October 29, 2014

Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et Cetera

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, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants http://www.amazon.com/Zion-Love-Story-James-Priest-ebook/dp/B00O08L9C6 Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Tesladyne Industries Field Guide, Strong Female Protagonist Book One, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #24 In this installment: Flash (TV), Tesladyne Industries Field Guide, Sanctuary #8, Ms. Marvel No Normal TPB plus issues #6-9, Strong Female Protagonist Book One, Gold Digger #214, Spider-Man 2099 #4-5, Deadpool's Art of War #1, Astro City #16, Q2: the Return of Quantum & Woody #1, Atomic Robo: Knights of the Golden Circle #5 (of 5), Ragnarok #2, Transformers: Primacy #3 (of 4), Transformers: Robots in Disguise #34, Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #34, My Little Pony Friends Forever #10, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #24 "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. Flash: DC/CW - Spun out of the Arrow series, it seems determined to demonstrate you can have a shared universe without shared assumptions. To wit, while Arrow tries to keep things more or less at the "James Bond" level of realism, Flash goes full-on superpowers. Flash's own powers are pretty well-understood TV-doable FX, but getting his opponents in under budget is another matter. They clearly invested in some good cloud-modeling software, since they've had two villains with cloud powers (Weather Wizard and Mist) in the first month. And Multiplex just requires a generic-looking guy and usual splitscreening tricks (although his revised origin doesn't explain why all his dupes have clothing). But it's a promising start, and they both lampshade and start to avoid Smallville's problem of killing off all the enemies. As someone else I saw put it, though, this is a show that revels in comic book superhero tropes, rather than being vaguely ashamed of them as Arrow and Smallville are/were. And while they're doing some fairly random rearrangement of the source material (Ronnie Raymond is a brilliant engineer who helped build the particle accelerator plot device, for instance), so far it seems to be working. And the obvious blendering bits also let them foreshadow without actually foreshadowing...just because there's a guy with the last name of Thawne as well as a yellow Reverse Flash running around doesn't mean there's any connection between them, for instance. Recommended. Tesladyne Industries Field Guide: Red5 Comics - This was actually a kickstarter, and it's an illustrated text book designed to look like a 1950s manual (but with chibi art inside). It was one of those KS's that almost choked on its stretch goals, exceeding its goal by an order of magnitude. If you didn't kickstart for this, keep an eye out for a version becoming available to the general public, it's a very fun read. Strongly recommended. Finally, you may have noticed the Amazon link up top. That's Christopher J. Priest, writing as James Priest to avoid confusion with the SF writer. I'll review the book next month, I'm just starting it now. 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. Sanctuary #8: Slave Labor Graphics - Rather a lot of this issue is focused on a vapid celebrity who's one of the financial backers of the project, and the issues suffers for it. She's just such a broad parody of shallow egomaniacal actors that her scenes drag and drag. The other scenes, which are mostly transitioning into a new plot (eagles seem to be replacing spiders as the new swarming threat), are decent, but the "some humans are less human than most animals" heavy-handedness of the actress's scenes is off-putting. Mildly recommended. 99 cents at ComiXology or slgcomic.com. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Ms. Marvel No Normal plus floppies of #6-9: Marvel - I was really slow to warm to this series, as evidenced by the fact it took me almost a year to switch from reading scans to paying for hardcopies (and I did go back and buy all the stuff I'd been reading). Being as I'm fairly disconnected from mainstream Marvel Universe happenings, it actually came as a revelation to me when the new Ms. Marvel discovered she was an Inhuman. I actually thought her origin story was a riff on the Bang Babies of Static Shock (strange cloud rolls over a bunch of teenagers in Jersey City, one of them gets powers, ends up fighting a weird villain who just happens to be in the area, etc). It was the two issue Wolverine guest appearance (with guest-art by Jacob Wyatt) that actually pushed me over the line into seriously thinking about buying the title, and Kamala's reaction to Lockjaw showing up in her life sealed the deal. Kamala Khan's background as a Pakistani teenager is much-promoted in discussion of the title, and it certainly informs the details of her life, but it's actually less impactful than you might think. The specifics are different, sure, but for the most part she has a fairly typical home life. Her parents are a bit overprotective, faith is a part of her life but she chafes at the traditions of the older generation, etc...most of the structural elements tied to her background would work just as well if she were an Irish Catholic or part of a Buddhist Chinese immigrant family. And to some extent, that's actually a Good Thing. People are people, and have many of the same concerns no matter their background, including difficulties in dealing other people with other backgrounds. Writer G. Willow Wilson manages to make it largely feel organic and just a thing that IS. The part of Kamala's background that jumps out, though, is that she's a total superhero fangirl. She writes fanfic, follows the internet press, and