Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) wrote,
Dave Van Domelen

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Comics for September 2, 2009

                   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.
An archive can be found on my homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants 
     Hey, didja hear about Disney taking ove...THUDWHAMSUPPRESSOWOWOWOW....

     Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Transformers
Animated the AllSpark Almanac

"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.

     Handful of Heroes: Hasbro - A new collectible figure "game" with
unpainted figures slightly larger than HeroClix (maybe 3-5mm on average), but
not all the same scale.  In other words, the figures are all about the same
height regardless of what they depict, so Hulkbuster Iron Man is as tall as
Deadpool.  The packaging for the $6 packs has seven "non-blind" in the sense
that they're theoretically visible and identifiable, although you might not
be able to figure out all fo them.  There's an eighth "Super secret figure"
concealed by cardstock, but there's no indication that there's a rarity
scheme here, at least not on the package.  There's 40 unique molds (multiples
of Iron Man, Wolverine, Hulk and Spider-Man, mostly given unique identifiers
like Classic Iron Man (which is actually the Extremis version) or Hulkbuster
Iron Man (the original version, not the WWHulk version), although all three
Spider-Man figures are just called Spider-Man), in three colors each: opaque,
clear and sparkly.  So you might get an opaque yellow Classic Wolverine, a
clear yellow one, or a golden sparkly one.  There's a few odd character
choices, like X-Ray of the U-Foes, but mostly it's the four core characters,
their teammates and enemies.

     The "game" seems to consist of one player setting up their figures like
bowling pins and the other flicking their figures to try to knock down the
bowling pin ones.  It's supposed to be played on the battle mat on the
reverse of the checklist poster, but unless you laminate your mat or put it
under a clear plastic sheet, nothing's going to stay standing.  Really weak
as games go, I suspect it was worked up in five minutes by someone told to
tack a game onto the set.

     The figures are decent for modding.  The plastic filaments a bit when
you go at it with a Dremel cutter head (I tried this on my Classic
Wolverine), but it can be smoothed out when you're done with the major
shaping.  They can be painted without primer, there's no weird beading
effects to worry about.  The sculpts are decent, with deep enough detailing
to allow for good painting and use of things like ink washes and
drybrushing.  All eight of the ones I got stand fine on a flat surface
without the need for special bases (although the Beast has a base, since he's
doing a handspring).  It almost feels like they took the computer renders for
cancelled HeroClix and blew them up a bit, sticking with renders that could
be cast in a single piece.

     All in all, I don't plan to collect these, but a pack or two is
worthwhile for kitbashing bait.  $5.96 at Walmart.

Late Books:
     These are comics that were not listed as shipping during the week they
were reviewed.  Sometimes someone recommends a book to me that's already out,
and I grab it over the weekend.  Sometimes it's a trade paperback I ordered
online rather than trusting Diamond.  Sometimes the store screwed up or I was
inobservant and I missed something I meant to get.  USUALLY, though, it's
because Diamond didn't ship what it was supposed to ship and I had to
scrounge around or wait on a reorder.

     Transformers Animated Celbook volume 10: IDW - If you want these things,
look online or at places like Barnes & Noble brick&mortar stores (in the
kiddie section), I long ago gave up on getting them through Diamond.  This
volume has Lockdown on the cover, and while it does include "A Fistful of
Energon," it doesn't have Lockdown's season 1 appearance, which remains the
only season 1 episode NOT collected in thes celbooks.  Instead, "Rise of the
Constructicons" is the lead story in this volume.  I'd kinda been hoping the
reason for the missing Lockdown story from earlier volumes was because there
was going to be an all-Lockdown volume later, ah well.  Another minor quibble
is that they discontinued the practice of using different page backgrounds
for the two stories.  In previous volumes, it was pretty easy to tell where
the break was between stories, because the pattern in the gutters between
panels was different for each story.  But this time, both have the same
pattern, and combined with the lack of page numbers it's harder to find where
one story ends and the next begins if you just want to check out Fistful.
Other than these minor issues, it's still a good adaptation of the animation
images to comicbook format.  Recommended.  $7.99

     Transformers Animated the AllSpark Almanac: IDW - My sole problem with
this book is that it doesn't cover season 3.  I suppose if sales are really
good we might see a companion book, or an expanded second edition, but the
omission means that a lot of the revelations of the final season can't be
addressed/clarified.  (The intro suggests that the pacing intended for a
second volume to cover seasons 3 and 4, but we never got a season 4, so there
may not be enough new material to justify a full second volume.)

     However, the reason this is a problem is simple: the book does such a
great job of covering everything else!  This isn't some half-arsed piece of
kidbook filler like a lot of cartoon guides end up being, it's got insane
amounts of depth, in-character writing, control art, alternate designs,
behind the scenes stuff, and enough in-jokes and easter eggs to choke a
nanobot swarm.  Seriously, the annotations on this book are on the order of
Jess Nevins's work on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (currently
located at http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/digipedia/annotated_almanac.html
although it's likely going to be merged into tfwiki.net in some fashion, or
otherwise given a non-angelfire home).  

