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Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et CeteraIntermittent 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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants Teaching an overload schedule is as tiring as one would expect. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Ms. Marvel #18, My Little Pony Friends Forever #20 In this installment: 1999 Episodes 1-4, Empowered vol 9, SHIELD #10, Ms. Marvel #18, Astro City #27, Kaijumax #6, Toil & Trouble #1 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #34, My Little Pony Friends Forever #20, The Transformers #45, Transformers: Windblade #7, Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #44-45, Invader Zim #3. "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. Nothing this month, but Iron Giant Signature Edition got a brief theatrical release on September 30 and October 4. I teach nights, so plan to see the Sunday afternoon showing locally. 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 iPhone if it's at all possible. 1999 Episodes 1-4: Amazon Kindle Store - This is something Christopher Priest (the formerly-Owz one, not the British SF author) has been working on for a few years and shopping around to various places, but decided to go ahead and self-publish now that he's gotten the hang of the Kindle store via his Zion and Dual releases. The high concept here is a modern superhero pulp, complete with more deeply flawed protagonists experiencing unpleasant things. The original plan was to get some spot illustrations done (like how Corriera's recent 1930s superheroes novels did), and that might still happen in later editions, but for now it's purely text. While it's listed as episodes 1-4, that's a bit misleading. It's actually the first chapters of three stories that will eventually dovetail, and the second chapter of the core story. Each episode has about as much content as a single comic, give or take. A fourth story will join the weave soon, and eventually they'll all come crashing together, as promised in the text pieces at the end. So there's a lot of character sketching right now, and setting up different windows on the world which don't necessarily look like they're completely in the same world yet, since everyone has a slightly different part of the metaphorical elephant. There's a somewhat corrupt cop who has yet to realize there's actual superhuman powers in the world, a very corrupt superhuman hitman, and a slightly corrupt superhuman who thought it'd be fun to play at villainy to rip off real criminals. All the protagonists are at least on the badguy side, but some of them are trying to be less bad. All of the stories are set about the same time, near the end of 1998 (yes, I know...but the shared-universe-spawning novel 1632 started in 1631, so there's precedent for kicking off before the year where things really hit the fan and merit a title). The language and situations are definitely adult, as befits an attempt at a spiritual successor to the pulps, and about on the same level as found in Zion and Dual. Conflict of interest disclaimer, I've been helping Priest with the pseudoscience underpinnings, so I can't give an unbiased recommendation. I will say that the basic stuff he wanted to make work was interesting enough that I ended up spending one of my limited-time evenings this month putting together several pages of material for it. :) $0.99 at Amazon.com (it may be available through other means later, but the Kindle store is easiest for Priest to work with right now) While I didn't buy the new digital release, Halo and Sprocket #1 is now up on ComiXology. Very good comic, I got the TPB back in the late 90s, and if you've never read it, this is worth picking up. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Empowered volume 9: Dark Horse - Actually came out in August, but my store neglected to order it and I had to wait on a Diamond Reorder...so I'm lucky I got it before Christmas. Other than a short digression that was necessary to explain one of the characters who showed up at the climax, this is one long piece that shows how far Emp has come since volume 1. Sure, we've had ample evidence of her growing power and confidence, but in this volume she's hunted down by what seems like every at-liberty supervill on the planet, all seeking to take advantage of her access to the superweapon depot seen in volume 8. And since this isn't volume 9 "of 9", obviously she manages to at least avoid death. (Well, given some of the hinting in previous volumes, there's a chance she'd just become one of the Superdead, something neither confirmed nor denied this time around, but definitely brought up.) Mind you, while it's great to see She of the Poor Self-Image be effective, in this biz that just means she's about to take a fall. Recommended. $17.99/$23.99Cn Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? SHIELD #10: Marvel - Well, it may be a little late to be lampooning Spiderverse at this point, but other than that Waid turns in a decent Howard the Duck comic. It strikes a good balance between SHIELD needing to stay at least nominally on the "takes this seriously" side of the line, while Howard takes the piss out of everything in sight and even fights a parody of Galactus after a parody of Morun. Recommended. $3.99 Ms. Marvel #18: Marvel - Among the many themes Wilson puts in this book is that people are often better than you expect. This time it's Aamir's chance to show that while he's certainly an overprotective, over-religious busybody who makes Kamala's life complicated, he comes by it honestly and from a solid moral core that's flexible enough to let him take in the crazy situation he finds himself in and still do the right thing. He and Kamala may have picked up different specifics from their upbringing, but they both got the important underlying messages. On the art side, it's good to have Alphona back, especially for the final scene where Kamala's in grumpy put-upon mode for several pages. While often verging into cartoony caricature, Alphona still manages to make everything feel real and alive in ways that a more realistic style wouldn't. Strongly recommended. $2.99 Astro City #27: DC/Vertigo - The origin and spotlight on American Chibi, who's shown up a few times since the relaunch but was never really explained. Having spent the last two years working on an independent computer game, I found the "indie game designer" aspects of American Chibi's origins harder to swallow than the "magic hair scrunchies" part. And the guest art by Infurnari was too scratchy, even in the chibi world scenes where he tried cleaning it up. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Kaijumax #6: Oni Press - The first season comes to an end. The pace picks up a lot, and in fact feels like there's some jump cuts, but that's okay. Most of the missing bits would have felt like padding anyway. My only significant complaint was that there was no real followup to the departure of the guard who was going through toku-puberty other than to mention personnel churn. In good news, we find that Jin Cannon is not allowed to read this comic. Recommended. $3.99 Toil and Trouble #1 (of 6): BOOM!