July 2015

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 Heading into my second year here, got an overload teaching schedule. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Ant-Man (movie), Transformers More than Meets the Eye #43, Invader Zim #1. In this installment: Ant-Man (movie), Justice League Gods and Monsters (movie), Fresh Romance #1, Rocket Queen and the Wrench #2-3, Batman: the Jiwo Kuwata Batmanga vol 2, Gold Digger #223, SHIELD #8, Astro City #25, Kaijumax #4, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #32, My Little Pony Friends Forever #18, Transformers Robots in Disguise Animated #1, The Transformers #43, Transformers Windblade #5, Transformers Combiner Hunters One-Shot, Transformers More than Meets the Eye #43, Invader Zim #1. "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. Ant-Man: Marvel Studios - Okay, if Edgar Wright had made the movie he wanted, it might have been funnier, it probably would have had fewer obvious mechanical bits showing in the plot department (there were some REALLY blatant setup-payoff pairs), and it almost definitely would have been unsuitable for inclusion in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, I liked Scott Pilgrim and World's End, but between them and Wright's other big movies, the guy definitely has a preference for poking fun of genres rather than playing within them. Since Marvel's unlikely to make anything right now that doesn't fit the MCU, I figure breaking with Wright was probably best for all involved. And the movie we did get, while it does have flaws, was fun and expands the MCU rather than subtracting from it or mocking it. As for the movie we did get, I liked it. It had a few cliches I could have done without, but it was generally worth enduring those. Strongly recommended. Justice League Gods and Monsters: DC/Warner Brothers - I was initially wary of this. Another dark interpretation? Sigh. But it's the DCAU crew, so I decided to give it a chance. Fortunately, in this case, because it's actually a pretty well thought out counterfictional. It's not just another Crime Syndicate retread, or Justice Lords II. Nor is it a simple "what if?" that turns on a single event. Rather, it changes a bunch of things, then lets the dominos fall from there. While I found the revelation of the true villain a bit cliche (it's not his first time being cast as an insane villain), I enjoyed the rest of the storytelling. Recommended. I got the regular DVD for $13, but there's also BluRay and "BR/DVD/crappy figure" packs I passed on. Oh, and speaking of merchandise, Batman uses some of his own crappy consumer-level merch in the movie. Heh. 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. Fresh Romance #1: Rosy Press - I picked this up on a freebie promotion through a podcast, that I saw reblogged on tumblr. Romance comics are definitely outside my usual wheelhouse, but I figured I'd give this anthology a shot. There's three stories, each of which advance juuuust far enough to make it clear that not only is something weird going on, there's more to it than it seemed at first. Two of the stories are modern day with a mystical element (although only one is obviously mystical from the start) and the third is set several centuries ago, and all involve romances that are in some way in danger of being doomed. A pretty good read, but I'm not hooked enough to spend the $5 per issue for #2 and #3. Rocket Queen and the Wrench #2-3: Space Goat Productions - Not sure why these came out at almost the same time after such a long delay, but I'm glad they did come out. There's some worldbuilding here, with some variants on the standard "of course there's a Batman clone" tropes, and we get the origin of the armors' supertech (well, as much of the origin as the characters wearing it know, further details are grist for future arcs). It strikes a good balance between the usual "teens outsmart their parents" tropes and the parents being competent and plausible heroes in their own right, always a tricky balance when focusing on teenaged legacy hero protagonists. Similarly, Peniston is doing a good job with the emotional arc between the title characters, who once were friends and probably will be again, but right now they have a rocky relationship for many good reasons. Recommended. $1.99 each at ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Batman: the Jiro Kuwata Batmanga volume 2: DC - As in volume 1, there's a mix of existing villains and new ones. Clayface returns, and the somewhat obscure Alfred Pennyworth as the Outsider story gets adapted (clumsily). There's also a pro wrestling storyline, a mystery at a traveling masquerade carnival, and a Loch Ness Monster mystery. The writing quality varies from competent and amusing to clunky and cliched, with a touch of casual background racism here and there. It's worth reading for the weirdness, but it's not what I'd call GOOD. Mildly recommended. $12.99 I got Courageous Princess Volume 2 right at the end of the month, I'll cover it in the next column. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Gold Digger #223: Antarctic Press - This is a done in one side story, showing what Gina and Brittany were doing during the events of the last few issues. Light bit of super-archaeology fluff, in which several overlapping dangers end up mostly countering each other. There might be some stuff that will show up later (well, some of the SPECIFIC things won't be coming back, but their ilk), but it felt mostly like a breather/filler story. Mildly recommended. $3.99 SHIELD #8: Marvel - Shifting gears a LOT from the rest of the series, SHIELD goes after a low-to-no-power seamy underbelly sort of operation that is all too plausible for someplace like the Marvel Universe. Mockingbird is the main focus, and her science side is significant, although to some it may feel like it comes out of left field. A decent story, but it suffers from a fairly big editing fail in the denounment. "Remember the tentacle girl?" You mean the one who, prior to that mention, had only appeared in the background on a display screen as tiny line art partly covered by a caption? I'm guessing the script told the artist to make the screen prominent, and it was not. And then the colorist decided to make all the screens monochrome to help the main characters pop. And then the letterer, not knowing that particular screen was important, partly covered it. Waid's been around long enough he should've known to at least put one line about her into that scene if he wanted to do a callback. