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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 My New Year's Eve plans include stabbing a 2016 calendar to death. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Rejected Princesses Vol 1 In this installment: Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot, Justice League Action, Rejected Princesses Vol 1, Warlords of Appalachia #1-2, Champions #3, The Totally Awesome Hulk #13, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #14, Invader Zim #16, Blue Beetle #4, Deathstroke #8-9, Hanna-Barbera Future Quest #8, Gold Digger X-Mas Special #10, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #49, My Little Pony Friends Forever #35, Atomic Robo: the Temple of Od #5 (of 5), Transformers Till All Are One #6, Transformers More than Meets the Eye Revolution One-Shot, Optimus Prime #1, Transformers Lost Light #1, The Four Color Comic Book History of Comics #2. Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Atomic Robo: the Temple of Od #1 (of 5), Mega Princess #2 (of 5). "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. Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot: Marvel/ABC - An online minisode series is the mid-season fill-in this year, a total of about 24 minutes of content telling a short story from just after Mace took over as Director. It's okay, but treads really hard on the "Go ahead, kill me, you'll be just like me" trope, followed by the inevitable "Hero won't kill the scumbag, but also won't save him from dying" trope. Eh. Justice League Action: DC/Cartoon Network - Only a couple of 11 minute episodes aired in December in the US, but ten aired in the UK and I know people. While shows like Steven Universe or Star vs. the Forces of Evil go with sometimes slower, character-driven stories in this format, JLAction is trying to live up to its name and spend as much time as possible on the action stuff. The results are...mixed. Nothing wrong with the tight Silver-Age pacing, but the stories end up assuming viewers either already know who everyone is, or that viewers won't really care. And while it brings back a lot of the goofier Silver Age DC things (like a Justice League that regularly patrols in other galaxies), it doesn't fully embrace the camp like Batman: the Brave and the Bold did. Sort of an uncanny valley that does too good a job of emulating the Silver Age, while not having a Silver Age audience. (The actual Silver Age tended to play even its sillier elements in a fairly straight-faced way.) And speaking of things that are hit-or-miss, there's a lot of voice actor stunt casting, which doesn't always work. Space Cabbie is basically just Patton Oswalt being himself, but it mostly works. Andy Richter's Chronos sounds like he's trying to imitate Mark Hamill's Joker (and Mark Hamill does do the Joker's voice), which doesn't really work. Mildly recommended, it does get some good bits in here and there. 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. Nothing this month. There's an Important issue of the Overwatch comic out, but I guess those go on Comixology a few weeks after they release to players. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Rejected Princesses vol 1: Harper Collins - This is partly a compilation of some of the installmetns of rejectedprincesses.com, but a lot of brand new material as well. The high concept is well-explained in the book's subtitle, "Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions & Heretics." While some of these women have gotten movies, it's unlikely any would be Disney Princesses. It's helpfully organized in ascending moral grayness (i.e. it starts with stuff that could probably be made into Disney movies without much bowdlerizing, and ends on stories HBO might be reluctant to adapt too faithfully) with specific content warnings at the start of each entry that calls for them. Creator Jason Porath is a Dreamworks animator who started this all up on a lunchtime dare, and it succeeded beyond any rational expectations (first print run sold out within a week or so). While the hardcopy isn't as thoroughly footnoted and endnoted as the online entries, there is a reasonably extensive bibliography at the end for those wishing to know more about any of the featured women. Strongly recommended. $26.99/$33.50Cn (370 pages hardcover full color) Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Warlords of Appalachia #1-2: Boom Studios - Not my usual fare, but there's a reason for that. These were a gift from my brother, who will be working with WoA's writer as the artist for the upcoming comic Smoketown. He also gave me the first issue of Last Sones of America by Phillip Kennedy Johnson a while back, and there seems to be a pattern in PKJ's worldbuilding: futures that while not quite full-on dystopias are certainly sliding that way as the oligarchy remains determined to keep squeezing the little people. In this comic, the setting is the aftermath of a second Civil War a generation or so into the future, triggered by unConstitutional religious persecution (mostly aimed at Islamic faiths, but also the Mormons and the fictional Mountain Faith Church) and ending with the rebels losing. The protagonists are residents of a small Kentucky town (Kentucky was the last holdout, apparently, although we get a lot of the narration from a particularly unreliable narrator), mostly members of the Mountain Faith Church. The general theme seems to be that when it comes time to resist a