December 24, 2008

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

The 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.
I am now on knitting junk mail lists.  Rants, Capsules can be found on my 

"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

     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.
     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.


"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

Dave's "Other Media" Rant Special: The Spirit movie

     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  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

     [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, 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 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 Spirit
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