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Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and AwardsIntermittent 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 Well, it was nice teaching for a bit again, back to unemployment. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Iron Man 3 In this installment: Iron Man 3, Superman: Unbound, Lego Batman the Movie: DC Heroes Unite, Action Lab Confidential FCBD, Atomic Robo FCBD 2013, Molly Danger/Princeless FCBD, Scratch 9 FCBD, Steam Engines of Oz FCBD, Double Barrel #10, Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #8, Bandette #5, Spirits, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #7, My Little Pony Micro-Series #4. "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 3: Marvel - In Avengers, Captain America asks Tony what he is if you take away the armor. Tony's glib answer is expanded on here, with the middle of the movie being more of "Burn Notice, Super-Science Edition" (and I mean that in a good way). In addition, Tony's near-death experience in Avengers is a core source of conflict in the man vs. self style. This is one of those movies where merely describing the plot wouldn't do it justice, however, because both the writing and the acting take what sound like dumb ideas and makes them work. The denounment has some problems if you think about it too hard, and there's one bit near the beginning that doesn't make much sense unless you know it's setting up the extra 4 minutes added (badly) for the Chinese release, but it's well worth seeing if you somehow managed to put it off this late. Strongly recommended. Superman: Unbound: DC - The latest OAV movie adapting a recent comic, in this case the Superman: Brainiac GN by Johns and Frank. Unfortunately, this is Roid Rage Brainiac, and not one of the good interpretations of the character. Still, with half the cast of Castle involved in voicing it, I decided to give it a chance. This is one of those "Neo-Superman Family" settings, where they try to update the 1960s stuff to "modern" sensibilities without bringing in anything outside of the Superman books (i.e. when Brainiac attacks Earth, there's no Justice League or Batman or whatever...just Superman and Supergirl). While I didn't have quite as negative a reaction to this as others, neither do I think too much of it. Yes, it's more plausibly modern for Lois to be flipping Brainiac the double bird while in a shrunken bottle city, but that just highlights how the basic premise is incompatible with plausible modernity. It includes a sneak peek for the next movie, "Justice League: the Flashpoint Paradox." The first words spoken in the preview are about how the Flashpoint universe is a depressing place and you wouldn't want to live there. Why would I want to watch there, then? The small amount of Flashpoint I was exposed to in Booster Gold didn't pique my interest in knowing more, I don't expect I'll be buying this one. Meh. $15-20 depending on store. Lego Batman the Movie: DC Heroes Unite - And now for something a lot less angsty and bulgy. As with most Lego movies of late, it's released with an exclusive minifigure...in this case, Clark Kent with his shirt open to reveal the big red S. Why Clark and not Bruce? Don't ask me, I don't make these decisions. Part of the DC Heroes Uniting, I suppose. The opening is promising, using a variation of the Elfman theme and with Clancy Brown being the first credited voice (plus favorites like Townsend Coleman and Rob Paulsen). It's your basic "swooping around the Bat-symbol in closeup" thing, but with the symbol made of Lego bricks. Once that's over, it's straight into...Metropolis, with Superman flying Batman to Lexcorp. Yep, Clancy is reprising his Luthor role from STAS. Elfman isn't the only musical homage, with Superman getting a version of his John Williams theme. For the most part, it's a sillier take on the BTAS/STAS movie where Lex and the Joker team up, but with a giant Joker mecha instead of a flying wing as the big Kryptonite-powered plot device. Some of the humor is a bit forced (especially tbe bits involving Robin), but all in all it's one of the better DC movies of the past few years. It also has the usual random bonus episodes (two from Brave and the Bold, one from Teen Titans), some featurettes and stop motion Lego shorts. Recommended. About $15 for DVD. Free Comic Book Day 2013: I didn't find any physical comics that aroused my interest (although the local Hastings did have a dozen titles on hand, much better than last year), so these are all digital comics. That also means you can still get them free yourself, if interested. Unless otherwise mentioned, they're available at ComiXology under "free comics". Action Lab Confidential: Action Lab - This is a big one, claiming 200+ pages covering loads of Action Lab titles, plus interviews with creators. It's actually about 110 pages, though, with most titles getting 10 pages, only half of which are actual story pages. If these were five pages custom written to be five page stories, that'd be one thing, but it's just the first five pages of each #1 issue. Sometimes the story doesn't even get to the main concept in five pages (i.e. the mechasuit series has no mechasuits, the story that is supposed to be about a VR game leaking into the real world barely even introduces the game, Princeless stops just before the main character gets the idea to save herself, etc). All it's really good for is a taste of the art style, which in most cases is mediocre. I certainly wasn't inspired to look more into any of these titles from this sampler, so it fails in its job. Atomic Robo FCBD2013: Red5 Comics - The electronic version is just the 12 page Atomic Robo story, no "and friends" as I presume the physical comic is still doing. Mostly another "take down scientific creation gone rogue" story, but it ties into the slowly-building metaplot with Majetic-12. There's some fun bits here and there, but it's no Doctor Dinosaur story. Recommended. Molly Danger/Princeless: Action Lab - Unlike the Action Lab sampler, this is two actual stories. Molly Danger is by