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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 And so 2013 ends, better than it began. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): My Little Pony Micro-Series #10 (of 10) In this installment: Iron Man/Hulk Heroes United, Motorcycle Samurai #0, Sanctuary #7, Brody's Ghost vol 4, Empowered vol 8, Samurai Jack #2-3, Astro City #7, My Little Pony #14, My Little Pony Micro-Series #10 (of 10). "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. Iron Man/Hulk Heroes United: Marvel - This direct-to-DVD "movie" plays like an extended CG demo reel. Any isolated section is decent, but it utterly fails to cohere. Probably the emblematic moment is when Hulk and Iron Man was kicked out of Iron Man's helicarrier (the fact he has his own is another "We have the CG asset, let's use it!" thing) and lands in a graveyard. Which just happens to be infested with a bunch of Wendigoes. Oh, it tries to have a plot about the creation of Zzzax and a half-hearted ecological message about humans wasting electricity, but it's fight scene porn. But which I mean any "plot" is really just a pretext to loosely string together the fight scenes. Definitely not worth paying full price, but if you can Netflix it or something it's not a bad thing to watch in the background if there's nothing good on TV. 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. Motorcycle Samurai #0: Top Shelf - This was one of ComiXology's "12 Comics of Christmas" freebies, although the regular price is $1.99. It's a landscape aspect piece of the variously-trademarked intended for digital style, which is to say that pieces phase in and out of panels in a way that would require either many repeated panels in a hardcopy, or all look like powerpoints with all the striptease elements revealed on each slide. Storywise, it's a post-apocalyptic wasteland that lampshades its Mad Max roots by naming one of the antaognists Tyna Turner, but with your basic pseudo-feudal-Japan warrior society laid on top of it. And a protagonist who couldn't be more bored with it all if she tried. In short, the primary message of the issue seems to be, "Look at me, I'm ironically detached!" I find myself unironically detached as a result, and glad all this cost me was time. Avoid. Sanctuary #7: Slave Labor Graphics - This was an odd case...the issue came out direct from SLG months ago, but took a while to show up on ComiXology (I've read previous issues in both digital formats, and prefer the ComiXology reader, so I waited), but eventually I stopped checking, and therefore I don't really know how much I missed this by. Ah well, at least I read it in the year of publication. This installment is a sort of transition without a climax, blending smoothly into a new antagonist and new secrets but not feeling like any of the previous business is truly done with. Mildly recommended. $0.99 at ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Brody's Ghost vol 4: Dark Horse - Yeah, this came out months ago, but it was when I was in the middle of getting ready to move and I wasn't paying a lot of attention to releases. I gave my new shop a few months to try to get it, then gave up and tacked it onto an Amazon order that was big enough to get free shipping. Things definitely get a lot darker this installment. Between the realistic (trying to protect an ex-girlfriend is likely to be interpreted as stalking) and the supernatural (revelation of Talia's true cause of death in vol 3 does not have happy consequences), this may not be the dramatic low point, but you can sure see the abyss from here! The darker mood and reduction in humor do make the overall plot more important to enjoyment of the story, and since it spends more time creating problems than solving them, that makes this a somewhat difficult read on its own. Mildly recommended. $6.99 Empowered vol 8: Dark Horse - The Sistah Spooky storyline hits its climax here, and in about the same way the Ninjette storyline did...with a lot of pain, physical and emotional. But one way in which Warren differs from Crilley is that despite the MAJORLY dark stuff here, the humor still flows smoothly, funny without killing the sense of impending doom. A lot of plot threads get explained in this volume, and if it has a weak spot it's that I think Warren went a little overboard in trying to explain some of the running gags. Some running gags work best when they're just a thing that happens for no very good reason. Still, the burning of bridges in this issue casts a lot of light on things, but at the same time Warren doesn't take the easy way out. Recommended. $16.99 Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Samurai Jack #2-3: IDW - I'm going to review these together, because there's not a lot of substance to either. Zub is using the threads of time plot device to literally string together fight scenes that I admit have the feel of the cartoon. But the other elements that made the cartoon worth watching are much harder to translate to a static and silent medium, although #3 comes closer. At this point, I really can't recommend buying individual issues, if this arc is going to be worthwhile at all it will require reading in one sitting. In other words, wait for the trade. I'll stick with individual issues, since it'll be cheaper to finish out in floppies, and I haven't completely given up on it. Yet. $3.99 each. Astro City #7: DC/Vertigo - Busiek goes into territory he usually avoids this issue, actually focusing on one of the major heroes rather than sticking with the supporting or background characters in his world. Winged Victory (the Wonder Woman analogue) gets her origin story and an existential threat to those origins, and the camera is mostly on her. But there is a more typical backgrounder type in the mix, who looks to be important in the resolution even if he's currently treated as more of a distraction. Promising start, and I do trust Busiek enough to not resort to straw men (or women) when it comes time to wrap up this crisis. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony #14: IDW - Eh, an okay ending, if a bit drawn out. And spoilered by the cover to #13. Well, a cover. All told, I think this would have been a better storyline if Nuhfer hadn't tried to fit the Mane 6 into it. Most of them are awkwardly wedged in by contrivance or simply ignoring their usual motivations. Perhaps it might have been better as a duo story for the upcoming series, using just Dash and Fluttershy (the two with the strongest reasons to be in this story). Very mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Micro-Series #10 (of 10): IDW - Cook and Price wrap up the solo spotlight series with Princess Luna. Unfortunately, my store only had the A cover left, the B cover (with a hypercaffinated Luna) is much better. Cook and Price turn in an excellent tale of Luna trying to prove she can handle running the daytime as well as the night, and ending up in a fairly standard but very well executed comedy of bureaucracy. Meanwhile, Celestia sneaks off to the spa. Plenty of Price's patented background insanity makes this worth a second reading for detail. Like the panels in which Luna's new pet possum seems to find itself a pet insect...but then it turns out to be lunch. Which he offers to share with Luna. Strongly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "I can hurt you." "I'm sure you could, but if you do, you'll never get your lunch." "Can I have cake?" "Do you know what all that refined sugar will do to you?" "It will make me MOST HAPPY." (cue big shining eyes) - Princess Luna and Kibitz, the royal advisor and schedule-keeper