February 13, 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.
"Hermaphroditic meat-robot."  Heh.  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 -

     Incredible Hercules #114: Marvel - Lots of Herc flipping out, Ares being
an ass, Amadeus being nastily clever and Natasha being helpfully clever.
Pretty good, I may end up picking this book up.  $2.99/$3.05Cn  [Later note:
but it looks like Feb 20 will be pretty packed with just stuff I'm already
getting, so maybe not.]
     The Order #8: Marvel - The first arc may be over, but we're not done
with the framing interview trick.  Mulholland Black this time.  The main
story doesn't dwell exclusively on her, though, being mainly about the
S.H.A.D.O.W. plot.  And a clever use of compatible technologies.
$2.99/$3.05Cn [Later note: I'm informed that the writer has decided to end
the series on #12, d'oh.]

     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): Astro City
Special Beautie, Atomic Robo #5 (of 6)

     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
     Amazing Spider-Man #550: Marvel - This issue sort of bounces around,
both in terms of story threads and tone.  Lots of good pieces, but it didn't
really feel like it held together as an actual story.  Mildly recommended.
     Superman #673: DC - The Insect Queen arc wraps up, Lana Lang
demonstrates why she gets to be CEO of LexCorp, and there's some cool payoff
that I actually didn't see coming.  :)  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     Salvation Run #4 (of 7): DC - To get more gorillas on a cover these
days, you'd need to read Wonder Woman.  Sturges plays the "gratuitous death"
card a little too often for my tastes, even if most of the deaths are clearly
unconfirmed.  I do like Vandal Savage's plan, though.  Recommended.
     Booster Gold #0: DC - Yes, it's a Zero Hour crossover.  When you're a
time-traveling book, that's gonna happen.  Despite the obligatory action
sequences, it's a pretty talky issue, and Johns gives into some of his
authorial weaknesses here.  Those aside, though, a decent issue.
Recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     Gen13 v4 #17: DC/Wildstorm - "Fifteen Minutes" hits its dramatic climax
(as in, turning point, not necessarily "biggest pile of action scenes") here,
and the villains do kinda fall into Evil Overlord List traps.  Trying too
hard, I guess.  Some interesting artistic choices on the flashback scenes...
not necessarily original, mind you, but the sort of thing that could almost
have been the literal truth.  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     Astro City Special Beautie: DC/Wildstorm - A sad story, like so many of
Busiek's better Astro City tales.  The alienation of an artificial lifeform
who can take on any role but that of herself, multiple variations on the
Pinocchio Syndrome theme.  There's also, underlying it, an examination of the
nature of souls, and of how feelings and memories need not be linked...but
without being too obvious about it.  Strongly recommended.  $3.99/$4.75Cn
     Official Handbook to the Gold Digger Universe #11: Antarctic - Well,
shook one late book loose.  This one runs PeeWee Talon to Romeo, and has a
greater number of multi-page entries than usual.  Sometimes people ask me how
this title could still be running, when things liek OHOTMUDE only went 16
issues for the entire Marvel Universe.  Easy...Perry's giving everyone a shot
at the limelight, and isn't afraid to give relatively minor characters 3-4
pages if they've been busy minor characters.  Of course, it's also a good
thing he does this, as he has a tendency to be a bit more abstruse in the
actual stories than I think he intends to, meaning that "revelations" made in
Gold Digger need to be clearly revealed here.  :)  Recommended.
     Atomic Robo #5 (of 6): Red5 Comics - Speaking of body alienation issues
(in Astro City), it really shouldn't be any kind of surprise that Atomic
Robo's most persistent foe is a "brain in a jar" style madman who's been
active since the 1800s.  The main story is part one of two (having largely
been standalones in previous issues) gearing up for a finale, while the
backup has a tale of Robo versus yet another 1980s cyberpunk foe.  Strongly
recommended.  $2.95
     The Adventures of Dexter Breakfast Season One: El MacFearsome Comic
Squares (EMC2) - Disclaimer, I was sent this as a review copy.  I don't know
when it will be in stores, and I was approached by the creator to review it.
This was originally planned as a regular "floppy" style comic, but recast as
a series of twice-yearly TPBs containing six issues' worth of content.  While
that'll probably work better in the long run for creator Vernon Smith, it
does make the change in art style over the course of the opening arc a lot
more obvious (the humans get a lot less cartoony, the cartoons get more
cartoony).  Anyway, while it takes a while to get a handle on the setting, I
think I'd describe it as "what if Roger Rabbit's world had toons back at
least as far as the 1800s in the Wild West?"  Dexter Breakfast, a cartoon
wombat (and it's made clear later on that he really is a cartoon, as other
characters identify him as such) literally drops in on a Western town, gets
in trouble, and (with the help of an even more obviously cartoony dog named
Deeohjay) decides declaring himself the new sheriff is the best way to solve
issues.  He runs afoul of the local Rich Guy, plus gains a rogue-
slash-love-interest in the person of a Vietnamese ninja lady.  Humans seem to
accept toons as natural, if rare and weird, and breaking the fourth wall is
not limited to toon characters.  Perhaps I'm reading too much into the
background, though...the problem is, there's enough elements of realism that
it's hard to just go with the flow and assume it's all a zany cartoon story.
Also, I'm reminded strongly of Nik Dirga's "Amoeba Adventures" minicomic,
both in art style and storytelling (although Smith is generally more
sophisticated on both counts).  http://VernonX9000.deviantart.com is his
gallery, and it has some samples if you're curious.  Mildly recommended, but
shows promise.  $13.95/$16.95Cn
     Transformers Animated vol 1: IDW - This is a cel-book covering the first
three episodes (a.k.a. the pilot "movie") of Transformers Animated in digest-
sized (5" by 7") format on glossy paper.  Unlike the Cinemangas for Armada
and Energon, however, it's been put together by someone with half a clue how
to lay out a comic, so it actually reads like a proper comic.  The narration
sometimes verges on "would insult the intelligence of a five-year-old", but
it's otherwise well adapted.  As one might expect from trying to cram 66
minutes of show into 108 pages (plus 7 pages of profiles), there's some time
compression issues.  My rule of thumb for adaptations is that you really need
about 22 pages of comic for every 8-12 minutes of show (the wide variation is
due to differences in pacing), and this is at the edge of that with 22 pages
per 13 minutes.  A few of the action scenes, most notably the initial fight
between Megatron and the Autobots, get cut a bit too short as a result, and
Megatron comes across as kinda wimpy.  Still, as both cel-books and
adaptations in general go, it does a better job than most...and until they
release a DVD set it'll have to do for art reference purposes.  ;) One odd
production choice stands out, though.  On the cover, the finish is mostly
matte, but the Autobot symbols are glossy like the title.  Kinda weird.  As a
final note, Diamond doesn't seem to want to bother shipping orders of this
series (at least, not to my store), and I haven't seen it at any chain book
stores or department stores locally, so if you want this, you may have to go
online.  I got mine from deepdiscount.com for $6.39 plus free shipping.
Recommended.  $7.99 cover price.

