Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) wrote,
Dave Van Domelen

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Comics and other stuff for September 29, 2010

                   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 
    I heard a song off "Joshua Tree" on the local oldies station today.

     Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): None

"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.

     Marvel Universe 4" Action Figures (Captain Britain, Multiple Man):
Hasbro - The price of the 4"-scale figures has crept up to where the 6"
figures were a few years ago, but sadly the quality isn't keeping up.  I got
Captain Britain because (other than the crappy shading wash on the white
parts) it looked pretty good in the package, and I got Multiple Man because
Jaime Madrox so rarely gets any merchandising.  Captain Britain isn't all
that good out of the package, sadly...probably his biggest problem comes
because these figures use a mid-torso joint instead of a waist joint, so he
can't turn without breaking up his chest pattern.  Also, if you're not going
to include any handheld accessories, why have a hand in grasping pose?  Pass
on this one.  Madrox is a bit of an oddball, continuity-wise.  He's in his
classic blue and gold kinetic damper suit (no trenchcoat), and the back of
his package writeup seems to be taking him from the X-Men United continuity
where he's part of Magneto's army (maybe he briefly was working for Magneto
in the comics, but mostly he's been a hero except for his initial fight
against the Fantastic Four).  While his chest pattern is also broken up by
the not-waist joint in the torso, it's not as jarring an effect on him.  The
figure's notable for being pretty skinny, a rarity in a male superhero action
figure, which makes it a useful kitbash base if you don't mind working over a
dark base color.  The one thing about the toy that makes it even remotely
worth picking up, though, is that his non-fist hand is just the right shape
for a facepalm pose, which his arm is articulated enough to permit.  It's not
really Jaime Madrox if it can't facepalm, after all.  Still, hardly worth
nine bucks.  

     No Ordinary Family: Tuesday 8/7C on ABC - I don't normally review TV,
but since this looks like another slim week for actual comics for me, I
decided to add some comments on the debut of the latest "superhero" show on
TV, taking the niche vacated by Heroes.  I imagine the pitch for this show
might have included the phrase, "Live-action version of The Incredibles" in
it somewhere, and there's certainly plenty of points of similarity despite
the show being set in a "real world until very recently" situation.  Probably
the strongest similarity (other than the whole "husband/wife/son/daughter
with powers" premise) is the interaction between Chiklis's super-strong
father (hey, at least they got a guy who's got experience acting as a
strongman) and his best friend being a lot like the Mr. Incredible/Frozone
thing (although in this case the buddy has no powers).

     I was a bit worried that this show would try too hard to be a campy
sitcom, and the choice of background music for the opening scene reinforced
that, but the show pretty quickly found its legs as more of a drama than
anything else.  Slice-of-strange-life, if you will.  It hammers on the
Dysfunctional Family button a little too hard and a little too often, risking
a drift into maudlin moping, but by the end of the pilot episode it looks
like they're going to focus on the fixing of dysfunction rather than
wallowing in it.  Contributing to the drama angle is the revelation of a
Shadowy Nemesis of some sort, although we see too little to know if the
organization is necessarily inimical.  It could be more like SHIELD than
The Company, just with a thing for ominous atmospherics.

     Regarding the effects, they picked a decent set of powers to give the
family.  The father has the original Superman powerset (strong, jumps hella-
high, bullet-resistant, super reflexes), the mother is a speedster, the
daughter a telepath and the son has some sort of super-intelligence power
that they portray by having him see solutions form in front of him (think
Amadeus Cho, although we don't get enough of his powers in the pilot to know
how far the effect extends, he may be super-intuitive in general and not just
on math stuff).  The guest-super of the episode uses a teleportation effect
that's pretty much from X-Men 2's Nightcrawler, but it looks good and works
within a TV budget.

     Both parents have friends who help them figure out their powers (and in
one case who lampshades some of the more convenient aspects of the power),
and who in some way act as enablers for a superhero lifestyle.  The father's
friend, in fact, sets him up with a Secret Base (well, a garage full of
monitoring gear), while the mother's is such a comics geek that she has a
chase variant Kitty Pryde Marvel Legends 6" figure.  It's clear in all four
cases that the powers are a form of wish-fulfillment, making up for
deficiencies each sees in their lives.  In the mother's case, in fact, it's
hammered home relentlessly, but it's a little more subtle in the other cases.
There's also some not so subtle foreshadowing (again with the mother, who
seems to get all the "hey, look at this, it's a plot point" scenes)
suggesting a mechanism by which superpowers will become more common as the
series goes on.

     For all that the show trades on genre tropes, it does put just enough
twists on the old standards to maintain my interest.  And some of the more
blatant plothammer elements can be excused by the fact that the Average
Viewer isn't going to be as genre savvy as I am and may well need those
points made manifestly clear.  If it has a significant weakness, it's that it
depends a lot on the draw of a single "name"-level star, Michael Chiklis.
His turn as the Thing certainly got the show on the radar of comics fans who
might have missed it (I certainly don't recall a huge amount of publicity for
this otherwise), and playing a police sketch artist might ping the radars of
people who liked him on The Shield.  But if those two fanbases don't bring
enough core viewers, we might have to see the second half of the season on
DVD, as happened to shows like the new Bionic Woman.  Recommended.

