May 12, 2010

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. An archive can be found on my homepage, It's a damp and cool week in May. Just as well, AC still busted. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Prince of Power #1 (of 4) (Not Strongly Recommended, but worth checking out.) "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 Man 2: Marvel/Paramount - Not going to go into a lot of detail here, in part because I don't have a copy here to go back and compare to. :) (And no, don't send me links to pirate copies, thanks.) It did suffer from a lot of the usual problems seen in a sequel when the first movie wasn't certain of success but the second IS. Mostly the problems come from confidence in there being a continuation, so some things just get left dangling even though they don't have to be. There's not as much of the "rip open the closure of the original in order to have a story" here, although a more planned-out series would have alluded to the problems with the palladium core that form one of the main plot threads here. Anyway, taking it as an obvious "second of many" movie, it's generally pretty good and very fun. Downey continues to be very good as Stark, and the chemistry between him and Paltrow is ticking along (despite the fact that the "Pepper kisses the helmet and tosses it out of the plane" scene didn't make it into the actual movie). Cheadle steps smoothly into Rhodey's role, and they resisted the temptation to put a lampshade on it by having Tony greet him with something like "Did you change your haircut? You look different." Johansson does okay as Natasha, although the role is deliberately understated, and Jackson chews scenery with his usual aplomb as Nick Fury. Rourke does a good job of creating Whiplash from the ground up (the one in Iron Man vs. Whiplash a few months back was clearly meant to be a reference to the movie version, the new Whiplash was created for the movie), although he's a bit too mumbly. Maybe the fake teeth were giving him trouble. Favreau gave Happy Hogan an expanded role, a bit buffoonish but generally competent and only coming off badly because he's surrounded by geniuses and super-spies. The only character I didn't like was Justin Hammer, who Sam Rockwell played as Too Stupid To Live. Yes, I get it, he's smarmy and untrustworthy and pretty much the exact opposite of the Peter Cushing inspired Justin Hammer of the comics (other than being amoral, a trait the two Hammers share). But in a movie that included home nucleosynthesis experiments and people who could hack into locked computer systems in seconds, Hammer was the most implausible part of the film. Unless he's actually Justin Hammer Jr. and inherited the company in the past year or so, I can't see him ever getting past middle management. In the comics, Hammer's stuff was always knockoffs, true, but it was still good enough to give Iron Man a run for his money. Here, his incompetence is played for laughs. Oh, almost forgot one of the main characters: Agent Coulson, the Jasper Sitwell stand-in. He only gets a few scenes, but he shines in them. He's sort of the anti-Hammer, who clearly knows what he's doing and is good at it, but is content to serve in the middle ranks. Hopefully this movie doesn't follow the recent trend of bare-bones DVD/BluRay releases, because there's a lot of behind the scenes stuff I'd like to see (including some things that are already available online, but I'd like to see in higher resolution). Definitely worth seeing in the theaters, in any case. Recommended. Time-Shifting: Sometimes I get a comic a week or two late because of Diamond's combination of neglect and incompetence. If it's more than a week late, though, I won't review it unless it's very notable. Additionally, I will often get tradepaperbacks long after publication or even sometimes before Diamond ships them, and those will go here. If I'm reasonably sure I'm reviewing something that didn't ship this week, this is the section for it. Iron Man 2 Public Identity #1 (of 3): Marvel - Okay, reading this one after #2 had almost no effect on the storytelling. The brief Howard Stark scene is barely connected to and hardly necessary for the one in #2, while the main action is an intervention in central Asia that's practically interchangable with the one in #2. Okay, so the battlepod that gets jobbed in #2 is introduced as the Final Page Shocker here, In short, they could have simply dropped this issue, released #2 as the first issue, and it's not looking like the story would have been changed. A superfluous issue. Beyond the plot complaints, it's just not that interesting or engaging of a read. I mean, a comic can have a plot that goes nowhere and still be a fun read, but this one doesn't manage that. Neutral. $3.99 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. Ben10 Alien Force Doom Dimension: Ballatine Books - This is a "Del Ray Manga" book, meaning that it's digest-sized and in black and white with grayscales. I picked it up because I noticed it