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 2/13:

     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,
Transformers Devastation #5 (of 6) (which the store manager was surprised to
hear came out last week...his Diamond rep doesn't even want to take his calls
anymore).  Add Transformers Animated #2 (but I'm giving up on that and
ordering online, plus pre-ordering #3 online...clearly Diamond can't be
bothered to carry this product) and Green Arrow/Black Canary #5 (store was
shorted and I drew the short straw this week).


"Our Prime Weapon Is Fear.  Fear and Ignorance.  Our TWO Weapons Are Fear
     And Ignorance.  And Irony.  AMONGST Our Weapons..." Award to Captain
     Marvel #3 (of 5)

"Primal Beatdown Therapy" Award to X-Factor #28

"I Wonder How Much 'Slot Machine' Innuendo She Has To Put Up With?" Award 
     to Amazing Spider-Man #550

"All Your Base Are Belong To Me Again, Bee-Yotch" Award to Superman #673

"Wasn't Beauty That Killed The Beast This Time" Award to Salvation Run #4
     (of 7)

"Hail To The Bus Driver" Award to Booster Gold #0

"Unreliable Narrator" Award to Gen13 v4 #17

"She Should Date Ethan" Award to Astro City Special Beautie

"A Penny Saved Is A Penny You're Gonna Have To Save Again Next Time She
     Gets In Trouble" Award to Official Handbook of the Gold Digger
     Universe #11

"They Don't Make Secret Alpine Retreats Like They Used To" Award to Atomic
     Robo #5 (of 6)

"Six Impossible Chapters Before Breakfast" Award to The Adventures of Dexter
     Breakfast Season 1

"Optimus Prime Goes 'Boing!'" Award to Transformers Animated vol 1

     Dave Van Domelen, "Oh, come on.  I never get to pose like this in real
life." - Atomic Robo, going all Frazetta in cyberspace
Back to the Main Rants Page.

Shiver back to the February 2008 Rants Page.