August 6, 2008

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.
Okay, who ordered the 108F temperatures?  Rants, Capsules can be found on my 

First Look Comments:

     Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #42: Marvel - Black Cat is the featured
antagonist, but plays more like the BTAS Catwoman than like the 616 Felicia
Hardy.  Otherwise, a self-consciously by-the-numbers "heroes battle then team
up" story.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Amazing Spider-Man #567: Marvel - More than a little creepy getting
Kravenette's birth date there at the end.  Good resolution to Kraven's First
Hunt, even if it was really just an opening salvo.  Recommended.

     Short, relatively spoiler-free reviews of books I actually bring home
(as opposed to reading in preview form in the shop or online).  If I get a
book late due to distributor foulups or whatever, I'll put it in the Missing

     Books of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Comicbook
Comics #2, Action Philosophers! vol 1-3

     He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Episode 40: BCI - This is an
extra for volume 3 of the 2002 MotU DVD set, an adaptation of the
never-produced fourth season opening episode.  The Best Buy version of the
DVD set comes with a printed copy as an exclusive pack-in, but all versions
of the DVD set have a digital copy.  And,'s probably a good idea
season 4 was never made.  This is a pretty lame story, and that's coming from
someone who generally liked the 2002 MotU cartoon.  Lots of Acting
Appropriately Stupid and characters being tricked as easily as if they were
small children.  Santalucia's art is pretty good, although the digest size of
the pack-in comic doesn't flatter it.  While I recommend the DVD set ($16.99
on sale the first week at Best Buy, seems to be the best price in general),
the comic has nothing to recommend it.
     Ninja High School #162: Antarctic Press - Heh, a few too many mystical
plots going on at once broke reality.  Something of a Kulan Gath plot, but
with only bodies changing, not minds.  Interesting start to a new arc.  Also,
there's a backup featuring some of the more obscure characters in Quagmire.
Recommended.  $2.99 US/Cn
     Transformers Saga of the AllSpark #2: IDW - At the end of #1, a bunch of
characters got shunted across space and time, and the first two parts of
"Lost in Space" are presented here.  Story by Furman, with part one drawn by
Wildman and part two by Figueroa, with the odd page dimensions coming from
being originally a U.K. comic.  There's another movie-themed Mosaic as well,
and then a huge stack of house ads.  The Ratchet story was a bit perfunctory,
but the Devastator/Brawl one was pretty good.  Recommended.  $3.99
     Igor Movie Prequel #4: IDW - Final issue of the prequel, the actual
movie adaptation starts later this month.  Again, two stories by Naraghi and
Bond.  The first one focuses on another of Igor's inventions (a non-thinking
one this time) and extends the setting a bit.  The second is about the
various mad scientists we've seen so far, plus a few more.  Recommended.
     Avengers/Invaders #4 (of 12): Marvel - Running fight scene, some hinted
at Human Torch angst, and another character meets his temporal double.  Oh,
and the Consequences are revealed too.  Kinda padded-feeling, unfortunately.
Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     The Invincible Iron Man #4: Marvel - Somewhat misleading cover, perhaps
more suitable for #5.  Fraction does a decent job of continuing to
rehabilitate Stark, showing he's capable of using his brain AND his heart,
even if it's a bit on the simplistic side in places.  I kinda hope he gets
mousetrapped next issue, to be honest, since his clever plan this issue
really has no right to work.  :)  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     The Twelve #7 (of 12): Marvel - Cute running gag about the Phantom
Reporter's mask.  A goodly chunk of the issue is centered on him as he
pursues the two main plot threads (which may dovetail into one), while
Captain Wonder gets the number two slot and a load more angst.  Recommended.
     Scud the Disposable Assassin: the Whole Shebang TPB: Image - This
weighty (3.5 lbs/1.6 kg of clayed pages) tome collects Scud #1-24.  It
doesn't have the side stories like La Cosa Nostroid or Drywall & Oswald,
though.  But given that I ditched #1-20 in my big comics purge of 2000, it's
nice to get them back for a reasonable price.  And who knows, the story might
make a little more sense once I get to reading it all through in one sitting,
but I wouldn't bet a lot on that.  Schrab et al were kinda anti-coherent-
story back in the day.  :) (As an aside, the lettercols are not printed here,
so you don't get to see them mock me for incorrectly trying to guess where
the story was going.)  There's pinups and design sketches between some of the
chapters as well, a nice bonus.  Recommended.  $29.99.
     Amelia Rules Funny Stories: Renaissance Press - A digest-sized book that
I'm pretty sure is all reprinted material, although there might be a few new
pages here and there (lack of detail in the indicia continues to annoy me).
It leads off with Amelia arriving in town and meeting up with her new circle
of friends, making this a good introduction to the series for new readers.
And at 128 pages total for five bucks, it's definitely good value.  Strongly
recommended.  $4.99
     Comicbook Comics #2: Evil Twin Comics - While the wartime grabs the
cover, it's only about half the story.  This issue of Van Lente's and
Dunleavy's comicbook history starts after WWII started (but before the
U.S. got into it) and goes up to the start of Wertham's persecution of the
medium.  Along the way are the advent of romance comics (pioneered by Simon &
Kirby) and horror comics.  There's a little diversion into Disney again, but
it's mostly about the comics creators this issue, those who made the content
and those who published it (including a fair chunk on Max Gaines).  Strongly
recommended.  $3.95
     Action Philosophers! vol 1-3: Evil Twin Comics - Fred Van Lente and Ryan
Dunleavy, the team behind the Comicbook Comics, preceded that work with a
nine-issue series that did for philosophy what Larry Gonick did for history:
make it entertaining and accessible, if also a touch silly.  I missed it the
first time around, but after Shaenon Garrity reviewed it, I decided I needed
to get my hands on the series as well.  It's collected in three volumes, all
of which are available online if you don't feel like dealing with Diamond's
crappy backorder system (I got mine from  Each volume
collects three issues, and most of the issues cover three philosophers each,
bound loosely by some theme, like "Hate the French" or sex.  Volume 3 departs
noticeably, with issue 7 lumping together the Pre-Socratics in one chapter,
and issue 9 being "lightning round" with a whole passel of philosophers
getting covered in shorter bits.  There's a number of recurring "characters"
in addition to the philosophers, and clever bits of visual business (like
Plato as a masked luchadore, since he was a wrestler before becoming a
philosopher, or the radiating intensity of Wittgenstein) for everyone.  Van
Lente manages to make a great deal of the material accessible, although he's
not always successful.  Of course, trying to sum up Heidigger's "Dasein" in a
page is a bit of a trick in itself, and it's impressive enough that the
bear's riding the bicycle without pointing out that the wheel sometimes
wobbles.  Strongly recommended.  Volume 1 is $6.95, the other two are $8.95.

