May 7, 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.
Got to drive on the lawn today, whee.  Rants, Capsules can be found on my 

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 -

     Guardians of the Galaxy #1: Marvel - Geee, you gotta wonder if Abnett &
Lanning are involved in any Warhammer 40K?  I guess the spaceship with a
gothic cathedral built into it might be a hint.  ;)  And the Chaos creature.
In the end, though, it ends up setting up a premise for the team that's
essentially Buffy The Cthulhu Slayer, with Warlock as Buffy, Gamora as
Willow, etc.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Iron Man Legacy of Doom #2 (of 4): Marvel - The Micheline psychobabble
kicks in full force this issue, feh.  Lim's art looks nice enough, but it's
not enough to carry the day.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Amazing Spider-Man #559: Marvel - Slott's back, woot.  And cute visual
gag from Martin, "Starbrand Coffee"...Starbucks style logo, but with the
Starbrand.  Also cool how Parkour plays a role in the new villain's schtick.
Not to mention the ethics of being a celebrity photog, stalkers and someone
actually paying attention to consumer technology as it relates to the news
biz.  Like last issue, somewhere between recommended and 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): Amelia Rules!
v4 TPB

     Conan #50: Dark Horse - 64 page special issue.  First it wraps up the
current Hand of Nergal story, then has a text page by Roy Thomas explaining
the provenance of the Hand of Nergal, and finally a reprint of the Marvel
version of the "same" story.  Aside from a few names, though, the two have
almost nothing in common...which makes sense, given that a few names are
about all that came from the original Robert E. Howard fragment (a fragment
which is given a nod and a wink in-story at the end of the new tale).  Call
it literary necromancy if you will, it's certainly interesting to watch in
progress.  Recommended.  $4.99
     Transformers: the Reign of Starscream #1 (of 4, I think): IDW - It's
billed as a sequel to the movie, but only a couple of pages could be counted
as that.  The first chunk adds some material between the lines of the
official prequel comic, plus retelling other parts from Starscream's POV.
Then the middle retells the movie itself from Starscream's view, leading up
to a touch of retconning (or at least rearranging of scenes) to set up the
actual story that will start in #2.  While I applaud the effort to keep the
story comprehensible to people who haven't read any of the previous
movieverse comics, most of this could have been done just as well (and a lot
less murkily) as a text page, leaving more of the issue for actual story.  We
don't really get a lot out of Starscream's point of view here that couldn't
have been done in maybe 4 pages of on-screen recap.  And yeah, the art by
Milne suffers from movie designs and colorist murk.  Very mildly
recommended.  $3.99
     Doctor Who #4 (of 5): IDW - Well, it's time to tie together all that
foreshadowing from #1-3, and despite a little bit of robotic red herring,
it's mainly "and here's the fiendish plan" stuff.  Pierfederici's art varies
from bad to forgettable, and I much preferred the little done in one stories
to this arc.  Neutral.  $3.99
     Scud the Disposable Assassin #24 (of 24): Image - The "Whole Shebang" is
due out next month, and I suppose I could've just waited for that, given that
I got rid of #1-20 back in 2000.  Eh, whatever.  ;) Here it is at last, the
new ending of the series (the old ending, had #21 come out back in the 90s,
would have been different as outlined in the interview at the end of the
issue).  It gets a bit incoherent in places, a sort of "racing to the end"
feel, but it does tie together well in the end.  And it gives new meaning to
a love/hate relationship.  Recommended.  A bit heavy on the cursing and
cartoony gore, though, if you're easily offended.  Then again, if you're
easily offended, you probably shouldn't come near this series in general.
$3.50  (Aside: the cover stock either rolls REALLY easily, or the humidity is
messing it up, because the cover of my copy's already trying to turn into a
     Dynamo5 Annual #1: Image - This follows the "lots of short stories"
style of Annual, starting with a reprint of Captain Dynamo's first appearance
back in a Noble Causes anthology issue.  The stories run in chronological
order, with the first two being about Captain Dynamo, the third (with a
strongly animated feel) concerning the Dynamo5 during their training, and the
last one set some point after that training was complete.  Plus the usual
assortment of pinups and a text page explaining the rationale behind each of
the stories.  All in all, it's more of a Noble Causes Annual Guest Starring
Dynamo5, for good or ill.  And since I don't read Noble Causes, I was a bit
at sea in a few places.  Mildly recommended.  $5.99
     Action Comics Annual #11: DC - And, in a nice bit of juxtaposition, this
one follows the "big event capstone" style of Annual.  Unfortunately, I
stopped reading regular issues of the Donner-cowritten book a few months
back, and it looks like they really ramped up this particular plotline in the
interim.  Phantom Zone criminal takeover of Metropolis, Superman teamed up
with his greatest foes, resolution of the Christopher Kent thing, etc.  Big
knock-down drag-out sort of thing.  And, even beyond what I'd expect from
having missed the lead-in, it feels...disconnected.  Granted, I've been
having that feeling on both Superman books on and off since they decided to
splice the Silver Age stuff back in.  Neo-retro Superman just hasn't felt
right to me.  I don't WANT the guy who can reshape planets into cubes.  I
don't WANT rainbow hues of Kryptonite.  At least, not in any new stories.