     Sometimes I get a comic a week or two late because of Diamond's
combination of neglect and incompetence.  If it's more than a week late,
though, I won't review it unless it's very notable.  Additionally, I will
often get tradepaperbacks long after publication or even sometimes before
Diamond ships them, and those will go here.  If I'm reasonably sure I'm
reviewing something that didn't ship this week, this is the section for it.

     I got X-Factor #209, but wasn't moved by it enough way or another to do
a two-week-late review of it.

     Deadpool Team-Up #889: Marvel - Guest-starring Gorilla Man, written by
Jeff Parker.  (Note for those who don't follow this title: they started
numbering at #900 and have been counting backwards.)  This is a fairly light
piece of fluff picking up on a villain from Gorilla Man's miniseries, who
hires Deadpool in an attempt to dispose of Gorilla Man without triggering the
curse on themselves.  At the edge of how silly Gorilla Man's stories can be
without feeling "off", but right about in the center of Deadpool's discomfort
zone.  Recommended.  $2.99

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.

     Transformers Sector 7 #1 (of 5): IDW - IDW's latest movieverse comic,
written by John Barber and drawn by Joe Suitor...neither of whom I can recall
seeing before.  The story focuses on the original 7 of Sector 7, Victorian
adventurers who recovered Megatron so that he could be eventually moved south
and Hoover Dam built over him.  Suitor's art is almost entirely grays and
browns, and while it evokes the Victorian age reasonably well, it's too murky
in places and seems to contradict the end notes a couple of times.
(i.e. Barber mentions the faction symbol on one of the characters...who does
not seem to have a visible faction symbol in any panel where he appears.
That same character appears to have been the U.S.S. Maine in the story, but
Barber's endnotes claim the character blew up the Maine accidentally.)  The
end notes combine both historical stuff (for those who don't know what the
Maine is and why it's important) and continuity stuff (like "this character
is the unnamed one in the background of issue 1 of the prequel comic" sort of
things).  It's a pity Barber clearly put so much work into making the story
hang together, only to have Suitor mess it up.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

     The Amazing Spider-Man #644: Marvel - More running fight/chase as a few
more of Spidey's foes enter the mix.  In dramatic terms, this is the climax
of the story, the "things can't get worse, can they?" point, even if it's not
the Big Final Fight.  Still not liking Azaceta's art, though, and it's
starting to drag down my enjoyment of the writing.  Mildly recommended.

     Atlas #5: Marvel - FINAL ISSUE.  Sales just never managed to make it,
and Parker decided to end at this point rather than try another round of
crossovers and gimmicks.  Fortunately, the intro page gives a fairly thorough
accounting of the stuff I missed in #4 (which Diamond still isn't bothering
to ship).  Finishing things off here does require a bit of compression,
though, and there's a few text-only pages here and there to skip over the
skippable parts.  In general, there's a good, balanced sense of scale here.
On the one hand, they DO end a war that has raged in one way or another for
generations.  On the other hand, the first we'd heard of it was a few months
ago, even if retcons tied it in with much older stories.  So while the ending
is appropriately big, there's no attempt to make it feel like it's the
culmination of Everything Atlas Was Created For.  It's a big victory, but
just another along the way when all is said and done.  It led to some
personal growth, a new team member, and confirmation of some suspicions, btu
Parker avoided the temptation to turn it into too big of a deal.
Recommended.  $2.99

     Gold Digger v3 #121: Antarctic Press - One of the things Fred Perry's
been doing a lot in recent years has been to take shallow gag characters and
find ways to flesh them out without damaging their shallow gag exteriors,
essentally setting them up for use in serious stories without preventing
their later use as silly walk-ons.  This issue, the Uopma-Luompans led by
Prince Lowtor get the treatment.  Sure, they started as candy-making tiny
parodies of residents of Planet Doom (Voltron), foils for the Leprechaun
supporting cast, but the little guys have proven to have legs.  And in this
issue we find out what motivates them, what made them the tiny rat-bastards
that they are and why.  There's something of a Cosmic Reset Button at the
end, so that Perry doesn't have to immediately stop using them as comic
foils, but just enough is left in place to open the door for another serious
story when he's ready to tell it.  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 9/29/10: Invincible #72, Tom Strong and the Robots of
Doom #3, Transformers Ironhide #4, Gorilla Man #2, Welcome to Tranquility One
Foot In The Grave #2, Atlas #1, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z
Update #3 (which I probably won't bother reviewing if it ever comes in),
Guarding the Globe #1, Dynamo5 Sins of the Father #3, Science Dog #1,
Women of Gold Digger #1 and Gold Digger Books of Magic #2.


"At Least The Best Buddy Doesn't Have An Off-Screen Bossy Wife" Award to
     No Ordinary Family 

"Family Of The Head" Award to Deadpool Team-Up #889

"Way Too Many Gwangi" Award to Transformers Sector 7 #1 (of 5)

"Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #644

"3 6 9.  12 15 18.  21 24 27.  30" Award to Atlas #5

"Any Good DM Would Cackle With Glee At That Poorly Worded Wish" Award to
     Gold Digger v3 #121

   Dave Van Domelen, "You need approval from the gorilla." - Jimmy Woo, Atlas #5
Tags: comics, no ordinary family, transformers
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