     Note: I ordered the Super Stupor comic, but it didn't arrive in the mail
by Wednesday, so it'll go on next week's Capsules.

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 8/6: Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #40.


"You Sure You Want The Inventor Of The Sieve You Broke Out Of Making Gear
     For You?" Award to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Episode 40

"I Guess Death Waxes" Award to Ninja High School #162

"Introspection Just Gets In The Way" Award to Transformers: Saga of the
     AllSpark #2

"Now All We Need Is A Zeppelin!" Award to Igor Movie Prequel #4

"It's Raining Men!  Well, LMDs" Award to Avengers/Invaders #4 (of 12)

"But Can She Make Her Fist Like Unto A Thing Of Iron?" Award to The 
     Invincible Iron Man #4

"The Mask Oft Proclaims The Man" Award to The Twelve #7 (of 12)

"Maybe Tony Stark Should Buy Out These Vending Machines Too" Award to Scud
     the Disposable Assassin: the Whole Shebang

"Sometimes A Miracle Needs A Hand" Award to Amelia Rules: Funny Stories

"Dominating The Market Into Submission" Award to Comicbook Comics #2

"Manichaean Crackle" Award to Action Philosophers! vol 1-3

     Dave Van Domelen, "Just the universe undergoing some technical
difficulties.  After the fourth or fifth time, you get USED to it.  NO BIG."
- Ricky Feeple, NHS #162

Dave's Rant Special: Super Stupor #1

     I got this in the mail on Thursday, too late to include in the week's
Capsules.  Just as well, I decided I had enough to say about it that I wanted
a full-on Rant.  Yeah, been a while since my last one, eh?


     Super Stupor #1: Rhymes With Witch Comics - Funny, but not for the
easily offended.  While the work feels a bit rushed in places (both the
writing and the cartoon-style art), it does a good job of combining numerous
one-page gags and an overall plot.  Recommended (technical issues bring it
down a notch).  $2.95 (plus $2 S&H if ordered online)


     Randy Milholland is probably best known for his snarky quasi-
autobiographical webcomic Something Positive (, the
first strip of which is reproduced on the inside front cover of this volume.
Super Stupor is one of his spinoff webcomics (along with S*P 1938, Midnight
Macabre and the deceased New Gold Dreams), which has the feel of being City
of Heroes as a sitcom (although without FCC supervision).  Sort of what the
live action Tick show seemed to be shooting for, but Super Stupor has more of
a bite.

