June 30, 2016

Dave's Comicbook 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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants Did the first full sort of my comics since, um, 2011 or so. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None. In this installment: The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl vol 2, F You Box and Other Observations of My Cat's Inner Dialogue, Overwatch #1-6, Steven Universe Too Cool For School, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #3, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #8, The Totally Awesome Hulk #7, Ms. Marvel #8, Ninjas vs. Aliens #2, Invader Zim #10, Astro City #36, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs #4 (of 4), Kaijumax Season 2 #1-2, My Little Pony Friends Forever #29-30, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #43, Transformers Sins of the Wreckers #5 (of 5), Transformers More than Meets the Eye #54. Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Toil and Trouble #5, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #4, Transformers Til All Are One #1 (which Diamond tells my store is actually shipping in July). "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. The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl volume 2: Kindle Store/Signal Comics - Author Blake Michael Nelson sent me this as a review copy. Pretty much all of the buildup in volume 1 pays off here, plus there's a short bit at the end that employs time travel to resolve some of the longer term bits so that Nelson can move his focus to other stories without leaving readers hanging (such as Orchid, set in the same universe). Nelson manages to address most of the usual concerns about superhuman/normal human dating without ever wallowing in the cliches that result or blithely dismissing them, a very hard balance to achieve. Heck, he also dances around a lot of the usual romcom tropes without being annoying (like the "what gift do I get her?" question). If I have any non-trivial complaint about the book it's that the storytelling is a little too aggressively movie-like, in that almost all the plot threads turn out to tie together in some way. In a more comics-feel world, there would have been a few more danglers. Recommended. $3.99 Kindle price. (Note: Orchid is $2.99 on Kindle edition right now, I've bought it and will probably review it next month.) F You, Box and Other Observations of My Cat's Inner Dialogue: Sterling - This is actually a postcard book of cat cartoons by Katie Cook (Gronk, My Little Pony). Thing is, I'm not sure it's legal to mail postcards with profanity on them, so most of these would have to stay unmailed. Yeah, Cook is running WAY against her usual type here, with a very foul-mouthed cat. Physically hard to read, thanks to the cardstock and sturdy binding, and it's maybe three jokes repeated. Not her best work. $7.95/$9.50Cn 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. Overwatch #1-6: Dark Horse Comics - These are 8-page freebie shorts (10 pages including cover and credits page), each focusing on one or two characters in the Overwatch computer game. Since almost everything I know about the game comes from A) memes mocking Slayer and B) the rather significant amount of femmeslash the game has generated on Tumblr, I figured I'd read the comics and get a slightly less skewed view of things. :) The first six issues focus on McCree, Reinhardt (problem with the file, no guided view on mine), Roadhog&JunkRat (duo tale), Symmetra, Pharah, and Torbjorn. They're basically character sketches, stories with a premise rather than a serious plot ("stop the train robbery," "stop the giant robot," "do Seven Samurai but with one large armored dude instead of seven," etc.). Together they provide some slices of the Overwatch setting, although I suspect the only one to even come close to typical gameplay would be the Roadhog/JunkRat one (because those two are probably the most like typical players). Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Steven Universe Too Cool for School: Kaboom! - Kinda disappointing. Part of it is that it feels bloated...it would be two or three episodes' worth of animation, but doesn't have enough content to carry that. The basic idea of "Steven doesn't go to school because one time he did he kinda caused a monster attack and destroyed the building" would have been a good 22 page story, but 140+ pages? Plus, a lot of the padding is school jokes that suggest the author was homeschooled and just threw together cliches from sitcoms, because Connie is apparently Connie is in the only junior high class that does show-and-tell. It's a mishmash of school trops from kindergarten through high school, all in one class. There's a six page story at the end that is more of a solid piece than the main tale. Neutral. $14.99/$18.99Cn Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #3: Marvel - Finally got it on reorder. A little late to be of use as a buying advisory, but I guess it could help someone decide whether to buy the trade of the first arc? On re-reading this (I read a scan a few months ago), I can see that Reeder definitely has a style here: bring in hackneyed plot elements that are certainly plausible but annoy me, but then don't dwell on them. Moping around after a setback and being told by her parents to stop being a superhero? Happens, but just for a few pages. Bullied by Mean Girls? About a page. Mutant, er, Inhuman Angst? Yeah, a few pages of that. And so forth. I suppose if your premise requires heavy use of tropes, at least they don't gum up the works. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #8: Marvel - This is mostly an "I have powers now, and no idea how to make them work on demand" issue, and it says something about Luna's reputation that when she mind-swaps with Devil Dinosaur no one really thinks Devil Girl's behavior is that unusual. I mean, they get the heck out of her way, but after the fact it's just, "Eh, Luna. Whatever." Recommended. $3.99 Totally Awesome Hulk #7: Marvel - Alan Davis draws this issue, which finally gets to what happened to Bruce Banner and where he's been all this time. It's a pretty good exploration of a very weird case of survivor's guilt, and obviously has lovely art. It's got a Civil War II banner, but the only real tie-in is that Iron Man shows up in the last scene with "join my side" mentioned, but that's not even remotely his in-story purpose. Recommended. $3.99 Ms. Marvel v2 #8: Marvel - In the apparently several weeks between pages of CWII #1 scenes, Kamala gets deep into Captain Marvel's whole Precrime Division plans. She's sort of doing Spider-Man's CWI arc, starting out on one side and getting disillusioned by it, but instead of dragging out over many months it looks like she's going to do her side-switch