April 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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants I have accepted a job at Amarillo College for the coming school year. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None. In this installment: Atomic Robo: Knights of the Golden Circle #1, Brody's Ghost vol 5, Samurai Jack #7, Astro City #11, Gold Digger #207-209, My Little Pony Friendship Forever #4, Transformers: Windblade #1 (of 4), Empowered: Internal Medicine Special. "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 month, although I briefly considered Stan Lee's new direct to video project, and Frankie Munoz's "Pizza Man." Okay, I didn't even briefly consider the second one, but I did notice it. Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes out this weekend, and I'll review it next time, although I expect everyone who reads this column will have seen the movie by then. ;) 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. Amazon acquired ComiXology this month, and the first big change is that they're not going to be putting up with the Apple Store's 30% cut of all transactions. So the ability to buy comics on the iOS app has been removed. Unfortunately, at least in the short term, the ability to even browse new releases has been removed. You can search for a title and add it to your wishlist as a reminder for later, but there's no one-stop "what's out this week?" function anymore. This is bound to hurt impulse sales. Yeah, I can go to a browser window on an iOS device and make the transaction, but any extra step will be bad for grabbing loose money from readers. Also, and this may just be my aging iPod, but the new app seems to suck battery power more quickly. On the plus side, the app does keep track of reading across devices, so I can download on my tablet or desktop and read some, then continue seamlessly on my iPod. Atomic Robo: Knights of the Golden Circle #1: Red5 Comics - When last we left Robo, he was stuck in the Old West because it turned out Doctor Dinosaur's time machine actually sort of worked. Way back near the dawn of the series, it was established that time travel doesn't work, except in very weird situations involve the intrusion of extradimensional entities that bring their own laws of causality along for the ride. So nothing in Robo's experience has prepared him to cope with the reality of a standard temporal displacement, and he spends a lot of time this issue freaking out over issues of causality before coming to a decision on how to cope. It's interesting seeing the jaded "modern" Robo revert to the sort of uncertainty we otherwise only see in the deep flashbacks, and now he doesn't have Papa Nikola around to ask for advice (well, actually, I'm pretty sure he's within the span of Tesla's lifetime, but going to meet your creator before he created you is bound to be a Bad Idea causally speaking, no matter how you cope with paradox on a philosophical level). The titular Knights don't show up this issue, suggesting that the whole arc will be an origin story for the group, and it won't get named until the end. Some of the named characters this issue might end up in the Golden Circle, assuming they survive. Recommended. $2.99 on the newly-nerfed ComiXology. Bandette #7 came out, but I decided to stop getting the series. Just wasn't doing anything for me. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Brody's Ghost vol 5: Dark Horse - Something of a false climax last volume, feeling like things were about to go south immediately, but this issue opens with more of a standoff and then goes back into investigation mode before returning to the delayed "oh crap" moment. Looking back over the two volumes together, I think the overall pacing would have been served better had vol 4 ended on the standoff...ominous, but not feeling like the next installment should be the end. Oh, I'm not saying it was bad storytelling in general, but this particular bit of tease-pacing stood out against the otherwise good arc Crilley has going with the plot. And the cover just reinforces the impression that this installment should have been all about Brody vs. Talia, when that's not really where the focus lies. Recommended. $7.99/$8.99Cn I picked up Transformers: More than Meets the Eye vol 3-4 in the same Amazon order as Brody's Ghost, but I haven't gotten through them yet, and there's no rush given that they're over a year old. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Samurai Jack #7: IDW - Eh, dropping the title now. The resolution to this two-issue arc was pretty predictable, one might even call it dumbed down. The show excelled on its pacing and visuals, neither of which is really translating well to this format. Neutral. $3.99 Astro City #11: DC/Vertigo - Back to a single-issue story, this time looking at a day in the life of the administrative assistant to the setting's equivalent of Doctor Strange and/or Fate. This is pretty much the kind of story that comes to mind when Astro City is brought up: an ordinary person living as ordinary a life as can be had while dealing with the extraordinary. People adapt to their situations, or they find a new situation. So, no great surprises in terms of story or theme, but well-told for what amounts to the "ordinary Astro City issue." Recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger #207-8: Antarctic Press - I gave up on Diamond and ordered a bunch of recent issues directly from AP (so, of course, Diamond shipped #209 after my set arrived). 