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Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et CeteraIntermittent 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 And thus begins my second year here at Amarillo College. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Lego Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom, Invader Zim #2 In this installment: Vixen online episode 101, Lego Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom, ThrillBent.com (The Best Thing, Arcanum, The Endling, In The Pi of the Beholder), Courageous Princess vol 2, Steampunk Snow Queen #3 (of 3), Gold Digger #224, SHIELD #9, Ms. Marvel #17, Astro City #26, Kaijumax #5, Ragnarok #6, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #33, My Little Pony Friendship Forever #19, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated #2, The Transformers #44, Transformers Windblade #6, Invader Zim #2. "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. Vixen Ep 101: CWseed.com - So, Vixen is getting into the shared universe of Flash and Arrow, done as 4-5 minute mini episodes on CW's online programming site. Unfortunately, their video player refuses to do anything but realtime stream (no buffering at all as far as I can tell), leading to horrible skipping if your internet connection has any slowness anywhere along the line. While these micro-seizures aren't a big deal for a dialogue-heavy comedy or romantic drama, they render the opening fight scene into unintelligible hash. Ironically, the bad player is a Flash program. It starts in media res, as Vixen is fleeing from Flash and Arrow and demontstrating pretty good facility with her powers (thus making the cliffhanger before flashing back to the beginning a bit weak...oh look, the person who can channel animal powers is falling, wonder what kind of bird she'll use, or maybe land like a cat). Unlike the two live action shows, she's supposedly in the real Detroit, at least in the other scenes. The opening fight might be in Central or Starling, I'll leave it to others to determine whether it's plausibly Detroit-y. Seemed pretty Generic Metropolis to me, though. Hard to make too much of a judgement from a few minutes of sometimes choppy video, but I suppose one thing I can take away from THAT is that this might not work well in its intended delivery format. Wait for a DVD release of the whole "season," it'll be less choppy and there'll be enough story at once to satisfy. Lego Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom: DC Comics - This is the Justice League we deserve. Brightly colored, upbeat, but still managing to convey a sense of peril. And the usual deliciously bad puns I've come to expect from this series. Special features are trailers and a featurette on the sound design of the movie. The version I picked up also comes with a Trickster (looks more like the current Axel Walker version than "my" Trickster, but in the movie he was voiced by Mark Hamill, who also voiced Sinestro) minifigure. Strongly recommended, around $15 depending on retailer. 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. The Best Thing Chapters 1-12: Thrillbent.com - So, I was pointed at Thrillbent.com by someone this month. I probably saw something about it when it launched, but I guess none of the launch titles interested me. But this title by Seanan McGuire and Erica Henderson (and yes, there's a Squirrel Girl in-joke in an early chapter) piqued my interest enough to plop down four bucks a month for subscription. The chapters are done in Infinite Comic style (so several pages may be the same page with insets appearing or speech bubbles coming in and out), but in a month there's roughly a standard comic's worth of content. Usually...it hasn't updated since mid-month. So, hey, even if none of the other Thrillbent books interest me, one good one that updates weekly is enough to justify the money. (You can download each chapter as a .cbz file if you decide to end your subscription and want to keep copies of what you've already read, and the format preserves the "change the panel" tricks.) Well, enough about Thrillbent in general. The general premise of this series is that there are ancient powers that are ready to return to the world, and are doing so through a group of high schoolers. So far, it's told with the framing sequence of one student being interrogated by police after it all went Horribly Wrong Somehow, but no indication is given yet of the fate of the other characters, or even how much story there is to be related before catching up to the present. The main theme is "people who have been let down by the system," and while it starts with a couple of kids in the foster system, it slowly expands to show that there's many ways for society to fail to support someone. A looming subtext is the question of whether the ancienty powers mean for their new avatars to fix things, defend the way things are, or burn it all down...they're sufficiently vague that their idea of a horrible failure could just as easily be "the avatars become superheroes and uphold the status quo" as it would be "oops, the planet imploded." I'm definitely interested in reading more, and a little frustrated that I got into it JUST as it hit the end of an arc and went on hiatus for a while. Recommended. Arcanum Chapters 1-16: Thrillbent.com - Well, I have the subscription, might as well check out some other things, yes? This series is by John "Blue Beetle (and I suppose some TV stuff)" Rogers, and has the Fae starting to invade the modern world. Sort of an X-Files/Warehouse 13/Planetary "secret history" series with a surly female agent and a dragooned Irish expert on fae as the main protagonists (although an Atlanta cop who got mixed up in the first incursion