February 6, 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 watched Puppy Bowl more than Super Bowl.  Rants, Capsules can be found on my 
             homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants 

First Look Comments:

     Books I read over the weekend as First Looks, but didn't buy, so can't
really say much in detail about.  DC has stopped having First Looks, so it's
just Marvel and Image...and there's word that Diamond doesn't want to bother
with the program at all anymore.

     Books for next week -

     Captain Marvel #3 (of 5): Marvel - It's always fun when someone writing
a superhero story reveals their disdain for the tropes by having a mouthpiece
character say something like, "Nobody over the age of twelve cares about
super people punching one another.  Not when there's something bigger going
on here."  Yep, good on Reed for mocking his audience.  It's the "over the
age of twelve" part that separates it from merely pointing out that
"something bigger" is afoot.  Sure, I'm not saying it's an invalid opinion
(even beyond the whole "you can't argue with taste" thing), but it's just as
valid to opine that "representational art is barren and without merit"...but
if the guy I hired to paint my portrait says that, I'm going to think about
hiring someone else for the job.  That little bit of business aside, the
dramatic pacing is good, we hit a solid Act III climax, and it ties into the
whole Skrull thing without feeling the need for a banner.  Mildly recommended
(the contempt thing knocks it down a notch).  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     X-Factor #28: Marvel - Yay, stupid X-over is done!  Now to explain what
the frell was going on, at least from the viewpoint of the regular cast.
Except that it doesn't, much (although it does make a plot point of the lack
of explanation of one plot point in the Messiah Complex, amusingly).  Mainly
loads of High Density (i.e. justified) Angst.  Still, a good read, and PAD
certainly writes a lot of Catholic Confession scenes for a non-Catholic.  :)
(Aside: even when I was a kid the move was away from the privacy screen sort
that movies like to use, though.)  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn

     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): None.

