September 29, 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, I heard a song off "Joshua Tree" on the local oldies station today. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None "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. Marvel Universe 4" Action Figures (Captain Britain, Multiple Man): Hasbro - The price of the 4"-scale figures has crept up to where the 6" figures were a few years ago, but sadly the quality isn't keeping up. I got Captain Britain because (other than the crappy shading wash on the white parts) it looked pretty good in the package, and I got Multiple Man because Jaime Madrox so rarely gets any merchandising. Captain Britain isn't all that good out of the package, sadly...probably his biggest problem comes because these figures use a mid-torso joint instead of a waist joint, so he can't turn without breaking up his chest pattern. Also, if you're not going to include any handheld accessories, why have a hand in grasping pose? Pass on this one. Madrox is a bit of an oddball, continuity-wise. He's in his classic blue and gold kinetic damper suit (no trenchcoat), and the back of his package writeup seems to be taking him from the X-Men United continuity where he's part of Magneto's army (maybe he briefly was working for Magneto in the comics, but mostly he's been a hero except for his initial fight against the Fantastic Four). While his chest pattern is also broken up by the not-waist joint in the torso, it's not as jarring an effect on him. The figure's notable for being pretty skinny, a rarity in a male superhero action figure, which makes it a useful kitbash base if you don't mind working over a dark base color. The one thing about the toy that makes it even remotely worth picking up, though, is that his non-fist hand is just the right shape for a facepalm pose, which his arm is articulated enough to permit. It's not really Jaime Madrox if it can't facepalm, after all. Still, hardly worth nine bucks. No Ordinary Family: Tuesday 8/7C on ABC - I don't normally review TV, but since this looks like another slim week for actual comics for me, I decided to add some comments on the debut of the latest "superhero" show on TV, taking the niche vacated by Heroes. I imagine the pitch for this show might have included the phrase, "Live-action version of The Incredibles" in it somewhere, and there's certainly plenty of points of similarity despite the show being set in a "real world until very recently" situation. Probably the strongest similarity (other than the whole "husband/wife/son/daughter with powers" premise) is the interaction between Chiklis's super-strong father (hey, at least they got a guy who's got experience acting as a strongman) and his best friend being a lot like the Mr. Incredible/Frozone thing (although in this case the buddy has no powers). I was a bit worried that this show would try too hard to be a campy sitcom, and the choice of background music for the opening scene reinforced that, but the show pretty quickly found its legs as more of a drama than anything else. Slice-of-strange-life, if you will. It hammers on the Dysfunctional Family button a little too hard and a little too often, risking a drift into maudlin moping, but by the end of the pilot episode it looks like they're going to focus on the fixing of dysfunction rather than wallowing in it. Contributing to the drama angle is the revelation of a Shadowy Nemesis of some sort, although we see too little to know if the organization is necessarily inimical. It could be more like SHIELD than The Company, just with a thing for ominous atmospherics. Regarding the effects, they picked a decent set of powers to give the family. The father has the original Superman powerset (strong, jumps hella- high, bullet-resistant, super reflexes), the mother is a speedster, the daughter a telepath and the son has some sort of super-intelligence power that they portray by having him see solutions form in front of him (think Amadeus Cho, although we don't get enough of his powers in the pilot to know how far the effect extends, he may be super-intuitive in general and not just on math stuff). The guest-super of the episode uses a teleportation effect that's pretty much from X-Men 2's Nightcrawler, but it looks good and works within a TV budget. Both parents have friends who help them figure out their powers (and in one case who lampshades some of the more convenient aspects of the power), and who in some way act as enablers for a superhero lifestyle. The father's friend, in fact, sets him up with a Secret Base (well, a garage full of monitoring gear), while the mother's is such a comics geek that she has a chase variant Kitty Pryde Marvel Legends 6" figure. It's clear in all four cases that the powers are a form of wish-fulfillment, making up for deficiencies each sees in their lives. In the mother's case, in fact, it's hammered home relentlessly, but it's a little more subtle in the other cases. There's also some not so subtle foreshadowing (again with the mother, who seems to get all the "hey, look at this, it's a plot point" scenes) suggesting a mechanism by which superpowers will become more common as the series goes on. For all that the show trades on genre tropes, it does put just enough twists on the old standards to maintain my interest. And some of the more blatant plothammer elements can be excused by the fact that the Average Viewer isn't going to be as genre savvy as I am and may well need those points made manifestly clear. If it has a significant weakness, it's that it depends a lot on the draw of a single "name"-level star, Michael Chiklis. His turn as the Thing certainly got the show on the radar of comics fans who might have missed it (I certainly don't recall a huge amount of publicity for this otherwise), and playing a police sketch artist might ping the radars of people who liked him on The Shield. But if those two fanbases don't bring enough core viewers, we might have to see the second half of the season on DVD, as happened to shows like the new Bionic Woman. Recommended. 