September 2, 2009

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. An archive can be found on my homepage, Hey, didja hear about Disney taking ove...THUDWHAMSUPPRESSOWOWOWOW.... Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Transformers Animated the AllSpark Almanac "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. Handful of Heroes: Hasbro - A new collectible figure "game" with unpainted figures slightly larger than HeroClix (maybe 3-5mm on average), but not all the same scale. In other words, the figures are all about the same height regardless of what they depict, so Hulkbuster Iron Man is as tall as Deadpool. The packaging for the $6 packs has seven "non-blind" in the sense that they're theoretically visible and identifiable, although you might not be able to figure out all fo them. There's an eighth "Super secret figure" concealed by cardstock, but there's no indication that there's a rarity scheme here, at least not on the package. There's 40 unique molds (multiples of Iron Man, Wolverine, Hulk and Spider-Man, mostly given unique identifiers like Classic Iron Man (which is actually the Extremis version) or Hulkbuster Iron Man (the original version, not the WWHulk version), although all three Spider-Man figures are just called Spider-Man), in three colors each: opaque, clear and sparkly. So you might get an opaque yellow Classic Wolverine, a clear yellow one, or a golden sparkly one. There's a few odd character choices, like X-Ray of the U-Foes, but mostly it's the four core characters, their teammates and enemies. The "game" seems to consist of one player setting up their figures like bowling pins and the other flicking their figures to try to knock down the bowling pin ones. It's supposed to be played on the battle mat on the reverse of the checklist poster, but unless you laminate your mat or put it under a clear plastic sheet, nothing's going to stay standing. Really weak as games go, I suspect it was worked up in five minutes by someone told to tack a game onto the set. The figures are decent for modding. The plastic filaments a bit when you go at it with a Dremel cutter head (I tried this on my Classic Wolverine), but it can be smoothed out when you're done with the major shaping. They can be painted without primer, there's no weird beading effects to worry about. The sculpts are decent, with deep enough detailing to allow for good painting and use of things like ink washes and drybrushing. All eight of the ones I got stand fine on a flat surface without the need for special bases (although the Beast has a base, since he's doing a handspring). It almost feels like they took the computer renders for cancelled HeroClix and blew them up a bit, sticking with renders that could be cast in a single piece. All in all, I don't plan to collect these, but a pack or two is worthwhile for kitbashing bait. $5.96 at Walmart. Late Books: These are comics that were not listed as shipping during the week they were reviewed. Sometimes someone recommends a book to me that's already out, and I grab it over the weekend. Sometimes it's a trade paperback I ordered online rather than trusting Diamond. Sometimes the store screwed up or I was inobservant and I missed something I meant to get. USUALLY, though, it's because Diamond didn't ship what it was supposed to ship and I had to scrounge around or wait on a reorder. Transformers Animated Celbook volume 10: IDW - If you want these things, look online or at places like Barnes & Noble brick&mortar stores (in the kiddie section), I long ago gave up on getting them through Diamond. This volume has Lockdown on the cover, and while it does include "A Fistful of Energon," it doesn't have Lockdown's season 1 appearance, which remains the only season 1 episode NOT collected in thes celbooks. Instead, "Rise of the Constructicons" is the lead story in this volume. I'd kinda been hoping the reason for the missing Lockdown story from earlier volumes was because there was going to be an all-Lockdown volume later, ah well. Another minor quibble is that they discontinued the practice of using different page backgrounds for the two stories. In previous volumes, it was pretty easy to tell where the break was between stories, because the pattern in the gutters between panels was different for each story. But this time, both have the same pattern, and combined with the lack of page numbers it's harder to find where one story ends and the next begins if you just want to check out Fistful. Other than these minor issues, it's still a good adaptation of the animation images to comicbook format. Recommended. $7.99 Transformers Animated the AllSpark Almanac: IDW - My sole problem with this book is that it doesn't cover season 3. I suppose if sales are really good we might see a companion book, or an expanded second edition, but the omission means that a lot of the revelations of the final season can't be addressed/clarified. (The intro suggests that the pacing intended for a second volume to cover seasons 3 and 4, but we never got a season 4, so there may not be enough new material to justify a full second volume.) However, the reason this is a problem is simple: the book does such a great job of covering everything else! This isn't some half-arsed piece of kidbook filler like a lot of cartoon guides end up being, it's got insane amounts of depth, in-character