Back to the Main Rants Page.
Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et CeteraIntermittent 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 Finally did some major home improvement this month (concrete walk). Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Wonder Woman (movie). In this installment: Wonder Woman (movie), Catalyst Prime: The Event, First Strike #0, Manga Art: Inspiration and Techniques from an Expert Illustrator, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #20, Ms. Marvel #19, Deathstroke #20, Astro City #45, Hanna-Barbera the Flintstones #12 (of 12), Invader Zim #20, My Little Pony Legends of Magic #3, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #55, My Little Pony the Movie Prequel #1 (of 4), Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook #1 (of 3), Optimus Prime #8, Transformers Lost Light #7-8. Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Empowered vol 10 (not directly Diamond's fault, more the fault of bad UI on their order page...store thought they'd ordered copies but didn't click enough buttons to really really confirm it). "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. Wonder Woman: DC/WB - About time DC got the hint. Sure, there's still a lot of darkness and trauma...it's set in late WWI after all...but there's also color and light and humor. This is a movie about hope even in the darkest night, and about how it's not about "deserve." Some things may have worked out well by accident rather than design (i.e. Pine's jittery performance as Steve Trevor could just be bad acting, but it could also be good acting in the role of someone who tries to project an exterior of suave confidence despite significant shellshock), and others were definitely by design (all the early scenes were in bright daylight, the middle was cloudy gloomy day or well-lit night, the final scenes were in the darkness of an overcast night...a definite reflection of Diana's own emotional journey). The plot twists were a bit obvious, but the emotional and ethical messages were the main point, not cleverness of plotting. Strongly recommended. No extras listed on the package of the Lego Batman Movie DVD, so I didn't get it. And I considered reviewing Tails of Equestria, but it's a little too far removed from comics (the main connection is that Amy Mebberson, regular MLP comic artist, did the cover). [Later correction: There does exist a DVD of the Lego Batman Movie that contains a second disc with extras, but none of those got sent to the local Walmarts, and I didn't think to see if Target had a different version until someone who bought it pointed out its existence to me. I'll cover the extras disc in next month's review.] 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 iPhone if it's at all possible. Catalyst Prime: The Event: Lion Forge - This was actually a FCBD title, but I didn't run into it until June. On top of various licensed stuff like Voltron and Saber Rider, Lion Forge is launching its own universe this year, Catalyst. It's your basic "White Event" sort of setting, where everything is pretty much "normal" (as far as we know to begin with, anyway) until a significant event is the pun-intended catalyst for superpowers. There's a deliberate Fantastic Four homage in the setup, and a foundation of Dark Secrets And Conspiracies that feels a bit more 90s than I generally care for. Priest and Illedge co-write this special, but as far as I can tell from looking at Diamond release lists Priest is not the writer of record on anything else currently out. I do know he's busy behind the scenes, though. Free through ComiXology if you missed it in stores, worth a look. First Strike #0: IDW - The teaser to the next Big Event, as IDW edges closer to the dark side of being a major publisher, disrupting ongoing titles with mandatory Big Events every few months. We've already seen that Til All Are One is ending with #12 rather than try to find a way to work in the wake of First Strike. Anyway, there's two short pieces in this teaser issue. One establishes that Joe Colson survived his replacement by the Dire Wraiths and now has a motive to go all Civil War on the Transformers. Lots of "this isn't just advanced technology, it really IS magic, and technology is just insufficiently advanced magic" stuff from the exposition, which I suppose will help set up the Visionaries comic. The second piece seems to be a preview of #1, with the Joe team watching an event on TV and grousing about not being there in person...and then of course things go boom. I don't have a lot of faith that this event will be good, or even readable, but since it's going to mess with books that I like I guess I'll pick it up. Free on ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Manga Art: Inspiration and Techniques from a Master Illustrator: Watson-Guptill Publications - As the subtitle indicates, this isn't a "how to draw" book so much as