June 3, 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.
Classes start again next Monday, whee!  An archive can be found on my 
             homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants 

     Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None.  Lots of
good, but nothing that made me go "wow" or fall over laughing.

"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.

     Nothing this week.

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.

     T-Minus: the Race to the Moon: Aladdin Paperbacks - The latest science
comic from the GT Labs people, who have apparently gotten a publishing deal
(Aladdin is an arm of Simon & Schuster).  Jim Ottaviani writes, Zander and
Kevin Cannon (no relation) draw, Diamond decides not to bother shipping, so I
got it from deepdiscount.com.  This paperback is the same width as a standard
comic, but about an inch shorter, so the page dimensions are generally a
little squatter.  However, they take advantage of this to occasionally have a
normally aspected story page with a marginal illustration of a successful or
unsuccessful space launch along with data on it.  There's also a sequence
where multiple vertical slices are used with very little room left for story
panels, emphasizing the time pressure on the Soviets once the American
launches got in gear.
     For the most part, this is a slight fictionalizing of the events from
1957 (just pre-Sputnik) through July 1969, with the occasional flashbacks to
rocktery pioneers in both Russia and America.  Fictionalized because a few
real people get to stand in for their "class" (i.e. a couple of engineers who
really existed are given actions that were really done by a dozen or more
other people) to avoid character clutter.  If you grew up in the 1970s like I
did, or especially if you grew up in the 60s, you already know most of the
American side of this story.  But the Soviets were a lot stricter about
information control, hiding their numerous failures as carefully as possible
and engaging in misdirection and outright lies in propaganda.  So, unless you
watch a lot of History Channel, this might be the first time you see the real
story behind the other side of the space race.
     Cannon's art is slightly caricature-ish, but otherwise better to call it
impressionistic than cartoony.  Stark black and white for the most part, with
minimal hatching and no graytones, appropriate to a story about space.  And
while compressing a decade or so of events into a hundred or so pages doesn't
leave a lot of room for detail, Ottaviani does a good job of showing
character development in several of the majors and "class representatives".
Plus there's plenty of footnotes about the various technical terms and
historical bits that readers might not be aware of, in addition to the
glossary in the inside covers.  Recommended.  $12.99/$16.99Cn

     On a related note, Galaxion artist Tara Tallan illustrated a comic about
Canadian contributions to the space program, but it's only available to
Canadian educators.  Any teachers up there reading this who'd be willing to
hook me up with a copy?  :)

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.

