June 28, 2012

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

Intermittent 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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants 
               Still no job lined up for the Fall.  Bleh.
     Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Atomic Robo:
Real Science Adventures #3 (of 6), Empowered v7

     In this installment: Superman vs. the Elite DVD, Double Barrel #1,
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #3 2009, Atomic Robo: Flying
She-Devils of the Pacific #1, Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures #3 (of 6),
Empowered v7, Gold Digger v3 #138-139, Young Justice #17, Avengers: Earth's
Mightiest Heroes #3

"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.

     Superman vs. the Elite: DC - This is an adaptation of yet another comic
I didn't read, although I'm vaguely aware of how it went down because I did
read some of the later stories about the survivors of it.  While I would have
preferred an animation style a little more like the current Young Justice
series, the slightly cartoony style didn't bother me like it did some others.
And it definitely earned its PG-13 rating, but without being gratuitous
(people die on screen, and there's blood, but they don't go all Shaw
Brothers).  The story is pretty solidly put together, hitting all the
necessary plot points to create character arcs for both Superman and
Manchester Black (the rest of the Elite are pretty much just extensions of
Black, there isn't enough time to develop any of the other three past a
single note each).  Also, you get to hear Superman say "wankers".
Recommended.  $15-20 depending on vendor.

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 #1: Top Shelf - By Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon (no
relation).  The premise here is to create a digital comic that's a satisfying
read, in a world where it costs $3-4 for a full comic and most of the stuff
you can find for 99 cents is about 8 pages' worth.  Well, including covers,
chapter bumps and various text features, this is 122 pages (not panels,
actual pages) for $1.99.
     The first piece is a short explanation of concept starring the two
(unrelated) Cannons, and it does get you into the swing of the art styles you
can expect (more on that later).  This covers pages 9-11.
     Pages 12-39 is the full length first installment of Heck, by Zander
Cannon, making up the first three chapters.  All of these pages have appeared
already in webcomic format at zandercannon.wordpress.com, so you can go see
what style he's using here...it's definitely unlike his Replacement God or
Chainsaw Vigilante work, that's for sure!  Given that it was last updated in
November 2010, though, you can be pretty sure if you want to keep following
the story, it'll be in Double Barrel.  The premise is "hard boiled detective
meets Dante's Inferno", although Heck is more of a "realistic" detective in
the sense that the assignments would be pretty mundane (deliver messages,
find someone and ask them something, etc) if it weren't for the fact that
they all send him to Hell.
     Pages 40-107 are Crater XV by Kevin Cannon, a sequel to a comic I hadn't
heard of prior to reading this issue.  The style is vaguely Herge-ish in that
it's a slightly cartoony adventure story with characters who range from
almost realistic to walking caricature.  It does a so-so job of getting
unfamiliar readers up to speed with the setting, which is basically a pulp
adventure Arctic that doesn't take itself too seriously.  For a while, I
thought it was simply set in the early 1900s of a more or less real world
with slightly different politics, but then there's that manned mission to
Europa helping drive the plot.  o_O  It's intriguing, but I kept feeling like
I needed to go refer to an alternate universe's wikipedia to keep up with
     "True Tales of Jin" demonstrates that as hazardous as it can be to date
a webcartoonist, it's far worse to be the child of one.  The worst my
generation had to worry about in the parental embarrassment arena was old
baby pictures being dragged out to show my friends.  Kids today had better
hope Facebook goes bankrupt and all their files are destroyed by a
particularly thorough virus.  Jin Cannon says the usual sort of adorable
things that made Bil Keane famous, but he has a father (Zander) who is a very
fast artist and can turn them into webcomics by bedtime.  And some of those
are collected here.
     I'll admit to having skipped over the ten page "How To get Off Your Butt
And Draw A Graphic Novel" piece, since I'm not really interested in doing
that.  But some of you may find it useful.  Then the issue wraps up with
short bios of the authors and a Next Issue page.
     Definitely worth picking up.  I liked Heck a bit more than Crater XV,
but I got my money's worth (and my time's worth) and will be back for #2.
Recommended.  $1.99 at ComiXology.

     League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009: Top Shelf - Well, I
still haven't read the Black Dossier, and Moore doesn't try too hard to make
things easy on those who haven't, but it's a reasonably satisfying end to a
story of death, apocalypse and hopelessness.  There's a bit more American
media culture in the mix than most LoEG stories, but that's in part because
American media culture is pretty insidious these days.  Even things
originally from British references are fed through American interpretations
(i.e. the James Bond is the Hollywood version, not the Bond of the novels).  
     It's always hard to be sure of the flavor of the times when you're in
the middle of them, especially since the flavor an era is remembered for is
often a distortion of what really happened.  So it's difficult to say how
much of the tone of this book is reflective of current media, and how much is
just how Moore thinks the world would likely be running if the Antichrist has
been alive for a few decades.  Or it could just be Crotchety Old Man syndrome
catching up with Moore, in the repeated protests from Mina that while things
have always been bad, but now they're hopeless and bad.
     For the most part, the climax is a deus ex machina.  All the
protagonists really do is send a signal and then survive long enough for
someone else to sort it.  Being an immortal sucks, being a hero is a fool's
obsession, and being an immortal hero is the worst of it.  More of a 1990s
feel than 2009, to be honest.  Oh, there is a secondary story point regarding
the Antichrist, but I can't really say anything about that without being a
terrible spoiler.  Some have called it rather petty on Moore's part, but I
found it a natural outgrowth of Haddo's disposition at the end of 1969.
     Mildly recommended, and be careful where you read it, as it has the
usual random nudity.  $4.99 at ComiXology. 