     The book is organized into seven chapters with various interstitials and
endcapping materials.  The first three cover characters (Autobots,
Decepticons and Humans), the fourth uses a variety of "in setting" means to
summarize the events of the first two seasons and the six issues of the
comicbook, the fifth is "Culture" (a grab bag of devices, concepts, etc),
chapter 6 is about Detroit and the last chapter is other settings.  Dinobot
Island is identified as "North Sister Island," a ficitonal sibling of West
Sister Island (upon which it seems to be modeled, although WSI lacks a
volcanic cone), Middle Sister Island and East Sister Island.  Scattered
throughout are design sketches, including a look at the "Transformers: Hero"
concept that eventually became Animated.  The whole thing is full color,
glossy pages at the standard "letter size" dimensions.  At 220 pages, it's
great value for the money, although an index might have been helpful (okay,
so I have two complaints, not just one).  Strongly recommended...even if
you're not into the series, the in-character writing makes it a great read.
$19.99 (I got mine from DeepDiscount.com for $15.99)

     Skin Horse Volume One: Couscous Collective - Strictly speaking, this
isn't late, in that I got it in a timely manner.  But I was feeling a bit
overwhelmed last week, and decided to hold off reading and reviewing this
until later.  This is the first collection of the Skin Horse webcomic,
http://www.webcomicsnation.com/shaenongarrity/skinhorse/series.php and covers
from December 31, 2007 through February 7, 2009.  It also has a bonus feature
with the current cast watching an orientation film made by an earlier staff
at PSH, most of whom have vanished for reasons no one really wants to talk
about.  The Sunday strips are not included, but as they're largely things
like fan art and design sketches, it's reasonable to not include them.

     Skin Horse takes its title from the character in the Velveteen Rabbit
who points out that being loved can make a toy real.  The job of Project:
Skin Horse is to help non-human sapients (mainly the products of mad science)
find a place in society that doesn't involve (much) rampaging.  While it's
yet to be conclusively shown that this takes place in the same world as
artist Shaenon Garrity's "Narbonic" webcomic, it's certainly the same *sort*
of world.  And despite the title being taken from the Velveteen Rabbit, most
of the actual characters are versions of the residents of and visitors to
Oz.  Albeit with some serious liberties taken (i.e. Nick Zerhakker is the
Tinman analogue, but HIS artificial body is a V-22 Osprey).  And some silly
liberties ("Dorothy" is a crossdressing ex-military guy who's a research
psychologist and the team's token human).

     By the end of this first collection, the origins of all the main
characters have at least been touched on (Sweetheart's past comes into
tighter focus in the currently-running arc online, Gavotte remains enigmatic
as is her wont), and a rather large supporting cast of memorable oddities
(like the Renaissance Italy-style silverfish or the lion who writes a
webcomic) has come through.  It's a great read, if a little head-spinny at
times due to the weirdness of the setting.  And the bonus material (not
available online) includes an anti-gravity ferret named Nigel.  Recommended.
$13.99 plus shipping from www.skin-horse.com (the longer URL listed above
also includes comments, the short URL just has the strip itself).

New Comics:
     Comics and comic collections that I got this week and were actually
supposed to be out this week, as far as I can tell.  These reviews will
generally be spoiler-free, but the occasional bit will slip in.

     Jersey Gods #7: Image - Looks like we're in for a ride on the Poverty
Plot for a while, with Barock taking one odd job after another to try to make
ends meet, each job ending with explosions, until he realizes he can do
something like grab a solid gold boulder from somewhere in his home system.
:)  The odd job this time is more from the world of fashion, and Brunswick
really doesn't give us any new take on lampooning high coture, but at least
the ongoing "abandoned gods" plotline keeps the runway scenes from dragging
on too terribly long.  Mildly recommended.  $3.50

     Official Index to the Marvel Universe #9: Marvel - Hm, I may have to sit
down and read this through instead of skimming like the last several issues.
All three books are deep into my "stopped caring" periods...Spider-Man
starting to get into Clone Saga opening shots, Iron Man having the Crossing,
the brief Teen Tony sequence and then Heroes Reborn, and X-Men...dude, I was
so far out of X-Books by that time I can't even remember what I was ignoring!
It's kinda creepy how the actual years covered by these blocks just barely
overlap: Spider-Man October 92 through May 1994, Iron Man January 1994
through May 1997, X-Men November 1996 through December 1999.  There's just
one "Here's how the whole ferslugginger crossover went" textbox this issue,
about The Crossing and Timeslide...I expect next issue's will try to explain
the Clone Saga.  Shudder.  Recommended in the sense of watching train wrecks
(and also seeing all the variant covers).  $3.99

