September 29, 2012

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

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, Now officially collecting unemployment benefits, whee. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Amelia Rules! Her Permanent Record In this installment: Dredd 3D, Love and Capes: What To Expect #2 (of 6), Transformers: ReGeneration One #81-82, Double Barrel #4, Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #5-6 of 6), Atomic Robo: Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #3 (of 5), Amelia Rules! Her Permanent Record, Gold Digger v3 #141, Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes #6, Young Justice #20 "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. Dredd 3D: LionsGate - Well, I saw it in 2D, and don't feel I missed too much (although some of the slo-mo sequences might've been cool in 3D). This is a hard R, and purely for violence...what little sexual content it has would be fine on network TV in prime time, and the language is only slightly worse than I heard unbleeped on the Daily Show this month. But the graphic violence, especially the slow-motion graphic violence (there's a good in-story reason for all the slo-mo, BTW) is pretty extreme. As far as the story goes, I think they got Judge Dredd right this time. They don't try to show off the entire world, like Stallone's version did, and the stakes aren't OMGTHEWHOLECITY either. It's two cops in a housing tower, fighting a drug kingpin in a situation that rather rapidly escalates. It's also about whether one of the two cops is fit to BE a Judge, or if she's a washout. So, the stakes are high enough for high drama, without trying to be epic and risking failure. The story is a good fit for the characters and for the world, showing plenty of how Mega-City One works without feeling forced. As for Mega-City One, it's a much lower-tech version than in the comics or in the Stallone movie. No flying motorcycles, for instance, and most of the tech is at the edge of plausibility. They don't really delve too deeply into how 800 million people can survive in a city surrounded by radioactive wastelands and no viable farmland (although dead bodies are sent to "recyc"), but the tech level and the way the megatowers are mixed in with surviving modern age buildings work well. From the first view of the city, you can feel that it's a last gasp, a stagnating mix of advanced technology that can't meet all the needs, and ancient leftovers that have to make do. It's a scavenger society, holding together out of inertia and dogged determination. And in this city, Judge Dredd is one of the few incorruptible bulwarks against chaos. So, if you don't mind seeing a bullet going through someone's face in rather realistic slow motion gore-splatter, it's a pretty good dark Sci-Fi cop movie. And Dredd never takes off the helmet. I picked up the Dark Knight Returns (part 1) DVD, but hadn't gotten around to watching it by the time I posted this. 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. Love & Capes: What To Expect #2 (of 6): IDW - The cover is an homage to the "Adventures in Babysitting" movie, but thankfully the story doesn't try to continue the homage. The main story involves Mark and Abby babysitting for one of Abby's friends as a sort of practice run for parenting (and Darkblade has his own practice run planned). But this is still primarily a slice of life comic, and plenty of other stories keep running alongside the main plot, such as Amazonia moving in with Darkblade. Some cliches are pretty unavoidable here, but Zahler does a decent job when he has to deal with them. Recommended. $3.99 at ComiXology Transformers ReGeneration One #81-82: IDW - Waited until these dropped to $1.99 each. The story starts in ways rather similar to the UK Annual text piece Furman wrote back when the original Marvel comic was cancelled, but obviously updated to account for the natural self-editing process as well as trademarks and copyrights no longer available to Furman (i.e. Circuit Breaker is still Marvel's property, or at least the situation is murky enough IDW doesn't want to push it, so she only appears in shadowy flashback and is never named). He still has his predeliction for blowing up Earth as soon as he's permitted to, though (he did it in the G2 comic once freed from having to stay in continuity with GIJoe). #81 is largely concerned with how the peace established in the last Marvel issue is a false front, while #82 concentrates on how badly things have fallen in the pot since the Autobots declared victory and stopped paying attention to anything off Cybertron. Meanwhile, running through both issues, Soundwave continues the plotting started in #80.5. It's okay, but shows its age as being a nearly 20 year old idea that was kinda 80s-ish at the time to begin with. The whole Mad Max aesthetic of a blaster Earth inhabited by battered mechs. Mildly recommended. $1.99 each. Double Barrel #4: Top Shelf - The under-the-lettercol strip makes a good point about how creators are always better off sharing tips, rather than trying to maintain some sort of Secret Edge on the competition. Meanwhile, Heck has a rather disturbing (to him, anyway) discussion with the gatekeeper of Dis, followed by meeting up with Heretics who point out the fundamental unfairness of the whole dualistic afterlife cosmology (well, the Limbo people did a pretty good job of that already, but it's a point worth hitting repeatedly). Crater XV isn't quite as long this time, and mostly takes the various complications from last issue and lets them evolve in various directions (including backwards, as people wonder if they were wrong before). Oh, and explosives get added to the mix. Penny From The Front kind of marks time, Jin is typically adorable, and the process tip section is on being a sketch tourist. Recommended. $1.99 Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures #5 (of 6): Red 5 Comics - This one managed to sneak past me, I guess it went up on Comixology a little late. I don't know if something missed deadline, or this was the plan from the start, but this issue has a reprinted story from volume 2 of the regular