The old stories were fun, but this kind of "we'll make it just like the old
days" stuff is kinda like literary saccharine: it's not as good as the real
thing, and at least for me it leaves a nasty aftertaste.  This pretty much
crystalizes it for me, I think I'm going to avoid both Action and Superman
for a while.  Neutral.  $4.99US/Cn [Later note: Okay, it's not just my brain
starting to denature.  The Donner-cowritten stuff has been hit with numerous
production delays, resulting in the pieces coming out in haphazard ways.
This actually picks up from pre-Legion-arc stuff that I'd skipped over last
year.  Whee.  Remember, kids, stunt-casting of writing assignments can kill.
Well, kill story coherence and reader interest.]
     X-Factor the Quick and the Dead #1 (of 1): Marvel - Your basic "man and
his demons" story.  Pietro's in a jail cell, beaten and delusional, no powers
of any kind, having imaginary conversations with the important people in his
life.  There's a sort of creepy "Baltar and Number Six" vibe at times, but
that's intentional.  I think it would have worked better if released as a MAX
title or something, the use of code-approved pseudo cussin' works against the
mood, makes what's supposed to be a powerful epiphany feel kinda goofy.  Oh,
and I'm still not really a fan of Raimondi's art.  Mildly recommended.
     Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #39: Marvel - Sumerak writes.  Heh,
Kristoff the foreign exchange student from Latveria, viewing New York City
through the lens of his, how often DOES the Statue of Liberty
come to life and attack, anyway?  He may be better prepared for living in NYC
than one might think, actually.  Of course, Things Are Not What They Seem
(although the Thing is pretty much what he seems).  Recommended.
     Avengers/Invaders #1 (of 12): Marvel/Dynamite - The Invaders get
introduced, tossed at a plausible time travel plot device, and the run into
the Thunderbolts.  Good "enter running" opening.  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn 
     Invincible Iron Man #1: Marvel - Well, it's a good start from Fraction.
He sets up Stark's personal nightmares, some of which show him to be
something other than unreservedly futurist...and Zeke Stane is further set up
to be the very dark side Tony fears.  Where Obadiah was the evil businessman
counterpart to Stark, Ezekiel is the evil technologist.  This does tend to
create the awkward situation of making the "superhero as reactionary
maintainer of the status quo" theme come rather strongly to the front, and
"futurist" Tony Stark into a sort of "I got mine, now let's stop progressing"
neo-luddite.  It's possible Fraction will take it someplace other than a
"here's the line where we should quit" theme, but I have my doubts.  Still,
an interesting start.  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Amazing Spider-Man #558: Marvel - Bob Gale's turn at bat, playing
clean-up to tie things together before the cycle begins anew with Slott next
week.  The cover shows pretty much all the plot complications so far in BND,
and to his credit Gale manages to work most of the into this story, service
several subplots, AND wrap up the Freak danglers for now.  On the strong side
of recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     The Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #17: Antarctic Press -
This is the "Appendix", a combination of new characters, updates, and people
too obscure to get an entry the first time around but getting some recent
mentions to bring them above the threshold (such as Agen, who's been around
for a while, but showed up in the recent arc after the first issue of OHOTGDU
came out).  It even had some characters who haven't appeared yet, although
some of that is vagaries of publishing timing (i.e. the Tiffany & Charlotte
book is due out any week now, and has some new characters).  Some crossover
and miniseries characters get dredged up as well, like Konam from Asrial
vs. Cheetah.  In short, a sort of catch-all "anything we might have missed"
issue.  To judge from the preview of #18's cover, I'd guess it's an expanded
Races/Species issue, going back over them in more detail.  Recommended.
     Gold Digger v3 #96: Antarctic Press - RoboMODOK!  This issue is all set
in Quasi-Space, continuing to follow Brit and Gina as Gina finds out more
about how things work, how things don't work, and what's apt to try to kill
you into many tiny pieces.  Emphasis on that last one after about the
midpoint of the issue.  And Ether Vents still creep me out.  Recommended.
     PS238 #31: Do Gooder Press - Whoops, radical setting change.  You can't
go home again, sure, but it's rarely so literal and rapid in terms of "either
you've changed, or home has".  Tyler's momentous decision is clarified, at
least for the readers (he's still as confused as ever, really), and we get
another look into the past of the setting.  Plus backups of Full Frontal
Nerdity (hm, dragon-halfbreed mammaries...sure, why not?) and Backwards
Compatible (which seems to be groping about for a way to not just be another
PvP clone).  Recommended.  $2.99
     Amelia Rules! vol 4: Renaissance Press - FCBD 2006, issues #17-19, and
FCBD 2007's lead story (also reprinted in #20).  Not that you'd know this
from looking at the TPB itself...this series has a really annoying tendency
to not say where any of the material was originally published, and the
somewhat time-shifty nature of the storyline can make it seem like
sequentially published issues shouldn't follow each other.  Still, that's
more of a geekly complaint, the stories inside by Jimmy Gownley are quite
solid (at least one getting a "strongly recommended" from me the first time
around), and the price is good for 168 pages of 'em.  Strongly recommended if
you haven't bought the individual issues already.  $11.99/$13.99Cn

