May 6, 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.
Last week of regular classes, woot.  An archive can be found on my 

     Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Atomic Robo v3
#1 (of 5)

"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.

     X-Men Origins: Wolverine (movie) - I had other stuff to do on Free Comic
Book Day, so I didn't see this until Sunday.  Essentially, this movie was a
string of cliches.  Even when something was only used once, it felt like it
had been overused (and the crane-shot-NOOOOO was used twice so REALLY felt
overdone).  However, the string was strung fairly well, and the action
effects and cinematography were very good (Agent Zero has an excellent "god
of guns" scene, for instance).  I enjoyed the movie, and don't feel like I
wasted my time or money.
     I will note that the director made it harder than necessary to figure
out the timeline, though.  James Howlett and Victor Creed are recruited by
Stryker right out of the Vietnam War, and you have to assume the passage of
over a decade between that recruitment and the one Stryker mission shown in
order for the timeline to remotely work (and you also have to recognize that
the final scenes of Wolverine take place up to a decade before the 2000
X-Men movie, which takes place IN the last scenes of Wolverine are
in the early 90s or even very late 80s).  It works out okay, but was an
unneeded disconnect for viewers that could have been solved by datestamping
the scenes (i.e. instead of just saying "Lagos, Nigeria" at the start of the
mission scene, say, "Lagos, Nigeria - August 12, 1984").  This is further
muddled by very carefully setting scenes so that there's no technology that'd
clearly define the year...already-old Soviet-surplus weapons in Nigeria, beat
up El Camino in Canada, deliberately retro toys in the circus trailer, etc.
     Anyway, as long as you don't insist on originality or tight coherence,
it's a decent actioner.

Late Books:
     These are comics that were not listed as shipping during the week they
were reviewed.  Sometimes someone recommends a book to me that's already out,
and I grab it over the weekend.  Sometimes it's a trade paperback I ordered
online rather than trusting Diamond.  Sometimes the store screwed up or I was
inobservant and I missed something I meant to get.  USUALLY, though, it's
because Diamond didn't ship what it was supposed to ship and I had to
scrounge around or wait on a reorder.

     Nothing this week, although a few more books became "eligible".

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.

