February 27, 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.
Was without cable all weekend, feh.  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 -

     Omega the Unknown #6 (of 10): Marvel - Very much a middle bit.  Everyone
gets some time on screen, even the ambulatory giant hand, but not much
"happens" in the usual sense.  Things start to happen, but don't reach any
sort of result yet.  The last page is a tribute to Steve Gerber.
     ClanDestine #2 (of 5): Marvel - Several flashbacks, a few advances on
the whole dual-layer mysterious foe plot, and then tossed into a crossover
with Excalibur from quite a while back.  Looks nice, at least.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     The Twelve #3 (of 12): Marvel - More alienation.  While Fiery Mask is on
the cover, he doesn't dominate the issue, it rotates pretty thoroughly
through about half the cast.  A sort or relationship is growing between the
Phantom Reporter and the Black Widow...a weird sort.  Recommended.

     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): Doctor Who #1,
Damage Control #2 (of 3), Blue Beetle #24

     Justice League: the New Frontier DVD: Warner Brothers - I got the Best
Buy exclusive special edition of this, which comes in a cardboard window box
with a 3.5" (9cm) tall Hal Jordan PVC figure (Wal-Mart's special deal was a
CD comic included with the stripped-down version of the movie).  The second
disc in the special edition has a couple of featurettes and three episodes of
JLU (Dark Heart, To Another Shore, Task Force X).  The main disc has the
movie, a featurette and a sneak peek of Batman Gotham Knight.  Oh, the movie,
right.  :) Now, I didn't read the comic this is based on (gasp, horror), so I
can't comment on how well it adapted the thing...although given that the DVD
cover brags that this is the first ever PG-13 JL animated movie, I suspect it
didn't get bowdlerized, at least (although the main PG-13 aspect seems to be
the use of blood).  Now, normally I complain about how a comic adaptation of
a movie or TV show is too short, not enough pages to cover the minutes...it's
pretty obvious we have the opposite here, with the movie not having enough
minutes to fully present the story.  I say this because this movie is just
SWIMMING in themes and motifs that are barely touched on, and which no doubt
got fuller play in the comic.  However, the underlying structure of the movie
is pretty clear and well-developed, and it's not about any of those surface
themes (except Cold War paranoia, but even that indirectly).  No, what this
movie clearly sets out to do is tell a 1950s atomic monster movie, with
superheroes.  Specifically, the parallels to Godzilla/Gojira, but direct and
metaphorical, are pretty strong, and only get more clear in the final act
(for Oxygen Destroyer substitute Shrink Ray).  But instead of a lone heroic
scientist sacrificing himself to destroy the threat, an entire class of
people rises to the occasion.  This diffusion of burden does weaken the
impact a little, since you have to follow what amounts to a single
"character" arc across several people, each taking an aspect of the heroic
journey (one learns to trust, one learns what he'll fight for, one learns
what he can truly do, etc).  The figure that comes with the Best Buy set is
nice, it has three points of articulation (neck and shoulders) and comes with
a little lantern prop with a wire handle that can be held loosely in the left
hand.  Recommended.  $19.99 at Best Buy.
     Beowulf Director's Cut: Paramount - Not reviewing the movie at all here.
But the Director's Cut at Target came with an "exclusive" comic, and *that*
I'm reviewing.  :) Yeah, a big week for chasing down store exclusives (for
what it's worth, Wal-Mart's exclusive was bundling a Beowulf computer game in
with the DVD, not interested in that).  I put "exclusive" in quotes, because
it's just a shrunken down version of the first issue of IDW's adaptation
(written by Chris Ryall, drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez), and the shrinking makes
it hard to read some of the fonts.  It's a decent adaptation, not too
terribly compressed, but it's not like the movie was telling a deep and
involved tale.  The included issue makes it up to Beowulf reopening
Hrothgar's hall, and doesn't really add much to the story already told in the
movie (i.e. no extra dialogue to speak of).  The comic itself gets a Mildly
Recommended (and is available separately at more readable size), not gonna
render judgement on the movie overall (I liked it in the theater, but I tend
to watch movies with a far less critical eye than I read comics).  $16.99 for
the DVD at Target.

     Geekish aside: below are a little more than three pounds (aboug 1.4kg)
of comics. 

