May 31, 2014

Dave's Comics Capsules Et Cetera

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, Hunting for a place to live in Amarillo, hoping to move in a month. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #18 In this installment: Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Son of Batman, Transformers: More than Meets the Eye vol 3-5, Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years, Serenity Leaves in the Wind #4-5, Astro City #12, Gold Digger #210, Transformers: Robots in Disguise #28-29, Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #28-29, Transformers: Windblade #2 (of 4), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #18-19, My Little Pony Friends Forever #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. Amazing Spider-Man 2: Sony/Marvel - In brief, it tried to do a little too much in service of setting up the franchise. They could have excised a third of the plot threads and still had a very packed movie. But within the limitations of an overpacked plot, they did a very good job selling it. I have more to say about a specific plot point that was key to the movie, but even though I'm posting this well after opening weekend, it's possible some people reading this still haven't seen the movie, so I'll go into it after the closing quote and some spoiler space. Recommended. X-Men: Days of Future Past: Sony/Marvel - Piling on this month, eh? Trying to squeeze the non MCU stuff in between the MCU blockbusters. This is basically a sequel to First Class, with most of the action taking place ten years later, in 1973, and for the most part they did a good job of making it feel like 1973 (although there were a few bits here and there that seemed a touch anachronistic). But, as the subtitle indicates, it's also an adaptation of Days of Future Past, so part of the action takes place in a dystopic future, and there's time traveling consciousnesses and reasonable technobabble to explain why it's Logan and not Kitty doing the traveling, etc. Some have claimed that there's way too many characters in this, but that's a case of mistaking "has powers" for "should be important". You don't need names and backstories for every cop or gang member in a cop drama do you? Same here. The 1970s stuff really just focuses on half a dozen people (plus Nixon, but you should know who he is), and the rest are props to let the main characters do their thing. Sure, it's nice to know that that guy was Toad, that one Spike, etc. But really unneeded for the actual story. The "ticking time bomb" climax was piled on in spades, with two "simultaneous" countdowns to disaster, but it was very effective in raising the tension...especially since saving the day in one of the two times could still have left the other doomed. Recommended if you like superheroes, action movies, or just want to see Hugh Jackman's butt. Son of Batman: DC/Warner - Direct to video. This sort of adapts the recent Damien Wayne story arc, but in a semi-self-contained Batverse like a lot of the other DTV content of late. For instance, while Deathstroke is in it, his origin is tied purely to other characters in the story, with no loose ends to it. It's kinda weird considering the alternate takes on Slade and the League of Assassins right now in Arrow (the main DC content I'm paying attention to these days), but the plot ticks along decently. The main strength of this is the snark. Damien, Bruce, Alfred and Dick all get in plenty of verbal barbs. Recommended. $15-20 (I got the simple DVD set, no real extras other than a preview for the next one.) 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. Nothing this month, looks like Atomic Robo is not quite monthly. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Transformers: More than Meets the Eye vol 3-5: IDW - I don't really feel the need to go into detail on these, especially since even a very skimmy level of detail would take up several screens to cover a dozen or so issues. Suffice to say, it seems I bailed on IDW's Transformers comics at the wrong time, just before they turned around and got good. This is a really fun ensemble series, a kind of Black Sheep Squadron or MASH (the 4077th, not Coulson's merry band) for Transformers. Recommended. $20 cover prices, Amazon has them for $13-15 at any given time. Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years: Slave Labor Graphics - This isn't available in stores yet as far as I know, except for stores that participated in the Kickstarter, but it should be widely available at some point. This was one of those Kickstarters that hit goal REALLY quickly and proceeded to march through all the stretch goals and force the invention of new stretch goals. As such, what was going to be a fairly simple collection of the three volumes (most of which I already had in some paper format) and some oddities and extras ballooned into a hardcover with slipcase, glossy paper (not always the easiest to read white-on-black on, mind you), and pretty much every piece of Serenity Rose art since 1999. So, while I did have two thirds of the main story in paper form (oroginal floppies and the v2 TPB from a few years ago), I feel I definitely got my money's worth on this. Serenity Rose is your basic bildungsromans in which a shy young witch in a world where magic-users exist but are rare comes to grips with her place in that world and all the buried issues that most people carry around...but which tend to leak out into reality when you're powerfully magical. Creator Aaron Alexovitch worked on the Invader Zim cartoon and you can definitely see a lot of Jhonen Vasquez influence on his work. But the core story is one of finding love and friendship and a sense of stability in even the weirdest of lives, rather at odds with things like JtHM. While almost all of the material (main stories, Vicious Whispers advice column) is available online in various places, it's worth having in physical form. Good production values holding a good story. Strongly recommended. $30.00 cover price. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Serenity Leaves on the Wind #4: Dark Horse - Eh. It continues to strobe about, with no real sense of pacing, as if working from a list of plot points and giving each one equal emphasis while ignoring the segues. It's like reading an illustrated Wikipedia summary of an episode or three at a time. Whatever issues come out before I leave Missouri I'll pick up, but I doubt I'll make any serious effort to finish off the series if it doesn't end until after I move. Very mildly recommended for some good isolated bits. $3.50 Serenity Leaves on the Wind #5: Dark Horse - This issue combines the strobing of previous issues with some aggressive and poorly-indicated flashbacks. Sure, it sets up a potentially exciting climax and a turn in how the setting goes, but mostly it's a turn BACK to what was kind of assumed to be how things would go after the movie. Very mildly recommended. $3.50 Astro City #12: DC/Vertigo - A done-in-one character portrait of a single non-powered supervillain, looking into why someone might lead a particular kind of criminal life despite all the reasons not to. Pretty good, and it introduces (or spreads) a useful term for normal thugs who dress up in themed outfits by preference: clotheshorses. Recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger #210: Antarctic Press - Of course, now that my store cancelled its orders for this book, Diamond is reliably sending it. More Action Archaeology with the main sisters and Ayane, but with the addition of a framing sequence reminding us about the whole universe-spanning metaplot going on. And a universe-spanning subplot, namely the identity of the lunatic who keeps making all those deathtraps. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Robots in Disguise #28: IDW - Of course, just as I'm getting caught up on things in the MtMtE TPBs, they scrambled the casts around in the wake of Dark Cybertron. Where RiD had been more focused on Cybertron (I think...I haven't been reading the TPBs of that), now it's shifted to "Optimus Prime and his group searching for Alpha Trion". Which takes them to Earth, home of aspiring screenwriter Thundercracker (his screenplay is awesomely awful, I have already done fan art of it at ). Griffith's art is generally up to the task of supporting Barber's flashback-heavy story, but his humans are a little iffy, a problem given that they do show up in this issue. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Robots in Disguise #29: IDW - Even more layers of flashback this time, as we see what happened to Marissa Fairborne during All Hail Megatron and the first contact between her defense forces and the Galvatron-led Decepticons. Plus flashbacks to just after Megatron's trial. Despite all the flashbacks, it's mostly a running fight between the Autobots and Decepticons, as Prowl's backup plan gets put into motion. Thundercracker continues to steal scenes. Overall, a bit weaker of an issue than the previous one, although part of that is the focus on setting up a Final Page Splash (can't really call it a "shocker" though). Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #28: IDW - The first several issues in this arc look like they will also be rife with flashbacks to fill in the six month gap between Dark Cybertron and the opening action. Largely explaining how the slag Megatron ended up as captain of the Lost Light instead of Rodimus. Fortunately, IDW believes in captions, so you don't need to rely only on panel corner shapes to know when a given bit of action is taking place. Close attention is still rewarded, though. Most of the cast remains the same, though, so the kind of banter and conflict I've come to love from the crew of the Lost Light is still intact. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #29: IDW - The time-shifty storytelling continues, with Megatron's trial advancing a bit, a ghost or two introduced, and Megatron showing that whatever else his faults may be, he knows how to lead and give people purpose. The big Legislator cliffhanger of #28 was a bit of a disappointment, though. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Windblade #2 (of 4): IDW - There's a lot I could say about the main plot stuff here, but the emotional core is a simple bit: Windblade has compassion for Waspinator. Butt of every joke, the universe's chew toy, expecting to get blown up (again) at any second, and Windblade is perhaps the first Cybertronian to ever show him compassion. The one panel of realization on her part is worth the price of admission on its own. The rest of the issue is a bit meandering as Scott finds her plot legs, but she does make up for it with strong character moments, abetted by Stone's strong facial characterization work. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #18: IDW - Cook and Price send the Mane 6 ("Seven!") to a Mirror, Mirror universe through the mirror seen last issue, but it's not exactly the sort of ethical mirror as per Star Trek. More of an "everything is flipped," so mirror-Trixie is reknowned for her humility, Flim and Flam for their fairness, Derpy for her wisdom, etc. And, of course, the Princesses are all pretty vile. But they're also irresponsible and flightly, which is why there's still an Equestria around for anyone to visit. Cook strikes a good balance between writing for the adult fans who are probably buying most of the issues, and writing at a level that kids can enjoy in case any of them actually pick up a comic. Strongly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #19: IDW - This issue bears the heavy burden of all the remaining backstory, explaining how things ended up going so bad in the mirrorworld. Cook and Price still do a good job of working funny and touching bits in here and there, but it's a dip from last issue. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #5: IDW - Thom Zahler returns, but just on the writing this time, with Fleecs doing the art. A significant bit of worldbuilding happens here: critters are confirmed to be able to understand speech and are as intelligent as ponies, they just can't form proper words. Until this issue, when they can, at least when Fluttershy is around. Worried she's cracking up, 'Shy goes to see Zecora, providing the teamup of the series premise. The resolution is unsurprising, but mysteries don't really seem to be Zahler's strong suit, especially when writing ponies. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "...did you see a few of the Earth Pony guard have tried to take up archery? Nasty business." - Princess Luna, MLP:FiM #18
Back to the Main Rants Page, or keep going for spoilers....

