November 4, 2017

(A little delayed because my comic shop was shut down most of the month)

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, Slight delay due to the local comic shop being shut down a bit. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Thor: Ragnarok In this installment: Inhumans, The Gifted, Thor: Ragnarok, Overwatch #11 and #14-15, Ms. Marvel #23, Inhumans Once & Future Kings #3 (of 5), Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #24, Deathstroke #24, Future Quest Presents: Space Ghost #3, Astro City #48, The Tick (2017) #1, Invader Zim #24, Kaijumax Season 3 #4 (of 6), Smoketown #4 (of 8), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #59, My Little Pony Legends of Magic #7, Rom vs. Transformers Shining Armor #4 (of 5), First Strike Optimus Prime #1 (of 1), Optimus Prime #11, First Strike #5-6 (of 6), Transformers Lost Light #10. Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): None, shockingly. "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. Inhumans: Marvel/ABC - Nerf-fest! So...Agents of SHIELD has given us a pretty good idea what's within the bounds of a Marvel TV budget effects-wise, and what's "doable but only occasionally". A proper portrayal of the Royal Family goes outside of those boundaries a LOT (i.e. in the comics, Black Bolt can fly, go toe-to-toe with the Thing, and manipulate cosmic energy to a limited extent all while keeping his yap shut), so I was expecting some downgrades. Thing is, the writers seemed to resent having to work around powers at all, removing powers that didn't even have significant FX costs either within the story (Karnak hits his head and suddenly he can't find weaknesses anymore), or by never letting them exist in the first place (Black Bolt only has his voice, nothing else, not even a fairly cheap moderate super strength or toughness). Furthermore, the biggest strength of the Royal Family is that they're a FAMILY. So of course the story splits them up in the pilot and they don't ever fully reunite (barring a plot device use in the finale), turning half of the episodes into "Where Am I?" quests. Here's an idea: if you want to do an Inhumans story without actually using the movie-budget-level stuff or powers that are hard to write around, don't use the Royal Family! Use refugees from the sanctuary seen in SHIELD, show them scattering in flashback and have them trying to unite over the course of the season. Use obscure comics characters with powers you're willing to write, or make up new ones. This was sometimes billed as "Game of Thrones with superheroes," but really the writers just wanted to do Game of Thrones and seemed to resent the other stuff. It did do one thing right: when in a flashback Gorgon brings in a flag he found out on the surface of the Moon, it's correctly bleached nearly white by fifty years of ultraviolet rays. Anyway, if you haven't been watching this, good. Don't bother watching it on streaming services or DVD/BR release. It was a bad fit for TV and executed badly by people who seem to have wanted to write something else. The Gifted: Marvel/Fox - Eeeeevil government. I mean, they try to make some of the Sentinel Services guys sympathetic, but I think that was a mistake. This is very much a heavy-handed allegory series, "Diary of Anne Frank" with superpowers. It would be better served to embrace that starkness and stay out of the heads of anyone who won't be switching sides fairly quickly after their essential humanity is revealed. Oh, they can justify their actions out loud, villains often do that. In reality, sure, the banality of evil and all that. The Nazi soldiers who took Anne Frank away were probably good husbands and fathers and stuff and were just following orders or actually thought they were making the world a better place. But this show is trying to have it both ways: a government-backed organization that has internment camps and is portrayed as being so blackly evil that they engage in brainwashing and might be warming up the ovens, but also might be justified? Don't get me wrong, it's an okay piece of entertainment, and worth giving a try (plus they made sure to pick characters they could do justice to on TV). But stories need more coherence than real life...the antagonists need to either embrace their evil, or we need more than a couple of token Good People, they need to show that the whole system is tentative and uncertain about whether they're doing the right thing. Mildly recommended. Mondays on Fox. Thor: Ragnarok: Marvel - Technically this came out in November, but since the comic shop closing problem pushed this review back a few days, I figured I might as well go one or two more days and review Thor 3 while it was still fresh. I've seen one review of this call it a spiritual successor to the 1980s Flash Gordon movie, but I disagree. Oh, the visuals and the use of music are certainly in the same vein, but as campy as it was, Flash Gordon almost always took itself seriously. Ragnarok nods and winks a LOT. Usually it works, mind you, but I think the movie could have done with about 20% fewer "replace dramatic moment with pratfall" scenes. It wasn't as bad as the tonal whiplash of Transformers: the Last Knight, because the scenes that really needed to be serious were allowed to be serious, but there was still a lot of slapstick (but no Slapstick, near as I could tell). This is more of a Hope/Crosby "Road" movie with more and bigger fight scenes and replace the singing with more fight scenes. Sometimes Thor is Bing, sometimes he's Bob, and he gets different partners in various scenes (and Dorothy Lamour is an ass-kicker). Was it a great movie? Eh, I think it has the wrong balance of tone to really be a great movie. Was it entertaining? Very. Strongly recommended. 