July 27, 2011

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

The Week's 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 Well, we had ONE day in the past two weeks with a high under 100F. Whew. After a month or so of pausing in the packing (because it was starting to look like I might have to live on unemployment for a while, so trying to sell stuff on eBay rather than boxing it up would have been recommended), now I'm shifting into high gear. This may be my last Wednesday review post, and August is going to be slim in any case as I move to a new town. I will be giving some thought to how I want to change things once I'm settled in, especially if I shift to things available online or in "regular" stores. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): The Amazing Spider-Man #666 Gone Missing: Stuff that came out some places this week and that I wanted to buy, but couldn't find for whatever reason, so people don't have to email me asking "Why didn't you review X?" (If it's neither here nor in the section above, though, feel free to ask, I might have forgotten about it!) Current list as of 7/27/11: Shadowland Power Man #4, Transformers Timelines G2 Redux, Gold Digger #127, Transformers Dark of the Moon Rising Storm #3-4, X-Factor #218, Transformers Foundation #3, Time Lincoln Jack to the Future, Science Dog Special #2, Captain America: America's Avenger, Secret Six #35, Godzilla Gangsters & Goliaths #2. Add Invincible #81. "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. Captain America the First Avenger: Marvel - Chris Evans plays Captain America, and perhaps the most impressive special effect in the movie (in the sense of "you don't realize it's an effect") is splicing him into a skinny little body for the first part of the movie. Oh, there's some fairly good action effects, but on a technical level if I hadn't known about the FX work I would have presumed they had Evans starve himself for the early scenes and then bulk up later. Evans plays through the evolution of the character pretty well, from eager loser through disillusioned USO performer to actual hero, although he rarely shined. Tommy Lee Jones stole almost every scene he was in, but he almost couldn't help it, given the difference in talent and experience between him and the other protagonists. Plot-wise, the geeks in the audience knew he had to end up frozen until the present, but even then they managed to throw in the occasional little bit of misdirection, so you couldn't be sure that *this* was the scene he wouldn't be coming back from until present day. Maybe it'd be the next one. That sort of thing. It's a little matter, but appreciated. My only real problem with the plot is that it dropped a pretty big event early in the movie and then never really followed up on it. Red Skull decides he no longer follows Hitler, Hydra is its own power in the world...and then what? Months or even years pass and there seems to be no conflict between Hydra and the Nazis, was there a coup d'etat off-screen or did Skull simply keep Hitler fooled for all that time? It's not like this is Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes where they need to avoid talking about Nazis at all and can just present Hydra as being the main Axis power without saying why. There's plenty of easter eggs for the fans, like the original Human Torch's costume on a mannequin at the World's Fair, or the Hydra security cameras resembling Arnim Zola's ESP Box (Zola himself is strictly human here, but his transformation could easily happen off-screen with him showing up in some later movie). They play around with a lot of Marvel mythology, making more of the connections tighter so that they don't have to wallow in backstory later, but I figure only the most intractable fanboys will be bothered by this. It does provide a tighter link between the Thor movie and this one. A couple of casting notes. First, it's pretty clear that they were looking ahead to the Avengers movie when picking actors for the main roles of the past few solo movies...put a big star at the head of every movie and it's be hard to pull off the ensemble. Instead, Downey and Jackson can take the top billing without a whole lot of competition. Evans isn't an unknown, but neither is he a Big Star. Second, I really got the impression that the casting instructions for Howard Stark were "Find someone who can do a decent Leo DiCaprio impression." Actually, they might have tried to get Leo in the first place. But DiCaprio's Howard Hughes in the Aviator (2004) definitely informed Howard Stark here. All in all an enjoyable movie. I saw it in 3D (mainly because the showtime was more convenient for me than the 2D times here), and it was fairly well done and generally inobtrusive. Recommended. Eldritch #2: HeartShapedSkull.com - One of those reordering things mentioned above will be to create a section specifically for digicomics like this one. Unlike DC's online adjunct, Eldritch is purely a for-sale digital comic, although paper collections may happen later on. Since the self-publisher isn't tied to Diamond, he can sell at a more reasonable 99 cents per issue (and still get more per issue sold than if it ran through Diamond at $3.99, I expect). As an experiment in format clarity, I decided to read this on my iPod during my daily walk...