it is a "what to draw" book. It's a collection of loosely-themed pieces done in a variety of media (lots of white gouache, though), intended to give an artist ideas. It's also partly an autobiography of Mark Crilley's growth as a manga-style artist...the Akiko days are mentioned a few times, but nothing in that style is presented, which I think is a shame. One or two pieces in the Akiko/Billy Clikk style would show how you can be a manga artist and still deviate from the stylistic tropes. A nice art book, but perhaps more for people interested in the analysis side than the drawing side. Recommended. $22.99/$29.99Cn Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #20: Marvel - A recurring theme in this book has been that Luna isn't really a hero...she's more good than bad, but she'll often ignore someone else's problems to focus on her own. This issue cranks that tendency of her's up to 11, although the implication that she might be in an alternate reality does excuse it a little (with infinite realities and infinite problems, it's too easy to get lost forever solving other people's problems). But only a little, given how obvious the solution is (Luna figures it out very quickly), despite the difficulty of working with the person who needs the solution. Next issue looks to be "Dark Universe" to force Luna to recognize her own jerkitude when reflected back at her, though. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Ms. Marvel v2 #19: Marvel - Sigh. It's not a Secret Empire tie-in, instead it's a Secret Empire parallel, built from local resources and fallout from Civil War 2. I guess I'm just not in the mood for "heroes helpless against a majority of people willing to go along with or even actively aid evil" storylines these days. I'm going to put my reviewing of this book on hiatus until the arc ends and I can decide if it was worth the effort. Deathstroke #20: DC - Epilogue, as the book switches back to full length monthly instead of slightly shorter biweekly. We still don't really know what Deathstroke saw in the Speed Force, just that he seems determined to change his ways. Of course, as a guy who didn't believe in villainy while he was being a villain, he's not exactly convincing as a heroic type either, even if he's shakily walking the walk. I'm starting to suspect that "Lazarus Contract Special didn't show us what Slade saw in the Speed Force" was an Important Plot Point rather than an error. What he saw didn't convince him to become a Better Person...rather, he saw some specific future event he felt a need to avert for Deathstrokey reasons, and figured the heroic conversion grift would be the most likely path to averting it. Artistically, this issue is a bit confusing, particularly because a vivid imaginary sequence initially appears to be a jump-cut to later events. Recommended, provisionally. $3.99 Astro City #45: DC/Vertigo - On the one hand, I do like the "spirit of music keeps reincarnating and keeps facing snake demons" plot thread. On the other, I'm not so keen on the Broken Man telling us we NEED to hear it and not get distracted by other stories. It's not like the reader controls the stories being told, and while it's a cute meta-affectation once in a while, four years of it is getting old. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Hanna-Barbera The Flintstones #12: DC - I guess this was supposed to be a 12 issue maxi-series like Future Quest? In any case, this is the last issue, and has the Great Gazoo's final report on humanity. All the plot threads come whipping around together, anything not yet resolved either gets resolved or gets a solid shove in that direction. And despite the fairly broad social commentary that has marked this series, in the end the message is that for all our flaws and foibles most of us try to be better...and that'll have to be enough. Recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #20: Oni - Zim has a successful plan, but gets sucked into binge-watching a very stupid show and the plan ends up getting tired of waiting for him, undoes itself, and leaves. This is the sort of "could be told in 4 pages" stories that really depends on the specifics of execution, the visual running gags and side bits. And Vasquez (in one of his rare instances of writing this book) does a decent job of that, with Wucinich handling the art well enough. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Legends of Magic #3: IDW - Ah good, #2 seems to have been the rule and #1 the aberration. In the wake of big chunks of the comics being invalided by "Princess Problems" in S7, it's good to see this title focusing on stuff that is almost impossible to contradict, untold tales of characters we've never seen before. That way, if the show does end up using one of the new legendary characters, it'll just be the stuff these issues don't cover. This does tread on slightly dangerous ground by covering the construction of Canterlot as part of the story, but deep backstory is less likely to be addressed than "what people actually do right now". I suspect we also may see historical Mane 6 analogues going forward...if Rockhoof was sort of Rainbow Dash (really eager to join a team, but easily led astray into being a slacker), this issue's legendary character is a sort of proto- Fluttershy. The moral is a little close to the recent Fluttershy cartoon ep (i.e. work with nature, don't just bulldoze it), and it runs pretty predictably. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #55: IDW - Second issue in a row to be based on a recently-aired episode of the show. In this case, it picks up after "Not Asking For Trouble" with improved Equestria/Yakyakistan relations, and the Wonderbolts are there to give a show (attended by Dash's parents, linking into another recent episode). It deuterocanonically establishes that despite its military origins and trappings, the Wonderbolts are purely a show and not a military or even practical organization. The main conflict in this part is not the direct one threatening Yakyakistan, but rather convincing various parties to fight back rather than just run away. Okay, Dash, Twi, and Pinkie alone could probably have done a decent job of it, but a princess has to know how to delegate! The cover is a spoiler for the last page, the subscription cover (featuring just the Wonderbolts in flight) would have made a lot more sense as a regular cover. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony the Movie Prequel #1 (of 4): IDW - Apparently the main villain of the movie will be heavy on comic relief goofiness, undercutting his threatening appearance and gimmicks. This issue, at least, focuses on an earlier point in the Storm King's life, in which he learns an important lesson about friendship. Well, obviously he learns the WRONG lesson, or he wouldn't still be an antagonist for the movie. Four issues of dragging him down into darker villainy seems a bit of overkill, so hopefully each issue of the series will focus on a different new character from the movie, albeit with the overall plot continuing from here. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook #1 (of 3): IDW - Entries for A through D in the usual OHOTMU homage, although due to the nature of the setting there's a Weapons entry for everyone. As with some of the recent Transformers-only sourcebooks, there's a short comics story before diving into the entries. But unlike the MtMtE books, it doesn't seem to tie into the sourcebook in any meaningful way...just a four page inventory story starring a character who doesn't even show up in this issue. There's also a pull-out poster in the middle of the issue (a clean copy of the wraparound cover on one side, blueprints of the current GIJoe base on the other), and some papercraft pages to cut out at the end...I suppose the goal is to make it feel like a UK style comics and activity magazine? Feels mostly like padding. The organization of the entries is dodgy as well, with some humans listed under their name, some under their codenames (most Joes under codenames, but Countdown is under "Dave Dubosky" for instance), and with both Barons being listed under B (rather than under Daigon and Karza). Combine this with a lack of a table of contents or page numbers, and it's a pretty crappy reference work. Neutral. $4.99 Optimus Prime #8: IDW - The main present-day and Jetfire-flashback stories continue, but this issue also splices in "splash pages with narration column" bits from Jazz's life story, rendering it a complex braid of storylines that don't really gel. I guess the through-line is "don't trust people," but that's been a theme for a while. And one of the threads meanders off into last month's annual, for extra difficulty in following things. It really feels like Barber wants to be writing two or three books but only got approved for one...so he's cramming them all in anyway. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Lost Light #6: IDW - The end of the Functionist Universe arc, with (literally) big throwdowns, but also plenty of quieter moments back on Necroworld. I'm not sure if Roberts is just better at juggling plotlines than Barber, or if Barber's just trying too hard to be profound in the juxtapositions while Roberts is just letting stuff happen. It also wraps up one major character's arc in a way I find satisfying, although I can see how others might not. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers Lost Light #7: IDW - Aftermath time. Mostly happy or happy-ish endings for everyone, but this is Roberts so of course there's a shock twist and someone gets boned. We also find new depths to Rodimus's shallowness. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "You didn't know the old ME, either. I used to be a lot more uptight." "I find that genuinely hard to believe." - Minimus Ambus and Velocity, TF: Lost Light #7