writing, control art, alternate designs, behind the scenes stuff, and enough in-jokes and easter eggs to choke a nanobot swarm. Seriously, the annotations on this book are on the order of Jess Nevins's work on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (currently located at although it's likely going to be merged into in some fashion, or otherwise given a non-angelfire home). The book is organized into seven chapters with various interstitials and endcapping materials. The first three cover characters (Autobots, Decepticons and Humans), the fourth uses a variety of "in setting" means to summarize the events of the first two seasons and the six issues of the comicbook, the fifth is "Culture" (a grab bag of devices, concepts, etc), chapter 6 is about Detroit and the last chapter is other settings. Dinobot Island is identified as "North Sister Island," a ficitonal sibling of West Sister Island (upon which it seems to be modeled, although WSI lacks a volcanic cone), Middle Sister Island and East Sister Island. Scattered throughout are design sketches, including a look at the "Transformers: Hero" concept that eventually became Animated. The whole thing is full color, glossy pages at the standard "letter size" dimensions. At 220 pages, it's great value for the money, although an index might have been helpful (okay, so I have two complaints, not just one). Strongly recommended...even if you're not into the series, the in-character writing makes it a great read. $19.99 (I got mine from for $15.99) Skin Horse Volume One: Couscous Collective - Strictly speaking, this isn't late, in that I got it in a timely manner. But I was feeling a bit overwhelmed last week, and decided to hold off reading and reviewing this until later. This is the first collection of the Skin Horse webcomic, and covers from December 31, 2007 through February 7, 2009. It also has a bonus feature with the current cast watching an orientation film made by an earlier staff at PSH, most of whom have vanished for reasons no one really wants to talk about. The Sunday strips are not included, but as they're largely things like fan art and design sketches, it's reasonable to not include them. Skin Horse takes its title from the character in the Velveteen Rabbit who points out that being loved can make a toy real. The job of Project: Skin Horse is to help non-human sapients (mainly the products of mad science) find a place in society that doesn't involve (much) rampaging. While it's yet to be conclusively shown that this takes place in the same world as artist Shaenon Garrity's "Narbonic" webcomic, it's certainly the same *sort* of world. And despite the title being taken from the Velveteen Rabbit, most of the actual characters are versions of the residents of and visitors to Oz. Albeit with some serious liberties taken (i.e. Nick Zerhakker is the Tinman analogue, but HIS artificial body is a V-22 Osprey). And some silly liberties ("Dorothy" is a crossdressing ex-military guy who's a research psychologist and the team's token human). By the end of this first collection, the origins of all the main characters have at least been touched on (Sweetheart's past comes into tighter focus in the currently-running arc online, Gavotte remains enigmatic as is her wont), and a rather large supporting cast of memorable oddities (like the Renaissance Italy-style silverfish or the lion who writes a webcomic) has come through. It's a great read, if a little head-spinny at times due to the weirdness of the setting. And the bonus material (not available online) includes an anti-gravity ferret named Nigel. Recommended. $13.99 plus shipping from (the longer URL listed above also includes comments, the short URL just has the strip itself). New Comics: Comics and comic collections that I got this week and were actually supposed to be out this week, as far as I can tell. These reviews will generally be spoiler-free, but the occasional bit will slip in. Jersey Gods #7: Image - Looks like we're in for a ride on the Poverty Plot for a while, with Barock taking one odd job after another to try to make ends meet, each job ending with explosions, until he realizes he can do something like grab a solid gold boulder from somewhere in his home system. :) The odd job this time is more from the world of fashion, and Brunswick really doesn't give us any new take on lampooning high coture, but at least the ongoing "abandoned gods" plotline keeps the runway scenes from dragging on too terribly long. Mildly recommended. $3.50 Official Index to the Marvel Universe #9: Marvel - Hm, I may have to sit down and read this through instead of skimming like the last several issues. All three books are deep into my "stopped caring" periods...Spider-Man starting to get into Clone Saga opening shots, Iron Man having the Crossing, the brief Teen Tony sequence and then Heroes Reborn, and X-Men...dude, I was so far out of X-Books by that time I can't even remember what I was ignoring! It's kinda creepy how the actual years covered by these blocks just barely overlap: Spider-Man October 92 through May 1994, Iron Man January 1994 through May 1997, X-Men November 1996 through December 1999. There's just one "Here's how the whole ferslugginger crossover went" textbox this issue, about The Crossing and Timeslide...I expect next issue's will try to explain the Clone Saga. Shudder. Recommended