August 23, 2013

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

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, Settled into Missouri, even found a "local" comic shop 30 miles away. Between reships (yes, Diamond has already shorted my new store) and new stuff, I expect to get a fair amount on August 28...but that's the first day of classes, so I don't expect to actually get to the shop until August 31, if I'm lucky. So I'm going to post what I have now, including a couple of .cbr file versions of floppies I'll buy once Diamond deigns to sell them to me. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #2, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #9 In this installment: Wolverine (movie), Kick-Ass 2 (movie), Gold Digger #201-201, Gold Digger: Gina vs. Penny #1, Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #2, Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #9, Super Stupor #4, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #9, Astro City #3, My Little Pony Microseries #7 "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. Wolverine (movie): Marvel/20th Century Fox - I saw this with my brother the night before he helped me move. As you probably know by now, it adapts the classic 4 issue miniseries that kicked off the idea of Wolverine's Japanese ties. But it does so very loosely, even moreso than would be required by the fact that cinematic Wolverine has a more established backstory than comics Wolverine did at the time. There's some good use of misdirection to trip of people who think they know the story, but without feeling too terribly gimmicky. That said, the reason why the main antagonist did what they did is murky to the point of "because badguy". Most of the secondary antagonists are much better-developed, with fairly simple motivations and sensible plans (within limits, there's a few "why didn't they just do X at time Y?" issues). At its core, this is a Yakuza crime actioner in the Hong Kong style, just with a few elements that'd be more appropriate in a ghost-with-white- hair subgenre movie. Ronin gets mixed up in the affairs of the great and powerful, sets himself up as protector of the least unpleasant member of the powerful family, gets chased around and finally confronts the architect of all the hassles after sustaining truly massive amounts of punishment. And meanwhile it recreated one of the more arbitrary pairings in Marvel (Viper and Silver Samurai) in a way that made plenty of sense. It did, unfortunately, fall prey to the usual cinematic trap of killing off pretty much ALL the antagonists, so the work that went into making them better characters is kinda wasted. I mean, I can see killing off Joker, because there's no way Nicholson was going to reprise, but then it became a thing. Villains in superhero movies die, with very few exceptions (Kingpin, because leaving him alive was crueller; Magneto, because he has a history of turning hero; Deadpool because Deadpool; Loki, because he's too fun not to keep around; stuff like that). It *is* a bit tricky to follow the Earth-Fox version of things, because they aren't necessarily counting all of their own movies as being in-continuity (i.e. the fact that this movie might contradict parts of Wolverine: Origins may not matter, if they've decided Origins didn't happen that way after all). It does make for a good denounment to X-Men 3, though, as one of the huge themes running through it is Wolverine's guilt over being the one to kill Jean Grey. So, I suppose that despite fandom claims to the contrary, X3 is still part of the Earth-Fox continuity. Unless it gets explicitly erased in the upcoming Days of Future Past.... Recommended, but probably out of theaters by now. Kick Ass 2 (movie): Universal/Marv Films - The core message of this sequel is that you have to remain true to who you are, no matter how painful that may be. Because if you try to deny your nature, the results will be even MORE painful. It's even the official tagline, "You Can't Fight Your Destiny". I kinda doubt that's the message of the original comic, but frankly I prefer Millar's creations when they diverge from his intended messages. As with the first movie, it's changed to be either "more Hollywood" or "less Millar" depending on your viewpoint, although the pervasive "superheroes are stupid" motif of Millar's work is hard to downplay this time. While I haven't read the comic and don't intend to, I'm guessing that despite the movie being so violent that Jim Carrey (in pretty good makeup as Colonel Stars & Stripes) disowned his part in it, the body count was a lot lower in the movie than in the comic. Mind you, there's still loads of corpses, but most of them were just regular goons with guns, or the supervillains getting jobbed (seriously, any time there was a real fight, the badguy probably survived...the deaths were en passant). The movie also explicitly condemned foul language at the same time it indulged in a (bleep)-ton of it. And excoriated people for playing at hero while celebrating it. Definitely a study in contradictions, too many to just be the result of Hollywood Defanging. After that muddle of mixed messages, the ending did seem pretty clear. Playing at superheroing is stupid, but if it's really your calling, you can't say no. Just recognize that it will hurt, it will cost you, it'll probably kill you, so don't go into it as a dilettante. It's a lifetime committment, however short that life may be. But...just because you can't be a superhero doesn't mean you can't sometimes be a regular hero. Recommended, but keep in mind that it more than earns that R-rating (over the top violence, cursing, scatalogical humor, sexual situations, one scene with obligatory boobs). 