online and saw Peter David was writing it, so figured it might be good. And the story (which is concluded in a volume coming out in a few weeks) is pretty good, the pacing is about right for the two volumes together to be a single episode of the show. PAD keeps everyone in character, while also providing the insight that Kevin has possibly come to see Gwen as his conscience. He knows he needs one, but would rather lean on Gwen for that. The art is by Dan Hipp, who I complained was "too aggressively indie" in my review of Gen13 v4 #26. He does okay sticking to model for the main characters, but the indie cred slips in with crowd scenes and backgrounds. Also, disturbingly, he gives everyone crazy eyes, where the white of the eye is visible all the way around the iris almost all the time. In fact, the cover made me wonder if the main plot device would be insanity or possession, maybe evil doubles (aside: the cover colorist failed to realize that Kevin was in stone form, and made all the cracks look like scars). On the plus side, Hipp does a good job of making the titular Doom Dimension look different by rendering it in shaded pencils with no inks, while "real spacetime" is starkly inked with simple gray fills. Recommended. $6.39 at Transformers Ironhide #1 (of 4): IDW - Rather than just give a single Spotlight issue to Ironhide in an attempt to show why he's such a Big Deal, they're going for a miniseries. Most of this issue is a flashback to 4 million years ago, and so far it's pretty standard Ironhide stuff. In other words, showing why he's a trusted right hand, but not why he's a legend. Presumably the legend part will follow. Casey Coller's art is decent, but the crowd scenes end up a little too flat. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Adventure Comics #11: DC - The final Last Stand of New Krypton tie-in issue, thankfully. What a steaming pile of crossover that was. And this issue is more about setting up the new-old status quo in the wake of that, reseeding the rescued bottle cities and tying off loose ends for Mon-El. The narrative thread hops around a little as the POV of the captions shifts from character to character, but the final result is pretty good. It's not really accurate to describe it as being a lead and secondary feature, rather it all just sort of flows together with a bunch of vignettes and farewells as Sterling Gates (mostly New Krypton wrapup) and James Robinson (mostly Mon-El wrapup) throw all the danglers together and tie them off. Recommended. $3.99 Booster Gold #32: DC - First issue of the "new" direction, touted as an attempt to return to the BWA-HA-HA days of the DeMatteis/Giffen Justice League. I approach this with trepidation. However, as it turns out, this is even DARKER than the last few Jurgens issues, and more of a return to an even older saga of Giffen's. Oh, it might go BWA-HA-HA later (and there's some running gags that deliberately aren't all that funny), but the only person finding any humor in things this issue is utterly insane. This new arc also ties into Brightest Day and the people who wanted to live enough to come back from the dead (but I suspect you can say that of most DC titles this month). Recommended. $2.99 REBELS #16: DC - Heh, and here I thought Transformers was the only place I was going to see artists told to leave an area blank so that the official logo could be pasted in later. The new Green Lanterns introduced here are missing their chest logos, suggesting someone forgot to paste 'em in. As for the main story, it's still about rebuilding in the wake of Starro, and the inevitable conflicts you get when you drop Rann into the orbital slot of Tamaran. And yes, one of the Terrans makes the Israel/Palestine comparison. The main theme of the issue, though, continues to be the series theme of "I'm pretty sure following Dox will end in untold tragedy, but I can't think of a better alternative." Well, one character almost gets out of the mess, but gets sucked back in by hormones (no, not Dox's hormones). A lot of interesting bits get tossed around, but it's not really gelling yet. Mildly recommended. $2.99 [Later note: I thought about suggesting maybe rookies had to earn their logos and the cover was what was in error, but I decided that was way too lame and dropped it from my review. I have been informed that I was wrong, it's NOT too lame and is in fact how things are done by the Corps now.] The Amazing Spider-Man #631: Marvel - Shed continues, and you can tell from my placement of this at the head of my Marvel stack that I don't have a whole lot of faith in Wells this time around. Bachalo runs hot and cold with the splattergore...sometimes showing way too much and other times shying away from it. In at least one "shying away" episode, though, I suspect it's because it's a fakeout and there's no gore to shy away from. While I applaud making the effort to experiment with storytelling here, so far the experiment is a failure and this one of the weakest arcs since the reboot. Mildly recommended, and