/Archaia - This is MacBeth reinterpreted from the point of view of one of the Weird Sisters. Mairghread Scott isn't trying to hew too closely to Shakespeare's story, but then again, Shakespeare himself wasn't too worried about sticking to the stories he, ah, "adapted" either. The core premise is that as magic bleeds out of the land, only particularly careful guardians can keep their lands pointed in the right direction and preserve both mortal and fey alike. The protagonist, Smertae, chafes at the cold logic of her sisters' plans and starts the tale returning from a period of exile (they kicked her out since she wouldn't play along and they didn't want her interfering). Naturally, she messes up again, or there wouldn't be much dramatic tension, yes? :) The story is shaping up to be both a textual tale of personal ethics versus the "greater good" and a metatextual commentary on how a protagonist can be robbed of their agency by supernatural interference (if you read the original Iliad, for instance, a lot of it is the mortals just being jerked around by the gods and having very little say in their own fates). Smertae's sisters represent how the stories are "supposed to go" with great powers pulling the strings, and Smertae herself is that pesky free will and protagonistic (if tragic) agency. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #34: IDW - Hard to be sure, but it looks like this is the start of a longer arc, addressing concerns that the two issue arcs were a bad length. It grows out of one of the FIENDship issues from this past April, with a Mysterious Figure gathering numerous antagonists as part of a nefarious plan. Given a bit more room to work with, Whitley does manage to build up both a credible sense of menace, and also a tragic motive that gives the antagonist a lot more depth than merely "I want power!" While Price's art is a bit less busy than usually seen when he works with Cook, it still shows plenty of his particular touches. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #20: IDW - Luna and Discord. So, Discord is sleepwalking, which has the sort of chaotic side effects one might expect, and Luna is tasked with figuring out the problem. Discord has trouble opening up, not least because Luna helped put him in a statue form back in the day, but probably mostly because he's in a lot of denial. Hickey manages to pull off some impressive background action and keep up with the demands of a Discord-centric plot that adds in the extra weirdness of dreamscapes, and there's as many pop-culture references as the Matrix-riff cover would suggest (including the Cutie Mark Crusaders as big gorram heroes). While a bit heavy on continuity for a new reader, I suspect that anyone who knows Q from Star Trek and is told that Discord is basically Q with as much of a thing for Fluttershy as Q had for Janeway, they'll be able to get it. Strongly recommended. $3.99 The Transformers #45: IDW - Barber does some good dialogue here, although it doesn't quite compensate for the sheer WTF-ery of the main plot. What came across as Blackrock blowing smoke a few months ago turns out to have been the whole underlying core of Roberts's uberplot for at least the last year. All of human civilization really has been guided by people with access to ancient Cybertronian secrets, descendents of Gilgamesh, enacting a millennia-long plan to get technology up to the point where humans could exploit the Enigma of Combination. Yes, I'm spoilering here, but it's important to understanding all of the misgivings I've had about Barber's plotline since he started doing stuff on Earth again. While maybe not as big a boggler as "Oh, Earth is actually Unicron," from over in Prime, it sure is a big retcon. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Windblade #7: IDW - Final issue, but Scott will be relaunching the storyline in the Spring with Transformers: All Are One. After teasing us with Psycho Elita-1 since the Combiner Wars crossover, the explanation is a bit of an anticlimax, if still ominous. The "gathering of the lost colonies" does wrap up this issue, providing some small degree of closure for the arc, but to judge from online reactions the main plot was totally overshadowed by Scott canonizing a long-time fanon ship between two of the femmebots from G1. Yes, an interesting and potentially important- to-the-mythos page, but the rest of the issue just didn't feel like it paid off the build-up. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers More than Meets the Eye #44: IDW - A largely self-contained issue in which the Lost Light makes a side trip to check out a plot device, and ends up exploring the nature of existence and responsibility. So, typical issue. :) There's a few things here and there that editing should have caught, and that bugged me a little, but overall it was a nicely impactful and thoughtful story. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers More than Meets the Eye #45: IDW - It's time to look in on the Scavengers, a motley group of Decepticon rejects who somehow managed to survive a brush with the DJD a few years ago. The issue starts with a cute "previously" page that shows what the group has been up to (answer: stuff so weird Roberts couldn't use it with the Lost Light crew, which is saying something), and meanders through a sort of DeceptiSeinfeld, complete with a standup comedy routine courtesy of Skullcruncher (watched on TV, he hasn't joined the Scavengers). It's all weird, goofy, consequence-free...oh, and then it all goes to hell on the last page and oops, to be continued. Where #44 ended on a scene of quiet and deep contemplation, this one ends with the emptying of several load pan bays. Recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #3: Oni - Vasquez shifts to "additional dialogue" with the main writing position goes to Eric Trueheart. The story goes along okay, although the hipster-bots feel like an old joke that's been sitting around waiting to be used for a while. The ending bothers me, though, since it's pretty much a reset button. In the cartoon, no matter how outrageous Zim's plans were or how spectacularly they blew up in his face, at least some attempt was made to show how life went on after (i.e. after the orbital water balloon strike, we see the aftermath and Zim striding through it; in the doomed aftermath of the Christmas Special, at least the horrible doomy doom takes place an unspecified time afterward, etc). This was more like a "They Killed Kenny!" riff. Mildly recommended. Dave Van Domelen, "Now this -- THIS is the exciting stuff. COMPUTER CODING, not all that RUNNING AROUND and SHOOTING PEOPLE nonsense." - Jetfire, The Transformers #45
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