Back to the Main Rants Page.
Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et CeteraIntermittent 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 Found another shop in town this month, sticking with current one. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None In this installment: Justice League (movie), Runaways (Hulu), Overwatch #12-13, Dreamjumper Book Two, Ms. Marvel v2 #24, Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #4 (of 5), Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #25, Deathstroke #25, Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 (of 6), Future Quest Presents: the Galaxy Trio #4, The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #4 (of 6), Astro City #49, Invader Zim #25, Kaijumax Season 3 #5 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #60, My Little Pony Legends of Magic #8, Rom vs. Transformers: Shining Armor #5 (of 5), Transformers First Strike #1 (of 1), Optmius Prime #12-13, Transformers Lost Light #11, Atomic Robo the Spectre of Tomorrow #1-2 (of 6). Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Nothing this month. "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. Justice League: DC/WB - I saw this a week after opening week, after hearing a lot of "it's not that bad" and "it'd fun, if dumb," not to mention a whackload of complaints about the excessive use of CG. On that last point, the places people complained about the most didn't bother me, but there were several sequences where I fully expected Megatron or Shockwave to show up (seriously, the final fight location was practically lifted from Dark of the Moon, random ground-bursting tentacles and all). It definitely had pacing issues, no doubt partially caused by the replacement of Snyder with Whedon part way through, and it was a very "Generic Superhero Team Movie" sort of plot, but it was enjoyable. And, as one character put it, it was "undoing a mistake." Mildly recommended. Runaways: Marvel/Hulu - This series got bounced around a bit before landing on Hulu, a service I normally have to watch on a computer screen rather than my preference of watching TV on my *TV*. Fortunately, there are ways of dealing with that, and I know people who have those ways. Further disclaimer: I didn't read the original series, I only vaguely know any of the characters, and that mostly through later guest appearances in various comics and some fan art on Tumblr. I have really no horse in this race. I've read some Wiki entries, and that's enough to tell me that the show doesn't intend to go in exactly the same direction as the comics with some of the plot devices (which can be good or bad for existing Runaways fans, I suppose...you can still be surprised, but you can also be disappointed). Even if you don't normally binge-watch stuff, if you're going to watch this series you really should watch the first two episodes back-to-back. This is because the second episode mostly goes back over the same timeframe as the first, but does so from the POV of the antagonists. While very little of the Mysterious Plot is revealed in the process, it definitely helps flesh out the other half of the cast. I was a little worried that the third episode was going to be solid flashbacks, but after a few of those it did move things forwards. This is a standalone setting, I don't expect to see even vague references to other Marvel heroes and villains in future episodes. This also means that some of the power levels can be dropped way down, since there's no expectation of having to compete in a world full of Avengers and X-Men and the like. It is, as David S Pumpkins says, it's own thing. Recommended. Punisher: Marvel/Netflix - No. I hear it's actually not too bad, and even addresses concerns some of my friends had about the character, but I have zero interest in seeing him as a protagonist. Not spending my time on this one, sorry. 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 #12-13: Dark Horse - Comixology filled in the blanks in November. #12 is a flashback to Lena Oxton's first day in Overwatch, fleshing out a little more of the world's backstory, but it mostly seems like an excuse to show Soldier 76 feeling like this wasn't what he signed up for. #13 is "present day" more or less, introducing a new bad guy, Doomfist, who mainly seems to exist so that the badguys aren't ALL misunderstood or tragic figures (okay, Sombra is neither of those, but she's more of a jerk than a villain per se). I actually saw most of #13 online before this, because someone posted a panel-by-panel overanalysis that tries to figure out exactly what Reaper's deal is. Mildly recommended. Free. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Dream Jumper Book Two: Curse of the Harvester: Scholastic - Something of a disappointment after the strong first book. It feels like it would have made for a stronger story if it lost about a third of the pagecount, as there's a lot of padding and driving of running gags into the ground. The depth and breadth of the true threat starts to take shape, and the protagonist finds new allies while learning more about what he can do, but it just felt like it should have been shorter, like Grundberg outlined certain events for each volume and then found that he couldn't hit his contractual pagecount. Mildly recommended. $12.99/$16.99Cn Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Ms. Marvel v2 #24: Marvel - While the cover is very very shippy, the actual story is more at the "they annoy each other" stage of the relationship, assuming it does end up with Ms. Marvel and Red Dagger becoming an item. (I do keep having to remind myself that they're NOT related, it's just one of those "our families are confusingly entertwined" deals.) Contrary to the possible long term implications of the cover, this issue is really more about Kamala NOT pulling out of her funk after all, and the "flavor of the month" phenomenon around Red Dagger only drives that point home for her. I'd complain that she seems to go on a Deep Soul-Searching Journey awfully frequently, but she *is* a teenager in a more stressful situation than most, she's gonna need to find herself a lot. Recommended. $3.99 Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #4 (of 5): Marvel - Fight scene, psychic plot device, oops, more fight scene. Things are a bit visually confusing because two antagonists in the book have mustaches and stupid tall hats, not to mention costumes in similar colors, so I was occasionally confused by who was actually being fought at any given time (although this may be an intentional set-up, that one character will end up taking costume cues from the other). There's definitely some retconning going on with the timestream now that Spider-Man is involved, though. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #25: Marvel - Now with Legacy numbering...that is the same as regular numbering, because they're not folding the old Moon Boy stories in. This starts the "Fantastic Three" arc. Ben Grimm has been in and out of Luna's life for a while now, so add Johnny Storm and you have the makings of a team (also, HERBIE is found in a box, so technically it could be Four). The initial premise is just that a bunch of odds and ends have been tossed out by the new owner of the Baxter Building, and Ben figured Luna might like to have them, that she might see value in "old junk" since she's smarter than the people who labeled it junk. Plenty of angst and abandonment issues to go around, though. There's also an FF-related mystery in the background, but Luna hasn't run into it yet, as well as what seems to be an FF-style crisis shaping up...but either the colorist is having issues or that's a hint that things are not what they seem. Interesting start, although Luna's sudden ramping up of "I don't understand anyone and no one understands me" angst is a little offputting. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Deathstroke #25: DC - The Society (an updated Secret Society of Super-Villains, presumably) puts Deathstroke on trial, not just for his overt actions against Deadline, but also for the broader matter of his renunciation of evil. That's a good enough excuse to go delving into his origins and backstory, filling out a bunch of stuff that had not yet been covered in previous flashbacks. A good story that manages to resolve absolutely NOTHING and yet clarifies a lot (and does at least logistically resolve the whole Society issue, as a judgement is passed). Of course, the real trial is yet to come.... Recommended. $3.99 (extra-sized, but regular cost) Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands #1 (of 6): DC - Hey, DC actually puts the numbering of the series size on the cover, how novel. Tony Isabella returns to writing Black Lightning as protector of Cleveland (no "Brick City" coyness this time), simultaneously acknowledging some of the differences in New52 and Rebirth and also doing away with a few, ah, misconceptions. Ties to others in the DCU are mentioned, but Jeff's status as semi-active is also reinforced...there's generally not a lot of call for a costumed hero in Cleveland at the moment, the worst of it is some jerks who got their hands on supertech rifles. Or, so it seems...wouldn't be much of a storyline if that were it, yes? Without giving away any details, the main plot of this miniseries involves the "framed for a crime he didn't commit" theme. While I recently realized I have zero patience for gaslighting plots these days, a frame job isn't gaslighting. The target knows they're innocent (and sane, and so forth), they just can't prove it yet, and no one else has much reason to doubt the guilt. I still prefer heroes fighting villains over heroes fighting police, but I'm willing to see where this goes. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Future Quest Presents: Galaxy Trio #4: DC - And then, sometimes the police become the villains. The new arc covers the Galaxy Trio, and it jumps around in time a bit, meshing somewhat awkwardly with the previous arc's post-Future-Quest timeline and the mostly pre-FQ origin story. There's also a thematic link to the previous arc: former Space Force officers who thought they had been abandoned when Omnikron destroyed the Space Force entirely, and turned bad. But unlike Metallus, they didn't go insane or anything, they just became criminals who specialized in preying on worse criminals. This issue sketches out their rougish career, has Space Ghost recruit them, and then reveals that they were lost in the fight against Omnikron (to be honest, I don't even recall if they showed up in the crowd scene at the end of FQ, so this may be a new revelation or just a flashback to information already known). This does help lift them above their status as "Oh, another one of the H-B space shows, I think," but not by a lot yet, as evidenced by my lack of clear memories about whether they've even appeared in comics recently. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #4 (of 6): DC/Vertigo - In the original series, one of the main opponents of Jason Fisher was a racist white guy with flame powers. Now he's fighting a revolutionary black man with flame powers. The metaphorical parallel is a bit blunt. Well, "fighting" is more of a future tense thing...this is an issue made up entirely of dialogues, the only "fight" happens because Jason decides to tackle Amber to the ground so she doesn't get to hover over him being superior...which made absolutely no sense given that he flies too. Seemed pretty Obligatory Action Sequence to me. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Astro City #49: DC/Vertigo - A fairly archetypical Astro City story. Lots of narration and summary, a handful of scenes that actually get to play out in full, a twist on an existing superhero character (in this case, Captain Universe), and a focal character who's a normal human. A mix of heroic optimism and "is it really worth it?" pessimism. As an introduction to what one can expect from Astro City in general, it's great. As something for a long-time reader to read...meh. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #25: Oni - The arc continues! Continuity! Perfidity! Mindswappery! Furnishings! Zim's greatest fan has decided the best way to make Zim stop sucking is for him to become Zim, but since anyone who ever actually idolized Zim has to have a strange combination of genius and utter incompetence, this goes about as well as one might expect. But will Zim get his groove back? Recommended. $3.99 Kaijumax Season 3 #5 (of 6): Oni - Penultimate chapter of the season, enough holes have opened up in the monster power structures that a succession war of some sort is inevitable, plus there's several personal stories moving along that beg for resolution. One of them is *probably* resolved for good. I mean, the character in question finally makes a decision and accepts the consequences...but those consequences aren't 100% necessarily fatal. Just, oh, 99%. (Aside: by introducing the non-Dai Kaiju this season, Cannon did make the upsizing of some of the cryptids seem a little off. Most if not all of the Cryptid faction really should be non-Dai.) Next issue will definitely be a giant monster throwdown, but what's more important is the ethical choices made by a handful of them: will the pacifist kill? Will the doctor go wholly over to the dark side? Will any number of wimpier characters fight back or cower? And what about Scarecrow's brain? Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #60: IDW - A followup to the Cutie Mark Camp episode, both chronologically and thematically. One of the core conflicts of that episode was between expectations and desires. What if it turns out your special talent isn't what you want to be locked into for the rest of your life? The episode kind of dropped the ball on that, failing to really resolve the conflict so much as convincing Rumble that it wasn't as big a deal as he thought. That he'd still get to try new things and do stuff unrelated to his special talent. Rice and Garbowska set up a more stark example of the conflict, with a young pony who knows what she wants to do, but feels family pressure to get a cutie mark related to the family occupation. In a lot of ways, the TV episode is simply retold (the new pony abstains, rebels, etc). But she DOES get her mark in what she really loves to do, and that's not the end of the story. And a B-plot is interwoven in which one of the Crusaders feels like she's being similarly railroaded by expectations. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Legends of Magic #8: IDW - Feels now like this arc might go through #12. While there's two Pillars on the cover, this is mostly about just one of them, Rockhoof. I'm starting to wonder if the general theme of this entire arc is going to be that sometimes a virtue can be a flaw, because the primary conflict this issue involves Stygian trying to get past Rockhoof's excessive humility and sense of duty to his home. In his previous story in this series, Rockhoof learned to not just go along with the crowd, but that's not exactly helpful here either. Meanwhile, Stygian's virtue of lateral thinking continues to be built up, and presumably that's exactly what got him in trouble with the shadows eventually. Recommended. $3.99 Rom vs. Transformers: Shining Armor #5 (of 5): IDW - Barber generally manages that hardest of tasks in a prequel, that of making it so that any new things don't contradict the present-day stuff while also making the story matter. Usually the last bit is accomplished by ending on a Just So Story note: so this is why the Wraiths didn't keep trying to merge with Transformers, or why no one knew about the rotating wearers of the Magnus armor, etc. New characters, though, have to be killed off or convincingly put on a bus, and I think there was a slight bobble there in the very last panel. Barber couldn't resist a horror-movie-style "The End...?" bit, which I felt worked counter to Stardrive's personal story resolution. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers First Strike #1: IDW - This is basically Revolutionaries First Strike. Barber does more of the "interview room" stuff he's fallen in love with recently, in between showing the Revolutionaries and Arcee pursuing Centurion and some cyber-ninjas through Cybertron's underground during the events of First Strike. Ultimately pretty inconsequential, and even the one "significant" thing that happens here got undone over in Optimus Prime #13. Tramontano's art varies between passable and...not. Really nothing to recommend reading this, but neither does it sink to actual badness levels, so I guess I'll go with "neutral" and skippable on this one. $3.99 Optimus Prime #12: IDW - Seriously, someone needs to tell Barber to tone down on the "reality show interview room" stuff. The Meanwhile Back On Earth arc concludes with the guilty parties identified (if miscolored) and absolutely no one coming out of this feeling satisfied. The message is that you can do the right thing, stop the bad guys, and still be miserable and lost in the gray areas of morality...which is ironic given the super saturated (if not outright eye-bleeding) coloring Burcham continues to deliver. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Optimus Prime #13: IDW - Ramondelli returns to help pick up the danglers from the Dinobots books he worked on, plus the events of Transformers First Strike (the half page summary of that is really all you need to know about the entire issue). If that weren't enough, there's also a Throttlebots side plot on another world entirely, although with Ramondelli's art they all kinda look like the same place. Barber is flinging around a LOT of plot threads (and notably canonizing one of the bits of Alpha Trion's story of the days of the Primes), and the art simply isn't clear enough to carry them. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Lost Light #11: IDW - The middle part of a trilogy is usually where the antagonist seems to be doing okay, and we get a lot of infodum, and this follows the usual pattern. It's got nested flashback-ness to it, mostly set shortly after the mutiny but with Getaway describing events further back to someone. So, a lot of short scenes filling in the gaps of what happened leading up to and after the mutiny (including the precise moment it started to go off the rails), and at the very end it appears to catch up to the events of the previous issue. Roberts has had this cooking for a long time, but it's clear he tweaked some bits in order to make Getaway a more obvious metaphor for another narcissistic liar who's currently in the news. Getaway is the classic "villain who considers himself the hero" character in this continuity, who lets the ends justify the means and lets his own image and legacy blind him to the mistakes he's making. Recommended. $3.99 Atomic Robo: the Spectre of Tomorrow #1 (of 5): IDW - Rebuilding is hard. Especially if a three-volume arc is starting in the meanwhile, but for this issue it's mostly about the hassles of getting the revived Tesladyne on its feet and dealing with contractors, neighborhood associations, and one of the most evil versions of Richard Branson to appear in comics. A lot of the old crew have moved on, with only a handful of diehards out in the desert with Robo, who has become increasingly withdrawn. I get the feeling that the whole "rebuilding bureaucracy" thing is going to pay off at the end of the uber-arc with something like the Buck Godot series, in which Robo has saved the world but still has to deal with paperwork...can't be making exceptions, you know. Recommended. $3.99 Atomic Robo: the Spector of Tomorrow #2 (of 5): IDW - This issue is mostly about establishing the mysterious new threat (which has been identified by this point in the online webcomic version, but the hardcopy isn't too far behind) and having not-Robo characters start to investigate it. Like Achilles brooding in his tent, Robo himself is still mostly uninvolved, although he's starting to wake up. And for comic relief, secondary characters attempting to cut through paperwork with a blunt instrument. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "After I die, I want someone to sell my INNERMOST ENERGON - it's Matrix-enriched, so, y'know, it'll fetch a good price - and use the proceeds to employ a BOUNTY HUNTER. There's this FREELANCE PEACEKEEPING AGENT on Elpasos. Horns, detachable hand, eyebrows that would make Rung jealous. Use him." - Rodimus's last will and testament