Jamal Igle, and unless there's some gag intended for later use, naming the super-smart brain in a jar villain "Medula" makes it feel like the editor wasn't doing their job. The premise looks somewhat interesting, but not enough for me to pick up the series. Princeless gets rather more development here than in the sampler pack, and it's a mix of good premise and humor...plus some really lame places where things are pushed past funny and into stupid. It's like trying to build an entire world around the "Solomon Grundy no fight girls!" DC short animation. It feels like an axe being ground until it's actually blunted. They might still be finding their footing, worth taking a look a few more issues later if the book is still around. Scratch 9: Hermes Press - This is a reprint of the first issue of the series, but since I'd never heard of the series before, I don't mind the reprint nature as much as, say, DC's Superman reprint FCBD offering (which you'll notice I didn't get). The premise here is that a cat (who is anthropomorphic in the mental but not physical sense, in a world where all animals can talk to each other but are mutually unintelligible to humans) gets experimented on and gets Manikin's powerset, but with 8 alts from the timeline that can be summoned. This issue pretty much only sets up the premise and what appears to be the long-term quest (getting back to his human), we only see one of the "other lives". Moderately interesting, but hopefully it found its voice a little more clearly in later issues...it suffers from "is it silly or is it deadly serious?" syndrome. Not a balance of the two, more of a fluttering back and forth. Steam Engines of Oz: Arcana Comics - This is an excerpt from an upcoming graphic novel. Yes, it's another "steampunk Wizard of Oz" comic, but it goes about things a little differently than the usual "take a piece of Victorian-era literature and glue some gears on it," by setting it several generations after the Tin Man assumed control of Oz. The protagonist is just one of the many workers who keeps the clockwork of the Emerald City running smoothly, and is convinced (in a fairly abrupt scene that didn't really feel like it'd change anyone's life) to break a bunch of munchkin prisoners out of jail and rebel against the system. Really, it felt like the writer was impatient to get down to the actual rebellion stuff (little of which actually shows up in the preview) that the motivation is pretty flimsy. Artistically, it's pretty standard "90s Image House Style" art. Not gonna bother with the full book. 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. Double Barrel #10: Evil Twin - Well, cutting to the chase, the new ultra-violent fantasy series does improve somewhat this time, making it up into readable territory, if not much more than that. Both Heck and Crater XV continue to feel like the penultimate chapter, as if the stories from #9-10 should have both been in #9 but putting the new series in resulted in some cutting in twain...but since this is digital-only, it's not like that's an actual concern. It does, however, mean I don't have much to say that I didn't say last time. ;) The process article focuses on digital techiniques, from font creation to vector vs. bitmap. Not something useful to me as a hobbyist, but definitely good for anyone looking to do comics for serious. Mildly recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #8: Red5 Comics - Annie Oakley and Wong Fei Hong (the latter operating under a different name for some reason, unless there was a second historical martial artist/doctor in the time period I wasn't aware of) fight off a train robbery. Yeah, that's pretty much it for the main story, with a page or so of "what that means in the overall plot" at the end. Fun action sequences, although better read at full size than on a smartphone. There's a short backup tale involving events that all present agree never happened. That's their story and they're sticking to it. Recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Bandette #5: Monkeybrain Comics - While Bandette engages in an extended fight scene, Monsieur gets the skinny on what's really happening, then Bandette and her nemesis team up against the sudden but inevitable betrayal by Absinthe's men. Unfortunately, Bandette's charm is relied on to carry a lot of the story, and it's wearing thin on me. Mildly recommended. $0.99 at ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Spirits: Couscous Collective - The theme for this anthology is "spirits," which can mean the ghost kind, the liquor kind, or (in one case) the ghosts of grains in liquor. While the Narbonicverse story involving how summoning demons to solve problems never solves problems is cute, this is probably the weakest of the Couscous anthologies so far. Mildly recommended. $10 Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #7: IDW - It gets a little better here, but a friend put his finger on what's been bothering me about Nuhfer's run. Both the writer and artist are holding back, trying to stay well within any boundaries Hasbro might be setting on the license. With Cook/Price, they were clearly writing with the expectation of having to do a major second draft after being slapped down by Hasbro's people...and then Hasbro was pretty much cool with it. The current storyline is just playing it too safe, not just retreading elements seen in the show already, but also avoiding anything too edgy. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Micro-Series #4: IDW - This one focuses on Fluttershy, and as suits the character is a mix of cute and disturbing. Barbara Kesel lays the "critics suck" message on a bit thick, but Fluttershy's sotto voce asides make up for it. Also, I hope this bit of weird character development finds its way into the cartoon...it builds on a few bits here and there. An entertaining yarn, overall. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "I would be so mortified if anypony knew what I've been hiding downstairs in my secret room...or even that I have a secret room!" - Fluttershy, My Little Pony Micro-Series #4