Back to the 2014 Rants Page.

     And now, spoiler space before addressing a plot point on Amazing
Spider-Man 2....

     So, Gwen Stacy died in one of the few instances of the movie paying more
than lip service to physics.
     "How could they spend all that effort making her an interesting
character, then kill her off anyway?"
     That's kinda the point.  Gwen dying is as big a part of Spider-Man's
storyline as Uncle Ben dying.  But originally, she was fridged, long before
that was a thing.  Gwen was something of a pretty nonentity in the comics,
her death really only served the purpose of hurting Peter.  She died a
victim, yanked around by other characters.
     The new Gwen wasn't just decoration.  She was smarter than Peter.  She
was determined to make a difference even though she had no powers.  The
specifics of her death may have been as much beyond her control as the
original's death, but NOT her reasons for being in danger in the first
place.  Gwen was not kidnapped by Green Goblin this time, she came to the
site of the fight herself.  Despite being webbed to a police car by
Spider-Man to keep her safe.  Heck, once she cut herself free, she STOLE the
police car and rammed Electro with it.  Her death was a consequence she
accepted as a possible outcome of her decision to do the right thing.  But
without Peter's powers, she wasn't going to last very long.  Which only made
her more heroic.

     So, yeah, Gwen died anyway.  But we don't have to be told to miss her,
like we did the original.  We had two movies' worth of being shown why we
should miss her.  And while she may not have died specifically in the middle
of a heroic act, she definitely went out a hero.

     The S doesn't stand for hope, unless it also stands for Stacy.