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. Overwatch #11, #14-15: Dark Horse - Comixology skipped over 12-13, although I've seen bits and pieces of them excerpted on Tumblr. #11 is a nice little Jaws riff in which Torbjorn encounters the game's Bastion but does not blow it up with an air tank. It does a good job of establishing the two game characters and enough of their world to drive the story, if you've read none of the other comics and only know Overwatch through Tumblr memes, this is a good place to get a handle on the characters (#6 goes into more depth about Torbjorn's past, but it's actually kind of redundant if you read #11 first). #14 shows the origin of the game's Jay & Silent Bob pair, or at least the origin of how they became a pair. It touches a bit on the background of the taciturn Roadhog while providing some useful worldbuilding on the setting: not everyone suffered equally in the Omnic Wars, and not everyone got rebuilt equally afterwards either. Not much of a story in terms of plot, more of a mood piece, which it does pretty well. Finally #15 has Zarya (Russian tank-class character who is big into hating robots) team up with a non-game Omnic character to track down Sombra. It's a fairly straightforward "person with black and white views is forced to accept that gray exists" story, nothing special or even particularly interesting. All issues are free, all are 8-page stories. Worth a look if you like sci-fi super-agent stories. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. None this month. Well, I got and read the Mars collection, but that came out over a decade ago, I just hadn't know about it at the time. I'd read a few issues of Mars back in the late 80s and early 90s because Dynamo Joe had an arc as a backup in Mars. Mars...did not age well. Can't even blame it on the sudden-onset cancellation, if anything the final two issues were better-paced and more coherent than the rest of the series. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Ms. Marvel v2 #23: Marvel - Fast forward enough time to ignore Secret Empire ENTIRELY, and Kamala is still in a funk. Last time this happened she took some time off in Pakistan, but this time a bit of Pakistan has come to her, in the form of Red Dagger's study abroad year (they have the sort of relationship I tend to think of as "cousins" because even though they're not blood relations their families are so entangled that a full accounting is a real pain). And they're both drowning in metaphors as they try to work together to avert a disaster. Recommended. $3.99 Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #3 (of 5): Marvel - This is very much a middle issue, mostly moving various plot elements forwards without introducing too many new elements or resolving old ones (although it does bring a particular point to the fore about Maximus). Of course, because it's a third issue, Spider-Man is in it...this may be an update with a lot of retcons, but it's still old school enough for that. This is actually an important point for the timeline, though, because now the story's earliest possible date within the Sliding Timeline has been nailed down. Topical stuff like an iPod didn't limit it much, but now we know it takes place after Amazing Fantasy #15, which puts things on a pretty tight schedule to get them all in place for the Royal Family's debut (and also makes it hard to see Johnny Storm dating Crystal as being un-creepy, given how young she's portrayed as being this issue). In short, while it seems at first that this issue is taking a breather before diving back into the action, it's actually just pausing to put a heavy burden on the resolution. Mildly recommended as a standalone. $3.99 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #24: Marvel - A somewhat goofy trio of vignettes in which Luna tries to adjust to having no partner. They're awkwardly stitched together into a "typical weird day in the life" narrative, but it mostly feels like they took three inventory stories and tweaked them to pad for time so that the next big development could happen in #25 instead. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Deathstroke #24: DC - Defiance continues, this time focusing on Kid Flash, who would probably be a lot better at sneaking if he wore his black and white team colors uniform than his usual red and yellow suit. A nice, unusual "meet the team" exercise via massive invasion of privacy and lack of proper observance of boundaries. The Grocer plotline also gets some advancement, both on its own and via Wally's scenes, a nice slow burn. Recommended. $3.99 Future Quest Presents: Space Ghost #3: DC - The first arc wraps up pretty well, although in some ways it wraps up too neatly, leaving few openings for reuse of the antagonist. Otherwise, not really a lot to say that I didn't cover in the first two issues. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Astro City #48: DC/Vertigo - Some of the plot details got glossed over too quickly in narration captions. I can understand the desire to focus mainly on the relationship between the two halves of G-Dog, but the "Oh, and she told me this, that, and the other thing" part felt like it was at precisely the intersection of too much and not enough. The core story would have been just as good if the side stuff had been left out and we didn't get an answer for what happened to the human after the dog went to the farm upstate, but if it was important to know what happened to the human, we should have gotten the actual dialogue bits rather than a summary. As for the main story, it did a good job of dealing with the issue of losing a friend without being maudlin. Recommended. $3.99 The Tick 2017 #1: NEC - Doug "Arsenic Lullaby" Paszkiewicz is the artist on this, so even though I don't know the writer from Adam, I figured the visuals would be interesting. No Arsenic Lullaby characters sneaked into the background (that I noticed), but I figure it's only a matter of time. The story is your basic "Superhero gets in the middle of a gang war and there's a macguffin they're fighting over" deal with callbacks to the original Edlund comics, but of course one of the gangs is comprised of circus clowns. Uncertain if this bus (metaphorical and literal) is going anywhere interesting, but I'm willing to hang on for now. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #24: Oni - I suppose it had to happen eventually. Zim manages to solve a mystery with his own brainmeats! Well, he admits it was a really obvious one. For most of the issue, though, Zim is the macguffin in someone else's story, a random element who upsets applecarts and gets rival factions to shift from uneasy detente to all-out war. Well, it's a lot less "spy thriller" and more "slapstick" than I just made it sound. Fun mayhem, and the minimoose has or is a bucket. Recommended. $3.99 Kaijumax Season 3 #4 (of 6): Oni - I'd kinda expected the "non-Dai" kaiju from last issue to be a one-off sight gag, but they're front and center for the framing sequence of this issue: a Hamilton-style rap opera adaptation of Godzilla (1954). The juxtaposition of history and fiction also underpins the general theme of many of the plot threads here, where there is a choice to make between reality and fantasy...either your fantasy or someone else's fantasy. And since this is a prison drama, a lot of the choices are the wrong ones. (I do have to wonder what an entire theater company of non-Dais did to get themselves sent to the 'Max, though.) Recommended. $3.99 Smoketown #4: Scout Comics - The pattern of the previous issues is slightly altered. Rather than another linear step back in time from the events of #3, there's a step back from a different part of #2, showing the story of someone else who met a messy end in this whitebread mountain town. Johnson does a good job of linking it solidly to the setting in general while leaving it uncertain until the very end how (or even IF) it would dovetail into the main plot. One bit at the end came out of left field, though, and probably could have been foreshadowed a little better in the dialogue (I'd have to go back and re-read #2 to see if it was foreshadowed there instead, Johnson does seem to be writing more for the trade.) Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #59: IDW - This time I realized the timing was way off before finishing the first page, so I set this aside to read after the "Secrets and Pies" episode. The first half is really just Pinkie showing she learned nothing from the episode and trying more and harder, which scans would have been better to cast those scenes as flashbacks, saying they happened between scenes of the episode. The rest is a decent "complete the lesson," though. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Legends of Magic #7: IDW - Well, on this one I didn't have a choice whether to read this before the Season 7 finale it is more or less linked to (I looked for scans, found none). Rather than a single issue, though, we're getting a To Be Continued arc, expanding on a bit of business very briefly shown in the finale. There are a few inconsistencies, maybe Whitley wasn't given the complete scripts to work with, because they do otherwise seem to be trying to keep the comics more in line with the show canon lately. At a guess, this is going to be a four issue arc, although I suppose it could stretch out to 6 so that it wraps up a full year. That would be the most ambitious story the MLP comics have tried to date if it did turn out to be six issues. I doubt it would be less than three issues, however, since the Next Issue cover they show does not look like what would be used for a final part. Recommended. $3.99 Rom vs. Transformers: Shining Armor #4 (of 5): IDW - I liked Silver Age comics' footnotes, and wish more people still used them. It saved the writer from having to perform verbal gymnastics or break the fourth wall to have a character think or say some piece of relevant information for the benefit of those who had just started reading comics. In particular, this issue it would have been really useful to have a footnote like, "Ultra Magnus is an identity that has been passed down through several Autobots to maintain the illusion of the unkillable lawman, as revealed in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #19 - Cruisin' Carlos!" Someone reading this issue without a fair amount of IDW-verse background might think that everyone knows there's been a bunch of Magnuses...but they don't. And that definitely colors how the story can end, even if there's a soft retcon here or there. Why is this important? Well, this is a prequel story. Every non-Wraith character who has appeared in present-day comics has plot armor, and the first scene of this issue makes it clear Ultra Magnus does NOT. But...he sort of does. He can't definitively die in front of anyone who can't be trusted to keep a secret, and, well, Starscream is there. That little piece of untransmitted info affects how the story reads, and what the stakes and risks for the characters are. That little point aside, there's mostly fights and arguments and no resolution (since that's for next issue), even a bit of character development that seemed to be happening this issue was essentially postponed. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Optimus Prime First Strike #1: IDW - This is mostly a prequel to First Strike #1, oops. It's basically Optimus with his battlemask down and his face showing hanging out with various characters and debating matters of politics and philosophy before all hell breaks loose, and then trying to deal with all the hell and the breaking and the looseness. It might have been worth reading before reading First Strike, but coming out during the wrap-up it's utterly redundant. And frankly, it's not really that interesting on its own. $3.99 Optimus Prime #11: IDW - Optimus isn't physically present in this issue (he's busy in First Strike), but his presence is ALL OVER the story. What would Prime do? Why did did Prime do that? Why didn't Prime do something? Should anyone even care what Optimus does or thinks or says? Artistically, I suppose Burcham's super-saturated colors do have one virtue...they successfully camouflaged the fact that four artists worked on this book in a pretty piecemeal fashion. I guess they were rushing to try to get the arc done before First Strike ended? Barber borrows a "reality show cutaway interview" technique that Roberts normally uses (and this continues into #12, which I've read at this point but will review with the November books), and it doesn't quite feel right. Mildly recommended. $3.99 First Strike #5-6 (of 6): IDW - #5 is mostly a continuation of the "running chase scene" theme of the whole series, as Colton's team gets closer to the plot device while Prime's team breaks out of jail to go after them and Starscream gets to gloat. #6 is the big physical and ideological fight scene in which everyone is twisting their principles to the breaking point in what might have been a surprisingly nuanced climax to a big event...if that had been allowed. But no, there was a "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal" moment as a character throws off their disguise and comes from so far out of left field they weren't even in the home state of the stadium with a Big Twist Ending that even the characters complain about. Generally an unsatisfying macguffin quest series. Neutral. $3.99 each. Transformers Lost Light #10: IDW - Meanwhile, on the actual ship for which the book is named, which hasn't really shown up since the title was relaunched, the Protectobots and a few other Autobots rejoin the Lost Light with no knowledge of the mutiny. It's a sort of open mystery story, where the reader knows something is wrong but the characters only suspect it. It has a neat procedural twist at the end, although since it's listed as part one of three I do hope the other two parts don't just repeat the formula for two other groups of returning characters with slight variations. (Oh, and yes, another Maguire Justice League cover homage. Bomp.) Recommended, provisionally. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "So, this is literally a SLOW-MOTION TRAIN WRECK waiting to happen?!" "Yes! That's EXACTLY what this is!" "This is my whole life in one garbage metaphor." - Ms. Marvel and a conductor, Ms. Marvel #23
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