     The Clockwork Girl #3 (of 4): Arcana Kids - The theme this issue is
naivete, and how it can be both wonderful and terrible.  The first half is
all about the wonder side, the second half about how innocence can lead to
careless actions that hurt.  Recommended.  $1.99/$2.25Cn
     Project Superpowers #1: Dynamite - Continuing the confusing cover
designs of the #0, this looks like "S introducing The Green Lama, Black
Terror", no actual title on the cover.  Boo, hiss.  At least the inside is a
bit better.  The parade of unnamed or barely named obscure characters is
absent, we only get a handful of characters, all of whom are at least
sketched out if not really fleshed out.  Recommended.  $3.50
     Ninja High School #157: Antarctic Press - A somewhat confusing issue,
lots of characters popping in and out and generally making me feel like there
were some pages dropped by the printer.  Dunn seems to be having so much fun
drawing the mob scene that he forgets to tie things together visually once in
a while.  (He also draws Meppy's outfit on the last page in such a way to
make it look at first glance like she's a herm, classic TMI there.)  Cute
easter eggs and Gold Digger cameo, but overall just mildly recommended.
     Transformers Devastation #5 (of 6): IDW - Cover B was the only one the
store had left, but I think I would have gotten it anyway.  It's such a
twisted display of domestic bliss, Decepticon style.  Megatron and Starscream
(who looks pretty femme) in profile, side by side, smiling in satisfaction as
the world burns behind them.  It's like Starscream is just about to turn and
say, "I love you," with Megatron replying, "I know."  ;)  Unfortunately, the
cover tells a clearer story than the entire comic inside, which is so
shattered in focus between the multitude of plot threads (plus a couple of
flashbacks) that I was left with the feeling I'd just read the equivalent of
a movie trailer.  Lots of significant bits, many explosions, several
cliffhangers, but it just didn't hang together very well.  And as if there
weren't enough plot threads native to Devastation, they also hare off onto
Spotlight Arcee's plot (in a scene that would be even more confusing if I'd
gotten this issue three weeks ago when it actually came out, instead of a
week after reading Spotlight Arcee).  Mildly recommended.  $3.99
     Transformers Devastation #6 (of 6): IDW - I really shouldn't be
surprised.  Rather than actually bring things together and resolve anything
in this issue, Furman instead tosses MORE elements into the pot and then just
has everyone dash off in different directions after killing off some random
minor characters.  Not to mention, cover A (which is the one I got) is
misleading.  They should really stop lying to readers with this miniseries
titling...Devastation isn't a single story, or even really a chapter.  It's a
randomly chosen chunk from the middle of several intertwining stories...the
cover should emphasize that this is Transformers #22, and leave the "#6 of 6"
stuff to the title page.  I'd be a lot less annoyed at Furman's "throw
another plot into the curry" approach here if this weren't supposedly the end
of a miniseries.  It'd still be mildly annoying, but not on the level of
wanting to find IDW's head office people and metaphorically slap them
around.  Neutral.  $3.99
     Fallen Angel #24: IDW - For reference, the main action of #22 takes
place during pages 18-19 of this issue, which leads to a somewhat confusing
transition since it's not like IDW uses footnotes to point this sort of thing
out.  This is also one of the ways in which Woodward's aggressive style-
shifting causes problems, because there's a lot of threads flying around here
and a lot of characters showing up who were last seen in a different style
and therefore kinda hard to recognize.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99
     Doctor Who #1: IDW - Written by Gary Russell, drawn by Nick Roche, and
set during the "Smith and Jones" era of the Tennant Doctor.  It starts with
the quest for the perfect chocolate milkshake, a use of time travel I
heartily approve of...not that I'm a chocolate milkshake fanatic, I simply
approve of the idea of using vast power over time and space to indulge in
whimsical things like this.  Of course, being the Doctor, he manages to find
trouble, or have it find him, but it all wraps up neatly (well, messily for
some of those concerned) by the last page.  Roche drops the storytelling ball
once or twice, but otherwise it was an excellent read on both the writing and
artistic fronts.  Strongly recommended.  $3.99
     The Order: The Next Right Thing TPB: Marvel - Collects The Order #1-5.
Collecting #1-7 would have been better from a story flow viewpoint (the Order
gets its first high profile success by turning Namor back, and #7 focuses
almost completely on that plot so you get a sense of closure).  However,
Fraction's been so aggressively juggling plotlines in this book that there's
no good breakpoint short of #7, and even #7 leaves several plots from #6
totally unaddressed and dangling.  This is a TPB in the simple sense of
"re-sell people the first five issues" and not in any kind of "this is a
complete story" sense.  And at only two dollars cheaper than just buying the
individual issues originally, about the only justification for it is to do
this instead of reprinting #1-5 to meet backorders.  Oh, it's turned out to
be a pretty good series, but the specific choices made in releasing this
trade are annoying.  Especially with Fraction announcing that the series will
end at #12, meaning lopsided collections or something.  Might be better to
wait and see if they release a complete series TPB later.  $12.99/$21.00Cn
(wow, this cover was laid out ages ago...that's a STUPID exchange rate!)
     Thor #6: Marvel - Now that Asgard has settled in, it's time for an issue
of how the locals react to and interact with the Aesir, and this is a good
one of that type.  Followed by a lot of sturm und drang as the "bring back
the Aesir" plot comes to a head.  Recommended.
     Young Avengers Presents #2 (of 6): Marvel - Hulkling focus.
Specifically, Hulkling meets Mar-Vell.  We seem to be developing a theme of
legacies here.  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     New Warriors #9: Marvel - Not much to say about this one.  Fight scene
against forgettable villains, some trust issue angst, background on the
supporting cast, and sinister plans afoot.  More of the same, basically.
Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     She-Hulk v2 #26: Marvel - It's hard to angst without pants, but Jen
manages it.  A decent balance of serious and humor, though, about what PAD
usually manages when he's trying to be deadly serious.  Recommended.
     Damage Control #2 (of 3): Marvel - And McDuffie's view of Penance gets
air time, yay!  And fun fallout from WWH, some of it literally fallout.  Or
shrapnel.  Strongly recommended. $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Teen Titans #56: DC - Time for a new arc and a new threat, and I'm
amused that McKeever digs out some obscure 1980s villains to toss into the
mix, not to mention a legacy I didn't expect would happen (as in, much as I
like the guy, he didn't really seem to merit a junior version).  A touch on
the angsty side, but when you make a deal with the devil and it goes sour you
kinda have the right to angst on occasion.  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
(shouldn't DC have caught up to the exchange rate thing by now?)
     Justice Society of America #13: DC - This issue is mainly about bringing
readers up to speed on the whole Kingdom Come timeline (Earth-22 these days,
IIRC), in case there's anyone still reading comics anymore who didn't read
Kingdom Come.  An amusing not-exactly-a-tie-in with the Death of the Fourth
World thing, too.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     Legion of Super-Heroes #39: DC - Light gray on very light blue is a
REALLY bad combination, lettering person.  The connecting conceit of this
issue is some mysterious person looking over the LSH duty roster, but it's
unreadable half the time because of the color choices.  Manapul's art
continues to be okay, if no great shakes, and Shooter's story is sort of
meandering right now, wallowing in "life sucks".  Not quite Legion of
Emo-Heroes, but trending that way.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     Action Comics #862: DC - My store gave me the Giffen variant cover,
woot.  Actually, Gary Frank's looks a little better, but I decided to stick
with this one.  :)  The Subs enter the fray, and the mystery of whether Ulu
Vakk got a permanent gender swap is answered (although poor Staq gets his
name consistently misspelled Stag), not to mention the mystery of why some of
the more powerful try-out applicants got rejected in the first place.  Heh.
It's fanboyish, but I liked it.  There's even a little link in here to the
upcoming Lantern-o-rama event.  Recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     Blue Beetle #24: DC - Booyah.  Everyone's on stage for this one, getting
ready to wrap up the Reach storyline next issue.  Rogers and Albuquerque are
in fine fettle.  Strongly recommended.  $2.99/$3.65Cn
     PS238 #29: Do Gooder Press - It's the "Poly Mer is a very disturbing
young lady" show.  And for all his brains, Zodon's a touch lacking in common
sense...he fails to pay attention to the low tech solutions a bit too often.
And the Flea inspires envy in all around him!  Well, in one or two people,
anyway.  Recommended.  $2.99

