March 19, 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.
Spring break, so of course it's cold out.  Rants, Capsules can be found on my 

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 -

     Damage Control #3 (of 3): Marvel - Cute mad libs recap page.   The moral
of today's story is that while you may not be able to fight City Hall, you
CAN fight the Chrysler Building.  Plus, Damage Control has its own version of
the Caged Demonwolf now, to my amusement.  Strongly 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): The Incredible
Hercules #115

     The Unwanted: Diablo Productions - This is a review copy, so I'll be
picking at it more than usual.  A graphic novel, this book will be solicited
in the May issue of Previews for a July release.  The webpage at has a few pages of preview that set up
the premise and demonstrate the art pretty well.  A generally professional-
looking work, although I have substantial problems with the lettering by
Jason Arthur.  It's a very good font (I only know for sure it IS a font
because there's one place where a ? is put in place of a ', and you don't get
that from hand lettering), but it looks like the word balloons were drawn
without much concern for the actual amount of dialogue, and there's a lot of
mismatches and places where text breaks awkwardly between two bubbles.  The
art by Juan Romera is a good fit for the horror subject matter, mildly
reminscent of Mignola, especially in the line weights.  The only problem I
have with the art at all is that it's sometimes hard to tell apart the kids
with lines from the redshirts...on a couple of occasions I had to double
check because I could have sworn a character currently talking had been
killed a few pages ago, only to find it was someone who looked a lot alike.
Well, okay, Romera's tendency to sign a lot of the pages gets distracting,
too.  Finally, the story procedes from a well-worn horror trope: foolish
person acquires a mystic artifact of great evil and finds to their detriment
that magic really does exist, and this specific magical thing is hungry for
blood/pain/fear/etc.  Writer "Diablo" along with Mark Michaels do a decent
job of pacing the story and giving the various characters distinct voices
(for instance, after one character uses language the FCC wouldn't approve of,
it tells you something about another character when he says "frigging").
Their spin on the cliche at the core of the story is that the viewpoint
characters are all "unwanted", kids that the juvenile corrections system
routinely processes through and does nothing for...except these are "lucky"
enough to be part of an attempt to fix that.  Quotes around the lucky, of
course, because it puts them in an isolated location with people disinclined
to believe them when a demon runs amok.  Sometimes you can't win.  The
hopelessness of their mundane situation is driven home sufficiently well that
there's genuine suspense regarding whether they'll survive or not (and I'm
not going to give that away).  I'll admit to not being a serious connoisseur
of horror, but I've got enough experience with the bad stuff via MST3K to
know this is at least competent.  Worth a look.  $15.00/$21.00Cn
     Justice League of America #19: DC - Well, this title's side of Salvation
Run ends, but I wouldn't really say it resolved.  A piece of the story is
revealed, at least, but only a small one as Burnett wraps up this arc.  The
art by Benes is merely bland this time, as opposed to "MY EYES, THEY BURN"
level.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99 (DC now has the price the same for the
U.S. and Canada)
     The Brave and the Bold #11: DC - I've lost track of all the retcons
involved in continuing to use the old Crime Syndicate characters, and Waid
doesn't really worry himself overmuch in establishing the current status
quo.  Probably for the best, since that'll avoid tying this arc too strongly
to a backstory that's bound to change again before the decade is out.  A mix
of fight scenes and exposition, it felt like it was mostly marking time until
#12 could come along and resolve things.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99
     Shadowpact #23: DC - Welp, the Blue Devil courtroom drama reaches a
resolution, in such a way as to suggest that (gasp, surprise) he was being
played all along, but the main plot takes a left turn into the whole Sun King
thing at the end, so there's no indication whether BD's situation will be
addressed again for a few issues.  Winslade's art looks a bit rough and
rushed even for him this time out, and the story felt kinda like Sturges got
bored with the BD plot and decided to wrap it up ASAP before moving on to
something else.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99
     Marvel Illustrated the Iliad #4 (of 8): Marvel - Not a lot advances
here...the gods continue to be fickle, Achilles continues to sulk in his
tent, a guy with a ferret on his head gets whacked.  The only significant
plot point is that the idea of impersonating Achilles is planted in
Patroclus's mind.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Captain Marvel #4 (of 5): Marvel - Lots of angst, religious conversions
and repetition of the questions raised last issue, but no actual
resolutions.  Reed and Weeks aren't quite phoning it in, but it comes close.
Neutral.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Amazing Spider-Man #554: Marvel - Gale's month wraps up with a "to be
continued next time I come up in the rotation" semi-resolution.  But while
the plot aspect is so-so, the scripting is very much worth reading, and
there's one splash page worth the cover price on its own.  Recommended.
     The Incredible Hercules #115: Marvel - The visual storytelling is rather
muddled at the start, but it's cool to see the Behemoth (from the
anti-Godzilla squad) back in action.  And some really good Herc backstory
action.  I'm half expecting at this point to find out that the coyote pup
Amadeus keeps around is actually a Coyote pup, if you catch my drift.
Recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Thor #7: Marvel - Speaking of bringing up old myths, Thor does a little
plot-relevant reminiscing as well.  Not as emotionally stirring as Herc's,
but an interesting insight into where JMS is taking the story nonetheless.
Art by Marko Djurdevic generally does a good job of capturing the Nordic
style, although I'm not keen on his Surtur (looks too much like a Hellboy in
his with-horns mode).  Mildly recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     The Order #9: Marvel - Hm, one problem with stock covers is that they're
not always correct once they're used.  Both Supernaut and Aralune are shown
on this generic cover, and at least Supernaut hasn't had that armor for a few
issues.  Of course, given that Kitson's just doing breakdowns for Saltares
suggests he's having trouble keeping to a monthly schedule, so we can
probably expect a few more stale covers before this is over.  Anyway, it
turns out Heavy is a spear carrier from Iron Man's most recent revised
origin.  Anyway, the Evil Plot comes to a head this issue, and with three
more to go in te series the pacing is making me wonder.  Either this fight
will drag out a bit, or it ends in #10 or #11 and the rest is denounment.
Fewer of the things I like about the series can be found in this issue, but
still recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn
     Marvel Adventures Avengers #22: Marvel - Sumerak and Guara again this
issue.  This time out, Wakanda is brought into the MA universe, and along
with it the recently implanted mainstream "Storm and T'Challa have a long
history" thing.  An okay issue, but I wasn't feeling the tension.  Mildly
recommended.  $2.99/$3.05Cn  [Later clarification: Storm and T'Challa meeting
as youths is an old Claremont story, largely ignored until recently.  I'm
talking about all the additional backstory that got loaded in so as to
justify the wedding.]
     Invincible #49: Image - Big ol' battle scene followed by loads of
disillusionment and anger, setting up the Issue 50 "Nothing Will Be The Same"
conflict.  On the one hand, it's a payoff for something that's been building
for quite a while.  On the other hand, it's been building so MUCH over the
past couple of years that Invincible finally finding out feels kinda like a
case of, "What took you so long, Sherlock?"  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 3/19:

     Still missing and almost definitely won't come in: Fallen Angel #15,
PS238 #25, (both of these have been covered in my CBR Special), Sky Sharks
#2, Gamma Files.


"Huh, The Instructions ARE Printed On The Heel" Award to The Unwanted

"What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Gorillas?" Award to Justice League of
     America #19

"Conflicting Imp-eratives" Award to The Brave and the Bold #11

"Juris Imprudence" Award to Shadowpact #23

"ALL Of The Gods Are Gods Of Bad Decisions" Award to Marvel Illustrated the
     Iliad #4 (of 8)

"I Thought Identity Crisis Was A DC Crossover?" Award to Captain Marvel #4 
     (of 5)

"Oh, Crap, It's An Artificial Saiyan" Award to Amazing Spider-Man #554

"Keep The Pup Away From Zeus, Then" Award to Incredible Hercules #115

"I Don't Think This Is What Harry Chapin Was Thinking Of" Award to Thor #7

"The Problem With A Common Source For Your Powers" Award to The Order #9

"Does That Mean My Dinner Tonight Was Exotic Cuisine?" Award to Marvel
     Adventures Avengers #22

"You Are Far Too Trusting" Award to Invincible #49

     Dave Van Domelen, "Who are YOU anyway?  The god of BAD DECISIONS?" 
- Ares, Incredible Hercules #115.  At least it's a portfolio everyone can
relate to....
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