totally squees when she barely avoids being shish-kebabbed by Wolverine in a sewer that's crawling with cyborg alligators. Priorities! (It's also a useful calibration of what constitutes public knowledge in the Marvel U that she's heavily into the superhero community but doesn't recognize Lockjaw or know he's connected to the Inhumans whose city kinda crashed on the other side of the river.) THAT is her identity. Her nation of choice is not Pakistan or America, it's fandom. The fact that her first arch-nemesis is an evil clone of Thomas Edison with a bird head is merely icing on the cake. Adrian Alphona is the main artist on the title, aside from the earlier mentioned fill-in. His style reminds me a lot of Kyle Baker's, in that while he's clearly capable of fairly staid "normal" representations of people, places, and things, he also gets fairly weird and whimsical at times (which suits Kamala's shapeshifty powers well), with weirdly deformed background characters and scenery even in some serious scenes. Specifically, the cartoonier end of his work reminds me of Baker's stylistic weirdness, and since Baker isn't exactly flooding the racks with work lately, that gives Ms. Marvel a nice distinct look. And that might even help if Alphona ever got to draw his own covers. Jamie McKelvie's much more "Superhero Standard" style art graces almost all of the covers so far. Recommended. $15.99 for the TPB that collects #1-5 and the Point One story, $2.99 for regular issues. Strong Female Protagonist Book One: Top Shelf - Yay, another Kickstarter comes in (Top Shelf is handling distribution of the post-KS copies). SFP is a webcomic focused on a retired superhero trying to go to college and find a way to make a difference other than via punching stuff. She's in that awkward phase between realizing she needs to grow up and, you know, actually growing up. So, lots of fully justified angst. Writer Brennan Lee Mulligan does a good job of building a seemingly non-dark world in which there's a lot of totally-makes-sense darkness under the surface. Artist Molly Ostertag's work grows significantly over the course of this book...heck, over the course of the first quarter of the book. Of course, there's the usual question, "Why should I buy this book when I can go to the website and read it all?" that gets asked whenever a webcomic puts out a print edition (www.strongfemaleprotagonist.com BTW). In this case, there's footnotes on most pages, plus a bonus color story at the end. And there's the fact that this was a Kickstarter, so they probably don't NEED to sell more copies, but it'd be nice, yes? The KS was so successful they were able to move the comic to full color, which presumably will impact any Book Two that gets printed. Strongly recommended. $19.95 Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Gold Digger #214: Antarctic Press - Penny and Ace's honeymoon. Sort of. Slight diversion for some Action Archeology, which runs afoul of some international political drama that managed to happen because, um, no one in the cast was paying attention to Europe lately. Well, they've been busy with extradimensional, extratemporal and extracurricular threats. At least Penny actually makes intelligent decisions rather than Acting Appropriately Stupid, it just doesn't help. Naturally. ;) A little uneven in places, but a fun read. Recommended. $3.99 Spider-Man 2099 #4-5: Marvel - #4 wraps up the Trans-Sabaal story, with a fairly predictable resolution that establishes that while Stone may be a jerk, he's got lines he won't cross after all. #5 gets into the whole Spider-Verse crossover, focusing largely on the version of Mig who was in eXiles (and given the nature of Spider-Verse, his fate is a pretty foregone conclusion). It gave a decent view of what the crossover is about, what the stakes are, and so forth, but...eh. Crossover. Unfortunately, #4 wasn't terribly strong, and then the book gets derailed by an event, so I'm not sure how much longer I'll be sticking with this incarnation of Spi2099. $3.99 each. Deadpool's Art of War #1: Marvel - I picked this up thinking it was a one-shot, but it turns out to be a four issue miniseries (not listed as a miniseries on the cover, looks like Marvel's following IDW's lead on vague labeling). The premise is that Deadpool kills Sun Tzu, steals the original copy of Art of War, and tries to find a way to get it published under his own name, so naturally he goes to Asgard back in the Buscema-Thor days and starts a war. Because that's what one does in order to succeed in the publishing biz. Koblish does a good job of evoking both Buscema's Asgard and elements of Simonson's. A promising start. Recommended. $3.99 Astro City #16: DC/Vertigo - Hrm. The problem with talking about this issue is that the topic it addresses (and addresses fairly well) via its thinly veiled Superboy/Luthor riff is also a huge spoiler twist at the end. Well, part of the twist is fairly easy to see coming, but not the important bit. Of course, this being Astro City, prior to the twist it's not like we get the standard version of the tale either, as the main focus is not-Luthor making a deal with not-Superboy in order to get a bit of social life he's been sorely lacking. In a very loose way it has a similar arc to MegaMind (genius pushed into villainy by social pressures, finds a way out), but once you get to the end you'll see it's not quite the same story. Recommended. $3.99 Q2: The Return of Quantum & Woody #1 (of 5): Valiant - Rather than pick up on the storyline dropped when the previous universe imploded (well, in the real world, not in the story), Priest and Bright jump forward to the present. So both Eric and Woody are middle-aged, the world has changed, etc. There's a brief origin flashback just in case anyone's buying this book who didn't