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Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and AwardsThe 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 6 4 2 + 2 4 0. B C N U 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, but I just ordered the Dr. Horrible DVD, so that might be in next week's review. 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. City of Heroes TPB: Image - Several years ago, a friend suggested I try City of Heroes #4. I did, and didn't care for it, although a lot of that was due to a lack of any connection to the characters or setting. Now I know the characters and setting, so I figured I'd give the whole thing a shot in TPB form. I still don't much like it, but now I have different reasons. :) And no, it's not because Waid and Hickman turned most of the characters into jerks...in fact, I found that amusing. With Manticore the archer as the viewpoint character, everyone else behaves like the kind of players you run across in a Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO). But being an MMO is the core problem here. An MMO requires a lot of suspension of disbelief in the setting beyond whatever the genre conventions involve...for instance, the superhuman population outnumbers the normals in most (if not all) parts of the city during peak play hours. No one would EVER choose to live somewhere that has neo-Nazis preaching on every other street corner and mutant gangs grabbing purses on every block. The only way the setting makes sense is if you selectively blind yourself to the players not on your team and to the opponents you're not currently fighting. There's other things, but the point is that there's a lot of stuff in City of Heroes that you have to just shrug and go along with. This means that an attempt at telling a straight story in Paragon City is has a tough row to hoe, and a writer does not help his cause by deliberately poking at the setting conventions. But both Waid and Hickman spend a fair amount of time yanking at the curtains, turning attempts at serious scenes into more of a farce, pointing out to the readers how dumb some things are. This is not an indictment of the game, like I said earlier any MMO will require this sort of suspension of disbelief due to the "massively" part of MMO. But you can't go drawing attention to that if you want to tell a straight story. (By contrast, the Eric Burns-White's "League" stories have turned Boston into a parody of Paragon City, but the parody-heavy nature of the Superguy setting makes it easier to mock things without losing the ability to tell an otherwise serious tale.) I've since read a few more issues at the official download site with PDFs of the series (http://www.cityofheroes.com/media_and_downloads/official_comic_archive/) and it doesn't get better, although they do seem to stop poking at the suspension of disbelief so much once Manticore's creator starts writing. Neutral. $14.99 cover price, $13.49 at deepdiscount.com, or you can just read all the PDFs for free. Farscape D'Argo's Trial #4: BOOM! Studios - Well, the actual trial is shown, kangaroo court that it is. The main storytelling purpose of the trial is to add a bit of depth to Crais to mesh with the changes he went through over the course of the series. The framing sequence wraps up in a "to be continued in D'Argo's Quest", but I won't be there for it. It's been an okay series, as have all the BOOM! Farscape books, but none have really been worth the hassle of trying to wrest them out of Diamond's hands, and the decision to collect them only in $25 hardcovers for 4 issue minis has convinced me it's worth neither the hassle or the money. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Models Inc. #2 (of 4): Marvel - A good "we have a plot complication, now what?" transitional issue, establishing the depths of the complication(s) and starting the character on the path to dealing with it. Good writing and art, recommended. $3.99 Ninja High School #171: Antarctic - Diamond claimed to have #169-171 all in stock, but when it came time to ship there was just #171. Hm, shouldn't Ricky be barefoot on the cover? :) The dialogue is oddly stilted in many places, and not just from the characters who are supposed to have odd speech patterns. A lot of this issue is foreshadowing, and since I've already read the payoff I don't get to speculate, bummer. Mildly recommended. $2.99 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. The Transformers #1: IDW - Officially, it's just The Transformers #1, no volume number or anything, but colloquially it's called Transformers Ongoing. Much has been made of Figueroa's new designs, which are mostly Classics/Universe2 toy designs...with teeth. More teeth than we've seen since the Generation 2 comics. I wish he'd redesigned his humans too, I still don't much care for how he does human faces. The story picks up after a two year gap and Prime is doing what he does best...angst. Mike Costa's writing is okay, but a bit too given to cliche. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant #1: DC - Several loosely-bound stories spotlighting various members of the team and tied together by a mystic macguffin and a fairly thin framing story. Most of the stories are pretty mediocre, although the Wildcat Jr. story was fairly interesting. The framing stuff is drawn by new series regular Freddie Williams II, who looks to be emulating Bart Sears but not very well. Mildly recommended. $5.99 Adventure Comics #4: DC - Blackest Night banner, the main story involves Superboy Prime, Comics Troll of Earth-Prime. A rather fourth-wall-breaking story, as the Black Lantern du jour mocks Prime as a fictional character. The backup Legion story picks up on the Black Witch thread and does a decent job of working with the premise, even if the premise is kinda 90s-cliche. