August 31, 2017

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, Spent my summer teaching pay on a new fence and some tree pruning. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Nothing this month. In this installment: Defenders (Netflix), Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #22, Deathstroke #22, Future Quest Presents: Space Ghost #1, Astro City #46, American Way: Those Above and Those Below #2 (of 6), Invader Zim #22, Kaijumax Season 3 #2 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #57, My Little Pony the Movie Prequel #3 (of 4), Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook #2 and #3 (of 3), Rom vs. Transformers: Shining Armor #2 (of 5), First Strike #1 and #2 (of 6), Optimus Prime #10, Transformers: Till All Are One #12 (of 12). Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): None, although it was a near thing on American Way. "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. Defenders Season 1: Marvel/Netflix - Only 8 episodes this time, the sort of thing that can cause financial issues for series writers on standard contracts, but at least it avoids some of the padded feeling of the 13 episodes of Daredevil S2 or Iron Fist S1. Despite the name, you're not going to find Dr. Strange, the Hulk, or Namor in this show...rather, it's more of an updating of the "non-team" days of the post-cosmic lineup. The only one of the four putative members who isn't a loner to the point of pushing away their friends is Iron Fist, who at least works in a duo with Colleen Wing (Colleen isn't on the posters, isn't "officially" on the non-team, but she's effectively the fifth member). To a large extent, this group is really just "A bunch of superhumans who all know Claire Temple and are from New York for various definitions of 'from.'" That normally would make this season a "how they became a team" origin story, but it's not even that. It's more about how circumstances force them to work together for a few days, and they come out of it knowing each other better and maybe willing to try teaming up again in the future but...meh. It's like a pick-up tabletop game running for a few sessions to try out a new system. In gaming terms, Iron Fist is not a even Player Character: he's an escort mission Non-Player Character who keeps trying to run off and get in trouble. A Fusionette, to use City of Heroes parlance, or a powered Dependent NPC in Champions tabletop terms. Luke, Daredevil, and Jessica are definitely PCs, Colleen is probably a PC, and Claire might also be a PC who relies mostly on non-combat skills. (Only Daredevil's player really gets into the superhero thing, the rest had to be bribed with pizza to try out a superhero game.) And for all that the come from superhero comics, this version of the Hand is really more of a modern horror enemy, along the lines of the Orochi Group in the Secret World MMO. To the credit of the showrunner, they don't force it. Sure, there's a few bonding moments here and there, but the results tend to be "I guess you don't totally suck" in nature rather than Buddy Film. This is a batch of loners (I stand by my theory that the monks of K'un Lun deliberately selected for "angry loner" in the Iron Fist process so that they'd get someone who could easily be manipulated into throwing his life away at need) who have little reason to want to be on a team, and Jessica is the constant voice of snark at the very idea of being a superhero team. As for the fight scenes, I admit to not paying a whole lot of attention. There was some of the fluidity and martial arts virtuosity they tried to get across in Iron Fist, but fights tended to be dominated by the brute force of Jessica and Luke (who is either not as strong as Jessica, or not as willing to use his full strength, which she does with contemptuous ease at times), the boxing-influenced style of Daredevil, or weird stuff like "wave your hands and stuff flies around the room" for some of the Hand masters. So, if Danny's actor just can't pull off convincing stunt fighting, at least he's not really the focus anymore. Overall, it does a good job of tying together a lot of plot elements from previous series (Luke's get short shrift, but they manage to give him a plausible reason to get involved this time) and provides a Save The World sort of threat for them to face. Danny's still a git, though. Mildly recommended. I don't have Amazon Prime, and haven't made any particular effort to get copies of the new Tick season via other channels. I'll probably just wait for it to be available on DVD. I hear the half-season released this month just starts to hit its stride at the end, so waiting for the full season might be a better idea anyway. The Batman & Harley direct to video movie came out August 29, but I've heard mostly bad things about it, so I'm not in a hurry to watch it. I'll cover it next month. 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. Nothing this month. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Nothing this month. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Ms. Marvel v2 #21: Marvel - Continuing to hold off until the end of the arc. Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1: Marvel - Set in the past, with Black Bolt, Maximus (pre-"the Mad"), and Medusa having to flee the Nameless One or whatever he isn't called (that's a bit of recent Inhumans backstory I'm only vaguely aware of, but Priest makes sure we know enough about the guy to motivate the plot). It is somewhat disorienting to realize that "nearly a generation ago" now includes a period when iPods and earbuds existed, though. Fun with sliding timelines, yes? The subtitle is more than just an Arthurian allusion, since all three of the main cast will at some point in their future be the ruler of the Inhumans (I'm pretty sure Lockjaw never occupied the throne, though), but at this point in the story the royal line has been effectively usurped by the regency of the Living Terrigenesis. So, once and future. Black Bolt has the potential to be a good king, but still lacks the ability to think more than one step ahead, making him easy to dupe...he honestly believes he will be expected to take the throne one day, for instance. Medusa, on the other hand, has a much more pessimistic (dare I say "emo") view of the whole thing, and has not bothered to cultivate any of the ways or virtues of royalty. Maximus teeters uncertainly between these two youthful extremes, simultaneously cynical and trusting, and if not exactly aimless, he seems pretty aim-light. The issue ends with a Dramatic Complication forcing the three together in an unfamiliar setting, but while the story purpose of this issue is entirely set-up, it does have sufficient moments of drama and development to stand on its own. (Oh, it ends on a cliffhanger, but you don't feel like nothing happened prior to the cliffhanger, as some first issues are guilty of doing.) Recommended. $3.99 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #22: Marvel - This issue is split roughly evenly between Moon Girl herself and one of her Moon-Bots. I suspect that the marionette-ish appearance of the Moon-Bots is more for letting the reader tell the difference, and (eye doctor visit gag aside) they do look pretty convincingly human. Kinda how the "Ditto eyes" on Kamala's clones were probably just a reader cue in Ms. Marvel. If #21 was the ethical climax in which Luna realized she needed to change, this issue firmly puts her on the path she's chosen. She's always been smart, but now she's making a conscious effort to also be wise. And given what's happening in the Luna-Bot plot, Luna's going to have a big challenge to that resolution awaiting her. Recommended. $3.99 Deathstroke #22: DC - The Defiance team fights the overt fight, while Deathstroke sneaks off and has a chat with the guy running the opposition. As one does. While there's loads of ulterior motives and long games here, Defiance is pretty clearly established as a more nuanced dark mirror to Heroes for Hire than groups like Mercs for Money or Villainy Inc. They do good, but "We are firefighters...garbage men. We do a JOB and GET OUT," as Slade declares. And they are totally doomed, because not only is everyone not on the same page, some of them aren't even in the same library. Recommended. $3.99 Future Quest Presents: Space Ghost #1: DC - The "Hanna Barbera" bit is no longer on the title banner. This is set after Future Quest, enough time that Space Ghost has a post-Omikron reputation but not enough time that his sidekicks have grown up. It hasn't yet (if it ever will) reach the point of the original Cartoon, though, and the galaxy is coming apart at the seams in the absence of the Space man isn't enough. To some extent, this storyline is like one of the times the Green Lantern Corps ceased to exist for whatever reason and a lone Green Lantern ended up having his responsibilities increased 3600-fold. Contrast between the stark simplicity of the original cartoon's world and the complexity of the comic's setting is reflected in Olivetti's art, which is done in a "painted" style (but likely done digitally) with loads of shading and realism...except for Space Ghost's cowl. It's usually flat black, with rare bits of highlighting, and those mostly in situations where it would blend into the background too badly without them. Even the masks of his sidekicks (which are only on the cover this time) have shading and nuance, so the flat black of SG's cowl is a deliberate choice and meant to make a statement. This feels like one of those stories where it might work better to wait for the trade and read it all in one sitting, but mostly because I think it's trying to build up and then break a particular mood, something that's harder to manage with a month between chapters. Recommended. $3.99 Astro City #46: DC/Vertigo - At last the origin of the Broken Man. Maybe. He denies it means what you think it means. At least there's finally some justification for the whole fourth-wall-breaking framing sequence that happens whenever he shows up, but some of the justification is "he's nuts, doesn't know what he's doing, and is just trying stuff in the hopes it will work and not doom us all." Mildly recommended. $3.99 The American Way Those Above and Those Below #2 (of 6): DC/Vertigo - Using a fictionalized version of history (or the future) to comment on the present is a time-honored tactic, but I'm not