October 21, 2009

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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants Mucinex turns my wet cough into a dry cough. Not an improvement. 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. None this week. Late Books: These are comics that were not listed as shipping during the week they were reviewed. Sometimes someone recommends a book to me that's already out, and I grab it over the weekend. Sometimes it's a trade paperback I ordered online rather than trusting Diamond. Sometimes the store screwed up or I was inobservant and I missed something I meant to get. USUALLY, though, it's because Diamond didn't ship what it was supposed to ship and I had to scrounge around or wait on a reorder. Transformers All Hail Megatron #16: IDW - Final issue. The first story covers some of the post-war cleanup on Earth from the human side, homaging the Skids/Ravage fight from the Marvel comic but substituting Spike for Skids (Spike seems to have gotten his hands on a Constructicon handgun or something equally human-portable). Ravage gets jobbed, is all I have to say about that one. The second story has Bumblebee on Earth, on the run from humans who aren't willing to take any chances with wounded Transformers of any faction (after all, a Decepticon might be willing to put on an Autobrand...even assuming the humans would wait long enough to see the faction symbol before opening fire). It ends with a good piece of character evaluation. Recommended. $3.99 How To Be A Serial Killer ComicCon Special Edition: Viper Comics - I gave up on pretty much all distribution channels and ordered the new Middleman GN direct from the publisher, along with some older Middleman (they were sold out of volume 1 and the Whole Series collection), and they tossed in a couple of freebies. This was one of the freebies, a prequel to what appears to be a (functionally) direct to video dark comedy that hit theaters at some point in the past year and I never noticed it. It's the story of a guy whose soulless corporate existence leads him to nearly commit suicide until someone annoys him enough to kill them instead, at which point he discovers that Michael Douglas in Falling Down should have gone a lot farther...murder is fun! For "the characters need to look like the actors" art it's pretty good, but the story tries to straddle a line between serious social comedy and bloodfarce and doesn't really do either very well. It certainly doesn't make me want to pick up the movie, which supposedly hit stores last week. The Lost Books of Eve 1:1: Viper Comics - The high concept here is that before the whole Fall From Grace, the forces of evil made other attempts that Eve heroically (and naively) opposed, starting with Adam going missing. The first half of the book has Eve naked but always covered by convenient plants, butterflies, etc, but she later gets a leaf bikini courtesy of an angel so that the writer/artist can stop with the cutesy blocking. There's some decent theological stuff in the middle that helps move the story along and avoid a deus ex Deus plot resolution later, although given that the publication date is June 2007 and this is the first I heard of this comic, I have to wonder if the plot ever got resolved. Josh Howard's art is fairly good in a cartoony style at a similar level of abstraction as Bruce Timm, but not exactly a copy of that look. On a purely trivial note, I wonder if in later issues Asherah (the angel) realizes that Eve might need some shoes to go along with her bikini. Given that Asherah has eagle claw feet, I can see how that sort of thing might slip her mind. Mildly recommended. $3.25 The Middleman: the Second Volume Inevitability: Viper Comics - This collects the miniseries that was adapted pretty closely as "The Sino-Mexican Revelation" on the lamented TV show, and it provides a very good example of how writing is important but not all-important. Yes, Javier Grillo-Marxuach writes a good comic here, and the art by Les McClaine supports it well. But the spark that the actors brought to their roles is missing here, making for a merely good story, rather than a great one. There's also a trio of alternate era backup stories (Middleman a la Conan, WWII Middleman, Nikola Tesla vs. the Middleman). Recommended. $9.95 cover price, $7.50 plus shipping direct from vipercomics.com. The Middleman: the Third Volume Inescapability: Viper Comics - This story was not adapted for the show, although elements of it showed up in The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown (the Ursula Andress bikini, the underwater base, the Middleman Gone Bad) and this introduced Manservant Neville as a henchman rather than as the leader of FATBOY. Amusingly, when they introduced Neville in the show, they managed to get the actor on whom McClaine based his portrayal of Neville, making him the only character in the comic who looks like he does on the show (Dubby has red hair in the comic, the Middleman spends most of his time in the comic with five o'clock shadow rather than being totally clean-cut). Recommended. $9.95 cover price, $7.50 plus shipping direct from vipercomics.com. The Middleman: the Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse: Viper Comics - This is a wrap-up to the TV show, not a continuation of the original comic, so it uses the TV show designs (i.e. Dubby has black hair, Middleman is clean-shaven) and does not pick up from the Third