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 5/7: Amelia Rules! #20, but I've been told it's just
the 2007 FCBD issue repackaged, so no rush.  Not to mention it's also
reprinted (minus the Apathy Kat stuff) in the TPB I just got.


"It's Probably Wrong Of Me To Want To See Jim Davis's 'The Hand of Nermal'
     As A Parody" Award to Conan #50

"Don't Worry, Brawl, We'll Fix It In Post" Award to Transformers: the Reign
     of Starscream #1 (of 4)

"Gee, I Wonder If That Button Will Be Important In The Climax?" Award to 
     Doctor Who #4 (of 5)

"Forget Dancing On The Head Of A Pin, How Many Can You Fit On A Ritz?" Award
     to Scud the Disposable Assassin #24 (of 24)

"At Least He Didn't Hit On BOTH Firebirds" Award to Dynamo5 Annual #1

"Didn't I See This Plot Device In Season 1 Of The Legion Cartoon?" Award to
     Action Comics Annual #11

"But He Forgot To Tap His Icon!" Award to X-Factor the Quick and the Dead #1

"What ARE Little Boys Made Of?" Award to Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #39

"Wait'll He Finds Out Swordsman's Last Name" Award to Avengers/Invaders #1
     (of 12)

"The Girl Genius Universe Seems To Be Missing A Madboy" Award to The 
     Invincible Iron Man #1

"Not Exactly Whitewashing, Huck, But It'll Do" Award to Amazing Spider-Man

"My Eyes Are Up Here...And Up Here" Award to Official Handbook of the Gold
     Digger Universe #17

"Into The Valley Of In-Jokes Rode The NINE THOUUUUUSAAAAANNND!" Award to
     Gold Digger v3 #96

"If You Accept That Dragons And Mammals Are Even Interfertile, Why Should 
     The Rest Of The Baggage Bother You?" Award to PS238 #31 (well, more to
     the Full Frontal Nerdity strips)

"Chicks Dig Lithuanian Cussin'" Award to Amelia Rules! v4

     Dave Van Domelen, "In a recent story on the sci-fi game 'Mass Effect,' a
Fox News panelist described the game as 'LUKE SKYWALKER MEETS DEBBIE DOES
DALLAS.'"  "Really?"  "Yeah.  Do you want to --"  "Do they have a SCRIPT for
that?"  "No, it was a metaphor for --"  "Can we get someone WORKING on a
script for that?" - Preacher from and Mark Hamill, PS238 #31
(the Backward Compatible strips).
Back to the Main Rants Page.

Sneeze your way back to the May 2008 Page.