July 9, 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 Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): The Enormous Egg, The Amazing Spider-Man (movie) In this installment: The Enormous Egg, The Amazing Spider-Man (movie), Young Justice #16, Double Barrel #2, Tales of the Beanworld Book 3.5, Marvel Super Heroes Magazine #2. "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 Enormous Egg: Little, Brown & Company (Little Brown Books/Hachette imprint) - It's not often something as large as a Triceratops can sneak past you, but this book managed to do so not once, but twice. The first time was in the mid-70s when I was a dinosaur- crazy and book-crazy little kid. Oliver Butterworth wrote this book in 1956, so there should have been a copy (albeit battered) somewhere in one of the libraries I had access to, yes? But I never saw it. And then, in 2009, this new edition came out with illustrations by Mark Crilley...and despite moderating one of his fan boards, I somehow missed it then too. I finally found out about it when Mark posted his cover roughs to deviantArt, and after a little searching I found the right edition on Amazon (after not finding it in the local bookstores). The story is pretty low-key save for a little drama with Congress near the end: kid's chicken lays a huge egg that hatches out into a Triceratops, word gets out, etc. Things are rather un-frenzied until the end, but keep in mind that back in 1956 dinosaurs were a fairly minor part of popular culture (Sinclair stations notwithstanding). And it was a year before Sputnik, so the whole science frenzy hadn't yet gripped the public. But the story shows its place in time in other, more obvious ways...telephone operators routing calls manually, sending of telegraphs, a live Washtington D.C. television show trying to avoid controversial topics...weird stuff like that. :) Butterworth writes in a very engaging style, it's worth going slowly so as to not miss any of the turns of phrase. The opening line pretty much sets the tone: "My name is Nate Twitchell, but I can't help that." Crilley's art is sprinkled throughout, mostly half or third of a page pieces with a few larger ones. The grayscale work appears to be mostly pencil and maybe charcoal or watercolors, but some pieces show definite signs of computer texturing and fills. Basically, whatever medium will do the job. Thematically, it's right up his alley. A great book, I'm glad I finally discovered it. And now I'll be mailing my copy to my nieces, at least the elder of which should be at the right reading level by now, if not both of 'em. Strongly recommended. $6.99/ $7.99Cn (ISBN 978-0-316-11920-7) The Amazing Spider-Man (movie): Columbia Pictures - The best superhero stories remember that heroes don't just do what others can't do, they inspire others to do what they CAN do. And this movie gets that. As a result, the emotional climax (to me, anyway) wasn't the fight scene, or any of the deaths, or embraces...it was a crane shot. You'll understand what I mean if you've seen it. :) The story itself was pretty solid, with the usual modern superhero mix of poking fun of some superhero tropes and reinforcing others. The basic Spider-Man origin story is there, with some elements downplayed (there's the merest of nods to the wrestling thing, for instance) and others given much more importance (the mysterious demise of Richard and Mary Parker). Some of the elements of the origin story are made more plausible (web-fluid is actually a commercially available product, which Peter adapts to an unintended purpose; the online shopping for costume elements idea is borrowed from Kick Ass; the spider-bite accident doesn't happen in a place where the public is supposed to be), but the core idea that Peter is still a genius is retained. He just doesn't have to be QUITE so omni-talented. ;) The acting was generally very good. Denis Leary is definitely not the Captain Stacy of the original comics, but he definitely feels like what you'd get if Denis Leary found himself a Responsible Person (i.e. still snarky but desperately censoring himself lest he end up with a statement to the press that's 90% bleep). Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy is a little awkward, beyond what the character calls for (she's cast as a turbo-geek who at some point discovered she's also hawt and isn't quite sure how to behave yet, although she's getting the hang of it), but Andrew Garfield is just the right amount of mortifiedly nerdy when it's called for. Rhys Ifans is a bit too wooden as Dr. Connors, though. His big moment of moral courage (that goes horribly wrong, of course) rings a bit hollow because every scene he's in just screamed "amoral cartoon scientist". Maybe he was trying to act like the Lizard was the real person and Connors just a mask all along, but it ran counter to the major plot point that got the Lizard into action for the first time. His boss, by the way, would have been twirling his moustache in every scene had he not been clean-shaven. That was unapologetic cartoony evil right there, but at least it was consistent cartoony evil. Anyway, the acting issues are minor quibbles. As is the tendency of the mask to come off a bit too often (and to be fair, it usually made sense when it happened). Strongly 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. Young Justice #16: DC - Oops, this issue slipped past me, I really should've checked numbering and made sure I wasn't missing one before posting June's reviews. This issue sets up the big fight scene of #17, via four sequences. In three of them, the mentors and students each deal with seemingly separate cases (Flash and Kid Flash deal with a zoo break, Artemis and Green Arrow a museum theft, Batman and Robin a kidnapping), and then they find that everything dovetails into Kobra's big plot. Each of the first three stands alone pretty well as a mentor-student scene, showing not just how the kids learn from their elders, but also