Volume Inescapability's cliffhanger. Also, while McClaine does layouts, Armando Zanker does the finished art, and the art's in color. Zanker manages to get the feel of the TV characters in caricature, but he misses on Manservant Neville, ironically. (I'm pretty sure that's irony, anyway. Close enough for government work.) There is a LOT of payoff here, including various origin story stuff, but not all mysteries of the series are wrapped up, and a new status quo is established that could certainly be picked up again should another comic (or a movie, or whatever) be created. There's enough permanence to feel like a solid ending, but enough fluidity that it's possible to get a new beginning without a lot of implausibility (well, beyond the usual levels typical of this setting). Oh, and while it does hinge on taking the word of a madman, I do like how Manservant Neville's motivations and character arc worked out. About the only problem I have with this is the pacing, a lot of things feel rushed simply because they needed to wrap everything up in 64 pages. 64 pages is at the low end of what can be made to work for a 45-minute show, and that is for dialogue-light adaptations. This did start as the script for a 13th episode, it just needed another 15-20 pages to do it right. Recommended. $7.95 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. Farscape Gone and Back #4 (of 4): Boom! Studios - Sigh. Diamond only shipped my store #2 and #4. I read #1 out sequence thanks to a friend buying it for me out-of-state. Still haven't seen #3. The overall story arc does get advanced by this miniseries in two major ways, but the more immediately significant one apparently took place mostly in #3, oops (revelation of who the mysterious cloaked figure is). All in all, though, this felt like an interesting setup that never really went much of anywhere. Alternate universe stories always have that danger, spending too much time worldbuilding and not enough time actually telling a story, and barring something really good in #3, I think this series fell into that trap. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Invincible #67: Image - The cliffhanger from #66 resolves fairly quickly and reasonably, then it's back to the Viltrumite Killer Macguffin Hunt, including (yay!) a TechJacket reference. The two issues make for a fairly self-contained story, if only because there's so much exposition involved in the arc that it'd be easy for a new reader to keep up. Although it doesn't really do much to get a new reader ready for a return to Invincible himself next issue. Recommended. $2.99 The Mighty Avengers #30: Marvel - The Unspoken thread goes pretty much by the numbers, with some amusing "gathering the team" moments and then a lot of "okay, that didn't work" efforts. In the Pym subplot, we finally see what Slott and Gage have been building Pym up to...and in case anyone thinks it's a high honor or something, consider that he's literally being made the universe's punching bag, like his counterpart on the magic side of the line. Without verging too much into specific spoilers, he's essentially being declared the avatar of "Oooh, what does THIS button do?" Which, all things considered, fits him pretty well. The writers do recognize that he continues to be more than a little creepy, though, in how others react to him. Recommended. $2.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #609: Marvel - Heh, Slott is used as a verb in the footnotes. A vaguely obscene one. The story bounces between present and past, explaining Kaine to people who skipped the Clone Saga and adding to Raptor's backstory (and Stegron does get mentioned in passing), starting to weave the two together. Recommended. $2.99 Yeah, that's it. Another week with more late comics than new comics. Thank you, Diamond, for doing your best to shrink the market even faster. 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 10/21/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Ninja High School #169-171, Gold Digger Tech Manual #3, Gold Digger v3 #105, Farscape Gone & Back #3, Models Inc. #2. Add Transformers Tales of the Fallen #3. Awards: "Spike Probably Also Got Washed By A Sexy Lady, But It Happened Off-Panel" Award to Transformers All Hail Megatron #16 "Busted Down In Berliner" Award to How To Be A Serial Killer (okay, I can't say if that's actually Berliner Park, but it otherwise looks like Columbus OH was used for background references) "I Could Almost Make Asherah In The City Of Heroes Costume Generator" Award to The Lost Books Of Eve 1:1 "What About Pointed Sticks?" Award to The Middleman: the Second Volume Inevitability "Bucked Up" Award to The Middleman: the Third Volume Inevitability "I'm Not Stupid, I'm Not Expendable, And...It Looks Like I'm Going Anyway" Award to The Middleman: the Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse "Waiting For John To Make A Franklin Richards Reference" Award to Farscape: Gone and Back #4 (of 4) "Clearly The Interstellar Version Of Natto" Award to Invincible #67 "Usually Kind To Smaller Man" Award to The Mighty Avengers #30 "Remember, In AD&D Your Clone Often Tried To Kill You" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #609" Dave Van Domelen, "You have to admit...my plan is sheer ELEGANCE in its draconian complexity." - Manservant Neville, The Middleman: the Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse
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