#1 was certainly readable on the iPod, but I read it first on the desktop. And that's another matter to consider: since this comic is meant to be digitally delivered, Alexovitch is less likely to do things that break it when displayed on a screen (i.e. I don't expect a lot of two-page spreads, or pages crammed with tiny lettering). Anyway, while I did have to turn my iPod sideways and expand each page to be as wide as the long dimension of my screen, it was readable while walking when I did so. I only had to zoom in closer a couple of times. The story picks up after the "what the heck just happened?" ending of last issue, interspersed with flashbacks about the origins of the occult group the protagonist's brother has gotten mixed up with, and how much (or little) that group has to do with the outbreak of black tentacles her brother's suffering from. The general theme of the issue is the contrast between true eldritch horror that hides behind a facade of normalcy, and posers who hide their normalcy behind a facade of eldritch horror. :) The storytelling is a bit disjointed in places, although I suspect that's intentional, in order to keep the reader as off-balance as the characters are. As long as Alexovich doesn't overdo it, I'm fine with this narrative trick. Recommended. 99 cents at heartshapedskull.com, DRM-free PDF. Time-Shifting: Sometimes I get a comic a week or two late because of Diamond's combination of neglect and incompetence. If it's more than a week late, though, I won't review it unless it's very notable. Additionally, I will often get tradepaperbacks long after publication or even sometimes before Diamond ships them, and those will go here. If I'm reasonably sure I'm reviewing something that didn't ship this week, this is the section for it. Avengers Academy #16: Marvel - Fear Itself trade dress. This is the last issue I ordered through my store, although I might grab #17 if any make it to the shelf. The first half is Pym versus the empowered Absorbing Man, and is a decent slugfest. The second half is basically Veil getting emotionally kicked in the teeth to prove Things Are Serious Here. Mildly recommended. $2.99 New Comics: Comics and comic collections that I got this week and were actually supposed to be out this week, as far as I can tell. These reviews will generally be spoiler-free, but the occasional bit will slip in. The Amazing Spider-Man #666: Marvel - Spider Island Prelude, complete with #SpiderIsland hashtag on the cover. This is also the last issue I ordered. I have full confidence that this arc will be collected in trades, though, so if it seems promising I can wait a few months and buy the rest through Amazon. :) The plot itself is okay...mysterious person backing Miles "Not Dead This Month" Warren in his latest Parker-obsessed plan, which has been percolating in the background for months and is now coming to a head. Slott's firing on all cylinders with the writing, though, with half a dozen or more contenders for my review-end quote. Strongly recommended. $3.99 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century #2 (1969): Top Shelf - Yes, http://jessnevins.com/annotations/1969annotations.html is already up. I'd missed this on the release list, in fact, and it was Jess posting his annotations that reminded me to check. I suppose I'll get the rest of this series online. Amazon has this issue in stock, after all. The bulk of this volume concerns a conflict with Haddo continued from 1910, as Mina struggles with her apparent immortality and tries desperately to be part of the young crowd...not helped by the millennia-old Orlando's presence. In the era stereotyped by sex, drugs and rock & roll, all three are found a-plenty here, so you may not want to read it around the easily-offended. The epilogue skips ahead to the early Punk scene, appropriately desolate in tone and story. The volume wraps up with a text story written in the rather impenetrable style of 1969 drug-culture-SF. Having read some of the real article thanks to library sales of old SF mags, I can say that Moore probably overshot a bit...this is prose that the eye just slides off. A good story in the main part, though. Recommended. $9.95 (80 pages, mature readers warning) Awards: "Fear The Might Of Sunburned James Carville!" Award to Captain America: the First Avenger "A Regular L. Ron Lovecraft" Award to Eldritch #2 "So...Banished Pantheon, Anyone?" Award to Avengers Academy #16 "I Can See Four Miles And Miles" Award to the Amazing Spider-Man #666 "The Whore At The Crux Of The Matter" Award to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century #2 Dave Van Domelen, "I swear, ever since Julia became the new Madame Web...she's like that JERK who wants to spoil what you're getting for Christmas! Except, in this case, everything under the tree is going to KILL YOU! HORRIBLY!" - Spider-Man, ASM #666
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