October 19, 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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants Tonight is the long-awaited Hard Freeze to kill the pollinators! Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): The Meaning of Life "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. I picked up the Volstagg action figure, but don't really feel it merits a full review. I will say I was disappointed that it had a crappy action gimmick accessory. Not because the accessory was crappy (it was), but because a proper Volstagg should be so voluminous that there's no budget left for accessories! $8 price point. I also got the new Marvel Universe Darkhawk and Ultron figures. Darkhawk makes the interesting choice of having the wings attach to the forearms and nowhere else. But other than the claws looking like he stuck them in the garbage disposal, the figure looks pretty good and the articulation is good and solid. Ultron looks nice in the package, with some green glowy lines here and there on his armor, but the engineering is pretty bad. The mid-torso joint is so loose it's at bobblehead levels, and the shoulderpads are clip-ons that while not falling off easily do tend to slip down to the sides. The only real plus is that the hips are ball joints rather than the annoying swivel-hinge style that most MU figures use these days. The assortment also includes X-23 (more bendy-claws), Namor, the "I'm so modern and sleek" Steve Rogers not-Cap, and Ultron. $8 price point. Captain America/Captain America II: Death Too Soon: Shout! Factory - No, this isn't the new Chris Evans movie. It's the made for TV Captain America starring (in the loosest possible sense of the term) Reb "Space Mutiny" Brown. I saw the first one live when it came out in the late 70s, and even as a kid I found the plexiglass shield highly dubious. But hey, at $10 for the two (and with Christopher Lee as the baddie in the sequel), I figured why not? Yeah, I probably have at least one of them on a burn disk somewhere, but my philosophy is to get 'em legal if possible (and sufficiently cheap). The quality of the transfer is pretty good, although I think they may have horizontally stretched some of the scenes rather than vertically cropping them (or pillarboxing them) to fit HD dimensions. Unfortunately, the first movie is neither particularly good nor howlingly bad. It's competent late 70s TV movie stuff, the kind of thing that would make decent bot-fodder but doesn't really have a lot of howlers on its own (although "Jam Captain America down their throats!" comes close, and Reb Brown is nowhere near as good an actor as he'd become by the time of Space Mutiny). It *is* geekily amusing to note that the turbo boost sound effect of Cap's motorcycle is basically the same one KITT would use a few years later. And, apparently in the 70s they thought a dead man's switch would be more dramatic if the hero didn't find out about it until after near-fatally gassing the villain...leading to the Thrilling Artificial Resuscitation Scene at the climax of the movie. Captain America II's main claims to fame are the casting of Christopher Lee as the villain, and the line, "The old people around here are my friends!" Also, Connie Selecca has a role in it, presaging her part in Greatest American Hero. Again, it's mostly a competent if uninspired movie (Lee doesn't get enough to do), but the flying shield special effects were weak even for 1979 TV...they really shouldn't have shown the flying shield so often. Of course, by the third time he launched his jet motorcycle out of the van, there wouldn't be an interior left. Oh, and then there's the hang glider mode, because you can't have a cheesy 70s/80s muscleboy movie without gratuitous lingering shots of a hang glider in action. And roller boogie, it has that too. Okay, it's a big pile of cinematic cheese, but it rarely goes to all out WTF-ery. Mildly recommended. I picked up the Batman: Year One DVD as well, but figured this file is getting long enough as it is, I'll use Year One as the seed for the next one. 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. I wanted to review the new "Adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage" app, but after downloading it I found that it's only for the iPad, not the iPod. Ah well. Hmm, a few of our physics majors have school-issued iPads now, I should point them at it. Atomic Robo: the Ghost of Station X #1 (of 5): Red5 - I decided to give Comixology a try for non-DC books, but while I was waffling about whether to drop $2.99 on a digital copy of a $3.50 comic, the price dropped to $1.99 and I decided that while it's still too much to pay when there's so little "distribution chain" expense (although I expect Comixology takes a bigger cut than self-distributed PDFs do), it was low enough for a book I expected to enjoy as much as I typically enjoy Robo. #2 came out while I was still working on this file, but I'll wait for the drop to $1.99. I'm not too keen on the interface's way of stepping you through panels and partial panels, and while you can set it to show you the whole page when you first enter the page, you still have to tap through the panels one at a time. Worse, it shares the problem other viewers I've used have, where you can't advance the page if you've zoomed in. Guys, learn the lesson of simple PDF viewers: give the option to see the entire page at once, to zoom in and out, and to turn the page without having to be at the "100%" zoom. Still, at least the Comixology viewer is less of a PITA than trying to read a comic as an epub (in which every page has to be clicked on as an image before you can zoom it, and then unclicked before you can turn the page). And despite the things I've heard about DC books only being readable online, it's not a requirement of the viewer. I was able to read my Atomic Robo issue just fine while not connected to the internet. Delivery systems aside, this issue focuses at least partially on a delivery system. Specifically, a way to get Robo up to an imperiled space station (which does not seem to be the titular