December 31, 2015

Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et Cetera

Intermittent 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, Bringing back Best Books of the Year this year, once I'm done here. Book 4 of Christopher J. Priest's 1999 (episodes 22-36) came out this month, but since I have a writing credit in it, I'm just going to move it up here as a Shameless Plug. Available on the Kindle store. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Atomic Robo: the Ring of Fire #4 (of 5) In this installment: Jessica Jones (episodes 10-13), Sancutary #9, Gronk vol 1-4, Science is Magic #1 (of 4), The Totally Awesome Hulk #1, Ms. Marvel v2 #2, Invader Zim #5, Gold Digger X-Mas Special #9, Gold Digger #227, Astro City #30, Toil and Trouble #4 (of 6), Ragnarok #7, My Little Pony Friends Forever #23, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #37, My Little Pony Holiday Special 2015, Transformers Holiday Special 2015, Transformers Robots in Disguise Animated #5, The Transformers #48, Transformers More than Meets the Eye #48, Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers #2, Atomic Robo: the Ring of Fire #4 (of 5). Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Empowered Special Pew! Pew! Pew!, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #2 "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. Jessica Jones: Marvel/Netflix - Finished eps 10-13. Reasonably satisfying ending, tying it into Daredevil at the very end and resolving the Killgrave issue. Very bloody, intentionally very disturbing and dark, but surprisingly hopeful. Recommended. Still working on The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl, but I tend not to get through hardcopy novels very quickly these days (mostly read ebooks). So far, not too bad. 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. Sanctuary #9: Slave Labor Graphics - The downside of developing a rich cast of characters and interweaving storylines is that if your publication rate starts to drop just as the storylines all get going, it can be very disorienting for the reader. Months after the previous issue, I find myself having to go back to previous issues to remind myself who all these people (most of which are nonhuman) are, what their interrelations are, etc. And to muddle things further, the answer to the question of "who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys?" is being deliberately muddied at this point. Coughlin seems to be aggressively writing for the trade now. Mildly recommended. $0.99 on ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Gronk vol 1-4: Action Lab - Broke down and Amazon'ed 'em. Other than starting with the earlier stuff, it doesn't really stay in the same order as the strips went online...the first piece of vol 4 is one of the last new pieces to go up online, for instance (webcomic has been on hiatus as Cook has had her hands full with MLP and other paying gigs). Vol 4 also ends with the FCBD story in which Gronk tells her own origin (plenty of liberties taken, if not outright fabrications). Good all-ages read, and I do mean all ages, not just kids. Recommended. $9.99 per volume. Floppies: No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? Science is Magic #1 (of 4): Cosplay Comics - This was a kickstarted series, co-written by Ben Dunn and Anthony Zicari, drawn by Dunn. It's printed at an oddball smaller size, probably an artifact of having to go with a printer who doesn't normally do comics. The premise is that it's a world where there's plenty of stereotypical magic stuff and high tech stuff (i.e. Gigantor-level tech, not Cyberpunk), and a family that has uneasily wedded the two is under attack by an alliance of their enemies. Unfortunately, the pacing is something of a mess. After typing a paragraph delineating the mess, I erased it and decided to withhold a rating for this story until all four issues have arrived. After all, I paid into the KS, I'm getting all four anyway. Maybe the pacing will make more sense at the "writing for the trade" level...still a storytelling flaw, but I might as well humor it and wait to read the rest until I have all four issues. Totaly Awesome Hulk #1: Marvel - So, there's a new Hulk in town, and only part one of the flashback that explains how that came about is presented in this issue. Clearly, a few of the danglers from Pak's Herc run got resolved in books I didn't read, as evidenced by the new status quo (although I suppose some of that could be in part N of the "What happened to the previous Hulk?" flashbacks), and while the new Hulk has some minor rage issues, there's another aspect of repressed personality involved here: libido. Fortunately, not the badly written libido of the Ultimates Hulk, just a normal human reaction turned up to levels that lead to poor decision-making in situations where there's giant monsters. Mind you, this could still go very badly anyway, but I'm willing to cut Pak some slack on the matter. Provisionally recommended. $4.99 Ms. Marvel v2 #2: Marvel - Wilson is certainly not dragging this one out. The mysteriously skeevy antagonists of last issue are quite clearly laid out this issue. Perhaps they're being a little too cutesy and obvious with their plans, but I don't think Wilson's really shooting for retro camp in this storyline. Just overconfident antagonists. Recommended. $3.99 Invader Zim #5: Oni Press - Vasquez comes back for a story focused on Dib with hardly any Zim in it. Well, it's focused on punishing Dib. And making parodies of video games. The games are...okay. Not really Vasquez's strength, I suspect. But the very weird scene of character development works very well, and makes the issue worth reading. Recommended. $3.99 Gold Digger X-Mas Special 2015: Antarctic Press - The lead story by Ben Dunn is fairly scattered in focus, like he really wanted to do an extended Legion tryouts riff, but had to get in another plot element and still bring it in as a vignette. Meh. And it was the strongest of the three stories in the issue. Least special holiday special in a while. Neutral. $3.99 Gold Digger #227: Antarctic Press - Last issues apparent digression ties back into the main battle, as the various divergent Ginas sneak their plan into the previously-established big battle. Several plot threads pay off or at least make some more sense. Recommended. $3.99 Astro City #30: DC/Vertigo - Any ambiguity set up in #29 about whether the two sides are morally on the same level is pretty much dispelled here, as the protagonist learns some harsh truths about his home reality. A decent finish to the story, though. (Yeah, I'm being a bit terse, but there's not a lot ot say on some of these books without going into a blow by blow of the plot.) Recommended. $3.99 Toil and Trouble #4: BOOM/Arcana - The conflict becomes more directly that of the sisters this issue, as Riata loses patience with her elder sister's rules and starts taking far more direct actions, inspiring the more hallucinatory parts of MacBeth's story. Recommended. $3.99 Ragnarok #7: IDW - And it's time for arc 2, but unlike the usual IDW modus operandi, the numbering continues. The plot moves forward rather briskly, but at the same time feels like Simonson changed his mind about a few things and decided to write them out as quickly as possible. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Friends Forever #23: IDW - Pretty forgettable story of Applejack and Fluttershy trying to protect a cryptid (yes, even in Equestria there's critters whose existence is more myth than fact) from yahoos. MLP stories that impinge too much on modern day things tend to be the weakest, I've found...the setting works best when it stays in its mostly early-1900s movie musical world. Neutral. $3.99 My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #37: IDW - Conclusion of the Sombra returns arc, and in turn the payoff of the FIENDship is Magic issue that set up Sombra's origins. As such, it shows this whole arc has really been Sombra's and Hope's story, with the Mane 6 being supporting characters or even antagonists. While restricted from making changes that would impact future comics too much, Whitley did show some guts in resolving things in a way that may directly contradict the show eventually. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony Holiday Special 2015: IDW - All written by Katie Cook, but art by several of the regulars, as there's story-within-a-story stuff going on. Twilight and Spike are snowed in at a train station, and pass the time reading various holiday tales, starring various other ponies as protagonists (i.e. Dash as a Rudolph analogue, Rarity in a Nutcracker story, the Apple Clan in a "Night Before Christmas" riff), the sort of merchandise you'd actually expect to see popping up in Equestria. Luna even wrote one of them (and seems to be the sort of author who treats her self-inserts poorly). It would have worked better, IMO, if the order of stories was reversed, since the last one ("Night Before Christmas" riff) was the weakest of the lot by far. Still, recommended. $3.99 Transformers Holiday Special 2015: IDW - A trio of stories from the regular writers (Scott, Roberts, Barber). Scott opens with a piece inspired by (but not slavishly following) How The Grinch Stole Christmas, in which Starscream attempts to aggrandize himself and has it go wrong in all the right ways. "Silent Light" by Roberts is a little belabored in setting up its premise, but the payoff is pretty good. And finally, Barber gives us a Christmas story by Thundercracker. Most excellent. Recommended. $5.99 Transformers Robots in Disguise #5: IDW - I hear this is ending with #6, so I guess this is a two-part story. The comic jumps ahead to some time after the end of Season 1, but once again manages to tie things to Prime better than the show itself did. Steeljaw comes across some leftovers from Prime, and a fannish in-joke I had somehow missed during Prime gets made canon. Steeljaw definitely seems to suffer from Conservation of Ninjitsu in the sense that the more restricted his resources, the better his plans get. I suppose some of that is because while he's a good recruiter, he's a bad leader...given just a few stupid minions who don't have their own agenda, he does better than with half a dozen powerful but willful allies. Recommended. The Transformers #48: IDW - Barber gets all experimental this issue, shifting the POV around between Buster (the dog), D.O.C., and occasionally Faireborn. Most of the pages with Faireborn as the POV also have characters present who can understand D.O.C. and Buster, so Barber avoids wasting time on cliched miscommunications. Recommended, although probably not something Barber should do again for a while. $3.99 Transformers More than Meets the Eye #48: IDW - So, that big emotional cliffhanger from the end of #47? Roberts ignores it for the first third of the issue, which I suppose in itself can be taken as a clue that things weren't as bad as they seemed. A bit annoying, though, as this is plot whipsawing that's severe even by Roberts's standards. The only real indication that #47's plot ramifications will even be addressed is the ad for #49. Taken in isolation from last issue, this is an important plot-advancing and world-building issue, so I can't count the whipsaw against it too much, but I still count it as a flaw. Recommended. $3.99 Transformers Sins of the Wreckers #2: IDW - Wow, does this suffer from an overload of ideas, and the fact that most of them are good and/or important only makes it more the pity. Things that could make for dramatic issue-focus reveals get rushed through in a few pages. I know I've complained about decompression in the past and will do so in the future, but some of the stuff in this issue really needs a little more space to breathe. A little more light would be nice too, the choice of atmospherics (winter in the Arctic, so never really gets light out) may suit the desired tone, but it does mean that murk levels approach Dreamwave intensity. Mildly recommended, would have made for two recommended issues if spread out a bit. $3.99 Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #4: IDW - I suppose it was bound to happen, the paper comic got slightly ahead of the webcomic version (although the webcomic caught up a week later). Being the penultimate issue, it's time for the Big Threat, the Big Plan, and the Backup Plan to all get revealed or at least hinted at. And Clevinger and Wegener do a good job on all counts. Strongly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "In a Pinkie Pie party, NO PONY GETS LEFT BEHIND." "WE LEFT BIG MAC BEHIND." "He can get himself out of that ice crevasse and get his flank up here anytime he wants...probably. He'll be fine." - Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, My Little Pony Holiday Special 2015
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