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Astro City #25: DC/Vertigo - This is, essentially, Sleeping Beauty as a superhero tale. The specific curse isn't eternal sleep, but it's on the same level. Busiek does a good job balancing narrated history and events as they happen, unsurprising given how often Astro City stories span years or even decades. Recommended. $3.99 Kaijumax #4: Oni Press - And now, things start to go straight to Hedorah-scrapings. Either there's someone out there who REALLY wants the Kaiju prison island to turn into a warzone, or several independent plans happen to be coming to a head at once...there's some coincidence, probably (pretty sure Electrogor himself is not there as part of anyone's plans, but he's certainly acting as a catalyst or accelerant for some of the plots). Also, this issue manages to be strangely topical by accident, relating to events of a recent high-profile prison break. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #32: IDW - Zahler has an amusing premise here, a sort of "color out of space" story in which a fragment of Nightmare Moon's residual evil falls to Ponyville and infects the apples, but it really feels like he had a 1.5-issue idea that's getting padded out to 2 issues rather than tightened up into a single issue. For instance, one Apple computer joke is expected in such a story, but the third one is forced, and there will probably be a fourth and a fifth in #33. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #18: IDW - Rice tells a nice little done in one story of dubious continuity (it refers to flight camp, apparently meaning the schooling seen in the Sonic Rainboom origins ep, but doesn't really fit well) with Fosgitt's Disney-ish art. While it treads the stale trope of "distract character while a party is set up for them," it's an amusing read despite that. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated #1: IDW - The cartoon may be off in its own little world, barely possible to connect up with Transformers Prime, but the comic isn't playing along. While fighting the Decepticon of the Week takes up most of the pagecount (another Quillfire-like anarchist), the real conflict is Bumblebee's view of what a team should be. He starts by comparing his new team unfavorably to his old one, but then is hit by the complication that maybe his team from Prime isn't as great as he thought. In one issue, it's already got much more dramatic potential and interest than the cartoon's managed in over a dozen episodes. As a gimmick, it includes a special scannable code insignia for the app game, part of a two page mini-comic plugging the app. The included code unlocks "Cybertron Underbite," a black redeco. About as strong overall as One-Step Underbite, but trading might for speed. Overall, recommended. $3.99 The Transformers #43: IDW - So, a bunch of stuff that would probably have been a subplot over three or four issues if the crossover hadn't pushed everything aside all drops at once. Cosmos's ongoing "I don't get no respect" subplot comes to a head as he runs into Soundwave. This also plays into Soundwave's ongoing "noble idealist" subplot quite nicely...because even if you're a fan of Soundwave and see him in the best possible light, there's still a really good chance that he has an unrevealed angle on his current Noble Decepticon campaign. And that he's playing Cosmos like a fiddle. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers Windblade #5: IDW - Ugh. While the robot mode art is slowly growing on me, Howell does good emoting and the like, his vehicle modes bite. They look like they came from a "how to draw Sci Fi stuff" book aimed at grade school kids. Seriously, I've gotten a few of those for my How To Draw Robots reviews, and Howell's Velocitronians look like they drove out of a kiddie HTD. Scott's story is okay, although the Benefit 500 seems to run for 500 meters or something, unless a lot of racing happened between panels. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Combiner Hunters One-Shot: IDW - Well, this is much like the Combiner Wars arc in that it's there to justify some toys and moves the overall plot forward only a tiny bit. It happens at some point after Combiner Wars, but not solidly anywhere with respect to Windblade's title. The SDCC redecos are handily explained away (ceremonial paint jobs for the two Camiens, and Arcee has a stealth paint job for somewhat less plausible reasons given that she's always been sneaky enough in bright pink), and the Victorion team are given a reason to be around, but...it's all pretty perfunctory. Arcee's reasoning behind her actions ties into Prowl's own motivation in Combiner Wars, and is about as sketchy and skeletal. Speaking of sketchy, the art looks rushed, the backgrounds are usually minimalist washes, and it feels like something done as layout reference for another artist who never showed up. Neutral. $3.99 Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #43: IDW - And then we switch to Milne's art, which while messy-looking in places is very detailed and has backgrounds rich in character and hidden meaning. As with most MtMtE issues, it's full of lighthearted gags and weirdness hiding a deep emotional core. Swerve has somehow managed to create a holomatter Sitcom Earth and retreated into it, forcing others on the crew to project their own avatars onto the phantom planet and try to figure out where Swerve really is before he dies. What, you thought creating an entire planet of holomatter wasn't lethally stressful? Strongly recommended. Also, major fodder for "Only Human" fan art. $3.99 Invader Zim #1: Oni - Written by Jhonen Vasquez and drawn by Aaron Alexovich. The long wait since the last Zim content that wasn't sold at Hot Topic is explained in-story as part of Zim's clever plan. Of course, that's clever for Zim values of clever. But FEAR NOT STINK HUMANS, he had an even cleverer and devastatinger plan to put into motion now that he has proven his superioriry over the Dib creature! Ahem. Strongly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "You CAN'T sing your own montage music." - Gaz, Invader Zim #1
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