Standard Disclaimers: Please set appropriate followups. Recommendation does not factor in price. Not all books will have arrived in your area this week. I am now on knitting junk mail lists. Rants, Capsules can be found on my homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants "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. DC Universe The Question: Mattel - I got the JLU-style Question a few months ago and was pleased with it, so I snapped this up so he could have a little brother. I regret doing so. The sportscoat is rigid plastic! That means that while the toy has waist and hip articulation, it can't actually move those joints because the coat's blocking it. And I have white stress marks on the toy's thighs from trying to move the legs. Plus, the arms are disproportionately bulky and the head is tiny, plus the color match between face and neck is poor. The knees bend weirdly, probably to compensate for hip movement that can't happen. Avoid this piece of junk. $4.99 at Target. Comics Capsules: Short, relatively spoiler-free reviews of books I actually bring home (as opposed to reading in preview form in the shop or online). If I get a book late due to distributor foulups or whatever, I'll put it in the Missing section. Books of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Farscape #1 (of 4), Atomic Robo Dogs of War #5 (of 5) The Brave and the Bold #20: DC - Green Lantern and Phantom Stranger continue this final arc of the title before the namespace is given over to a tie-in to the really good new cartoon. Ehn. Hine's story has its moments, but for the most part it plods along its allegorical path, with Braithwaite's art neither helping nor hindering. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Ms. Marvel #34: Marvel - Lots of unanswered questions, and only the barest connection to #32-33...not that ignoring those issues makes me sad. Rather, this picks up more closely from the Annual earlier this year, and Reed gets another shot at playing with Spider-Man, something he does very well. Plus, Aaron Stack gets a short but important scene. Recommended. $2.99 New Warriors #19: Marvel - After the Big Reveals of last issue, the gaps get filled in (more or less) and everyone moves towards the final confrontation, with fairly predictable twists and turns. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Thor #12: Marvel - Well, Thor's on the cover, but that's about all he does this issue. It's Loki time, and JMS pulls a Babylon 4 with Loki. Yeah, it's a bit too pat, and has echoes of an episode of Power Rangers Jungle Fury, but it's a decent read. Mildly recommended. $2.99 She-Hulk v2 #36: Marvel - More than a little bondage-and-traps this issue, although the metaphorical bondage (i.e. can't escape the situation, no matter how many people you hit) is stronger than the physical. Sadly, this is mostly set-up for character development that's being shut off when the title ends soon. :/ Recommended. $2.99 Invincible #57 and The Astounding Wolf-Man #11: Image - This is a crossover, and since it's the same writer (Kirkman) in both cases, I'm just going to cover this as a single review. In terms of advancing the long term plots of either book, this crossover doesn't really do much, although it establishes a few things about both books more clearly. And each part manages to establish both titles' situation so that those coming in from just one of the titles gets a good look at who's who and what's what. So, in the sense of trying to hook readers of one into reading the other, Kirkman manages a good classic crossover. But I'm still not all that interested in Wolf-Man, sorry. Both recommended, though. $2.99 each. Farscape #1 (of 4): Boom! Studios - Boom!'s really going nuts on the licensed properties this quarter, Eureka #1 should be out soon as well. Series creator O'Bannon plotted the story out, and adaptation veteran Keith DeCandido provides the script. The art by Tommy Patterson is serviceable, the usual "get the faces right" sort of guy who gets work on licensed properties but isn't all that inspired an artist otherwise. On the other hand, KRAD's script pops, sparkles, whatever descriptors you care to toss around. It's good. Very good. And the story finally picks up one of the plot threads that's been Gilliganning since the very beginning of the series: returning Rygel to Hyneria. Which, naturally, goes really badly, as one would expect from anything this crew is involved with. Strongly recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger X-Mas Special #2: Antarctic Press - The usual mix of short stories and pinups. Perry provides the lead story, which takes place during the first Christmas season of the Five Year Gap...I mean, between Gold Digger #100 and #101. J.L. Anderson provides a somewhat naughty story with more censor bars by weight than Adam Warren's dialogue balloons and a cute if predictable payoff. The other shorts are fairly forgettable, though. One of the pinups picks up from a story in the recent Halloween special, and promises to become a running gag, heh. Recommended. $3.50 US/Cn Atomic Robo Dogs of War #5 (of 5): Red5 - And what better way is there to celebrate the holidays than with a tale of WWII and robots? None, I tell you! And Clevenger and Wegener deliver just that! A translation guide to the scotsman would have been nice, though, if only as an endnote. The main story is only loosely bound to the rest of the series, and that mainly by the recurring villain Skorzeny. For once, the backup story actually ties directly into the main story, offering an afterword to the miniseries and the final fate of Skorzeny. Strongly recommended. $2.95 As an aside, I am amused that the back covers of all the Marvel books I got this week have ads for The Dark Knight. :) 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 12/24: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Love & Capes TPB, Transformers Maximum Dinobots #1, Transformers Return of the Fallen Prequel #1, Doktor Sleepless #10. Awards: "Way To Give Away The Twist On The Cover, Guys" Award to The Brave and the Bold #20 "I Shudder To Think What He'll Do With The Rest Of The Head" Award to Ms. Marvel #34 "And Counter-Betrayal In Three...Two..." Award to New Warriors #19 "No, I Think You Definitely Need Some Therapy Still" Award to Thor #12 "The Invisible Woman And Lady Lawful Should Compare Notes" Award to She-Hulk v2 #36 "The New Multi-Tasking Man" Award to Invincible #57 "I Refuse To Member Any Join That Would Have Me As A Club" Award to The Astounding Man-Wolf #11 "Rebound And Gagged" Award to Farscape #1 (of 4) "D'oh, Dao" Award to Gold Digger X-Mas Special #2 "Not Even Craig Ferguson Understood That" Award to Atomic Robo Dogs of War #5 (of 5) Dave Van Domelen, "You're AWFULLY flippant for someone who walked into YET ANOTHER trap." "And YOU'RE awfully confident for someone who just seriously used the phrase 'weather cannon.'" - Skorzeny and Atomic Robo
I decided I didn't want to wait to put this into next week's Capsules. :) Think of this as an oversized capsule, I don't intend to go into plot spoilers, although I may give away details that might count as spoilery by stricter definitions. Short form: I liked it. A little overwrought in a few places where that was a bad thing (and very overwrought in places where it was called for), but a fun movie. Very little actual gore and only brief nudity (Eva Mendez's backside). Not really family-friendly, but it's practically cuddly for Frank Miller's stuff. [Later note: Critics in general didn't like it, though. 14% on Rottentomatoes.com. Pfui on them.] And now for the longer form. I should admit here that I have only a passing familiarity with the Spirit. I've read a few short stories in anthologies (and one of the few I did read makes me suspect that "What's ten minutes in a man's life?" said early in the movie was a deliberate reference to that story), I know why he has a mask (coat-tailing on the masked vigilante craze, Eisner originally conceived the character maskless but an editor told him to make a masked man), and I know his outfit's supposed to be blue, not black. I also know, thanks to a few article about the movie, that the Octopus never appeared in full in the comic. And I strongly suspect that the mystery behind the Spirit's origins was never really laid out in Eisner's comics, although I could be wrong there. That said, we do see the Octopus (and Samuel L. Jackson has loads of fun playing him), and the Spirit's origin is laid out in detail by the end of the movie, which falls into the usual movie trap of not being able to leave any mysteries alone. :) (Seriously: Tim Burton's Batman found his parents' killer in the first movie. Spider-Man discovered the Green Goblin's identity in the first movie. I suppose Iron Man finding out about Obadiah Stane in the first movie doesn't count since that's not even the original story, but still. At least Wolverine got to find out his origins by the third movie, but given his comics backstory, that's almost the same as "right away".) Oh, and the Spirit wears black, but with a red tie and black and white athletic shoes. [Later note: I am informed that the mystery of the Spirit was resolved in the first comic story, just with different players. Dr. Cobra rather than the Octopus, other tweaks.] As for look and feel, Miller's shooting for something like the 1990s Batman the Animated Series. 1940s styles on everything...clothing, cars, ways of speaking. But in the opening scene the Spirit answers his cellphone and is wearing modern athletic shoes. There's an Aquafina product placement. Modern attack helicopters show up for the endgame. Presumably those 1940s-looking cars have modern engines and built-in GPS. No one really pokes at the premise too hard, although there's one knowing wink to it (when checking to make sure the Spirit's all right in the head, he's asked what year it is, and he replies, "It's *this* year."). Another look and feel point worth noting is the use of computer effects, along the lines of Sin City and 300. Sometimes it's subtle, like the way Sand Serif (Eva Mendez) is digitally smoothed out so she looks like she's been airbrushed (mind you, maybe she WAS airbrushed in some scenes, but the point is that she's made to look inhumanly smooth and even...by the time you do see her bare butt, it's not clear that you're seeing real flesh anymore on her). Other times, it's blatant, such as sequences where the Spirit's tie flaps about frenetically in a way no physical tie could, or the segues into Miller-style black and white shadow art. Just as the visuals are deliberately abstracted and cartoonish, the naming of things runs in that direction. I presume Sand Serif and Plaster of Paris are from the original comic [Later note: I've been told they are], but no one bats an eye at those names or other similar puns (although it is noted that "Sand Serif" is a unique name). It's just taken as perfectly normal that someone named Sand Serif exists, or that a woman from Paris might be named Plaster, or that a blond scientist would be named Silken Floss. To wit, they resist the urge to wink and nod at the campier elements of the world. They deadpan it very effectively. And really, unless you're willing to go all the way with camp, you're better off avoiding it entirely. I thought the actual plot was fairly obvious, almost by the numbers. Hollywood style resolution, in pretty much every way. But it's not really the plot that sells this movie, it's the dialogue and the acting. And the Bathos. Or is that the Logos? Whatever. I enjoyed my afternoon at the movies, at any rate. Dave Van Domelen, "And this is for MUFFIN!" - the SpiritBack to the Main Rants Page.
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