     Jersey Gods #4: Image - Okay, time to start reading in the forward
direction again.  I suppose part of the glamor girl storyline here is trying
to set things up so that when she and Barock get back together she'll have
had enough adventuring experience that life with a god won't seem like a
significant change.  :)  Still, I kinda hope we get to the sort of thing seen
in the preview backup soon.  The godly stuff is pretty standard warmed over
Kirby pastiche, not all that interesting.  It's the juxtaposition that got me
to give this book a try, and right now it's all back and forth, no together.
Mildly recommended.
     Astro City Dark Age Book Three #1 (of 4): DC/Wildstorm - A bit of a time
jump from book 2, both in-story and real life, which makes it trickier to get
into the flow.  Especially since the first scene is narrated off-screen by
the brothers and it takes a page or two for me to be clear on what's what.
Not really clear yet what the opening scene has to do with anything other
than another establishing shot that the era was unpleasant, though.
Hopefully it'll come together and pick up, but only mildly recommended on
this issue.  $3.99.
     The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century #1: Top Shelf - I am
amused that the previous book I got from Top Shelf was the all-ages Owly and
Friends, given that the first splash page of this issue has a naked woman
cliff-diving.  :) Anyway, this first of three episodes is titled 1910, the
year within the century of the series title.  A menace is predicted, seems to
come to pass, but then is revealed to still be in the future.  There's the
usual mass of easter eggs, and the occasional annoying literary device
(untranslated sanskrit being particularly annoying, but the sung narration is
a bit grating after a while).  The text piece at the end advances the story
from 1910 to 1964 and also ties in some bits from Black Dossier (although I
can't say how well, having not read that yet).  The text piece also completes
the tonal shift from the Victorian-underbelly treatment of sex to a more 60s
SF one (including a tie-in to the Story of O).  The text piece seems to have
been laid out for regular comic binding, though, and the deeper spine of this
book causes some bits of words to fall into the cracks.  Mildly recommended
for now, this is one of those things where the destination is important to
the context of the journey.  As mentioned earlier, there's nudity, and
there's also some gore, but not as bad as some LoEG stories in that regard.
     Official Index to the Marvel Universe #5: Marvel - I'll admit, I didn't
even seriously skim #4, blame it on City of Heroes.  :)  I pretty much just
read the parts around Iron Man #100 to get a better context for my childhood
memories.  But this IS a reference series, and reading reference books from
cover to cover isn't the intended use, no matter how often I actually DO it.
This one covers Amazing Spider-Man #198-244 (Nov79-Sep83), Iron Man #117-169
(Dec78-Apr83) and Uncanny X-Men Annual #8 through #299 (May84-May88).  I read
all of the X-Men issues when they came out, but only ever saw a handful of
the Spider-Man and Iron Man issues, mostly in quarter bins or doctor's
offices.  There's a special blue box that attempts to untangle the chronology
of the Mutant Massacre, hopefully future mega-crossovers will get similar
treatments in this title.  Anyway, this series is worth getting just for the
Notes entries, which get more detailed now as Marvel continuity gets all
snarled up in the 80s.  I am also amused that one of the Marauders has listed
as their first naming Dragon Magazine #117 (Marvel Superheroes stats, and
Riptide had been namelessly carrying a spear in the actual comics (although
Harpoon was named and carrying a harpoon)).  Recommended.  $3.99
     The Invincible Iron Man #13: Marvel - Dark Reign banner, and a very
vinced Iron Pepper on the cover.  The timeline jumps around a bit and
Fraction really can't pull off coherent storytelling when he does that, but
at least he doesn't write everyone in the book as total idiots.  Just one or
two of them.  Mildly recommended.
     New Mutants #1: Marvel - New Mutants (original series) #15-17 marks the
second comic I made an effort to collect, buying them all in one chunk at a
comic shop in Milwaukee while visiting a cousin, and then continuing to track
them down back home after that (and being rather shocked by the shift to
Sienkiewicz, especially since I'd already seen some of Bill S's less weird
art in my cousin's Moon Knight books).  So, I'm predisposed to give any new
New Mutants title with some or all of the original cast at least a shake.  I
think this is v4, but I'm not sure and the indicia don't list a voluming.
Oh, and I picked up the wraparound cover with Magik bridging the gap between
the original students and the second batch brought in by Sienkiewicz.  Wells
does a really good job with the HIDEOUSLY damaged situation he inherited,
definitely working well with Magik in her current Scary Devil Girl mode.  The
level of backstory dump required to make sense of this all is probably more
than anyone could manage smoothly, but he avoids a full dump, apparently
preferring some confusion to a lot of dead dialogue.  I do have a significant
problem with the pacing decision, though...end credits are not only an
annoying cliche, they also tend to ruin surprises if you want to know the
creator credits and run across the Final Page Shocker as a result.  That
aside, a pretty good job given the X-crap levels it has to deal with.
Recommended.  $3.99
     Hulk Broken Worlds Book Two: Marvel - Bought pretty much for the Adam
Warren story, in which the Mangaverse Hulk hangs around in the Mangaverse
version of Jotunheim and plays yarnball with the skeins of fate.  The other
three alt.universe tales of Hulk include two by Marc Sumerak (Age of
Apocalypse and 1602 settings) and one by Jason Henderson (Days of Future
Past).  If there's a unifying theme to them, it's that Hulk gets to find some
satisfaction, comfort or at least a sense of accomplishment.  No mean feat,
given that in three of the four universes Hulk's lot in life is even worse
than in the usual storyline.  Recommended.  $3.99
     Exiles v4 #2: Marvel - There's a little action here and there, but
mostly this issue is slowing down and exploring the new team as well as the
world they've found themselves in.  It's got a good start, though, with
multiple variations of the "Logan's head on a pike" gag.  :)  Recommended.
     Amazing Spider-Man #593: Marvel - More Waid/McKone.  After an attempt to
wash his brain, Spider-Man gets back on the clock and has loads of fun doing
well by doing good, even if he continues to ripen.  A freudian slip reveals a
bit more about his motives than he was willing to admit to himself, but
before he can ponder the implications he ends up against another threat.
Maybe not the most disgusting reimagining of a classic Spidey villain yet
from the current rotating team (Lizard into Freak probably still holds that
title), but it's close.  Recommended.  $2.99 
     Agents of Atlas #4: Marvel - Dark Reign banner.  The flashback storyline
reaches a resolution, and apparently this takes place a while back in present
day continuity...or a while forward, I suppose.  Either way, someone
currently dead shows up alive on the first page.  In the end, I think the
split storytelling wasn't the best spreading out both stories I
think they lost impact.  The scripting is good, but the plot isn't Parker's
best.  Recommended.  $2.99
     Atomic Robo v3 #1 (of 5): Red5 Comics - This volume's subtitle is
"Shadow from Beyond Time," and as that implies, it involves Lovecraft.  And
Charles Fort for added fun.  The portrayal of HPL isn't all that favorable,
but one must keep three things in mind: 1) HPL isn't favorable anyway, 2)
Warren Ellis was far nastier in that one Planetary crossover event, and 3) we
get a good in-story reason for it besides point 1.  Oh, and Tesla himself
makes a rare (if only partial) appearance, with one of the best lines in the
issue.  The story is set very early in Robo's life, but the essential
elements of his personality are already in place, minus the world-weary
cynicism (instead, it's youthful teenage-style cynicism).  The backup story
is a "meanwhile" to a backup from during v2.  Strongly recommended.  $3.50