promises to be more of a regular later). It has also suffered from an annoying pause in updates, but it got a little farther along first, so most of the key players do seem to be on stage or visible in the wings by this point. I'm not liking it as much as The Best Thing, but it's still pretty good. And if you like John Rogers dialogue in general, you'll want to read this. Unfortunately, it seems to have gone dormant several years ago, with no indication it will ever be continued. I originally tagged this as recommended, but once I dug around enough to see it was abandonware, I revised my opinion downward to mildly recommended. The Endling Volumes 1-2: Thrillbent.com - Jonathan Larsen and Cecilia Latella bring a sort of near-future techno-horror in which the "demon makes promises in order to be released from captivity" plot is reskinned with a virtual life form that has evolved to the point it knows what it is and wants a real body. Interestingly, it feels more like a fae story than Arcanum, in many ways. Just based on reading the strip itself, it appears to be on pause between volumes, ending on a message asking to spread the word. But digging through the site blog reveals a post where the creator says it was deliberately ended on a cliffhanger. Either way, I won't be too broken up if it never continues. In the Pi of the Beholder: Thrillbent.com - A one-chapter short story by Mark Waid, in which a mathematician interacts with the Necronomicon. It takes the usual Mythos conceit of "knowing too much about the real truth of the universe is bad for you" and makes it visually explicit: the more the mathematician learns, the more he sees everyone else as Cthulhu-headed versions of themselves. The ending is a touch too clever and upbeat for a proper Mythos story, but an amusing (if slightly dark) read. Some overall thoughts on Thrillbent in light of what I've read so far. I like the concept of this, and there's some good stories. But the way it's set up gives no information up-front if a series is still ongoing, on a short hiatus between volumes (or how long the volume is supposed to be), or abandoned. There's a separation between "ongoing" and "short story" on the menu page, but what about things like Arcanum, which stopped updating in 2013 and are still listed at the very top of the list of "ongoing" comics? Frankly, the more I look around and see unfinished, abandoned, or "I felt like ending on a cliffhanger but have no plans to continue" stories, the less good I feel about spending $4 a month on this. DC has been derided for cancelling too many of its books too soon, but at least you KNEW the book was gone. The layout of Thrillbent obscures that fact (even the datestamp on the latest installment is below the fold and in light gray tiny text). Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Courageous Princess volume 2: Antarctic Press - A nice hardcover, picking up with a "meanwhile" set during the later parts of volume 1, in which the title character's father assembles a team of princes to come rescue her (and I doubt it's really a spoiler to say she ends up having to rescue them). Espinosa continues to use a combination of manga-influenced character art on nearly photorealistic backgrounds (distant backgrounds are usually CG, and tend to stand out as a little too crisp). It's just as pretty as a decade ago, but feels a little like he's treading water artistically. Maybe some of this was drawn back when volume 1 came out, but looking at Steampunk Snow Queen (which is definitely new) it looks about the same. The flavoring of the art is a mix of European and Arabic tales (Mabelrose herself is Aladdin's granddaughter on her father's side, and Prince Charming's granddaughter on her mother's side). A bit jarring if not read soon after volume 1, since the "Dad to the rescue" story just sort of ends and we switch to a flashback about Mabelrose's extended family for a bit, before catching up to Mabelrose in the present. I almost would have put the Dad scene a little later on, so that the two volumes would have fit together more smoothly. Especially since the flashback second story structurally bookends perfectly with the final scene of this volume. That structural bit aside, it's another good fairy tale about a princess who does most of the saving, even though she doesn't have magic powers. Bravery, persistence, and an ability to bring out the best in her powered allies, these are her heroic virtues. Recommended. $19.99/$21.99Cn hardcover Empowered volume 9: Dark Horse - My store didn't order it for me when I asked, it fell through the cracks in their system, so I won't get this until next month. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Steampunk Snow Queen #3 (of 3): Antarctic Press - As with Courageous Princess, Espinosa brings some very pretty art, this time influenced more by the steampunk aesthetic and Scandinavian tales. The ending is a bit abrupt, more of a stereotypical "fairy tale ending" in that as soon as the original goal of the quest is met, everything is fixed (as opposed to Frozen, where meeting the initial goal just makes things worse). It feels to me like Espinosa pitched it as three issues, then the middle started to get away from him, but rather than ask for a fourth issue he just went "happily ever after" on the last two pages. I mean, yeah, it's good that he didn't make this a note-for-note riff on Frozen, but I think he sacrificed too much from the final act in the process. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger #224: Antarctic Press - It's back to the fight against Dreadwing, mostly with minor characters or faceless minion types pressing the main battle, while the major characters other than Dreadwing have some side fights and try to figure out what's going on. An interesting enough read, but definitely not a place to start reading if you're new to the book. Mildly recommended. $3.99 SHIELD #9: Marvel - Big 50th Anniversary issue, which uses its main story to both canonize Kirby's "Man Called D.E.A.T.H." story and ties the Da Vinci SHIELD into the modern one (maybe, there's wiggle room, etc.). Coulson may be a bit too much of a Writer's Favorite here, but I liked it. One of the secondary stories sets up the new Howling Commandoes series that will follow Secret Wars, but I won't be getting it. And then there's a reprint of the first issue of SHIELD from 50 years ago. Mildly recommended. $5.99 Ms. Marvel #17: Marvel - As the world is ending, Kamala finally gets to meet her idol and inspiration (who for reasons never explained in this book is rendered in brownish grays, making me wonder at first if it was a hallucination or illusion or something). It's a simultaneously awesome and awful experience for Kamala, as she and Carol do what they can to make things a little better for the residents of Jersey City as they wait for others to hopefully fix the end of the world. Recommended. $2.99 Astro City #26: DC/Vertigo - For the 20th anniversary issue, Busiek returns to the first issue's conceit, that Samaritan dreams of flying. But now his dreams are becoming dark and dangerous, and it's making the waking Samaritan a danger to those around him as well (not in the "turn evil" way, just that a cranky Samaritan on a shorter fuse is a hazard). A few plot points from this volume of Astro City tie into Samaritan's realization of the problem and his search for a cure, making this feel more like a Standard Superhero Book than usual, but we do need this sort of thing every so often in order to make the non-standard stories stand out. Recommended. $3.99 Kaijumax #5: Oni Press - Not much to say in detail this time. Pretty much every bad situation from the previous issues gets worse, some get a LOT worse, and at least one looks like it may shake the world outside the prison shores pretty badly. Recommended. $3.99 Ragnarok #6: IDW - Several things become clearer, mainly because some of the prime movers of the setting come out from behind the curtains and deliver some exposition. This is the end of the first arc, and it has some good resolution on the small scale despite not really ending any of the major threats (in fact, they get even more threatening). Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #33: IDW - Well, okay. Zahler's resolution here is a little more in depth than I was fearing it would be, bringing in a few other bits of continuity and showing it wouldn't quite have worked as a single issue. The lame Apple Computer jokes taper off, fortunately, replaced by vampire jokes (which at least aren't as forced). And there's a very good Moral Of The Story from Celestia at the end, including a realization by Scootaloo that hopefully will be mirrored in the show soon. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #19: IDW - Sigh. Rice and Hickey take an 8-page idea (Rarity goes overboard AGAIN, this time with the Cakes) and pad it out to a full issue. This is really becoming a problem with the MLP comics...one- or one-and-a-half-issue ideas stretched to two, vignettes padded to a full issue, and the seeming elimination of the 4-issue arc in which writers can stretch a bit and develop an idea properly. And it's even worse in this case, because it's retreading an idea that the show has done a couple times already, but doing it in a more shallow way. Neutral. $3.99 Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated #2: IDW - Looks like this one fell into the same hole as my Empowered, so I'm reviewing based on a scan while the store reorders. It's really shocking how much this contrasts with the show...by the end of #2 there's a clear overplot, ties to the Prime show, and everyone's gotten a decent amount of characterization to boot. Recommended. $3.99 The Transformers #44: IDW - While Barber does advance the overall post-Combiner Wars plot elements here (especially Arcee vs. Starscream maneuvering), the main focus is on taking a previously background character and fleshing him out in preparation for taking on a more central role. Specifically, this could be seen as Spotlight: Needlenose. Through the previously established ideas laid out about family (Tracks is his brother) and lovers, Needlenose's past is developed and his previous spear carrying scenes have gained much more depth. In fact, as someone pointed out on Tumblr, Barber has strung together a bunch of older threads to set up what could be one hell of a confrontation down the road. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers Windblade #6: IDW - Diamond shorted my store, in that they sent zero copies. So I read another scan. Now we shift to the Beast Wars planet, with a brief appearance by some inhabitants of a Duocon planet. The less the artist has to draw vehicles, though, the better I like it. His beast modes are decent, and his robots continue to have lots of character (I particularly like how Airazor's crest poofed up in anger with a "poof!" sound effect). It's a good build-up, but then again, Velocitron had a good setup followed by a weak payoff, so we'll see. Provisionally recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #2: Oni - Zim's master plan plays out, and it's brilliant. DO NOT QUESTION ZIM'S BRILLIANCE! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Strongly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Another win for the Justice League! High five!" "Five what?" - Lego Green Lantern and Lego Superman, Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom
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