     However, Super Stupor isn't Randy's first foray into superhero stories.
He was also involved in the Superguy collective, mostly writing a series
called Gomi.  Go to and search on
Randy Milholland from the Search By Author drop-down, and you'll get
everything he wrote or co-wrote in one big chunk for your convenience.  :)
So, while this comic is clearly inspired by City of Heroes/Villains in
several places, Randy's not a johnny-come-lately to superhero mockery.  He
was doing it for the public to see as early as 1995.  A fair amount of
superhero stuff was creeping into S*P (the protagonists are gamers), so Randy
finally decided late last year to spin those ideas off into their own strip.

     Anyway, this comic was produced to sell at the Comicon in San Diego, and
has that odd sort of semi-ashcan feel to it.  It's in full color, but the
format is 6" by 9", with all paper the same weight (more or less medium
thickness typing paper), including the cover.  Sort of an oversized
minicomic, I suppose.

     Beyond the format, there's a few other places where the comic doesn't
really feel professional, such as typos (like the inside front cover "hom
page" goof), errors (like consistently mixing up silicon and silicone, and
yes it's kinda important in the story) and a certain amount of opaqueness in
the storytelling (i.e. several characters don't get named until pretty late,
and unless you already knew their names it might not be obvious that it was
their actual codename and not another nickname).  The art gets a bit sketchy
near the end as well, although Randy's deliberately cartoony style does cover
for that somewhat.

     Super Stupor, as a strip, is mainly about gag-a-day, with occasional
short bursts of continuity.  And this comic largely works on this level as
well, with most of the pages being readable as single strips or even as a
pair of standalone strips.  The binding conceit is that a bunch of D-list
superheroes, mostly regulars of the webcomic and habitues of a bar called
Capetini's, are attending a superhero appreciation convention.  Which is,
naturally, attacked by villains.  So there's convention appearance gags (and
a cameo by Davan from Something Positive), aged superhero gags, semi-clothed
superheroine gags, etc.  And then a fairly touching understory about two
people finally reunited after a long time but still kept apart by fate.
There's a B-story about a couple of the Capetini's crew who stay out on
patrol during the convention, too.

     Most of this issue is new material, written and drawn specifically for
the comic.  The exceptions are the first page (which is the first regular
Super Stupor webcomic, and sets up a gag for later in the B-story), Aubrey's
Guide to Con Hygiene (a very popular Something Positive special that's
included because, well, this comic was made to take to a Con) and the inside
back cover which has the very first Something Positive strip.  While not the
funniest or the most offensive S*P strip, the first one is a good gauge of
whether you'll like the comic overall...if you laugh at it, you should be
reading S*P.  If you're offended by it, you should stay away from S*P.  If
you laugh AND are offended, good luck with that.

     The world of Super Stupor is an odd hybrid of serious and silly.  It
seems to operate on Comic Book Time without the characters seeing fit to
worry about it (a couple of characters are established to have been active in
the 1940s as child heroes, and are not yet middle-aged by the time of the
story, which takes place in the 1980s at the earliest, and probably takes
place in the present).  There's a well-established hierarchy in the metahuman
world, with A-listers and D-listers and presumably everything in between,
which feels like a combination of treating supers as celebrities and using
City of Heroes style leveling.  There's no unifying theme for superpowers,
people don't seem too freaked out that actual angels are running around as
superheroes, and in general the abnormal is accepted as normal.  And while
it's not made clear in this issue, even the villains have a fairly structured
arrangement, with levels of villainy and unionized henchmen, etc.  Yes, one
can draw parallels to Venture Brothers here, and I wouldn't be surprised if
Randy was at least a little inspired by that.  But a lot of this setting
stuff comes right out of Superguy as well.  :)

     Finally, just in case I didn't make it clear (which I may not have),
Randy's work is not for the easily-offended.  But if you can make it past the
first page of this book, with its revelation of the secret power Mind's Eye
possesses (, then you'll
probably enjoy Super Stupor.  But there's plenty of ways to be offensive that
Randy wields in the rest of the comic that aren't in the first strip, so if
you have any sore spots, he may very well smash at one with a hammer at some

     Dave Van Domelen, "Dude, our boss is a LiveJournal account and a few
razor cuts away from being a junior high goth girl." - Big Killhuna
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