a Last Airbender riff at the end. Recommended. $3.99 Mega Princess #5 (of 5): kaboom! - In a month of anticlimaxes, at least this one is expected. The whole theme of the series has been "Maxine charges in, finds it's not what she expected, no one is actually evil but some are more easily annoyed than others." And so it ends, although the self-professed evil level is a little higher this time. The real conflict has always been between Maxine and the expectations of being a Princess. Even her powers are something to struggle against, trying to find ways to make them useful (and she's definitely getting the hang of bending the spirit of the rules here). All in all, while the series has some problems (mostly dealing with the creators not being totally sure how much of the real world bleeds into this fantasy kingdom setting), I'll try to keep an eye out for volume 2 if one happens. Recommended. $3.99 Ragnarok #12: IDW - Book 2 finishes up. The climax of the arc actually happens pretty early in the issue, followed by a fight against a leftover nasty included mostly for a cheap joke about bad pacing, and then denounment. This continues to basically be Simonson doing what he feels like, and not worrying too much about whether it works as a story for anyone else. It's nice to look at, but pretty mediocre to read. Mildly recommended. $4.99 My Little Pony Legends of Magic #1: IDW - New ongoing to replace Friends Forever. The framing device, at least for now, is that Starswirl the Bearded's study has been unsealed so Sunburst can use it, and all sorts of lost stories can be read. Given that the comics are at best deuterocanonical to the show, this is a somewhat hazardous thing to hang a series on, unless they have fairly ironclad assurances from the showrunner that certain topics will never be firmly covered in the canon. For instance, this issue includes a tale from Starswirl's diary that involves training Celestia and a very young Luna, apparently already contradicting elements of the Journal of the Two Sisters book, and it's the sort of thing that could plausibly come up in the show. It's a decent setup for "Why did Luna turn evil?" and can work alongside the Nightmarity story from early in the IDW comics, but the more the comics poke at this particular part of history the more likely they'll be contradicted. Yes, I'm complaining about hard continuity for My Little Pony, but the whole premise of this title is providing backstory, so it's asking for such criticism. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #38: IDW - Final issue. I suppose it's appropriate to save Celestia and Luna for the last one, and it segues nicely into the (came out a week before) first issue of Legends of Magic, establishing that rivalry has been part of their relationship since the beginning. The actual story is so-so and depends on some pretty cliched plot devices, but while Price's scripting isn't so hot he at least knows how to play to his artistic strengths. A fun issue to look at, at least. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Optimus Prime #6: IDW - Well, at least the flashback sort of ties into the main story, although the real climax of the story was last issue. This is all pretty much denounment and trying to prevent a massacre. There's a whole sequence where the Matrix lights up and washes out everything, but it doesn't seem to have been done for any purpose beyond "Hey, pay attention to me, everyone, so I can orate at you!" The super-saturated bold colors continue to clash with the high contrast, lots-of-deep-shadows inking. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The Four Color Comic Book History of Comics #6 (of 8): IDW - Diamond listed this as #6 of 6, but there's two more to go. This issue starts with Pop Art and the strain between serious Pop Artists like Lichtenstein or Warhol and the camp side of things. It segues fairly smoothly from that embrace of the sterile and shallow into the whacked out vitality of the underground comix movement of the late 60s and early 70s, with special emphasis on R. Crumb. The new "Herstory" page covers Trina Robbins, who got her start trying to help women break into the comix scene before turning more to her career as a comics historian. Recommended. $3.99 Smoketown #1-2: Scout Comics - Okay, now for a conflict of interest disclaimer. The artist on this book, Scott Van Domelen, is my younger brother, whose art I got to see develop through our teen years. After decades as a professional musician, he's pursuing his other artistic talent. And his involvement is the only reason I bought this series, since I'm otherwise generally not interested in realistic crime drama. That said, I'm enjoying the writing by Phillip Johnson as well. While I first saw this solicited as a multi-viewpoint murder mystery along the lines of Rashomon, it isn't that. First off, while there's a death, it's arguable whether it's a murder. Second off, there's not a whit of mystery about WHO did the killing, that's shown on page one of issue one. Instead, the mystery is more about "Why did things get so bad that the killing happened?" The first issue gives us the killer's side of things as they try to hide the body without getting caught (I rather doubt it stays hidden, but the writing establishes that the killer doesn't really know much about disposing of bodies). The second issue jumps back in time to look at how the victim became someone who was going to be killed sooner or later, but that only raises more questions...like why did it end up sooner? Future issues will probably follow a similar pattern of answering one question by raising another, it's an engaging style for a bimonthly book. Artistically, if Scott's name weren't on the book, I probably wouldn't realize he'd drawn it. This isn't a superhero book, so he didn't use his superhero style. And it's meant to be vague and dreamlike in many places, so he didn't use his more realistic style. The line style is often spare, while retaining generally realistic outlines (i.e. when someone is seen from the side shouting, there isn't a big cartoony mouth, rather the lips are stretched out like on a real face, an effect that looks unnatural to someone used to the more exaggerated style). During various sequences involving mouldering and charred corpses, the detail level drops even further, emphasizing how these aren't corpses in the present reality but rather traumatic memories all distorted and reduced to a few salient images. Some of the sparseness of the style may be a concession to meeting deadlines (I've seen Perez-levels of detail in some of Scott's older work, but even Perez has trouble turning in timely work like that), but it fits the story very well. Mollick, the colorist, does restore some detail to faces via shading, but often goes with a palette that's as spare as the linework, using very minor gradients in otherwise large swaths of flat color, including old-time tricks of picking out the important characters by making all the unimportant ones practically monochrome. There's the occasional flare in the lighting (from a computer screen in a darkened room, a cigarette cherry, etc), but the colorist resists the temptation to paste in photos or CG explosions, instead keeping to a more Silver Age feel to the backgrounds and using flat warm colors to evoke an explosion or a fire rather than rendered roils. To judge by the short previews of other books at the ends of the issues, this seems to be something of a house style for Scout, although one of the previews does have a more detailed render of the Sun and the Earth during an establishing sequence. Finally, an aside about production values. Scout seems to have made the choice to not distinguish between cover stock and interior pages...if there's a difference in weight or gloss between cover and interior it's pretty subtle. On the downside, it takes smudges really easily on the black parts, like most of each back cover. Recommended, $3.99 each. Dave Van Domelen, "Okay, I've used up my feels! Let me OUT, please!" - person in the middle of a group hug, Ms. Marvel v2 #17
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