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. Gold Digger #201-202: Antarctic Press - While it looks like I should be able to start getting this book from my new comic shop, they don't keep it on the shelf. Fortunately, ComiXology finally started covering the present on GD (although the back issues haven't caught up yet), so I was able to buy these issues digitally. #201 felt like an episode of Futurama or Oblongs, in that it started off with an ostensible premise that could support a full story, then ditched it in favor of something else. Gina and a princess of the Amazon tribe find a way to get into trouble in the library (in the GD-verse, the statement "how much trouble could you get into in a library?" is on a par with "how much trouble could you get into in a fully-stocked arms locker?") and meet a group of bronies. Sort of. Very beefcake-y issue. The big conflict set up here is within Gina, as she realizes that maybe she hasn't come as far as she thought from the boy-crazy zero-impulse-control Gold Digger of Time Raft, and it's something she has to struggle with even more in the next issue. #202 is the shocking secret origin of the Peebos! Well, maybe not that shocking, kinda makes sense in light of what Brianna's been up to lately, but Gina was still shocked. And then immediately tried to make her own advanced AIs in the same mold, externalizing aspects of her own personality. Hijinks and sufficient gratuitous cheesecake to balance the beefcake of #201 ensue. I actually read the issues out of order (I thought I had #201 in hardcopy when I saw #202 pop up on ComiXology, and abrupt in media res stories are so common in this title I didn't worry about the missed-an-issue vibe I was getting), but now that I've read #201 I can see that the Gina vs. Immaturity theme is definitely going to be a long-term thing for the next while. So, both issues are struggles with the self, buried under loads of beefcake and cheesecake. Recommended, but might not want to read them in a public place, depending on your community standards. $1.99 each on ComiXology. Gold Digger: Gina vs. Penny #1: Antarctic Press - A one-shot in just inked linework following the events of a prank war between Gina Diggers and Penny Pincer. Some of the pranks are pretty clever, and the sort of thing you might see mad scientist friends pull on each other. And, because it's Fred Perry, there's plenty of cheesecake (and some beefcake). An amusing light read. Recommended. $1.99 on ComiXology. Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #2: Red 5 Comics - This one I've decided to keep up with digitally for now. I might switch back to floppies next volume, depends on how well things are working out at the new shop. Most of the issue involves Dr. Dinosaur explaining his insipid, er, insidious plans (the lava is Plan B) and Robo and crew trying to avoid meeting a crispy fate, but the "framed for nuclear terrorism" subplot does get a decent amount of panel time. A lot of running around trying to figure out how any of this could be happening. I'm not sure if I like Robo's hard-bitten "there's a rational explanation for this" skepticism. On the one hand, he's seen enough explicable strange stuff that he has grounds for dismissing things like Hollow Earth claims or time travel. On the other hand, he's a nuclear powered robot built about a century ago who has fought disembodied brains and the electric ghost of Thomas Edison, so you'd think he'd be a little more open to at least the possibility that some of this stuff was real. Okay, not a literal Hollow Earth, but a cave-based civilization that does a reasonable imitation thereof. Still, a very fun read. Strongly recommended. $2.99 at ComiXology. Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #9: Red 5 Comics - Likewise, will stick with digital at least for the rest of this arc. We're still meeting members of Tesla and Westinghouse's team, this time it's the trio of Charles Fort, Harry Houdini and Winfield Scott Lovecraft (H.P's dad, had to look that one up). They're pulling at another thread in the tapestry being woven by the Evil Industrialists, so the plot is not so much advancing as spreading at this point. The most interesting of the trio is Houdini, but being cast in the role of carefree young rogue tends to flatten his character a bit. All in all it's still an engaging read, but not compelling. Recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Nothing this time. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Super Stupor #4: - Two stories share space in this issue, but have almost no interaction aside from the characters occasionally crossing paths. This issue is a bit less about the plots than some of the previous ones, and it feels a bit unfocused in places. The character development and interaction are both strong, but it does tend to feel like Punchline's world-view dominates things...stuff happens, now back to seeing what's on TV tonight. Recommended. $5 (plus shipping, unless you go to one of the conventions Randy Milholland is at). My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #9: IDW - Cook and Price are back with a shaggy dog story focusing on Big Macintosh, and it's excellent. I actually bought this in hardcopy after buying it digitally (it came out on moving day, and I didn't expect to find a decent comic shop at the other end of the move, so I bought it from ComiXology...then found the shop in Lamar that ordered copies for the shelf), but don't regret double-buying. Some of the stuff in this issue really needs to be seein in full double page spread to be appreciated, even the pages that are just regular panel layouts. Mac needs more nails, but it's a street festival holiday in Ponyville. So his quest is constantly interrupted by festivities, Cutie Mark Crusaders, and random almost-romantic encounters. Cook and Price really have their feel for MLP down pat at this point, though, and it's a joy to read. A little kid probably wouldn't get all the jokes, but IDW isn't really selling comics to little kids (unfortunately, no one is these days). But I think a kid would enjoy this enough, and then years later could re-read it and enjoy it all over again. Strongly recommended. $3.99 And now for a couple that Diamond decided it didn't want my money for this month. A friend got me scans to read while I wait to see if Diamond ever wants my money. Astro City #3: DC/Vertigo - Whew, the story from #2 does continue here. I am reminded of the Stainless Steel Rat's first book here, in how the protagonist thinks they're leaving their organization and striking out to do what they think is best on their own, even though it seems implausible that the organization could possibly be ignorant of what's happening. Still, it's fairly well executed. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Micro-Series #7: IDW - With the Mane 6 taken care of, it's time for the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Ted Anderson and Ben Bates turn in a decent CMC story, but it's merely okay. The main hook is clever enough, and the Crusaders are in character, but...the wacky hijinks are just sort of by the numbers, I guess. It's probably not fair to compare this back to back with Price/Cook, who push the envelope and then set fire to the envelope, because Anderson is clearly trying to color inside the lines. While that can lead to an okay story, it's not likely to go beyond okay. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "They defy me!" - Advanced AI "Physics" on the topic of Gina Diggers's breasts, Gold Digger #202
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