corrupt United States government, those who resist won't exactly be appetizing characters either, but we should be grateful for the existence of unpleasant people who refuse to back down. So far, it's not exactly *light* entertainment, more of a cautionary tale along the lines of V for Vendetta. A bit too "A Country Boy Can Survive" mythologizing for my tastes (I prefer the sort of "rural and urban both have their virtues and vices" balance of the Grantville books), but worth taking a look, especially since #1 is on sale on Comixology for $0.99. Normally $3.99 an issue, hardcopy or online. Champions #3: Marvel - I think the best description for this book at this point is "meandering". The "cliffhanger" from #2 just sort of fizzles, then the gang gets in the van and heads for a village run by a Taliban pastiche and tries various ways to help without making things worse, then wanders out of town, and into another cliffhanger. There's some amusing dialogue along the way, and a few good ideas, but it feels like Waid doesn't really have an overarching plot beyond "noodle around with some ideas I had." Mildly recommended. $3.99 Totally Awesome Hulk #13: Marvel - Jeremy Lin guest-stars and tries to help mentor Amadeus a bit, then there's a basketball game featuring loads of old Hulk supporting characters, as one does. This is still feeling like every issue Amadeus Learns An Important Lesson And Then Forgets It Immediately episodic kidvid stuff, though. It's as if Civil War II threw Pak off his game and he's still stumbling around unwilling to commit to anything significant lest it be broken by the next mega-event. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #14: Marvel - At least the total lack of character development lets other writers use Amadeus as "arrogant jerk" without worrying about contradiction. On the other hand, you know Luna has started to learn to rein in her snark when she lets the Thing get away with saying that Yancy Street is a place where people respect him. Decent issue overall, although I rather doubt that the foreshadowed new threat is actually who it claims to be. Recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #16: Oni Press - Aaron Alexovich returns to write and draw this issue, which is...okay. It does feel like it would have worked as an episode of the show, but one of the lower-tier ones. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Blue Beetle #4: DC - Yeah, I'm out. The promised "secrets revealed" issue is a muddled mess with bad art and Giffen doesn't even think to NAME an important character until an offhand mention late in the issue (said character is also supposed to be old, but just looks like a scruffy 20-something). Avoid this mess. $2.99 Deathstroke #8: DC - The conclusion of Deathstroke vs. Superman, addressing the question "Why isn't Deathstroke having to spend most of his time trying to break out of supervillain prison?" And also answering the question, "how can Deathstroke last more than three panels against Superman without the writer cheating?" :) Of course, this is Priest, so it's not the only plot thread moving around here, there's plenty of other family business. Recommended. $2.99 Deathstroke #9: DC - The return of Dr. Villain, whee! Also, the second piece of fiction I've read this year to bring up the story of Jenny Geddes and her stool. Various plots move forward a few pages each this issue, but the core of the issue is a flashback to the the events that made Slade Wilson become Deathstroke. Cary Nord's art is a bit uneven...when the scene gets dark (either literally or emotionally) I think he goes overboard with the more jagged lines and sketchiness. Yeah, it conveys a change of mood, but at times it looks more sloppy than intentional. Recommended. $2.99 Hanna-Barbera Future Quest #8: DC - Ariel Olivetti paints this issue, and the visual change is pretty jarring, especially since the plot is finally starting to come together and there really isn't as much time to re-establish who's who. Additionally, Olivetti's choice of less abstract style jars pretty badly against the H-B cartoon aesthetic...this may have been an intentional gimmick to ram home how Omnikron's presence messes with reality, but in that case it should have been more severe in scenes with Omnikron and less pronounced in scenes distant from a vortex. In any case, when your plot is coming to a head, it may not be a great idea to distract the reader with a massive shift in art style. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger X-Mas Special #10: Antarctic Press - As usual, a lot of pinups and a few short stories. The first story is okay, the second is the obligatory "tries to do narration as a Christmas poem and fails to be even a little readable" that seems to show up in these X-Mas specials every year, and the third has Ben Dunn writing a Guardians of the Galaxy parody which ends up not even being the second best comicbook Colonel Sanders story I've read this year. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #49: IDW - While it's hidden under a bunch of shenanigans and Andy Price art, the core of this story is that it's bad to change yourself just to make your friends happy. And when you're a cosmic entity, it's cosmically bad to do this. Mildly recommended, mostly for the art. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #35: IDW - Twi and Starlight Glimmer in what ended up feeling like a pale copy of the season 6 episode that dealt with the same theme ("SG would rather solve problems through solo magic than actually learn what friendship means"). Plus, Fosgitt's art has yet to really grow on me. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Atomic Robo: the Temple of Od #5: IDW - There's a reason why Things Man Was Not Meant To Know is a trope, and the antagonist finds that out the hard way. In most respects, Robo is just there to buy time for the real hero of the story, but given how early in Robo's post-Nikola life this is, it makes sense that he's not necessarily the prime mover in his own stories. He's still transitioning from the Boy Sidekick role, and while he would grow up a LOT over the course of WWII, it's still 1939 here. When dealing with a very long-lived protagonist, it's important to not let them be too competent too early in life, or you run out of places for them to grow later. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers Till All Are One #6: IDW - As I look over the art on this one, I think the problem is that the line artist and the colorist have clashing styles. Pitre-Durocher's line work would benefit from a more Silver Age color separation approach, while LaFuente is more of the Raimondelli school of motion blur, lens flare and glow effects. Even in scenes that are supposed to be well-lit, details vanish into deep shadows added by the colorist, or get obscured by lens flare. Okay, I think I'm mostly saying that the colorist wouldn't be very good on anyone's linework, but in this particular case there's also the style mismatch muddying things up. As for the story, it's about 2/3 "running from the unstoppable horde" followed by the setup of a caper and capped off by a VERY Starscreamy line from Starscream (see end of review quote). Mildly recommended, mostly dragged down by the colors. $3.99 Transformers More than Meets the Eye Revolution One-Shot: IDW - This is basically a parody of the crossover, while being *just barely* serious enough to fit inside the crossover anyway. And thanks to Google Street View, the artist is able to get details of the locations (such as Amarillo) right. Having read a lot of parody stuff, I'd say this usually doesn't cross the "bend it, don't break it" line, but a few of the gags are a bit forced. The Scavengers (aka Roberts's B-team) (or maybe D-team) (okay, Z-team) are on Earth in the middle of the Revolutions crossover, they run into a marginal GIJoe member while chasing down Grimlock, and end up meeting with some hassles before leaving Earth with a new crew member. By turns farcical and touching, as is Roberts's wont, although it's hard to say how much is him and how much is Nick Roche (who co-writes). Milne draws it, and LaFuente does her best to mess it up but Milne's a strong enough line artist that the result is decent. Recommended. $3.99 Optimus Prime #1: IDW - Picking up from The Transformers, mostly following on from the Revolutions events. Optimus is back to finding it hard to get humans to trust him (go figure) while also having numerous flashbacks to his time as Orion Pax. As long as I've been complaining about IDW artists, let's look at this one. New series line artist Kei Zama is decent, but can't seem to quite settle on a personal style this issue (there's bits of Wildman, of Yaniger or Senior, and so forth, like they're trying to find a balance). One clever bit that I'm embarrassed it took me half the issue to pick up on is that Zama makes all the present-day stuff with white gutters between panels and all the flashbacks with black gutters. Colorist Josh Burcham is generally pretty good (and would likely suit Pitre-Durocher well), but there's some horribly saturated stuff later in the issue that reminds me of the 1980s comics where colorists didn't compensate for the more vibrant printing methods. And he actually uses colored dots on the Torchbearers as if trying to retro zipatone color separations. Storywise, there seems to be an attempt to create a parallel between flashback Orion Pax and present day Aileron in terms of innocence lost and experience gained. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers: Lost Light #1: IDW - Picking up from More than Meets the Eye #56 (the last two issues of MtMtE were picked up in Till All Are One last month), complete with a five page summary at the end of the issue. However, it jumps in with the "final days" of two of the missing-presumed-dead Cybertronians that were found in the Necrobot's citadel, following them around for much of the issue and providing a good excuse for exposition. LaFuente colors the first four pages with those rescued Cybertronians, and it astonishingly doesn't suck, making me wonder which order the two pieces were done in...was TAAO first and someone took her aside for a talking to, or was Lost Light first and then she discovered a whole menu of new tools to abuse? New line artist Jack Lawrence works pretty well with both LaFuente and John-Paul Bove (who colors the rest of the book), making this the best-looking TF comic I read this month. Recommended. $3.99 The Four Color Comic Book History of Comics #2: IDW - Here come the superheroes! If you every wondered how things got "this bad" in the comics industry when you read about the latest maltreated creator or smack-talking writer or whatever...it's pretty much always been that way in superhero land, as this issue lays out. Recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "I think you underestimate the depth of my pettiness." - Starscream, TF: Till All Are One #6