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. I got X-Factor #209, but wasn't moved by it enough way or another to do a two-week-late review of it. Deadpool Team-Up #889: Marvel - Guest-starring Gorilla Man, written by Jeff Parker. (Note for those who don't follow this title: they started numbering at #900 and have been counting backwards.) This is a fairly light piece of fluff picking up on a villain from Gorilla Man's miniseries, who hires Deadpool in an attempt to dispose of Gorilla Man without triggering the curse on themselves. At the edge of how silly Gorilla Man's stories can be without feeling "off", but right about in the center of Deadpool's discomfort zone. Recommended. $2.99 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 Sector 7 #1 (of 5): IDW - IDW's latest movieverse comic, written by John Barber and drawn by Joe Suitor...neither of whom I can recall seeing before. The story focuses on the original 7 of Sector 7, Victorian adventurers who recovered Megatron so that he could be eventually moved south and Hoover Dam built over him. Suitor's art is almost entirely grays and browns, and while it evokes the Victorian age reasonably well, it's too murky in places and seems to contradict the end notes a couple of times. (i.e. Barber mentions the faction symbol on one of the characters...who does not seem to have a visible faction symbol in any panel where he appears. That same character appears to have been the U.S.S. Maine in the story, but Barber's endnotes claim the character blew up the Maine accidentally.) The end notes combine both historical stuff (for those who don't know what the Maine is and why it's important) and continuity stuff (like "this character is the unnamed one in the background of issue 1 of the prequel comic" sort of things). It's a pity Barber clearly put so much work into making the story hang together, only to have Suitor mess it up. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #644: Marvel - More running fight/chase as a few more of Spidey's foes enter the mix. In dramatic terms, this is the climax of the story, the "things can't get worse, can they?" point, even if it's not the Big Final Fight. Still not liking Azaceta's art, though, and it's starting to drag down my enjoyment of the writing. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Atlas #5: Marvel - FINAL ISSUE. Sales just never managed to make it, and Parker decided to end at this point rather than try another round of crossovers and gimmicks. Fortunately, the intro page gives a fairly thorough accounting of the stuff I missed in #4 (which Diamond still isn't bothering to ship). Finishing things off here does require a bit of compression, though, and there's a few text-only pages here and there to skip over the skippable parts. In general, there's a good, balanced sense of scale here. On the one hand, they DO end a war that has raged in one way or another for generations. On the other hand, the first we'd heard of it was a few months ago, even if retcons tied it in with much older stories. So while the ending is appropriately big, there's no attempt to make it feel like it's the culmination of Everything Atlas Was Created For. It's a big victory, but just another along the way when all is said and done. It led to some personal growth, a new team member, and confirmation of some suspicions, btu Parker avoided the temptation to turn it into too big of a deal. Recommended. $2.99 Gold Digger v3 #121: Antarctic Press - One of the things Fred Perry's been doing a lot in recent years has been to take shallow gag characters and find ways to flesh them out without damaging their shallow gag exteriors, essentally setting them up for use in serious stories without preventing their later use as silly walk-ons. This issue, the Uopma-Luompans led by Prince Lowtor get the treatment. Sure, they started as candy-making tiny parodies of residents of Planet Doom (Voltron), foils for the Leprechaun supporting cast, but the little guys have proven to have legs. And in this issue we find out what motivates them, what made them the tiny rat-bastards that they are and why. There's something of a Cosmic Reset Button at the end, so that Perry doesn't have to immediately stop using them as comic foils, but just enough is left in place to open the door for another serious story when he's ready to tell it. 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 9/29/10: 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, Women of Gold Digger #1 and Gold Digger Books of Magic #2. Awards: "At Least The Best Buddy Doesn't Have An Off-Screen Bossy Wife" Award to No Ordinary Family "Family Of The Head" Award to Deadpool Team-Up #889 "Way Too Many Gwangi" Award to Transformers Sector 7 #1 (of 5) "Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #644 "3 6 9. 12 15 18. 21 24 27. 30" Award to Atlas #5 "Any Good DM Would Cackle With Glee At That Poorly Worded Wish" Award to Gold Digger v3 #121 Dave Van Domelen, "You need approval from the gorilla." - Jimmy Woo, Atlas #5
Back to the Main Rants Page.

Labor on back to the September 2010 Page.