September 23, 2011


Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

Intermittent 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, Man, Nebraska is one humid state. So far no more weeklies have shown up for me at the store back in Kansas, but I've accumulated a few trades and GNs bought on Amazon, plus some digital comics. Obviously, my sections will be getting changed since I no longer have "late comics" in any meaningful sense. :) Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Sanctuary #1-3, Feynman GN "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. Thor: Marvel Studios - I've already talked about the movie, this is about the DVD release. (I'm not buying the X-Men First Class DVD because it's a no-frills-but-full-price edition, $15 for no extra or $20 for some featureettes, bah. I'll wait to see if they do a better edition for the holidays, or at least wait for the cheapo disc to BE cheap.) There's only about six minutes of deleted scenes, but they're all good character development moments. Two of them in particular would have made for stronger storytelling overall. There's also a very short featurette "Road to the Avengers" that lays out how they're building up to the Avengers movie. All told, pretty light on the extras, you might want to wait for it to transition to the cheap bins anyway, unless you missed the movie in theaters. In that case, definitely pick this up. (I'm of the opinion that if I saw a movie in the theater three to six months ago, I don't really need a DVD that's JUST the movie, it has to contain some new material.) Fire Blast Marvel's Destroyer: Hasbro - And just in time for the DVD release, the second wave of Thor action figures trickles into stores. Well, I only saw one of the new wave, but it was also the only one I was really interested in: the Destroyer (who is saddled with all sorts of modifiers so the toy can be trademarked). 4.75" (12cm) tall, he towers over the other figures in the line, and comes with no accessories. The gimmick is that an LED in the chest lights up when you press on the belly, and the head is almost entirely clear to let some of the light emerge there. It's...weak. Even in a darkened room it's unimpressive. But at least it's not a spring motion gimmick that interferes with other movement. A quick drybrushing with gunmetal paint would fix the paleness of the head and also bring the duller color of the limbs into line with the painted torso, or you could try to match the movie look by alichroming it (something I already did to a 7-11 straw topper Destroyer). Articulation is decent, although the shoulders are just swivels, and the hips are those stupid hinge-swivels all Marvel figures seem to be cursed with, that allow more range of motion at the expense of making it very hard to get the legs to actually bend in the direction you want at the hip. The elbows are hinges with swivels just above them, wrist swivels, double hinge knees and hinge-swivel ankles (although the hinge part can't do a lot). About the right size to fight Deluxe-class or Scout-class Transformers. Recommended, but not worth scalper prices if you don't see it on the shelf. $8 price point. 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. DC Digital: Comixology - I was really looking forward to giving this a shot, although I planned to wait for the "a buck cheaper if you wait a bit" price. But I've since found that these can ONLY be read online. No downloads, must go through their interface. That's a dealbreaker when I'm also paying at least $1.99 for a $2.99 cover-price comic. Even if I had a smartphone with unlimited data plan, I just find this offensive. No, not deeply offensive like genocide or whatever hyperbole you want to throw around. But enough to turn me off spending any money on this. If it were more like a NetFlix model where I'd pay a monthly fee for unlimited reading, I might be tempted. But...just no. Once again, a major company's attempt to move to digital delivery is covered in fail. So I won't be spending any money on this. Eldritch #3: - This is how you do digital delivery. 99 cents for a full issue (1/4 or 1/5 of what it'd cost in print), a simple PDF you can download and view on anything that can do PDFs. Anyway, story. Alexovich treads a fine line here, with Anya being a bit too quick to dismiss magic in a setting where it might be real, setting herself up to be a potential strawman skeptic, but she does at least seriously examine the supporting evidence. And there never really was a chance for a "rational" explanation, something she recognizes. The beginning part of the issue drives home the idea of the banality of cosmic evil...the mother of the demon baby isn't some crazed cultist, she doesn't even have any particular derangement other than what's necessary to act like it's okay that her baby is a crawling netherbeast (insert humor about all babies being like that). She's just a painfully normal suburban wife who got caught in something really nasty and is coping as best as she can. In that respect, she's much like the protagonists of many of Lovecraft's stories, most of whom are just everyday folks (at least, as everyday as H.P. could convey, given that he wasn't all that social a fellow). When Anya stumbles across the dark secrets, the horror has faded for the people most closely involved, replaced by a weary boredom. Tired of the strangeness. Tired of the aggressive denial. Flirting with the idea of suicide simply as a way to get out of the grind. Mind you, it's still possible that there are genuine Evil Plans behind it all, the ennui a facade to throw off the one person who's gotten too close to the truth, but Aaron seems to be setting up more of a "terrible things happen because people are just stupid sometimes" story here. Recommended. 