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Thunderbolts #138: Marvel - Jeff Parker picks up writing and infests the book with Atlas. Well, at the very end. This issue is mainly showing off what everyone in the current team can do (although not going too deeply into their backgrounds). A bunch of psychos, plus Paladin and Ant-Man (who, while not psycho, only barely looks good next to these guys). Mildly recommended. $2.99 Dark Reign - The List: the Amazing Spider-Man #1 (one-shot): Marvel - New story by Slott and Adam Kubert, and then a reprint of The Pulse #5. #8 on Osborn's list is a little present to himself: kill Spider-Man. Naturally, since Dark Reign is wrapping up soon and there's a long line of people over in Spidey's main title who have dibs on killing him, the wheels come off that particular plan faster than you can say "naked Belgians". More importantly, it's not just Spider-Man who gets to thwart Osborn (although he does some pretty good thwarting), in the end it's Peter Parker the average citizen. Recommended. $3.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #612: Marvel - The Gauntlet begins, but it begins subtly. Well, there's lots of exploding things, but I meant subtle in the sense that if there wasn't a framing page or two at the start and the whole cover banner thing, there'd be no suggestion this was part of a bigger story. Just Electro finding a new angle. The political commentary side is a little heavy-handed, but for the most part it fits the story. The backup confused me for a little bit into thinking it was a flashback story, especially given how Niimura's art makes everyone look like high school students, but it picks up on the current-time Black Cat threads. Recommended. $3.99 Dr. Horrible #1 (of 1): Dark Horse - I only watched the first installment of the Sing-Along Blog when it came out...I really don't like watching long videos on my computer, so I didn't watch the rest. But as mentioned above, I just ordered the DVD ($8.65 with free shipping from DeepDiscount.com), so I'll catch up in a bit. Anyway, this comic is not an adaptation of the blog, instead it's the origin of Dr. Horrible and the story of his first clashes with Captain "Ball Peen" Hammer. The writing from Zach (not Joss) Whedon goes a bit too deliberately camp in places (yes, even by the standards of the Sing-Along Blog), but it's a good tale of becoming a (somewhat ineffectual) villain. Recommended. $3.50 Invincible #68: Image - Back to the title character. :) And we now need a guest shot by Atomic Robo just so that Dr. Dinosaur can team up with Dinosaurus! Even if Dinosaurus is secretly a filthy mammal. Or, at least, wearing a filthy mammal. Mind you, the real threat this issue is not Dinosaurus, it's Eve's parents...aiiie! Oh, and the Sequids and Conquest and there's something about the name "Young Omni-Man" that does not fill me with confidence (although "Kid Omni-Man" would be more omni-mous). Recommended. $2.99 Gold Digger Tech Manual #9: Antarctic Press - Starts with more Penny Pincer stuff, and then goes to various flavors of Saurians (and I suspect there will be more Saurians in #10, they're one of the major Plot Device races of the setting). Interesting artistic contrast between the new picture of Penny on the cover and the older drawing on the first page, wearing the same outfit (more or less) but with her current hairdo. Perry's style has changed a LOT over the years, and these guides help show that pretty clearly. Recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger v3 #112: Antarctic Press - Something tells me the final print version of the book doesn't look exactly like the proofs...Kia's dialogue balloons are dark blue with black letters, nearly unreadable without the help of a flashlight (well, sunlight would probably work too, but it's well after sundown as I read this issue). Anyway, despite the overt Space Adventure trappings, this is very much a followup to #111 and Penny trying to deal with Skippy's insidious plot. Fortunately, she's helped by a bit of parallel evolution. Recommended. $2.99 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 11/18/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Ninja High School #169-170, Gold Digger Tech Manual #3, Gold Digger v3 #105, Farscape Gone & Back #3, Official Marvel Index #11. Add Mighty Avengers #31 (it was on the store's invoice but not in the box). Awards: "Tsk, Should Know Better Than To Go After The Thorns Without Some Break Frees" Award to City of Heroes TPB "I'm Afraid The Nazi Metaphor Is Too Subtle For Me To Notice" Award to Farscape: D'Argo's Trial #4 (of 4) "Lynx Looks Like A 1990s Captain America Supporting Character" Award to Models Inc. #2 (of 4) "Leeroy Feeple" Award to Ninja High School #171 "He Was Getting Too Long In The Tooth Anyway" Award to The Transformers #1 "Changing Relations" Award to Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant #1 "YHBT. YHL. YHBTIABL. HAND." Award to Adventure Comics #4 "Does The BPRD Know You're Moonlighting?" Award to Thunderbolts #138 "The Curse Of Alphabetical Order, I Know It Well" Award to Dark Reign: The List - The Amazing Spider-Man #1 "And He Drives The Wall Street, Lookin' In The Sun For A Spider-Man To Beat" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #612 "With Great Power Comes Gr-OOH, SHINY THING!" Award to Dr. Horrible #1 "Wonder How Badly The Sequids Get Jobbed?" Award to Invincible #68 "The New Gigliathon Bar Has A World Full Of Caramel!" Award to Gold Digger Tech Manual #9 "Parakeet's Company, Three Keet's A Crowd" Award to Gold Digger v3 #112 Dave Van Domelen, "Oh my! So nudism DOES run in the family." - Ma Hunkle to Wildcat Jr.
Add leftover turkey to the November Rants.