207-8 form a two-part story, while 209 is a standalone, so I'll review them together. One of the more unusual aspects of the GD universe is that it's a post-superhero setting, but not post-superhuman. There was a big crisis thing a generation ago, and the survivors simply gave up the capes and tights and shifted to suits and dresses. Part of Cheetah's backstory is that she and a friend were among the few costumed heroes to be active after the crisis, and she gave it up while still a teen (not that archaeology is safer, what with all the lost tech and magic). This two-parter puts some resolution on one of the danglers of the old superheroic age, the true final fate of Ex Mortis, the big baddie behind the crisis. Of course, it also provides fodder for a rather lot of breast jokes, which distracted a bit from the story (heroic mages who focus their power through their cleavage and store it in their breasts, so it rose above the already considerable cheesecake levels that are the norm around the GD universe). I did like the semi-retired 70s hero who was like a cross between Ant-Man (without the shrinking) and V.V. Argost, though. Mildly recommended. $3.99 each. Gold Digger #209: Antarctic Press - A done-in-one featuring more of Gina's archaeology class, with her niece Tiff along for the ride. Primarily, though, it's an Ayane story, with the scary-eyed fighter desperately trying to get past her own aura. (The cover image of Gina in a deathtrap is pretty much unrelated to the story inside, a pity considering the previous several issues actually managed to have covers that matched the interiors. There's a hair dyeing joke in there somewhere.) Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #4: IDW - This one pairs up Twi and her big brother Shining Armor, and further expands on the comics-continuity idea of Shining Armor as a tabletop gamer in his youth. Mebberson gets pretty aggressive with the pop cultural references this time, although some may have been put there at he behest of writer Rob Anderson (crystal ponies based on TV's Frank and Pearl Forrester are probably Amy's, but the Mario and Liugi ponies look like they were in the script, for instance). A fairly straightforward dungeon crawl adventure, what Learning Of Lessons occurs is early in the story and felt kinda obligatory. "Well, I certainly learned something...now let's get back to the action!" sort of thing. Thanks to both flashbacks and the evidence of his architectural programs, King Sombra's character gets a bit more development, even if it IS along pretty standard Evil Overlord lines. And the point continues to get driven home that in Equestria, librarians are not to be trifled with. Period. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers Windblade #1 (of 4): IDW - This series comes with a lot of baggage, so for the people who remained blissfully unaware of it, here's the short version. Last year, Hasbro had a "fan created character" contest, which amounted to voting on one of a limited set of options for things like alternate mode, weapon, name (from a list cleared by legal), and most fraught of all, gender. The winning combination was Windblade, a female jet Autobot with a sword. Unfortunately, the IDW continuity into which Windblade would be introduced had already established that Arcee was the only female Transformer, the result of Shockwave conducting cruel experiments to see if he could replicate organic-style gendering. IDW's Arcee's origins and subsequent treatment have not exactly been a proud part of the company's treatment of gender issues, to say the least. So, into that environment Windblade was introduced, and a certain percentage of the fandom lost their **** over it, on multiple sides of the issue. To the writers' credit, in-story it wasn't treated as a huge deal, just the occasional, "Um, what's up with the 'she' thing anyway?" from characters who had never met Arcee. Windblade and her companions Nautica and Chromia were simply from a colony where gender division arose so long ago no one thought anything of it. So, the furor slowly died down. Then the promised Windblade series was announced, with a female writer and a female artist, and the troll pen got all stirred up again. I expect a lot of orders for this book were made purely to spite the trolls, in fact. And yes, that was the short version. I probably missed several important nuances, but I believe I got the pith of it. So, on to the actual story we got. It's part of the aftermath of Dark Cybertron, so there's a LOT of plot threads that need to get dealt with. Mairghread Scott does a decent job of setting up what needs to be set up, helped significantly by Sarah Stone's ability to convey emotion with expression and stance (i.e. even if you have no idea who Starscream is, just skimming the art without reading any text would tell you most of what you needed to know about him and how people think of him). One might argue she goes a bit far for faces supposedly made of metal, but that particular boat sailed decades ago when Andy Wildman was drawing Transformers for Marvel. :) The writing has a few too many demands on it, and I suspect this is going to be a case of writing for the trade, but the art picks up a lot of the burden and makes it worth getting now rather than waiting for the collection. Recommended. $3.99 Empowered: Internal Medicine Special: Dark Horse - Another slightly smaller than standard comics one-shot with guest art, this time from Brandon Graham. The premise is fairly simple, an Incredible Voyager sort of thing, only with a giant patient instead of shrunken doctors. Emp and Ninjette get sent inside an alien living starship to deal with a parasitic infection. It's a decent, light romp on its own. What makes the issue significant, though, is the framing sequence drawn by Adam Warren, which foreshadows something really nasty coming down the pipe. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Millions of years of planet-wide civil war and NO ONE killed that guy?" - Chromia, regarding Starscream, Transformers: Windblade #1
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