99 cent PDF. Monstrosis #1 and Sanctuary #1: Slave Labor Graphics - Slave Labor has apparently come to the same conclusion I have, that Diamond will not let digital comics work. So they're going all digital with their monthlies and ditching hardcopies and Diamond. To get people interested, they've put up free .epub files of Monstrosis #1 and Sanctuary #1. Unfortunately, the .epub format is really poorly suited to comics, I recommend you just go direclty to and get the PDFs. iBooks exposure may actually hurt them if people find they can't really read the stuff on a smartphone. Monstrosis is an homage to/pastiche of/parody of Kirby monster comics of the 1950s, wrapped in the conceit that it's a publication of random "lost" stories put out by the comic's long-time publisher (i.e. "we found these pages in what we thought was someone's lunchbag, that had been sitting on a desk since 1973" sort of stuff). The high concept is used to justify the disjointed and incomplete nature of the stories, which mostly just feel like they end when the writer got bored with them. Unfortunately, while Kirby pastiche is very popular (see also Jersey Gods, G0dland, etc), it's also very hard to do well (see same) and descends into weak parody all too easily. Monstrosis was actually painful to read in places, and while that seemed to be the intent, it didn't really bring anything to the table that made it worth the suffering. Stephen Coughlin's Sanctuary is rather a different book from Monstrosis, in pretty much every way. It's set at something that looks like a modern zoo but seems to be run as a closed research facility with a number of Sinister Overtones. There's a large cast of characters introduced, mostly animals but some humans, and by the end it becomes clear why they had to drop so many characters in so quickly: there's a murder mystery, and the more suspects the better. But that's not the only plotline, there's several major plots and several relationship-based subplots running through this issue, the level of storytelling density is quite impressive. Based on these free issues, I want no more of Monstrosis, but I'm buying the next two issues of Sanctuary, which are available on Free downloads, go for both in case your tastes differ. Sanctuary #2-3: Slave Labor Graphics - The plot thickens, as the murder mystery is complicated by the revelation of what the titular sanctuary is really up to. It's implied that it had a FAR darker past, was cleaned up significantly, but is now sinking back into questionable ethics on the part of management. Also, hivemind spiders. Several compelling plotlines and some really good dialogue from Coughlin, balancing humor and terror (no mean feat on the latter, given the cartoony "funny animal" art style). Strongly recommended. 99 cents per issue. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Transformers Prime vol 1-2: IDW - Just like the Transformers Animated cel comics, these use animation stills from the Transformers Prime cartoon to tell compressed versions of the episodes. Unfortunately, the quality control is pretty poor...the pages in my volume 1 got scrambled, and without page numbers it's more effort than it's worth to try rearranging the signatures (those 16 page chunks they glue together, although I think the pages may even be scrambled within signatures). Also, the overly dark look of most of the early Prime episodes translates VERY poorly into a static format where there's no movement to catch the eye and help foreground objects stand out from the background. Volume 1 adapts the first two parts of the five-part opening storyline, and the pacing seems okay as far as I can tell from the scrambled pages. Volume 2 is parts 3-5, so a bit more compressed. But when did IDW develop a phobia of numbers? Not only do the pages not have numbers, they don't even have volume numbers on the cover or spine! Really, this is such a half-assed production it's like a knockoff of a proper comic. Definitely do not order online, in case the scrambling isn't universal and you can find a copy that's in order. $7.99 per volume. Feynman: :01 First Second - This isn't the first comic Jim Ottaviani has done based on Richard Feynman's life, but it's the biggest. Leland Myrick does all the line art, and unlike most of Ottaviani's science comics, it's in color (and hardbound). The story is pretty much Feynman's biography in comic form, progressing mostly linearly with the occasional flashbacks and flashforwards. It's broken into fairly short (1-5 page) vignettes labeled with the relevant years (helpful when the source material of Feynman's autobiographies rambles across the ages), but the flow is so good that these aren't really breaks in the story, just signposts. It's a hard story to put down, as there really aren't any obvious 'stop here' spots. The art has a Euro feel to it and takes a little getting used to if (like me) you don't read a lot of European comics, but it works well and tells the story pertty clearly. Myrick shifts comfortably between reality, symbolism and fantastic elements (like the T.rex outside young Richard's bedroom window in an early story...which happened to be the first page I opened to when showing this book to someone, causing me to note that the biography might not be strictly literal). There's a bit of a physics lesson near the end as, later in his life, Feynman tries to figure out a way to explain Quantum ElectroDynamics to people outside the rarified circle of Top Physicists, although...well, I've studied Field Theory formally and even I got a little lost at some of the explanation, so that might fall under the "unfinished work" category. Still, a very engaging read. Strongly recommended. $29.99 cover price (significantly less at Amazon). Floppies: If I actually pick up some monthly issues, they'll go here. Given my reluctance to put money in Diamond's hands, though, these would likely only be review copies or stuff found in oddball places. And no, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? And like floppy disks they may be a doomed format. Nothing this time. Awards: Not really feeling the Awards this time, might just discontinue this section. Dave Van Domelen, "Now, who wants to polish my blade?" - Fandral, deleted scene in Thor.
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