September 22, 2010

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, 3m long tow straps + towed driver on cellphone = body work in near future Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Brody's Ghost vol 1 "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. Iron Man 2 Comic Series Iron Monger: Hasbro - This is the version seen in Iron Man #200, the blue armor with the shoulder antenna, rather than the movie version. And it's very nicely executed, with plenty of articulation and good detail work. It has no accessory, but the bigger toys rarely do. About the only flaw (other than the fact it'll probably be scalper-bait) is that the collar area isn't glued down properly so when you turn the head the collar may turn. Recommended. $7-8 price point. Oh, in case you were wondering, the site still redirects to Time-Shifting: Sometimes I get a comic a week or two late because of Diamond's combination of neglect and incompetence. If it's more than a week late, though, I won't review it unless it's very notable. Additionally, I will often get tradepaperbacks long after publication or even sometimes before Diamond ships them, and those will go here. If I'm reasonably sure I'm reviewing something that didn't ship this week, this is the section for it. Ben10 Alien Force Doom Dimension vol 2 (of 2): Del Rey - This one isn't Diamond's fault, I never ordered it through them. In fact, after the disappointment that was vol 1, I didn't order this one at ALL, leaving it on my mental "if I see it on the shelf, I might grab" it list. Dan Hipp's art is still a poor match (not that I really expected a lot of change, given that this was probably all drawn in one shot), and while the story has a few good bits here and there it really didn't grab me at any point. The core conflict was an ethical choice that was so far outside the realm of doubt (even leaving aside the fact that this story fits somewhere before the end of Alien Force, so we know he couldn't have chosen the "wrong" way) that it didn't really generate any suspense. Granted, it's hard to set up this sort of thing when the reader knows how it has to end, but there's a big difference between a choice you know for sure the character will make, and one where he might actually lean towards the other side and only end up making the "right" choice because circumstances force it, thus leaving him wondering if he really would have made the right choice. Anyway, there's not enough here to recommend picking up the two volume story. $7.99/$9.99Cn (digest sized, 80 pp of story) Brody's Ghost vol 1 (of 6): Dark Horse - Finally gave up on Diamond ever shipping this volume and ordered it from While the Dark Horse Myspace Presents stories bounced around in time, this opening volume is strictly linear, starting with the day Brody met his first ghost (and ending with the day he met his second). Before I go into the story, though, I must say I'd definitely buy a book that contained Crilley's worldbuilding notes, all the sorts of deep backstory that can't come up in the actual tale (because it'd be way too clunky) but informs the backgrounds. Brody lives in a sort of Blade Runner city, an indeterminate future in which many things are still quite recognizable (20th Century vehicles still clatter along in the poorer parts of town, people still read physical books, etc) while others clearly mark this as being the future rather than an alternate present. Brody himself lives so far down the social ladder that he rarely deals with anything more fantastic than a weirdly-shaped car, and the city has been the way it is long enough that he doesn't even have reason to think about how it got that way. As far as I can tell, it's an American or maybe Canadian city which has seen a strong Japanese influx a few generations back. Probably west coast. In addition to the Japanese signs all over (along with a lot in Spanish), there's small Japanese cultural touches all over the place, despite a clearly American core culture. Granted, it's possible Crilley just mashed together elements of the cities he's lived in and tossed in some cyberpunk elements to make it stand out from the present-day Urban Fantasy stories, but given how much time he put into the design sketching (which went up on his deviantArt account over the course of several months), I'd guess the worldbuilding was a little more in depth than that. As plots go, it's going to be pretty familiar to most readers of escapist fiction. Guy is at his low point, just a schlub with no prospects who's let his life got into the toilet after a bad breakup. And then he's approached by a ghost who claims he's special and who needs his help to get into heaven. Cue the Hero's Journey, complete with denial, nearly getting killed, and meeting the one who will train him to use his Special Powers. Even if there's some twists along the way (and I think I can see where one of the twists is coming up...the only question is whether the character in question is deliberately misleading Brody or if they're also in the dark about this). But this is one of those cases where even a fairly standard story is made well worth the read because of the art. Crilley modified his style yet again (claiming in the endnotes to have done a lot of referencing from Death Note this time) to fit the urban decay of the new setting, just as he changed his style to fit the rural and wilderness scenes that dominated Miki Falls. And for the most part, he resists the temptation to load the backgrounds down