August 27, 2014

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, Surviving the first week of classes. As are my students. Mostly. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Guardians of the Galaxy (movie), Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #32. In this installment: Guardians of the Galaxy (movie), Atomic Robo Role-Playing Game, Batman: Assault on Arkham (DVD), Meteor Men #1-2, The Amazing Adventures of Superman! (four books), Astro City #14, Spider-Man 2099 #2, Transformers: Primacy #1, Transformers: Robots in Disguise #32, Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #32, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #22, My Little Pony Friends Forever #8. "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. Guardians of the Galaxy (movie): Marvel - Ooga chaka. Really, this is one of the more redunant recommendations I could make this month...GotG might not be the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie ever, or even the best this year (it has different goals than Winter Soldier, so it's hard to directly compare), but it's very good and very fun. And I say this as someone not terribly enamored of the Abnett&Lanning take on, well, much of anything. One advantage of the MCU in this case is that some of the soft reboots in the comics (largely ignoring pre-Giffen-miniseries Drax stuff, isolating Rocket from Halfworld, etc) can be made honest changes. This Drax is an alien. This Rocket may be from Halfworld, but we know nothing about it except that they did cybernetic uplift experimentation. And so forth. A clean break makes it easier to accept alternate interpretations in general, so when things like the Nova Corps show up and are almost nothing like the comics? No problem. It ain't Earth-616, no sweat. That said, they did try to hold onto a few bits and pieces of old continuity, like the connection of Star Lord to the 1970s, or the names of characters who aren't really the same people. And sometimes it feels a little forced. But most of this is spirit of the staircase stuff that hits you after you're out of the theater and processing it. Really, the only thing that struck me as jarring while IN the theater was that a Walkman could survive so long under such unusual conditions...but I guess the aliens that Star Lord hung out with were good at bodging tech together and keeping it working. If you haven't seen it yet, and you actually read my reviews, then either you have some problem keeping you from seeing movies in the theater in general, or you're just being contrary for stereotypical hipster reasons. Atomic Robo Role-Playing Game: Evil Hat - First things first, this is a FATE (once known as FUDGE) system, the engine of choice for indie gaming companies since the D20 license sort of died off. So if you don't care for FATE, this is purely useful as a source of information that isn't in the comics (much like I bought a lot of GURPS sourcebooks but never got the core rules). Interestingly, the core rules stuff required only a few minor search and replaces to be fully compatible with the tone of Atomic Robo...some games may be awkward fits for FATE, but not this one. The use of parallel chargen systems may be more confusing than helpful, it might have worked better to have the full point system up front, then the "EZ" system at the end of the mechanics section...trying to switch back and forth obscures more than it reveals, at least the way they did it. The sourcebook part doesn't reveal much, which has its pluses (no "only in the game book" like T&M&K's LSH did) and minuses (a bit slim as a result). Overall, recommended. $35 hardcopy and PDF bundle, $15 PDF-only, from (Note: Atomic Robo v9 #4 came out electronically this month, but the paper copy is delayed, and since my shop got me the paper copy of #3, I'm waiting a bit.) Batman: Assault on Arkham: DC/WB - Direct to video movie based (very loosely) on the Arkham computer games. Really, it's a Suicide Squad movie, with occasional appearances by Batman (voiced by Conroy). CCH Pounder reprises Amanda Waller's voice, and this is "Wall Classic". Oddly, Hamill doesn't voice Joker (probably busy with Star Wars VII), but the replacement does a bang-up imitation. The actual plot is sort of scattered, much like a computer game it's more of an excuse to string together the action scenes, but it does the job. And of the three significant females in the story, two end up topless (Waller is the exception), although it's "prime time TV" nudity...the PG13 rating is more for language, violence and the occasional exploding head. And yes, because it's a cartoon, it's in the "For The Kiddies" section at the store, a placement almost as awkward as the time I found Bakshi's "Wizards" in the Family Movies section. Anyway, if you see this as Deadshot's story, and don't mind a body count that's high even for a Suicide Squad story (three Squadders definitely die on screen, a fourth was in an exploding car thrown by Bane so probably didn't make it), it's pretty good. The big Arkham riot at the end raises all sorts of "Why did they even...?" sort of questions, but it's more window dressing anyway. $15 shelf price most places. 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. Meteor Men #1-2 (of 5): Oni Press - The complete story will be coming out in hardcover in October, but it's starting as a weekly release online. The first part is paced like the beginning of a space horror B-movie. Young protagonist hosting a meteor-watching party, only to have a meteor crash nearby and prove to be...strange. There's the requisite Adults Who Don't Understand causing potential complications, a missing person mystery, and implications that the meteors were carrying Something From Beyond. Pretty good setup, although writer Jeff Parker seemed to be trying too hard to tamp down his usual sense of humor. The second part builds well on the first without taking all the obvious routes, but with only one and a half speaking roles for most of the issue, it's something of a slow build. Still, despite being written for the trade (as it were), it is well paced for these individual installments. Recommended so far. $1.99 per part. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. The Amazing Adventures of Superman!: DC/Picture Window Books - Putting these here, although I suppose they could go in Other Media too, as they're young reader chapter books. Square bound, available in paperback (which I got), hardcover, or Nook. Annoyingly, the brick and mortar B&N stores can't order the physical books, they seem to be exclusive to for now. I picked these up because they're written and illustrated (picture-book style, not comics) by Yale Stewart of the JL8 webcomic. The four books are "Battle of the Super Heroes!" (which spoilers the mystery on the cover, oops), "Escape from Future World!", "Alien Superman!" and "Creatures from Planet X!" Each involves Superman teaming up with one other hero. The stories are very short, as one would expect from a young readers series, although "Alien Superman!" had a pretty weak resolution even allowing for that. If you just want to pick up one to see what it's like (and have to order it online to get it), "Creatures from Planet X!" is probably the best of the lot. Mildly recommended for little kids, not so much for adults (they largely lack the charm of JL8). $3.99 paperback. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Astro City #14: DC/Vertigo - This is one of those stories that works better when you're reading it than when you're thinking about it later. It builds to a heart-wrenching cliffhanger, but when you look back it feels like much of the issue was being Too Obvious. The instant a particular character shows up, you know they're up to no good. And as soon as the main character starts thinking about the past, certain points become almost blatant. So the issue feels in retrospect like shouting at the screen in a horror movie for the victim to turn around and notice the slowly approaching slasher. Tentatively recommended because it was done well enough to engage me despite the "turn around, you fool!" aspects. $3.99 Spider-Man 2099 #2: Marvel - The obligatory action sequence at the beginning is very obligatory, the rest of the issue is Mig dealing with three important women in his life: Lyla (okay, not really a woman, but important), his building super (new character), and his boss Liz Allan. One interesting element that PAD explores here is a consequence of Mig growing up in a surveillance society...he really has no intuitive grasp of personal information privacy, even though he's spent years trying to protect his own. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Primacy #1 (of N): IDW - This miniseries (dunno how many parts) follows up on Autocracy and Monstrosity. Unlike Autocracy, it's going paper immediately (Autocracy was an experiment in weekly serialization with collected paper versions following). But like Autocracy it features deliberately dark and gritty art which doesn't go over well with everyone. It's certainly easier to follow in full-sized pages than it was in Autocracy on an iPod, though. The story feels like it will be much like criticisms I've seen of Autocracy and Monstrosity, though...portraying an important "epoch" of the Cybertronian war as having taken only a few days, or maybe weeks. Unless there's a big time gap between #1 and #2, at least. Not entirely sure I'm going to pick up #2, it's not actually on my pull yet (and unless it's rather longer than Autocracy, there may not be much point in adding it, since it'd be too late to change order numbers for any but maybe the last issue). Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Robots in Disguise #32: IDW - Well, Prowl's plan comes to fruition and is revealed. It's a decent payoff, but feels like it was too long in the paying. There's more Thundercracker this issue, the one character Barber can consistently write interestingly. It stays on my pull for now, but continues to ride the edge. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #32: IDW - Roberts dances agilely from horror to humor to existential debates, managing to pull off tone shifts successfully where Barber just sort of gear-strips. Strongly recommended. And I want that wrench. $3.99 My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #22: IDW - The Summer of Trixie continues. And the logic of having Babs along is made clear, although several of the cast continued to feel like spear-carriers (seriously, having the Element of Honesty along and not even bringing that up when she's accused falsely of a crime? Yeesh). Anderson's story did feel like it was written in reverse, deciding on what the resolution needed to be and then grabbing characters who could make it happen (with Applejack along only because Apple Bloom had to be there to make the use of Babs plausible). Nor did it help that this is the second time the comics have used the "clincher to a mystery is a sloppily painted-over cutie mark" plot device. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony: Friends Forever #8: IDW - Applejack and Rarity, as presented by Cook and Price. It's basically a Road Movie misadventure in structure, as the title "Reins, Trains, and Carts with Wheels" suggests. Not sure Rarity would appreciate being compared to John Candy, though. The "we have plenty of time...oops, we missed our connection" plot is pretty hoary, but Cook and Price do a decent job with it, and confirm that Rarity's meltdowns are more of a hobby than anything else. :) Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Hah! Ravage isn't anyone's pet." - Megatron, TF:MtMtE #32
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