in the sense of watching train wrecks (and also seeing all the variant covers). $3.99 Exiles #6: Marvel - FINAL ISSUE. Well, they got a double-sized issue to wrap things up, and I suspect Parker roughed out plans from the start to do a storydump in the event of cancellation. The last of the loose ends from the first arc are tied off, and then everything gets explained. Then everything gets explained differently. And THEN it's explained that the explanation is going to change eventually anyway, in an elegant bit of treknobabble to allow all previous Exiles series to work without contradiction. The bear rides the bicycle pretty well, all told. Recommended. $3.99 Agents of Atlas #10: Marvel - This title's about to go through some mutations (pun intended), with a two-issue X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas mini and then an Atlas vs. New Olympus one-shot (foreshadowed on one page this issue) before AoA becomes a backup in The Incredible Hercules (which will be moving to a 40 page, $3.99 format). Whew. A lot of gyrations, but I appreciate the effort being made to keep the story going in some fashion, especially since the current arc is gearing up for a Big Epic Storyline as Atlas faces down the Great Wall organization. This issue is mostly downtime and retrenching, with the focus splitting a half dozen directions without becoming incoherent or (unintentionally) confusing. True, not a lot of Big Stuff involved, and I wonder how hard Temujin has to be hit to smack the stupid out of him, but solid storytelling. Recommended. $2.99 Domo the Manga: Tokyopop - Domo is the mascot of children's programming on the NHK network in Japan, and has been around for over a decade, with minimal American market penetration until very recently (Target has used Domo in several seasonal promotions lately, for instance). He got his first internet fame as the menacing brown thing in the "...God kills a kitten" motivational poster memestorm. Given that my nickname in 3rd through 8th grade was Domo (pronounced differently, though), I took an instant shine to the little guy, although never enough interest to pay import prices. :) Now, while Domo the property is an import, this full color manga is not a translation. Written by Clint Bickham, it's all stuff made for America. For a high concept, take a Winnie the Pooh sort of setting without Christopher Robbins, and replace Pooh with a somewhat more energetic and unintentionally destructive "lovable lug" sort with a one-word vocabulary and very large teeth. Most of the stories revolve around Domo getting enthusiastic about some new thing and wreaking havoc, although once in a while one of the other forest critters is to blame. It manages to capture that gleefully detached- from-reality sense of kiddie manga (i.e. in the story where everyone gets a cellphone, Domo button-mashes and manages to accidentally call space aliens, who later show up in their flying saucer to express their displeasure at being waken up by a misdial) and makes use of kidmanga tropes without being a forced parody. In other words, the people involved know their stuff. It's a pretty quick read, and definitely written for kids, but whimsical enough to entertain adults too. If you're interested in just a taste, the free minicomic printed for Halloween has the first story from this book (maybe two stories, I didn't check THAT carefully), which is a pretty typical "Domo is enthusiastically destructive" story. There's just enough stories where Domo isn't a problem to keep the rampaging from getting too tedious, though. As an aside, the one piece on my deviantArt account favorited the most is (and by a pretty wide margin). Recommended. $9.99/$12.99Cn/#6.99UK 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 9/2/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Transformers Maximum Dinobots #3, Ninja High School #169-171, Justice Machine vol 1 TPB, Gold Digger Tech Manual #3, Farscape Strange Detractors #2, Gold Digger v3 #105, Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1, Incredibles #2 and #4, Encyclopedia Mythologica, Farscape Gone & Back #1, Thor #602, Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes #14, Farscape: D'Argo's Trial #1, Transformers Animated Almanac, Middleman GN, Atomic Robo Shadow out of Time #4. Add Moon Knight Saga, although it's probably buried among the boxes of Halloween minicomics and I didn't feel like hanging around the shop longer to wait for the swamped new employee to finish sorting. Awards: "Bowling For Mutants" Award to Handful of Heroes "Lots Of Planets Have A West" Award to Transformers Animated vol 10 "What's Poor Richard's Altmode?" Award to Transformers Animated the AllSpark Almanac "If I Only Had A BRAAAAAAINNNZZZZZ!" Award to Skin Horse vol 1 "Of Course He's Evil, He's A CEO" Award to Jersey Gods #7 "Teen Tony Felt Like It Lasted A Lot Longer" Award to Official Index to the Marvel Universe #9 "Paradigm A Dozen" Award to Exiles #6 "Time To Cash In M-11's Veteran Rewards" Award to Agents of Atlas #10 "Domo Is Also Inordinately Fond Of Beetles" Award to Domo the Manga Dave Van Domelen, "In truth, none of the warrior scholars check on my work anymore." "This may sound a little out there, but maybe it's because YOU FIRE ON EVERYONE who approaches." - Dr. Zu, Ken Hale, Agents of Atlas #10
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