with easter eggs (which, while fun, tend to kill any chance of a serious mood), instead just giving them the sorts of details that make them feel real. (Okay, the boxes of Miki Falls on page 45 and the "Jill T. Rox!" graffiti on page 73 are easter eggs, but they stand out for their scarcity.) While it's too early to say if the story is something special, this is one of those rare cases where the art alone makes it worth the price of admission. And the story's pretty good so far, too. Strongly recommended. $6.99 (digest-sized, 89 pages of story plus several pages of design sketches and notes) 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. Transformers Drift #2 (of 4): IDW - At last, the truth is revealed! Hot Shot failed to become a major player in the neo-G1 continuity because his head was blown off in one of Drift's flashback sequences millions of years ago! ;) Anyway, while it's not obvious because of the similar designs of all the Milnebots, Drift himself is not actually on the cover. In fact, most of the characters on the cover are never named in this issue...we only get Wing, Axe and (not on the cover) Dai Atlas. Unless, of course, the guy with two swords on the cover is supposed to be Drift but the design changed between the cover art and the interior. He's a lot like Wing, so maybe he's Waver as long as they're mining late-G1 Japanese characters. Inside, at least, you can tell Drift and Wing apart easily enough by eye color (Drift's eyes are blue, Wing's are yellow), which is pretty important given how much of the issue is dialogue between the two. Story-wise, there's a lot of flashbacks in what's already a flashback series, establishing the reasons Drift had for joining the Decepticons and why he still doesn't get along with Autobots even after leaving the 'Cons. McCarthy's inconsistent approach to introducing characters continues to synergize badly with Milne's tendency to reuse certain design elements, making it hard to tell who a lot of the characters are. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Dynamo5 Sins of the Father #4 (of 5): Image - Still no #3, whee. Goodness, things got crowded in the issue I missed. At least some of the characters showed up at the very end, so they introduce themselves here, but the recap paragraph is a bit inadequate (Savage Dragon has kids? And electrical powers of some kind? Or is the lightning Savage Dragon actually one of the kids? Clearly some rapid aging or time travel is involved here, even if Dragon's been on a "one year real time equals one year story time" slider, the kids are too old). The fight scene expands, Menagerie pulls a Broadside, and the trio of alien warriors seems no closer to defeat than they were at the end of #2. The Notorious backup is even less interesting than it was previously, plus the pacing feels like the story is just going through the motions. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Legion of Super-Heroes v6 #5: DC - Most of the issue involves Earth Force making its big move on the Titanian refugee camp, giving Earth Man a chance to show whether he's really changed his stripes. There's some subtleties to the layout of the cover that become clearer once you've read the issue regarding who's looking at Earth Man and what their expressions are. :) The Green Lantern subplot continues, and you'd think Dyogene would know enough to not offer a ring to someone from the Time Institute...after Rond, it's not like any of them would be blind enough to accept Dyogene's lantern. Oh, and the Durlan extremists plot gets a couple of pages, to the detriment of a long-time supporting cast member. Recommended. $3.99 Avengers Academy #4: Marvel - Final part of the "Scared Straight" crossover with the Thunderbolts (who have moved on to a different crossover already, unsentimental crooks that they are). This issue we get a focus on Mettle, although Hazmat probably gets the best line of the issue. As for the plot, it's a pretty standard "tempted by the dark side" deal, but it's not unreasonable for such callow youths to be taken in by a smooth lie (or a dangerous truth). Recommended. $2.99 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 9/22/10: Invincible #72, Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #3, Transformers Ironhide #4, Gorilla Man #2, Welcome to Tranquility One Foot In The Grave #2, Atlas #1, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #3 (which I probably won't bother reviewing if it ever comes in), Guarding the Globe #1, Dynamo5 Sins of the Father #3, Science Dog #1, X-Factor #209, Women of Gold Digger #1 and Gold Digger Books of Magic #2. Awards: "The Head Isn't Removable, So It's Not Comic-Accurate" Award to Iron Man 2 Comic Series Iron Monger action figure "Well, No One Really Expects A Bounty Hunter To Be Good At Empathy" Award to Ben 10 Alien Force Doom Dimension vol 2 (of 2) "You Know It's America Because Of The Deep-Fried Cheeseburgers" Award to Brody's Ghost vol 1 (of 6) "Don't Blow A Gasket" Award to Transformers Drift #2 (of 4) "The Focused Totality Of His Shoulder Chip" Award to Dynamo5 Sins of the Father #4 (of 5) "It's Mallor Time" Award to Legion of Super-Heroes v6 #5 "Even Knowing He's The Devil Doesn't Stop You From Making A Deal" Award to Avengers Academy #4 Dave Van Domelen, "Get back in your cell. Or I'll give you CANCER." (pause) "Okay, okay. Jeez. Used to be they just smacked you in the mouth..." - Hazmat and Grizzly, Avengers Academy #4
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