     Doktor Sleepless #5: Avatar Press - Well, there's still a fair chunk of
seemingly random philosophical rambling, but most of the issue hangs together
on its own (as opposed to "writing for the trade" coherence), and it's more
story, less violence-porn and philowank-porn.  Yes, I just made that last
term up, so what?  Patterns are starting to emerge from the seeming
randomness, although we've already seen a big monkeywrench tossed into the
pattern.  Oh, and the epithet this time is "Your Imaginary Friend".
Recommended.  $3.99
     Scud the Disposable Assassin #21: Image - After dumping the book when
they got real jobs in Hollywood, Schrab and company have come back to do four
more issues to wrap up the whole war-in-Heaven plot.  I got rid of #1-20
eight years ago during the Great Purge...dead series that just sort of
petered out at the end weren't high on my list of priorities for keeping
around, after all.  The first page of this issue VERY briefly summarizes
those issues (and some side projects and tie-ins).  The rest of the issue is
largely pulling a Captain America on Scud...he's "frozen" for ten years just
like the series was on hiatus for ten years, and various characters catch him
up on what he missed, via a number of flashbacks.  Of course, that leaves us
three issues for the actual plot resolution, but given how close Schrab got
to that in #20, it shouldn't be a problem.  :)  I suspect this issue might be
a touch opaque to a totally new reader (I remember a lot more about Scud than
I thought I might), but to be honest it was kinda opaque back when it was
still going on.  Deliberately so, at times.  It's profane, it's random, it's
messy...but it's still fun.  Recommended.
     Transformers Beast Wars Sourcebook #4 (of 4): IDW - Wrapping it up with
Scourge (Transmetal II) through Wolfang, no appendix or anything like it.
Musso, Milkovich, Williams and Frank dominate the artwork, with just a few by
Isenberg and Khanna, and one by Figueroa (who has apparently departed IDW for
reasons unknown to me at this time, but I've heard loads of speculation
(Update: He just wanted to try other things, and parted ways amicably with
IDW.  Not that fandom's gonna believe that.)).  An oddity of ordering puts
Silverbolt (Fuzor) in #3 and Silverbolt II (Magnaboss component) here.  In
fact, Scourge should have been several pages from the end of #3, suggesting
someone dropped the ball (either Williams was late on the Scourge art, or the
editors misplaced it).  Milkovich's Skywarp, by the way, is even weirder than
his Silverbolt I.  I continue to like the variety of art styles (although I
would have picked a different artist than the blocky Milkovich to do
Transmutate), but I have serious issues with the editing.  Why does Sling get
a two page spread?  Bad toy, not very good art, very minor character.  Same
with Mutant Soundwave...it's like the editors realized the weren't going to
make it to a full fourth issue, and rather than adding more content (like an
appendix, a timeline, am illustrated glossary, any stuff that fell through
the cracks when the book changed editors, etc.)  or putting out a cheaper and
smaller #4, they just padded out some arbitrary entries.  And characters who
might deserve two pages, like Tarantulas or Terrorsaur, get three.  Where
were these extra pages back in #1 and #2 where characters who could have
easily filled three pages productively got crammed into one?  Overall, this
issue gives the impression of the editors just throwing their hands up in
disgust, saying, "Just stretch the stuff we have left to fit and get this
turkey out the door, maybe we'll just fix the whole thing when we do the TPB.
Or maybe I'm just going to go have a very large, very strong drink.  Hold my
calls."  Feh.  $6.99 they utterly failed to earn.
     JSA #12: DC - All the cool kids are doing Golden Age character revivals
this month, and so is Johns...with an Alex Ross cover, to boot.  Some
pre-existing revamps like Jakeem Thunder, plus a bunch Johns has brought in
during the past 11 issues of this title.  I'll admit that I was worried about
the new Amazing Man, but he manages to fit into his chosen image without
being an annoying stereotype (and there's *several* annoying stereotype traps
he could have fallen into).  Hm, they also recycle the visuals of a
pre-existing "Legacy Update" into a new person, odd.  Anyway, this is a "meet
the new kids" sort of issue, pretty talky and vignette-y.  Not to mention
retconny (both "hidden history" type, and "what you thought you knew was
wrong" type).  There is a little plot wrapped around it, though, the whole
Kingdom Come To Visit thing.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     Ultimate Secrets: Marvel - Oops.  This came out last week, and I had it
ordered, but I forgot I'd ordered it and it didn't get pulled for me (I was
more busy trying to make sure I got Project Superpowers).  Anyway, a good
gloss on what's been going on with the Ultimate universe, with a few pages of
minor updates for characters who haven't changed much since the last Ultimate
OHOTMU.  Ultimate Spider-Man gets a full page update, of course.  Lots of
half page entries too, to fill in the nooks and crannies.  Recommended.
     Amazing Spider-Man #549: Marvel - On to the next writer in the arc,
Guggenheim.  One of the many problems this new "thrice monthly" schedule is
that the conventional wisdom is that it takes a new writer six issues to
really get into the groove on a title, and with each writer only getting
three at a shot before letting others take nine issues that might prevent
anyone from ever getting into that groove.  It also means that readers only
just manage to get an idea whether a writer's any good on the book before it
switches out.  That puts Guggenheim in an unenviable position...anyone
finding Slott uneven may write it off to happenstance, but if Guggenheim
can't step up, it'll be seen as confirmation that the format isn't working.
And those who really liked Slott may hold Guggenheim to an unfair standard.
If he doesn't step up, those readers (like me) might decide to only the Slott
issues and ignore the other three writers, deciding that the experiment is a
failure.  So it falls upon the shadowy Fifth Writer to make damned sure
things hold together well enough to keep readers around.  All that voluble
prelude aside, while we're definitely shifting to a different plot (Jackpot
and Menace take center stage), the transition is reasonably smooth and the
story is good.  Larroca's art is a bit too muddy at times, though.
Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Ms. Marvel #24: Marvel - The Brood arc wraps up reasonably well, and
Stack gets one good panel.  Then we dive into the very implausible (in light
of the arc JUST FINISHED) Secret Invasion tie-in revelation.  However, since
initially reading it as a First Look I've seen that this very implausibility
seems to be the core plot point Reed will be wrapping the next arc around, so
I suppose it's provisionally okay.  Depends on where he takes it, I guess.
Also, Aaron Stack gets his sexy back.  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     The Twelve #2 (of 12): Marvel - This one is about settling in.  Not
everyone gets focus, and a lot of it shows how Golden Age heroes could be
jerks (not talking feet of clay revisionism here, just Superdickery kinds of
things).  Presumably we'll get the rest of the cast next issue.  It IS driven
home how this isn't a team, though.  Not yet, and maybe not ever.  Just a
bunch of extreme people thrown together by fate and then stranded in a future
none of them are really ready for...although some think they are.
Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory: Dark Horse -
Another late purchase, I saw this on the shelf a week or so ago but passed
because I had a heavy week.  Ended up picking it up over the weekend.  This
is a relatively short book made up of 32 heavy cardstock pages bound up in a
hardcover.  Most of it is a catalog of Victorian steampunk mad science
products like armored suits, mechanical men, and clever brackets.  There's
also a short comic story at the end, and a number of pinups.  The writing
sometimes pushes the broadly farcical thing a bit too far.  Writing and art
are all done by Greg Broadmore of Weta (the NZ effects house), and some of
the featured pieces (mainly the rayguns) are available for sale at
http://www.drgrordborts.com, but we're talking several hundred dollars a pop.
The catalog is also kinda expensive, more a coffee table book than anything
else, but a nice dingus to have around.  $12.95
     MidKnight #2: Red5 Comics - The art and the storytelling are both a
little rougher this time around, and the villain's manifesto feels a bit
canned, but it's still a fun book.  Recommended.  (Hey, they're not all going
to be epic posts today.)  $2.95

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 2/6:

     Still missing and might come in: Fallen Angel #15, PS238 #25, (both of
these have been covered in my CBR Special), Sky Sharks #2, Gamma Files,
Official Handbook to the Gold Digger Universe #11.  Finally got BW Sourcebook
#1 from someone whose store got extras, nice to see Bump's entry is
consistent with his portrayal in Ascension #4.  However, Diamond didn't ship
Transformers Devastation #5 (of 6).


"Bad Timing" Award to Doktor Sleepless #5

"Zippermouth Somewhat Less Cute On An Adult" Award to Scud the Disposable
     Assassin #21 (of 24)

"Dropping A Ball The Size Of Unicron" Award to Transformers Beast Wars 
     Sourcebook #4 (of 4)

"Living A Far Side Cartoon" Award to JSA #12

"Giving Ellis The Middle Finger" Award to Ultimate Secrets

"So, How Many Band-Aids Does Jackpot Have On Her Hips?" Award to Amazing 
     Spider-Man #549

"30% Pinup By Weight" Award to Ms. Marvel #24

"Dynamic Tension" Award to The Twelve #2 (of 12)

"Jiggery-Pokery Triumphant" Award to Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic 
     Dingus Directory (and should I be scared at how easily the word 
     'Contrapulatronic' flows from my fingers to the keyboard?)

"Against The Fall Of Knight" Award to MidKnight #2

     Dave Van Domelen, "You're...calling dibs...on a super-villain...?"
"That's not how it's done?" - Spider-Man and Jackpot, Amazing Spider-Man #549  
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