read the original series (sadly, a rather small number, I suspect), plus an "Eric and Woody as teenagers" flashback that opens the book and estblishes the basics of their personalities. Not entirely sure how readable this would be to that hypothetical new audience, but I liked it. Recommended. $3.99 Atomic Robo Knights of the Golden Circle #5 (of 5): Red5 Comics - #4 still hasn't actually shipped, although I did read a scan of it while waiting for it to arrive (from what little I've heard, it might not be Diamond's fault for once, but a problem with shipping from the printer). The running fight started in #4 finishes off here, with some decent character bits but otherwise kinda unsurprisingly played out. It does end on some of the most suspenseful inventory management you're likely to see in a comic, though. Recommended. $3.50 Ragnarok #2: IDW - Well, this issue is almost entirely "henchmen betray Protagonist, Thor wakes up, henchmen get massacred, protagonist faces Thor," ending pretty badly for everyone. Well, it BEGAN badly for Thor, since he's kinda a dessicated mummy, but it doesn't seem to have slowed him down much. Basically, there's about 8 pages of story and the rest is admittedly epic-looking beatdowns. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Primacy #3 (of 4): IDW - Okay, it's a 4 issue series, I suppose if you don't read press releases or Previews you don't deserve to know how long an IDW miniseries is. Primus forfend there be a clue in the actual issue. Speaking of lack of clues, there's several "revelations" that left me in the dark. Yeah, I didn't read Superiority or a lot of the stuff between the end of All Hail Megatron and the Dark Cybertron arc, but I think I've read enough that a Big Damn Reveal should elicit more than a "huh?" Either it's lazy writing that's relying too much on all readers being completists, or this was an asspull of epic proportions and the reveal is of something not previously mentioned. Plus, of course, the art is murky and ugly and not helped by all the blazing energy beams and glare effects in the multiple running battles that make up pretty much the entire issue. The pacing of this miniseries continues to be pretty bad. Neutral. $3.99 Transformers: Robots in Disguise #34: IDW - And we're back to Earth. Well, the Moon. And with art by the Primacy artist, so it's all murky and scratchy and hard to follow. The Earth story moves forward a little bit, but it's mostly time for a flashback to when Harry Met...er, Galvatron met Nova Major (Nova Prime) in the wake of the departure of the original 13 Primes. Well, the departure of some, the death of others, and the "no one will recognize me in this cloak...oh, you don't recognize me without the cloak either?"-ing of Alpha Trion. Needless to say, quite a bit of a letdown, both visually and storywise, from #33. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #34: IDW - This is a somewhat splintered issue. Not only is it avoiding dealing with #33's cliffhanger, it splits its time between a Megatron flashback (answering the question "Why didn't Megatron get all shadowplayed if the corrupt Autobots were all into that back then?") and a present-day mystery. It ties together loosely, but it still feels like obligatory getting stuff out of the way before the next crossover. At least it manages to do some further fleshing out of Megatron's beef with the Functionalists...a caste system that mixes aspects of racism and sexism (one's role in life is determined by the equipment on one's body, which is a lot closer to enforced gender roles than classic racism or birth-caste systems). I can't help but see Megatron as a crusader for genderqueer rights now. ;) Still, the issue taken as a whole is fairly weak and scattered, feeling like leftovers. Plus, the last page cliffhanger is the only scene-change NOT given a timestamp, making it uncertain if it's supposed to be in the present or in the very distant past. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony: Friends Forever #10: IDW - Speaking of letdowns, this one was merely...serviceable. The premise of Iron Will coming back to Ponyville to learn how to be nice from Fluttershy sounds good, but the execution was fairly lackluster. Writer Christina Rice tries a little too hard to work in a Positive Social Message as well, and ends up feeling like the sort of generic kidvid-for-girls stuff that Faust was reacting against when she crafted the current version of MLP. I mean, compared to the mess that was Transformers Primacy or Death of Wolverine (I read a scan, I'm still not sure how Wolverine is supposed to have died), it's at least decent. But if this were the typical level of the show, I would have lost interest very quickly. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #24: IDW - Jeremy Whitley, on the other hand, turns in a very fun story that is on the quality level of the better episodes of the show, although the high level of geek referencing (which itself is lampshaded) is a bit more than the show would try. Whitley really gets Discord's voice, I could practically hear DeLancie reading the lines. Okay, there's some continuity issues, but since it's a time travel story AND the issues are solely regarding Discord's own timeline, it's not really worth worrying about. Heck, there's no guarantee there was actual time travel and not a pocket universe like Discord made for the CMC. Relax and enjoy the ride. Strongly recommended. $3.99 Whew, longest review column I've done in a while, even discounting the whole "catch up on Ms. Marvel" bit. Dave Van Domelen, "Get a girl some chocolates, feed her for a day. Get a girl a book, and you haven't fed her at all. #donteatbooks" - Footnotes for Strong Female Protagonist Book One
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