     Atomic Robo: the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1 (of 5): Red5 Comics
- Set in 1951, as the fighting of WWII continues.  WWII ended the same time
in the Roboverse as in the real world, but in a setting with mad science and
pulp adventurers, the leftovers from the war are going to be more than a few
sad remnants huddled on skipped-over islands.  A very 1930s-feel air pirates
environment is established, but with jetpacks.  This issue is dominated by a
fight scene in the first half, and then a lot of introduction and setup, so
it doesn't have as much room to be funny, but it's still a decent read.  And
it avoids the standard trap of a flashback story (we know that Robo comes out
of it just fine) by establishing characters we have no reason to have heard
from before in the present-day...so they could get wiped out in the final
issue, or still be around in 2012 (well, as an organization, most of them
would be dead of old age by now).  Recommended.  $2.99 at ComiXology.

     Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures #3 (of 6): Red5 Comics - Sparrow
story continues to not really grab me, but the Bruce Lee installment is
decent.  The first of the one-shots is a tale of the days before Robo, when
Tesla along with Charles Fort, Annie Oakley, George Westinghouse and a few
others fought the invincible war zeppelin created by I.K. Brunel (not really
clear if Brunel is a bad guy in this universe, or if his zeppelin was simply
under the control of bad guys).  I want to see more of this group!  The other
one-shot is a battle inside Robo's mind against a hack attempt, and this
apparently happens often enough that he's bored with it.  Strongly
Recommended.  $1.99 at ComiXology


     Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever.
If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.

     Empowered v7: Dark Horse - Oooh, glossy paper.  This issue is pretty
ambitious from a storytelling point of view, as most of the scenes are
flashbacks within the framing sequence of an extended ninja fight scene.  And
sometimes there's flashbacks within the flashbacks.  And not all of the
flashbacks are events that the main players in the fight scene were present
for.  Oh, and another theme Warren plays with a lot this issue is the
counterfactual (although in this case it's more of a counterfictional), in
which various characters envision how things would happen if they let
themselves say or do what they really felt.  Demonwolf sets the tone in the
first scene, with his nonlinear view of events, so you know what you're
getting in for.  There's some major character revelations here, and while the
focus is on Ninjette perhaps the most shocking revelations involve other
characters.  Probably not the best place to start, given that a lot of the
weight of this issue depends on knowing something about the characters, but
it's definitely a great payoff for those who have been following along.  As
if you needed more reasons to read the series.  Strongly recommended.  $16.99
cover price (I got mine from Amazon for less than that).


     If I actually pick up some monthly issues, they'll go here.  Given my
reluctance to put money in Diamond's hands, though, these would likely only
be review copies or stuff found in oddball places.  And no, I don't have any
particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes?  And like
floppy disks they may be a doomed format.

     Gold Digger v3 #138-139: Antarctic Press - #138 required a second
read-through for me to pick up the main thread, since it's layered underneath
a couple of origin stories and an obligatory fight scene, but it SEEMS to be
mainly about Dreadwing's plans proceeding unsteadily and the efforts of some
of his minions to make the alliances necessary to be free of him.  #139 is a
lot more straightforward, although I'm not sure what its cover has to do with
anything inside (it's another case of looking like maybe it was intended to
go with a plot point that's actually in the next issue, which seems to happen
to this titled every so often).  Taken together, the two issues are mainly
about Dreadwing putting a new plan in motion while other plans fester within
it, plans he may not be aware of already.  All rather twisty, but Perry
usually manages to resolve this sort of thing well.  Recommended.  $3.99

     Young Justice #17: DC - Kinda weird reading what is still a season 1
series while season 2 is so far along.  A done-in-one story in which Kobra
enacts an apotheosis plan, it's decent enough, but the only real hook to it
is that it helps advance the Wally/Artemis relationship on-screen, fleshing
out some of the progress made from bickering to pairing off.  There's no
subplot stuff this time, and anyone just reading the comics without having
access to the show is probably going to wonder what happened to the elemental
androids stuff.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99  [Correction, it's the second
part of a two-part story, I missed #16.  I may grab the digital version of
#16 and review it next month.]

     Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes #3: Marvel - The lead story by Yost
and Bachs has Nick Fury and the Avengers fighting the Zodiac, and it really
depends on reader turnover because the Big Reveal is the identity of
Scorpio...and it's pretty much exactly who anyone even vaguely aware of
Marvel history expects it to be.  Yost and Bachs also work together on the
second story, a Buddy Flick story of Hawkeye and Black Panther trying to
retrieve King Solomon's Frogs from Ravonna.  This one at least doesn't rely
on a surprise revelation (okay, the characters are surprised, but the story
structure makes this just another swerve in a very swervey tale), and is a
more entertaining read.  Recommended.  $2.99

     Dave Van Domelen, "My tombstone will say, 'Put GUNS on the PROTOTYPES!'"
- Robo Tesla, Atomic Robo: Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1 (of 5)

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