Station X) in order to attempt a rescue. With a seven hour deadline. A goodly chunk of the issue is a brainstorming session about accomplishing this, and it should come as no surprise that it's an entertaining read. :) The b-plot involving a vanishing building, cryptic notes left by Sparrow (the British agent from the war wolves mini) and the guys with the Evil Computer from a while back may actually be the main plot of the mini, as I suspect "Station X" is the vanishing building rather than the space station (although I suppose the ghost of Station X could be a ghostly space station, rather than a ghost in a space station). While there weren't any laugh-out-loud moments (probably a good thing given that I was reading it during lab in between student questions), it was enjoyable and worth the money and the interface hassle. Recommended. $3.50 hardcopy, $1.99 digital. (And Comixology does charge sales tax on top of the list price, unlike most online sellers.) In other news, I've finally gotten confirmation that the DC digital stuff reads just fine offline. But it's too late, I'm no longer interested in the Nu52, I'll wait for the inevitable collapse and rererereboot and see what that's like. Or, at least, see what survives the first six months and maybe go back and buy up all the relevant digital issues of the better stuff later. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. The Meaning of Life...and OTHER Stuff: An Amelia Rules! Book: Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster - The Atheneum editions have actually swapped title and subtitle, and I suppose my review of the previous volume was incorrect in labeling as a result. Being "Amelia Rules! - subtitle" or even "Amelia Rules! volume X - subtitle" are very Comic Book sorts of titles, while "Title - an Amelia Rules! Book" is far more standard for Real Books. Definitely diagnostic of Gownley completing the shift into YA Literature Publishing. While there's plenty of slice-of-life humor in this installment, the main theme is "shattering everything with a hammer, reforging it in fire, then shattering it again." It's a big pile of High Density Angst and the pain of growing up. And it works very well. Strongly recommended. $10.99 cover price. Ocean: Couscous Collective - A follow-on to Space, this is another odd-sized collection anchored by a Skin Horse short story by Garrity and Wells. "Oceanland" is that story, effectively introducing the main characters of Skin Horse and establishing that in the Skin Horse setting people have started getting used to the idea of transgenics. Pretty good, with a d'awwww ending. The second piece is "Ambergris WTF?!," a short by Pancha Diaz that's a just-so story about how humans came to use whale vomit for perfume. "Your Undersea Career" by Farago seems to take a found piece of writing on learning scuba diving and wrap the text around a silent story of undersea adventure. "Thieves of Mercy" is a text piece by Garrity, looking at a piece of Hamlet from the point of view of the off-screen pirates who returned Hamlet to Denmark after Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were safely dead. It has spot illustrations by several of the Couscoussiers, and is perhaps a page longer than the concept really merits. Jason Thompson's "Goat Rock Beach" is a one-page bit of scenery, Liz Conley's "Siren" retells the original Little Mermaid tale as more of a campfire ghost story, and the volume wraps up with a vaguely Lovecraftian story of cod fishing in "The Chronicles of Javier Oliveras". I didn't find any of the other pieces to be as good as "Oceanland" unfortunately. So, ten bucks plus shipping for a good ten page story and then another forty of okay. Mildly recommended. $10 (plus shipping, in my case, but if you go to conventions you might find it in person) 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. I went ahead and made an Antarctic order this month. Yeah, shipping is a buck a comic no matter how many I get, so it's more a matter of getting around to making an order than trying to save money by combining orders. I just see the extra dollar as paying the Diamond Is A Monopoly tax. Steampunk Fairy Tales: Antarctic Press - The lead story is more of a teaser, setting up the idea that the world was supposed to end in 1900 but the Four Horsemen got diverted to fairytale land and ended up starting the equivalent of WWI there. That's pretty much it, though. No plot to speak of, just a couple of battle scenes and setup exposition from Perry. Espinosa's Steampunk Cinderella is a complete story, though, and a rather good twist on the core story. Replace magic with steamtech and a touch of spiritualism, plus a nice twist at the end. Unfortunately, the cover doesn't do a good job of selling the actual stories inside, it makes the book look more like a cheesy pinup collection. Recommended. $3.50 Gold Digger #131: Antarctic Press - Somewhat deceptive cover, as Gurren Lagann is one of the few mecha series not referenced by the story inside. :) Something of a non-resolution resolution as far as the main romantic plot is concerned, but O'Hara's subplot does get a reasonably good wrapping up. Recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger #132: Antarctic Press - Frothy candy-coated mecha story out of the way, it's time for another Big Damn Epic, for this this issue is mostly a slow build ending in a Shocking Reveal. While there's some good bits here and there, it's too much a lead-in to really evaluate properly on its own. $3.99 Gold Digger Halloween Special #7: Antarctic Press - The lead story involves Agency Zero, and the character designs make it a little hard to follow in B&W line art (you really need color to be able to easily tell Xane from Crush in some scenes). The other story is a short trick or treating bit with Tiff's peer group, no great shakes. It's an okay issue, but lacks the heart of previous Halloween specials. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Jam Captain American down their throats!" - Dr. Mills, Captain America movie
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