how they can teach the old folks a thing or two as well. Recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Double Barrel #2: Top Shelf - Okay, forging ahead into new material for Heck. This is a shorter issue than #1, but that just means it's 100 pages instead of 120 or so. pp6-9: Ask the Cannons is slightly broken, code-wise. On the iPod version, I can read the strip that runs along the bottoms of the pages, promoting the appearance of the two Cannons at SDCC this year, but I can't read the lettercol text on the top halves of the page. Not that I'm big on reading that sort of thing, but it's a touch annoying that I can't without switching to a desktop version. pp10-24: The next two chapters of Heck. The first involves crossing the Styx with Charon (lots of ominous foreshadowing) and then encountering the virtuous pagans and unbaptized babies outside the walls of Hell in Purgatory. The fundamental unfairness of an exclusionary afterlife is played up very effectively in a short conversation with one character, a good man who is implied to be Jewish, and who is forever barred from Heaven because in life he didn't follow Christ. An extra tragedy hits him and his wife in this short piece, as the Papal declaration of "unbaptized babies get to go to Heaven" kicks in and the babies he and his wife had been caring for to ease the pain and pointlessness of limbo are taken away. Just a few panels, but probably the strongest scene in the entire issue. The second chapter is the judgement at the gate, in which Heck finds out his eventual destination (we don't get to see it, but we have some clues) and Elliot gets to see his (which we DO see, but Heck doesn't). The art may be deliberately very cartoony, but the story is anything but. pp25-78: Two chapters of Crater XV, in which the whole space program thing gets laid out a bit more fully and Army Shanks springs into action a lot. A decent action tale with a bit of pathos here and there, but it feels kinda fluffy right after the intensity of Heck. It might have worked better to lead with this, then Heck, and then use the deliberately fluffy Penny story to help people snap out of the deepdark. pp79-83: Penny from the Front, another Kevin Cannon piece, goofy WWI stuff in the vein of Black Adder IV but less dour. Didn't much care for it, and it doesn't feel like it has the legs to be a recurring feature. pp84-88: more True Tales of Jin. Yes, YouTube is hunting for Batman. pp89-98: A tutorial on hand-lettering, an art that we risk losing. Even if font-lettering has many benefits, there's things it still can't do well or at all, and knowing how to letter by hand can also help you develop better fonts and use the ones you have more effectively. All in all, still a good value for your two bucks. And most of it is eminently readable on a smartphone screen. $1.99 at ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Tales of the Beanworld Book 3.5: Dark Horse - This is a bit of an odd one, a small hardcover compilation of the full color Beanworld stories from Asylum (Image's short-lived anthology book in the 90s) and the two Dark Horse Comics Presents (Myspace) stories. So it's a slim volume, and it doesn't fit as neatly into the process of Beanworld, but it's an important part of the world nonetheless. Additionally, it's not *just* a reprint. Instead, Marder created a few new pages of material and juggled things around in an effort to make them all flow into a more cohesive whole (and recolored the Image stuff in a flat style more appropriate to Beanworld), as explained in the end text. The link is "funky stuff in the corners of Proffy's storaage area", but aside from the Asylum story the theme is "kids grow up so fast", suggesting that Book 4 will hit the Cuties' adolescence or even young adulthood. While the flow is a bit rough in places as it segues into and out of flashbacks (making the gutters light gray or something in the flashbacks might've helped), it does make for a decent 58 page story. Recommended. $14.99 cover price, $7.97 at Amazon. Floppies: 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. Marvel Super Heroes Magazine July/Aug 2012 #2: Marvel - Back when Avengers was in theaters, there was a drawing for a free subscription to this over on the AllSpark.com message boards, and I won it. :) This 32 page magazine is the usual mix of activities, posters, board games, puzzles and features found in most licensed property kid zines, plus a short comic. For obvious reasons, Spider-Man vs. the Lizard has the cover and the story, but there's a lot of other Marvel properties represented between the covers, including a two page feature on Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew). Iron Man looks to hold the #2 spot after Spidey this issue. It's hard to tell if they're sticking exclusively with the Earth-616 stuff or sneaking in some Ultimate elements, but there's definitely no Disney XD material here. The Spidey vs. Lizard story credits Lee and Ditko with the plot, and it's a retelling/updating of the classic "Peter gets sent to the Everglades on the Bugle's dime to investigate the monster sightings" story from the 60s (that got made into a few episodes of the 1960s cartoon...they did a lot of "change a few details and call it a new episode" stories in that series). The adaptation is a bit rough, because they try to do it in 11 pages with modern splash-heavy layouts, which leads to feeling dumbed down in places as they handwave their way past plot points. Still, I'm definitely not the target audience for this magazine, but I know I'd have LOVED this magazine if I'd gotten it when I was in elementary school. No cover price, it's subscription only ($29.99 for 8 issues). Dave Van Domelen, "Batman used, well, the fact that he's the Batman to intimidate our cobra-tattooed kidnapper..." - Robin, Young Justice #16, after explaining all the clever ways in which the others followed the trail.
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