sure Ridley knew how keenly things would line up for this issue hitting stands in August of 2017. The store ordering goof that got this in my hands after the UVA protests instead of before acts as a sort of complement to Marvel's scheduling goof putting the Ms. Marvel election issue after the election...instead of being painfully inappropriate, this comic becomes painfully appropriate. The three damaged heroes who survived the decade since the first miniseries are each trying to do the right thing and keep doing it the wrong way, to tragic consequences that suggest there might not be a right way. One fights the system, one tries to complement the system, and one embraces the system. It might be that they're all trying to do different things...if they united under one plan it would stand a chance. But they are disunited heroes for a disunited time, unable to save the world, merely reflecting it. Wow, that's depressing. But at least they're all trying to stay true to their principles, rather than flipping sides for shock value. Recommended, but a downer. $3.99 Invader Zim #22: Oni - "Zim has a plan, Gir messes it up," is one of the stock plots for this property, but a slightly different spin is placed on it this time. It's not Gir's stupidity that causes problems, it's his hodge- podge origins and the fact that Irken tech must be amazingly self-arranging. In a rare case of To Be Continued, after the resolution of the main plan plot, Zim decides this isn't normal Gir stuff and decides to INVESTIGATE. What could possibly go wrong? Mildly recommended. $3.99 Kaijumax Season 3 #2 (of 6): Oni - While the Creature from Devil's Creek has some plot advancement this issue, the main characters are Whoofy and the corrupted Dr. Zhang. Unfortunately, the Zhang plot thread is one of those cases where realism is too stupid to be worth emulating too directly, so I really hope that Zonn has some sort of mind-warping powers (which aren't that implausible for kaiju of his zeitgeist). Yes, every few years there's a big case in the news about someone falling in love with a prisoner and helping them out in very illegal ways, but one would hope that they screen for Ultraman power capsules a little better than they do for prison counselors in our reality, yes? Whoofy's arc is more interesting this issue, even if it helps keep CfDC's story from advancing. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #57: IDW - A followup to the Discord episode, although not as I'd hoped the tale of what happened to his party favors while they were traveling the world. Instead, Pinkie Pie ends up in control of Discord's reality, and we see proof of the old adage, "Power corrupts, absolute power is kinda fun." The meta-story here, however, is commentary on the dangers of letting a chaotic, unpredictable character settle into a set of cliches and set gags. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony the Movie Prequel #3 (of 4): IDW - The story shifts to focus on the two Abyssinians from last issue, and appears to also be introducing a set piece location from the movie. We're also back to the theme of the first issue, that friendship and trust are weaknesses and everyone is better off alone to rely on their own wits and abilities. Artistically, I have to wonder if Price was under heavy deadline pressure, because the backgrounds are pretty boring by his usual standards, with a lot of "just a gradient" backgrounds. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook #2 (of 3): IDW - Eclipse (MASK) through Oziron Rael (Micronauts), with a rather bad four page story again wasting space that could have been used to profile four more characters (and another two pages wasted on papercraft). It also has some schedule meshing problems again, but instead of giving away spoiler information by accident like #1 did with Centurion, it lags behind stuff that it should have contained, like the fact Megatron is currently stuck in another reality. Mildly recommended. $4.99 Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook #3 (of 3): IDW - No lame four-page story at the start, but we don't get more handbook content, they just tack the same four-page preview of First Strike at the end that has been seen in just about every other title. All in all, a fairly disappointing guidebook series, and I'm generally easy to please when it comes to this sort of book. Mildly recommended. $4.99 Rom vs. Transformers: Shining Armor #2 (of 5): IDW - While the first issue covered several years or even decades with fast-forward jumps, this issue focuses on a single fight scene. In some ways, this is a Standard G1 Cartoon Plot (specifically thinking of episodes like Atlantis Rising). Decepticons make alliance with evil aliens, each plans to backstab the other, innocents get caught in the crossfire, someone who hadn't considered themselves a part of the Autobot/Decepticon war has to pick sides. Mind you, the original cartoon wouldn't have had body horror, mass casualties, or Autobots unconcerned with the fate of the squishies. (Some Autobots care, but they're outranked.) There is a bit of awkwardness in terms of retconning things in, particularly as relates to knowing about female Cybertronians, but