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 5/6/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe
#22, Transformers Maximum Dinobots #3, Ninja High School #169, Justice
Machine vol 1 TPB.  Add Gold Digger Tech Manual #3, Farscape Strange
Detractors #2 (which I might be able to find at Hastings).  Also, instead of
shipping this month's Gold Digger #105, Diamond shipped my store more copies
of #104, something I didn't notice until I got home with the week's haul.


"Huh, I Thought The Designer Was A Cross-Dressing Dude" Award to Jersey
     Gods #4

"Well, They Tried The Hatching-From-Eggs Plan Once, But It Didn't Pan Out"
     Award to Astro City Dark Age Book Three #1 (of 4)

"Given That The Earlier Mentioned Naked Lady Is Supposed To Be Fifteen,
     There Might Be Legal Issues In Some States" Award to the League of 
     Extraordinary Gentlemen Century #1 (of 3)

"Note: Wolverine's Appearance In This Issue Has Been Retconned Five Times
     And We Officially Give Up" Award to Official Index to the Marvel
     Universe #5

"Just Some Informal Bondage" Award to The Invincible Iron Man #13

"Waiting For The Bat-Winged Cat To Show Up" Award to New Mutants #1

"Hulk Syncretize With Hulk's Fists!" Award to Bulk Broken Worlds Book Two

"Extremely-Happy-Pants Panther" Award to Exiles v4 #2

"He Knows Telepaths, He Can Find A Way" Award to the Amazing Spider-Man #593

"Probably Shouldn't Ask THIS Telepath, Though" Award to Agents of Atlas #4

"Sorry, No Version Of The DSM Has A Category For THAT" Award to Atomic Robo 
     v3 #1 (of 5)

     Dave Van Domelen, "I don't think Wolverine is going to be much help...
unless we're supposed to throw his head at Magneto really hard."  "Don't joke
about that!  Logan was my good friend!"  "Calm down now.  Your Logan is
probably fine in the world you left."  "No, he ended up as a head on a pike
in my world too." - Black Panther, Polaris, Beast, Polaris, in Exiles v4 #2

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Flower on back to May 2009.