next issue. :) More interesting than the main action, though, is what appears to be a flashback sequence to Kamala's grandparents fleeing the partitioning of Pakistant in 1947. It doesn't dovetail yet, but it's a safe bet that Wilson will be bringing this into Kamala's overall Civil War arc. Recommended. $3.99 Ninjas vs. Aliens: Antarctic Press - Meh. This is the third or fourth time Ben Dunn has tried doing the Ninja High School plot, never rebooting, always just bringing in another set of awfully similar characters and shuffling the traits a bit. I kinda hoped the time off he'd had since last time recharged his batteries, but...meh. Dropping the book now. $3.99 Invader Zim #10: Oni Press - For most of the issue, this manages to feel more like a proper Zim episode story. Zim discovers that exotic and dangerous pets impress the Earth stinkpeople, so sets out to acquire the most exotic and dangerous animal in the galaxy, reasoning that the stupid masses will bow down to him as soon as he shows the critter to them. Not actually a bad plan, other than all the ways it can go horribly wrong. The ending is, unfortunately, like a lot of the comics in this series have ended, an obvious "and then everyone died" pseudo-cliffhanger that really didn't happen much (if at all) in the cartoon. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Astro City #36: DC/Vertigo - As bad as #35 was in terms of reading like a summary of the actual story, this one is even worse. SO much narrated flashback stuff. This two issue Jack-in-the-Box would have been better off as four, with more of the scenes allowed to extend past a page or so. And the climax is kind of, "Oh, never mind then." Interesting ideas, very little development. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs #4: Lion Force Comics - I think this is the final issue of the series and not just the arc, but helpful "4 of 4" cover labeling hasn't been fashionable for over a decade. This is an issue-long giant robot fight and it's pretty boring. I guess if I had ever seen the cartoon and could mentally fill in the blanks with animation sequences it might have worked better, but it's really just a weak ending. Neutral. $2.99 Kaijumax Season 2 #1-2: Oni Press - Season 1 was about life inside prison, Season 2 is about life outside. The fugitives from Season 1 are certainly a triggering event, but the story mostly focuses on characters legitimately on the outside (for now, although Electrogor may come back to the fore later). We've seen kaiju as metaphors for atomic weapons, biotech gone wrong, and The Other, but now Cannon is using them as a metaphor for how society sees and treats ex-cons. Of course, in real life ex-cons can often pass until it comes time to check The Box, at which point it's as if a kaiju just emerged from the nearest body of water. Recommended. $3.99 each My Little Pony Friends Forever #29: IDW - Rarity and Maud. The actual plot is more like a Daring Do story, as the pair explore a mysterious cavern system. But that's just a pretext for examining a matter that has started to hang over Maud's character: does she have emotions? The usual interpretation of Maud has been that she has flattened affect, a lack of any strong emotions. But in Season 6, Pinkie consistently ascribed emotional states to her sister, including things like "I've never seen her so (emotion)" claims. Pinkie may often be oblivious for comedic effect, but she very rarely makes incorrect observations: when she does notice, she's often the ONLY one who notices or draws the right conclusions. Pinkie Sense isn't as simple as magic (or Twi would have sussed it out), it's more that Pinkie is hyper- observant when she needs to be or wants to be. If she says Maud is expressing emotions, either Maud is expressing emotions or Pinkie is lying or mistaken...neither of which seems likely on Pinkie's part. So, in this deuterocanonical work, Ted Anderson establishes that Maud feels the full range of normal emotions, she's just unable to express them. People who know her really well and are very perceptive can pick up on the signs, but otherwise it's like she's emotionally mute. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #30: IDW - Twilight and Cadence, in a sort of existential crisis story. Cadence worries that she's just a figurehead, useless royalty given her position as a sinecure. So, two "the inner life behind the facade" stories in a row, eh? Just as Maud is the intense-feeler who seems stoic, Cadance is the insecure Impostor Syndrome type who looks like she has it all together. Again, not necessarily canonical here, but Rice's story is certainly consistent with the show. The resolution was a little too pat, but it's a hard issue to work out of in real life, and Rice only had a single issue to work with. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #43: IDW - You know how just about every Red Kryptonite story in modern years just turns Kryptonians into self-centered jerks, because live action lacks the budget for ant-headed Superman sort of things? Well, Zahler gives us a neo-Red-K story here, with a plot device flipping the Mane 6 to their darker natures. The actual execution is decent, but it's gonna take some very careful maneuvering to bring this one in for a satisfying landing in the next part. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Sins of the Wreckers #5 (of 5): IDW - The pacing on this series is really wonky. There's stretches that feel really padded, but then this issue just sort of throws in a bunch of resolution in snapshot epilogue scenes. Actually showing those events would have easily added 8 pages of solid content. It makes me wonder if the series was pitched as 5 issues, accepted as 6 and padded out to fit, then trimmed back to 5 after Roche had already sent Burcham the first four issues. Especially since one of the central mysteries of the book, "Who is Ostaros?" is revealed to the characters but only implied for the readers, which was a REALLY clumsy way to end things. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers More than Meets the Eye #54: IDW - The Lost Light command crew learns the secret of the X-Men: how to tap the raw power of ANGST. Well, someone else's angst. A few long-running subplots resolve, or at least reach a climax, although the last panel cliffhanger is kinda ruined by the Next Issue ad on the very next page. Also, did we have to get a Revenge of the Fallen callback? Especially since the final fight with Tarn is bound to produce another.... Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Even in the midst of civil war, life can begin again. Sometimes there is very little hope. But there is never NO hope. Something, however small, REMAINS." - Ms. Marvel #8 narration
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