June 19, 2013

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants From famine to flood, everyone wanted me the same week. A bit shorter than usual, since I'm going to be out of town for various reasons most of the last week of the month, and several of my monthlies come out in the last week, so they'll be bumped back to the next review. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Nothing, although Man of Steel certainly was notable to judge from the online arguments it has sparked. In this installment: Man of Steel (movie), Empowered: Animal Style, Model A #1, PS238 vol VIII, Gold Digger #200, Steampunk Snow White, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #8, My Little Pony Micro-Series #5, My Little Pony Treasury Edition #1, Astro City #1. "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. Man of Steel: DC - Once again, DC tries to recapture the glory days of when they had successful movie franchises and Marvel didn't. And unlike Superman Returns, which was essentially a sequel to Superman II (not exactly denying III and IV, just not really paying attention to them) and continued the basic ideas of the Donner movies, this is a full reboot. It takes some inspiration from recent comics (Busiek's "Secret Identity", some of Waid's origin rejiggering, the focus on Zod having a whole army in the days before the nu52 reboot) and creates a new cinematic Superman. By the way, when I say full reboot, I mean it. This goes back to the 1938 roots in a lot of ways, most importantly in the general attitude of Superman himself. He's more like John Carter or Flash Gordon than like what Superman became within a few years after introduction. He protects humanity, but individual humans might fall through the cracks. And while far from bloodthirsty, he definitely has a harder edge than we're used to seeing from Superman. This is essentially the sort of movie they might have made in 1940 if they had access to modern FX and a summary of Superman stories from the future. Some Golden Age here, some Silver there, a bit of Byrne's view of Krypton, Waid's treatment of Clark's early adulthood, etc. But at its core, this is an old-fashioned pulp superhuman vs. aliens story. And taken on that level, it was well-done. It's not the Superman story everyone wants to see, and our hypothetical 1940 director would have kept the camera steadier and in better focus, but most of its serious problems are simply a matter of not being the Superman anyone has grown up with...a Superman who really wasn't around long enough for anyone to grow up with. Recommended. 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. Empowered: Animal Style: Dark Horse - This is basically an exercise in how to have a fight scene around a bunch of cars, with a secondary lesson in rental mecha suit issues. It's an amusing read, with very good art by John Staton for the main action in color, and Adam Warren in his usual Emp style for some flashbacks of Emp in college. But for all the animal-themed suit, the real animal style in this story is the Shaggy Dog. Fun, but somewhat insubstantial. Recommended. $3.99 Model A: Slave Labor Graphics - While waiting for Sanctuary #7 to go on ComiXology, I poked around some of SLG's free #1's there to see if there was anything else interesting. Model A is a wordless story (so far, anyway) in which a chance accident wakes up a menial robot and apparently gives him much more of a self-identity than intended by the factory. A lot of physical humor as Model A stumbles around the apparently mothballed factory full of his inactive brethren, and an art style that reminds me a bit of Scud. In the end, though, I wasn't interested enough to buy #2. Free at ComiXology in case you want to check it out. Note, one problem with digital comics is that without a physical copy on hand, it's easy to mess up some of the obvious things...last month I reviewed Double Barrel #10, not #8 or #9, and the month before was #9, not #7. Oops. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. PS238 vol 9: Saving Alternate Omaha: Do Gooder Press - Aaron Williams gave up on monthlies a few issues before finishing the final issues of the "Von Fogg takes over an alternate reality" arc, and folded the issues into a TPB. I held off buying it for a rather long time, since I was reluctant to re-buy the several issues I already had, but eventually the online price dropped to the point where I was okay with it. The new issues are an exercise in aggressive dovetailing as not only are the two main plots tied together (despite being separated by lightyears and a dimensional boundary) but the secret of the Praetorian Academy is revealed and Zodon's space station "son" gets in on the fun. There's some author's notes that help explain how things fit together now that it's making the transition from floppies to direct-to-TPB, although they're not vital to following the story. All of the Ask Dr. Positron features are included, but as a single chunk at the end, which makes the whole "relevant to the events of the issue" thing a bit weaker. A satisfying ending to a good set of storylines, and the epilogue sets up some rather interesting possibilities. Recommended. $15.99 cover price. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Gold Digger #200: Antarctic Press - Yes, they're doing the Marvel trick of combining volumes and grabbing the highest number available (although they're not including the four issues of the original miniseries). In keeping with recent issues, it's not a Big Damn Arc story, although it ties in with the general theme of Action Archaeology that has dominated the post-Jade-invasion issues and sets up some character development for later. I wonder if this shift to one and two issue stories is related to the ill-fated Walmart distribution deal? Not that I'm complaining, as the done-in-one stories have been pretty good action fluff, and this issue continues the trend. $3.99 (it's a regular-sized issue, more or less). Steampunk Snow White: Antarctic Press - This isn't really steampunk, unless you consider anything with goggles and steam power to be steampunk. It's closer in feel to Espinosa's Neotopia setting, although this time around it's a mix of wuxia sensibilities and DaVinci-esque steam mecha suits. I'm starting to think of the whole "fantasy with guns and steam power" subgenre as "DaVincis & Dragons". Subgenre labeling aside, this is a wuxia version of Snow White, that happens to have some steamy trappings here and there. And replace the dwarves with anthropomorphic honey badgers, because AP kinda jumped on that meme with both feet. It's a single-oversized-issue tale, and suffers from somewhat abrupt pacing at the end as if Espinosa realized he'd faffed about too much with the training montage and wasn't going to hit page count, but it's an interesting read overall. Recommended. $5.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #8: IDW - Eh, while there's some moments, the story pretty much coasts along to its inevitable conclusion. Mebberson's art improves, but Nuhfer's story hopelessly tangles itself up in bad continuity and feels like the writer was working purely from one of those Early Readers guidebooks to the series. The Crowning Moment of Awesome that Nuhfer was relying on to give the arc punch trips over those continuity issues, making this feel like a story the CMC made up to explain stuff they hadn't been around for. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Micro-Series #5: IDW - This time it's Pinkie Pie, and while writer Ted Anderson takes the old joke about the great clown Pagliacci as the core of the story, he does a very good job of going beyond that joke's punchline and showing the various sides of Pinkie. It's hard to really do one of her musical numbers on a static page, but artist Ben Bates manages about as well as can be expected. While the backgrounds aren't as full-on gonzo as Andy Price's work, neither are they sterile and restrained, something which would utterly kill a Pinkie Pie story. The ending was a bit unclear, but otherwise a good self-contained story. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Treasury Edition #1: IDW - At 8.5" by 13", this is no C-55 Collector's Edition, but it's definitely a big chunk of pulp. #1 of the regular series is reprinted in B&W (coloring book?), followed by a gallery of all the covers from the first four issues and a few splash pages I'm not sure were actually covers. At 72 pages it's not exactly a coffee table book, and some of Andy Price's aforementioned gonzo art really needs color to be followable, but I found it worth the cover price. Recommended. $9.99 Astro City #1: Vertigo/DC - His health issues mostly dealt with, and the trouble caused by his old imprint settled, Busiek has gotten back on the horse (along with Anderson, Ross and Sinclair). He's even moved the storyline ahead a real-world number of years, with one of the characters from the original series #1 showing up along with his grown children. The story suffers from excessive narration, since Busiek has to get any new readers up to speed and even with only 59 previous issues there's a pretty dense backstory that needs to at least be nodded to. There is, however, a strong in-story reason this time for the typical Astro City focus on bystanders and side characters rather than the standard protagonists. The irreverent narrator lets a lot of air out of the usual tropes, and I got something of a Venture Brothers vibe at times, but not necessarily in a bad way. Busiek wrote far enough ahead that there should be a dozen issues finished from his end already...now we just have to hope that Vertigo actually lasts for another year. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Welcome to the Planet." - Lois Lane, Man of Steel
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