that purely for the technical elements. $2.99 Iron Man 2 Public Identity #3 (of 3): Marvel - Okay, now that I've read three oversized issues, I feel like I've read a half issue backup story. It's not decompression so much as a lack of any THERE there. About all this series really accomplishes is to clarify that both Iron Man movies take place before the Eric Bana Hulk movie (Tony meets Ross for the first time here, while in the Hulk epilogue they already know each other). Neutral. $3.99 Avengers the Initiative #35: Marvel - Final issue, although it's sorta rebooting as Avengers Academy. Like Adventure and REBELS, it's a lot of scattered wrap-up stuff, seeing the fringes of the main story and the effects it had on the main characters. Gage does a good job of emphasizing the personal stories, though, making the plot holes less of a problem. Unfortunately, Molina's art isn't really up to snuff, and looks rushed in a lot of places. Recommended. $2.99 The Marvels Project #8 (of 8): Marvel - It all ends on December 7, 1941, with a good example of how historic-setting comics deal with major historical events when not allowed to change things. Create a bigger crisis and then have the fictional characters beat it back down to the size it was in real life. (I'm pretty sure this was not Brubaker's creation, but rather a retelling of an Invaders story or something along those lines.) In the end it all connects back up to Holloway's journal and the joys of time travel, but that doesn't stop the book from feeling like it veered sharply away from its original theme around #6. There's multiple wrap-around covers, I got the Alan Davis one because it looks nice, even if it features characters who couldn't have been side by side (due to one dying before a few others had their origins). Mildly recommended. $3.99 Iron Man Legacy #2: Marvel - Well, that's certainly an interesting twist on people ripping off Tony Stark. Oh, they're still pretty clearly stealing his ideas as usual, but this is the first time I can recall someone going about it in quite this way. Given how thoroughly explored the Iron Man ideaspace is, that's no mean feat. I'm still a little confused about how this fit into the timeline, since I don't read the main book and don't know how Tony's set things up post-Siege, but for the most part this story could fit in any one of a dozen spots (especially since Tony's taken to wearing a visual copy of his hip-pod armor again, that much I do know). Visually, it fits in with the movie, mainly because Kurth uses the movie model of the MkI armor during a flashback scene rather than the comic MkI that the knockoffs Tony's fighting are based on. Weird bit of visual discoherence, unless there's a retcon I missed and the "made in a cave" armor was not the suit Iron Man went into action in once back in the States. Recommended. $2.99 Prince of Power #1 (of 4): Marvel - Back to back Van Lente! Obviously, the goal in this series is finding Hercules. But that's not the conflict. And there's conflict galore, both internal and external, old and new. Stealing the show, though, is Hebe. One minute she's Pepper Potts, all business and mother hen. The next she's almost literally squeeing. The narration gets a bit archly self-aware, and I know that can bug people, but it was within my tolerance for such writing. There's also an uncolored preview of Atlas #1, I don't much care for the art as it stands but any colorist will have a lot of work ahead of them to make it any better. Not enough story, really, to tell anything yet on that front. 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 5/12/10: Gold Digger Peebri's Big Adventure #2. Add Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #2. Awards: "Wait, Are You Sure I Read This?" Award to Iron Man 2 Public Identity #1 (of 3) "I Guess It's Not Just A Shell Anymore" Award to Ben10 Alien Force: Dimension of Doom Part 1 "I 'Ardly KNOW 'Er!" Award to Transformers Ironhide #1 "Legion Training Includes Learning How To Fly Tight Formation So Everyone Fits In A Splash Page" Award to Adventure Comics #11 "At Least He Didn't Write The Note In Interlac" Award to Booster Gold #32 "It Was The Only Part With Enough Fabric To Hold A Badge" Award to REBELS #16 "This Needs A Visit From Hit Girl" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #631 "Ah, Good Old Fashioned Lorem Ipsum" Award to Iron Man 2 Public Identity #3 (of 3) "It Only FELT Like Every Other Page Was A Splashpage" Award to Avengers the Initiative #35 "Overused The Clone Tool A Bit On Those Zeroes" Award to The Marvels Project #8 (of 8) "This Is One Of The Weeks That The Knights Of Wundagore Are Out" Award to Iron Man Legacy #2 "Hey, Snake #3 Wasn't Done With That Page Yet!" Award to Prince of Power #1 (of 4) Dave Van Domelen, "Looks like Comet just *realized* that the six-foot-four, half-naked supermodel is, well...a half-naked supermodel." "Sooner or later, all the boys do..." - Adam Strange, Alanna Strange, REBELS #16
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