series (Robo confronted by his father's killer many years after the fact). To Kill A Sparrow is your basic "keep the badguy talking while captive" thing, although at only four pages it's not really padded...just feels that way when it's the entire installment. "Bloop" is a sort of shaggy dog story, although the dog is not shaggy or particularly doglike. Cute vignette. "Once Upon A Time In China" manages to tell a complete short story of one of Robo's adventures in WWII in four pages, good economy of storytelling. The Bruce Lee story ends the training and begins the final exam...the pacing would have been better if they'd let both parts 5 and 6 run in this issue, since most of the pages from both parts together form a single confrontation. Recommended. $1.99 Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures #6 (of 6): Red 5 Comics - This one didn't sneak past, ha! Unfortunately, it's a somewhat disappointing wrap-up. The Sparrow story ends predictably, the Bruce Lee story is okay but see previous issue's comment, and two of the stories are really just quick setups for potential future threats, teasers rather than stories. There's one short bit where Robo fights a giant crab that's pretty good, although even it is only part of the event, AND it's a reprint from volume 2. It's as if they committed to serializing two stories in six parts, but found they really only had enough material for four issues. Note, which there isn't an explicit "of 6" on the cover, there's no further issues solicited in Previews for the next few months. However, the upcoming TPB is labeled volume 1, so we might get a second volume next year. Mildly recommended. $1.99 Atomic Robo: the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #3 (of 5): Red 5 Comics - Big aerial fight scene, lots of explosions, and Robo gets captured. On purpose, naturally. Well, probably not his primary goal, but a recognized side effect of his plan. A nice break from exposition, but not without some hints and revelations along the way. Recommended. $2.99 Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Amelia Rules!: Her Permanent Record: Atheneum/Simon&Schuster - And this is the final volume of Amelia Rules! It's not the end of her life story, per se, although we've had a few flash-forwards and seen part of Amelia's life after junior high. But this is the end of the beginning, of the bildungsromans Gownley has been building up over the past several volumes. Her Obi Wan has fallen (metaphorically), and Amelia becomes her own woman. Well, gets firmly onto that path. She'll still be immature on occasion, of course, but in this final installment she moves from "child who needs to be protecting" into "potential equal who can shoulder some of the burden". And at the same time, she helps strike a blow for the importance of being allowed to still be a kid until you're ready to stop. It's hard to say how well this would stand up if it were the first book you pick up. The actual facts are pretty well summarized in both the opening sequence and various flashbacks and the like, but that's not the same as having built up the emotional resonance over several volumes. The first few volumes were just episodic vignettes, but by volume 4 there was a definite arc going on. On a nitpicking side, there's a few places where words or phrases were dropped somehow, as if they were in a layer that got omitted from the final file. Strongly recommended. $10.99 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. Gold Digger v3 #141: Antarctic Press - This is where things start to hit the fan, although it's unclear whether this was part of Dreadwing's plan or a result of him being sloppy. He's one of those Master Planners who doesn't worry too much about side effects, and it usually bites him in the tail. And at least one other thing is established this issue as DEFINITELY coming around to bite him, although that's not necessarily good for Our Heroes. Otherwise, the first half of the issue is mostly "Oh dear, we're about to get nailed" and the second half is fighting off said nail. Recommended, mainly for dialogue. $3.99 Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes #6: Marvel - I managed to miss #5, and the series isn't on ComiXology. But since all the stories are stand-alone, I'm okay with the lack. The first story, by Rob Williams, felt almost like an Atomic Robo short, although with Black Widow in Robo's place. More a vignette than a story, but pretty good. The second piece involves bringing Mutant Prejudice into the EMH universe, with people protesting because they think Wasp is a mutant, and Magneto reacting in his usual fashion to this. Yost gives us a fairly standard "is that the sort of person you want to follow?" conflict, and it's a bit compressed, but okay. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Young Justice #20: DC - A bridging issue, popping back and forth between scenes shortly after the end of season 1 and shortly before the start of season 2. As the comic has done in most of its run so far, it fleshes out things merely hinted at in the cartoon (or even left out entirely), complementing it while still presenting stories that stand on their own (although it takes a bit more exposition to make this work sometimes). The two main plot threads are really just excuses to fill in some of the five year gap via flashbacks and exposition, though, as the end of the issue takes a sharp left turn and leaves both threads hanging as an entirely new threat rears its complicated head. Since this arc will have to wrap up before the first episode of season 2, Greg Weisman is free to do pretty much whatever the story requires so long as he doesn't kill off anyone who's on the show (which is a restriction he's always under anyway). And, amusingly, he ties in the Invasion theme without having to jump the gun on the Kroloteans (or however they're spelled). Recommended. $2.99 Dave Van Domelen, "I bet he's probably got closet space to SPARE in there. Not that YOUR clothes take up a lot of space." "No, but the WEAPONS sure do. Swords don't fold." - Abby and Amazonia, Love & Capes
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