     Exiles #6: Marvel - FINAL ISSUE.  Well, they got a double-sized issue to
wrap things up, and I suspect Parker roughed out plans from the start to do a
storydump in the event of cancellation.  The last of the loose ends from the
first arc are tied off, and then everything gets explained.  Then everything
gets explained differently.  And THEN it's explained that the explanation is
going to change eventually anyway, in an elegant bit of treknobabble to allow
all previous Exiles series to work without contradiction.  The bear rides the
bicycle pretty well, all told.  Recommended.  $3.99

     Agents of Atlas #10: Marvel - This title's about to go through some
mutations (pun intended), with a two-issue X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas mini and
then an Atlas vs. New Olympus one-shot (foreshadowed on one page this issue)
before AoA becomes a backup in The Incredible Hercules (which will be moving
to a 40 page, $3.99 format).  Whew.  A lot of gyrations, but I appreciate the
effort being made to keep the story going in some fashion, especially since
the current arc is gearing up for a Big Epic Storyline as Atlas faces down
the Great Wall organization.  This issue is mostly downtime and retrenching,
with the focus splitting a half dozen directions without becoming incoherent
or (unintentionally) confusing.  True, not a lot of Big Stuff involved, and I
wonder how hard Temujin has to be hit to smack the stupid out of him, but
solid storytelling.  Recommended.  $2.99

     Domo the Manga: Tokyopop - Domo is the mascot of children's programming
on the NHK network in Japan, and has been around for over a decade, with
minimal American market penetration until very recently (Target has used Domo
in several seasonal promotions lately, for instance).  He got his first
internet fame as the menacing brown thing in the "...God kills a kitten"
motivational poster memestorm.  Given that my nickname in 3rd through 8th
grade was Domo (pronounced differently, though), I took an instant shine to
the little guy, although never enough interest to pay import prices.  :)
Now, while Domo the property is an import, this full color manga is not a
translation.  Written by Clint Bickham, it's all stuff made for America.  For
a high concept, take a Winnie the Pooh sort of setting without Christopher
Robbins, and replace Pooh with a somewhat more energetic and unintentionally
destructive "lovable lug" sort with a one-word vocabulary and very large
teeth.  Most of the stories revolve around Domo getting enthusiastic about
some new thing and wreaking havoc, although once in a while one of the other
forest critters is to blame.  It manages to capture that gleefully detached-
from-reality sense of kiddie manga (i.e. in the story where everyone gets a
cellphone, Domo button-mashes and manages to accidentally call space aliens,
who later show up in their flying saucer to express their displeasure at
being waken up by a misdial) and makes use of kidmanga tropes without being a
forced parody.  In other words, the people involved know their stuff.  It's a
pretty quick read, and definitely written for kids, but whimsical enough to
entertain adults too.  If you're interested in just a taste, the free
minicomic printed for Halloween has the first story from this book (maybe two
stories, I didn't check THAT carefully), which is a pretty typical "Domo is
enthusiastically destructive" story.  There's just enough stories where Domo
isn't a problem to keep the rampaging from getting too tedious, though.  As
an aside, the one piece on my deviantArt account favorited the most is
http://dvandom.deviantart.com/art/Domo-Con-Motivational-Poster-84858803 (and
by a pretty wide margin).  Recommended.  $9.99/$12.99Cn/#6.99UK

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 9/2/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe
#22, Transformers Maximum Dinobots #3, Ninja High School #169-171, Justice
Machine vol 1 TPB, Gold Digger Tech Manual #3, Farscape Strange Detractors
#2, Gold Digger v3 #105, Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1, Incredibles #2 and
#4, Encyclopedia Mythologica, Farscape Gone & Back #1, Thor #602, Marvel
Adventures Super-Heroes #14, Farscape: D'Argo's Trial #1, Transformers
Animated Almanac, Middleman GN, Atomic Robo Shadow out of Time #4.  Add Moon
Knight Saga, although it's probably buried among the boxes of Halloween
minicomics and I didn't feel like hanging around the shop longer to wait for
the swamped new employee to finish sorting.


"Bowling For Mutants" Award to Handful of Heroes 

"Lots Of Planets Have A West" Award to Transformers Animated vol 10

"What's Poor Richard's Altmode?" Award to Transformers Animated the AllSpark

"If I Only Had A BRAAAAAAINNNZZZZZ!" Award to Skin Horse vol 1

"Of Course He's Evil, He's A CEO" Award to Jersey Gods #7

"Teen Tony Felt Like It Lasted A Lot Longer" Award to Official Index to the
     Marvel Universe #9

"Paradigm A Dozen" Award to Exiles #6

"Time To Cash In M-11's Veteran Rewards" Award to Agents of Atlas #10

"Domo Is Also Inordinately Fond Of Beetles" Award to Domo the Manga

   Dave Van Domelen, "In truth, none of the warrior scholars check on my work anymore." "This may sound a little out there, but maybe it's because YOU FIRE ON EVERYONE who approaches." - Dr. Zu, Ken Hale, Agents of Atlas #10
Tags: comics, transformers animated
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