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 2/27:

     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.  Got
Devastation #5 at a shop in Topeka.


"Well, The Rest Of The Challs Did Appear On Screen, If Only For A Second
     Or Two" Award to Justice League: the New Frontier DVD

"And No Merrymaking!" Award to Beowulf DVD/comic

"Did She Just Flash Him?" Award to The Clockwork Girl #3 (of 4)

"Dynamic Joe" Award to Project Superpowers #1

"Not So Much Catgirl As Hyenagirl?" Award to Ninja High School #157

"Decepticon Gothic" Award to Transformers Devastation #5 (of 6)

"Too Many Chiefs" Award to Transformers Devastation #6 (of 6)

"Banter Bantamweight" Award to Fallen Angel #24

"But Are They Still In Mint Condition?" Award to Doctor Who #1

"We Who Are About To, Um, Lose Our Powers Salute You?" Award to The Order:
     The Next Right Thing TPB

"Marked Bills" Award to Thor #6

"One Of The Young Avengers Is...A SKRULL!  Oh, Wait, You Knew That Already"
     Award to Young Avengers Present #2 (of 6)

"Time To Consider Carrying Spare Batteries?" Award to New Warriors #9

"Time To Consider Carrying Emergency Pants?" Award to She-Hulk v2 #26

"Art Deco Can Get So Touchy" Award to Damage Control #2 (of 3)

"At Least He Doesn't Fake A Texas Drawl" Award to Teen Titans #56

"Thanos?" Award to Justice Society of America #13

"The Cruks Of The Matter" Award to Legion of Super-Heroes #39

"I Talk To The Trees...That's Why They Put Me Away" Award to Action Comics

"Thanks For The Memories" Award to Blue Beetle #24

"But Did He Buy Any Yoo Hoo?" Award to PS238 #29

     Dave Van Domelen, "You cannot touch my staff." - the "improbably hot"
Traci 13, Blue Beetle #24
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