they seem to be working across many books to smooth that one over, implying without stating it outright that the characters who expressed surprise at seeing female Cybertronians were just not paying attention very well prior to that. Plot-wise, it's okay, but depends way too much on characters with advanced communications tech nonetheless not hearing what their allies say and thereby having misunderstandings and accusations of side-switching. Mildly recommended. $3.99 First Strike #1 (of 6): IDW - Not even a year since Revolution ended, and it's time for another schedule-shuffling crossover event. And because it's apparently all the rage now, the main antagonist is a long-standing heroic character who has decided that the only way to save the world is to become a supervillain. Okay, this time it's more of a recent continuity implant character, but he stands in for someone who's been a pop culture good guy longer than I've been alive. On the plus side, unlike Secret Empire, we're seeing the struggle happen rather than being presented with "Hey, the bad guys won for Reasons, now let's have a year of sad heroes in pointless resistance," so I guess that's a slight improvement. The division of labor between writers Scott and Rodriguez isn't made clear, and it's probably not as cleanly divided as "Mairghread does all the Transformers scenes and David does all the GIJoe and MASK scenes," but it did probably trend that way. There's some good dialogue bits, so it's not a tedious slog, but neither is it enough to endear the plot to me, as the preceeding sentences likely made it clear. Mildly recommended. $3.99 First Strike #2 (of 6): IDW - Yes, it's a "more often than once a month but don't count on it being exactly every other week" event comic! This issue is the fight scenes, mostly. Some backstory and justification for how the sneak attack of #1 was pulled off, some "how do we get in on this crossover" travel plans, but it doesn't really feel like it has a beginning or end. It's just a chapter of the eventual trade paperback, I guess. At least we get some characterization for the helicopter twins from Team Victorion. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Note, there's a checklist of tie-in issues on the back cover of each issue of First Strike (which is how I know this is actually a 6 issue series, since only six issues are listed...kinda tired of having to look up online to see how long a miniseries is). Till All Are One ended rather than tie in, Lost Light is having nothing to do with any of this but I suppose might show up in the Transformers: First Strike one-shot, Optimus Prime is having one regular issue and a FS one-shot then leaves the list (presumably to deal with its own plot threads again), and most of the other titles are cancelled as of August, some get one-shots, and then a bunch of new team-up titles will launch after the event is over, starting with Rom & The Micronauts and GIJoe: Unmasked (which I guess is the MASK team losing their masks and joining?) in December. Optimus Prime #10: IDW - In the lull before First Strike #1 (which came out nearly a month before this comic), Alpha Trion regales a trio of leaders with a tale from ancient and nigh-forgotten Cybertronian history, a warning that unification didn't always mean the story was over, or that things would get better. The story fits poorly with other portrayals of the age of the Primes, but that doesn't necessarily mean Alpha Trion is making up the story on the spot to get his point a race as long-lived as Cybertronians, even participants in history don't always remember events the same way as each other, and the official history can easily drift into mythologized half-truths and exaggerations (a topic relevant in the My Little Pony TV episode that linked to the Legends of Magic series). It's definitely jarringly different, between the framing sequences using Zama's fake zip-a-tone art style and the ancient tale drawn by an uncharacteristically non-shadowed Raimondelli, plus the very mortal portrayals of the Primes. Recommended as a curiosity, mostly. $3.99 Transformers Till All Are One #12 (of 12): IDW - Well, at least Scott was able to tell her main story before First Strike rendered any other plans moot. The Council of Worlds may not be shattered by First Strike, but there's definitely going to be a few months where it's not possible to tell stories about them without First Strike muddling matters. Most of this issue takes place in Starscream's mind, which is appropriate since the final arc of this series was really about him and not Windblade or the overall Council. An "I suppose it should have been obvious in retrospect" fact about Starscream comes to light and he has a personal epiphany which may or may not result in long term changes, but hey, sometimes we need to learn the same lessons over and over. Windblade has a far less dramatic epiphany, and she seems more likely to learn from it, especially since she doesn't have to worry about any Hasbro-mandated resets. :) Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "I'm going to die in space." "Very likely." - Matt Trakker and Soundwave, First Strike #2

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