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Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and AwardsIntermittent 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 I seem to have a vole infestation in my yard. Or groundhogs. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #12. In this installment: Thor: the Dark World, Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures #12, Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #3, Double Barrel #12, My Little Pony Annual #1, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #12-13, My Little Pony Micro-Series #9, Astro City #6. "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. Thor: The Dark World: Marvel Studios - I suppose I'll lead off with what I considered the only real problem with the movie: cast expansion and dilution. They kept pretty much everyone from the first movie except Coulson and Hawkeye, and added a few new characters, which led to a lot of characters being reduced to spear-carrier duty when they should have had meatier roles (Sif in particular). That said, I otherwise quite enjoyed the movie. It gave the Svartalfen a distinct visual style and a strong motive for warring against Asgard. And if it didn't really teach Thor any new lessons, it did drive home how hard it can be to bear in mind the lessons already learned. 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 iPod if it's at all possible. Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #12: Red5 Comics - The titans of industry plot wraps up neatly enough, although it felt almost anticlimactic as all of the dominos that were clearly set up earlier in the arc needed only be toppled over. Recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #3: Red5 Comics - I was sort of hoping the Majestic-12 plotline would remain ominously simmering in the background, but it ends up making the title plot look like little more than an excuse to get Robo out of the way for a few days. Yeah, it's a little hard to take Dr. Dinosaur seriously as a threat to drive an entire arc, but I think the choice of ramping up MJ-12 was like throwing up of hands and admitting the title plot was unimpotant. Mildly recommended. $2.99 at ComiXology. Double Barrel #12: Top Shelf - And after a significant delay, the series wraps up its first year (with the implication that they'll be back soonish, but not right away). The late addition Clandestinauts gets a rather large installment in order to finish off in time. If there's a single theme running through all three main stories it'd be that the hero doesn't always get the girl, but that's okay. Heck stands out as being very clearly a denounment, while the other two are packed with climactic action. Clandestinauts even introduces a new cast member, sort of, and spends much of its final installment in a many-cornered running battle. If the goal of Clandestinauts was to capture the kind of chaotic upgehuggery seen when you let a group of stereotypical teenaged D&D players split up in the dungeon, it succeeded. Meanwhile, Crater XV really started to get on my nerves with the "I am narrating my actions for an unseen reader!" dialogue style. It's the sort of joke that eventually wears thin, and it was pretty threadbare at this point. As were the overly-descriptive sound effects. It's certainly possible to mix serious and absurd without making a total mess of the story, but I think Cannon just pushed this one too far and fell into the mulligan stew. Finally, the first story of the issue, Heck, had perhaps more genuine suspense in it than either of the other two stories, despite being past the action climax of its storyline. By far the most effective of the three serials in Double Barrel, Zander managed to create a sense that things could all go horribly wrong even at this late point, as well as make me care if they did. (By contrast, if everyone in Clandestinauts had been killed horribly I wouldn't have particularly minded.) On average, mildly recommended. $1.99 at ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Nothing this month. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Annual #1: IDW - As the cover indicates, this oversized and squarebound Annual is all about the Equestria Girls movie. The first story is the short included as part of the ComiCon exclusive version of a previous issue, with Cook and Price telling the story of how Sunset Shimmer came to be in the human world. It was very good. The main story, by Anderson anf Fleecs, was a fairly weak and overly long "how the huMane 5 met" origin story that felt horribly redundant after watching the movie. While I can see them being told not to write a sequel to the movie, there's other things they could have done that wouldn't be so boring. Mildly recommended, mainly because it's kinda expensive to get just for the good short story. $7.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #12: IDW - The 80s teen movie pastiche ends, backing up to show most of the story from Cadance's point of view before showing the homecoming dance scene. While there's already some continuity issues here and there with the framing sequence, and I've already expressed my discomfort with the excessive topicality, it was a fun story on its own. And Price and Cook do their usual good job hiding secondary stories in the background, including one that wraps up on this being a Quantum Leap episode. Hm, I wonder if the continuity glitches could be explained by the Dark Leaper being involved somewhere? ;) Cook draws a two-page backup of music parody that's definitely not meant to be in-continuity, not with Luna dressed up as Mark Mothersbaugh in what's supposed to be a flashback sequence. Strongly recommended despite some reservations. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #13: IDW - And now for something completely different. The high concept, "The Mane 6 join a pirate crew," sounds promising for the two seconds or so it takes to realize it'd be out of character for pretty much all but Rainbow Dash. Nuhfer gamely finds reasons to get most of them on board anyway (along with the strong implication that pirates aren't actually criminals in Equestria, just freelance sailors with a certain fashion sense), but it felt forced. And while it's pretty cool that they found a way to make the "Rarity fighting a giant crab" thing semi-canonical, it also felt a bit forced. The whole thing feels like a one-paragraph pitch tossed in on a lark got taken seriously, and then the creative team had to figure out how to make it work. (Aside: some have complained about there being no adequate explanation for the rest of the Apple family being in the pirate town, but they were the Pineapple family, who just happened to be awfully similar to the Apples.) Mildly recommended, there's some good gags in there, it's just uncomfortable forcing the plot along to get to them. $3.99 My Little Pony Micro-Series #9: IDW - Spike gets Sea Monkeys, and they form a civilization and fight religious wars. Seriously, this has practically become its own subgenre of story. And Anderson doesn't really do much with it other than run through the premise. It's workmanlike, but that's about it. Neutral. $3.99 Astro City #6: Vertigo - Another callback to #1, this time the overt plot, with the alien Ambassador. "Small-time hood gets his hands on a plot device and becomes a supervillain" was already a hoary plot device when the Champions RPG lampooned it by having a crook mail himself a powersuit by swapping labels around in a secret lab's shipping room, but Busiek explores it with his usual get-inside-the-skull thoroughness. I would have preferred if the narrative captions were first person, though, as the pronouns get a bit awkward at times (i.e. "Is THAT why he was surprised to see him back?" which would have read more smoothly if the "him" were "me" instead). Recommended. $3.99 Diamond left out an entire box of last week's shipment, so no Samurai Jack this month (not planning to go down to Joplin again until December). Dave Van Domelen, "Nopony has told me why I'm in a dress yet." - Poindexter, MLPFiM #12