     The Muppet Show #3 (of 4): BOOM! Kids - Yeah, gonna finish this one out,
but don't have high hopes.  And not ordering all the other Muppet Show
titles.  The focus of this issue is Gonzo.  Lots of Gonzo sketches, plus an
ongoing mystery of what species he is.  The only really notable thing about
it, though, is that Langridge manages to work a "your turn in the barrel"
reference in, a rather filthy joke that the editors may be to young to get.
:)  Mildly recommended.  $2.99
     Farscape Strange Detractors #3 (of 4): BOOM! Studios - Still don't have
#2, but the first page catches things up pretty well.  Mostly a three
character chat this issue (well, five characters involved, but two of them
don't talk much), laying out the source of the problem, getting in a Joss
Whedon reference and then hammering it into the ground, and putting a ticking
clock on the solution.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99  [The writer has informed
me that it was not a Whedon reference, purely coincidental.]
     Jersey Gods #5: Image - The opening arc wraps up, finally getting to the
juxtaposition that interested me in the title in the first place.  Mind you,
there's plenty of Kirby-style sturm und drang along the way, but it's played
with a lighter touch, showing the casual familiarity the characters have with
it.  Recommended.  $3.50
     Official Index to the Marvel Universe #6: Marvel - Amazing Spider-Man
#245-286 (yay, Red 9!), Iron Man #170-214 (the rest of the Stane saga),
Uncanny X-Men #230-268 (toxic levels of danglers).  All the books are now
into the period when I was reading the issues new.  Recommended.  $3.99
     New Mutants #2: Marvel - funky Bill Sienkiewicz-homage cover.  The story
inside jumps around in a deliberately confusing way, making little effort to
distinguish reality from mindscape.  Unfortunately, this also costs them most
of the potential horror factor in the visuals, and the writing doesn't manage
to compensate for that loss.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99
     The Mighty Avengers #25: Marvel - The interdimensional doorway plot
device gets a bit more explanation as they try to fix it, while some of the
cast goes off on a side mission.  Pym (who's namechecked in Farscape this
week) continues to be clever if not wise...at least Cho has the excuse of
youth.  :)  Recommended.  $2.99
     eXiles #3: Marvel - The first arc ends, but doesn't necessarily resolve,
leading one to think that maybe Sinister Doings Are Afoot.  There's a growing
sense of meandering and not-following-the-rules that Parker manages to get
across to the reader in addition to the characters, which is now 100% a good
thing.  Still, recommended.  $2.99
     The Amazing Spider-Man #596: Marvel - Dark Reign banner.  Venom's on the
cover, and it makes me feel rather old to note that I bought the first issue
to have Venom on the cover: Amazing Spider-Man #300.  Okay, going weekly has
inflated the issue number a bit, but still.  As for this issue, I'm starting
to wonder if there's more agendas out there than characters to pursue them,
it's all very twisty.  In that respect, Harry is definitely an Osborn.  A
more introspective, and perhaps slightly angsty, issue, a bit lighter on the
humor than last week's but not without it.  Recommended.  $2.99
     Agents of Atlas #6: Marvel - Miniature Dark Reign banner worked into the
logo.  Most of the issue involves the AoA in Namor's court.  While there's
the inevitable fight scene, it only takes up a little of the issue, and the
resolution is...interesting.  And Bob seems to have found a little slice of
his adopted Uranian home on Earth, to boot.  The few non-Atlantis scenes
catch up with Derek Khanata, formerly of SHIELD and clearly being aimed at a
career with Atlas, although no guarantees he accepts.  Recommended.  $2.99
     Astro City the Dark Age Book Three #2 (of 4): DC/Wildstorm - Dan Tracey
continues to sink into obsession in his search for Rebus, all but ignoring
the romantic overtures of teammate...er, I mean....  :)  And now, for the
"everyone but five or six" who don't have any idea what I'm talking about,
both Williams brothers sink deeper into hiding, in their own ways.  A fairly
obvious answer to the whole Pyramid mystery is waved around in front of the
readers, and it may actually be that simple.  After all, this story isn't as
much about the Big Plot as it is about how the Williams brothers react to the
world gone mad around them.  Recommended.  $3.99
     Secret Six #10: DC - New arc, and some new psychos (well, I presume
they're new, but they could be obscure villains I've either never heard of,
or going by new IDs) and a new doomed mission with stakes just as mytho-
theological as the Junior arc.  Granted, when the team has an immortal and
the daughter of an immortal on it and the house staff is from Apokolips, a
certain level of godly drama is inevitable.  And yet, Simone manages to make
it also feel like seamy, street-level theology.  Recommended.  $2.99
     PS238 #39: Do Gooder Press - Nodwick crossover.  Don't really need to
say anything else, yes?  Well, also the Vashti dangler gets tied off (and
into knots).  Recommended.  $2.99  
     Atomic Robo v3 #2 (of 5): Red 5 Comics - Atomic Robo, where we shoot
six impossible things before breakfast, and certain universal truths apply no
matter what universe you happen to be from.  Boom.  Also, a text piece that's
an excerpt from an in-setting interview with Robo, establishing among other
things that 9/11 went down in the Roboverse too (and, to some extent, it
almost makes sense there...all the paranormal vigilance was focused on
Tesladyne, not the south end of the island, it's not like Manhattan was
swarming with other superhumans as in Marvel or DC).  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 6/3/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger
Universe #22, Transformers Maximum Dinobots #3, Ninja High School #169-170,
Justice Machine vol 1 TPB, Gold Digger Tech Manual #3, Farscape Strange
Detractors #2, Gold Digger v3 #105, Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1, Gurren
Lagann v1, Incredibles #2. 
     I didn't pre-order Timestorm Spider-Man, and several people added it to
their pull late, to my store had none for the shelf.  I may get it next week,


"They Had Longer Strides Back Then" Award to T-Minus: the Race to the Moon

"But Is He Not-Worms?" Award to The Muppet Show #3 (of 4)

"Defensive Reading" Award to Farscape Strange Detractors #3 (of 4)

"One Of The Drawbacks Of Cyberlinked Gear" Award to Jersey Gods #5

"Yes, Godzilla Is Mentioned In The Relevant Issue's Note" Award to Official
     Index to the Marvel Universe #6

"He Needs To Date Crazy Jane" Award to New Mutants #2

"And Here I Thought Only Doom Called Him 'Bitch'" Award to The Mighty 
     Avengers #25

"Speaking Of Freezing Chests" Award to the cover of eXiles #3

"Meanwhile, The Sewers In That Part Of Town Nearly Broke Down" Award to
     The Amazing Spider-Man #596

"Venus, Queen Of The Shippers" Award to Agents of Atlas #6

"And So Advances The Pyramid Scheme" Award to Astro City Dark Ages Book 
     Three #2 (of 4)

"Use The Word 'Adorable' And She'll Gut You" Award to Secret Six #10

"Is It Even Possible For Henchmen To Have Descendants?" Award to PS238 #39

"The Dial Needs An Eleven" Award to Atomic Robo v3 #2 (of 5)

     Dave Van Domelen, "It's non-linear AND non-Euclidean.  That's what it
DOES!  That and eat the Earth."  "Maybe, but my years with Mr. Tesla have
taught me that there's one underlying scientific principle common to ALL
existence."  "And that would be?"  "EVERYTHING explodes." - Charles Fort and
Atomic Robo, Atomic Robo v3 #2 (of 5)
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