Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) wrote,
Dave Van Domelen

Comics for November 10, 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 
     Diamond's incompetence stops short of shipping $400,000 of stuff
   without first calling up to make absolutely sure the store wanted it.

     Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Superman/
Shazam: the Return of Black Adam DVD, Atomic Robo v5 #1 (of 5)

"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.

     Megamind: Dreamworks - Like Despicable Me, this is a 3D animated feature
focusing on a supervillain who finds himself at a sort of mid-life crisis and
turns his life around after finding something to care about other than his
career.  But that's about where the important similarities end.  Megamind is
much more focused on the theme of "doing what's expected of you rather than
following your heart," and most of the characters have a choice to make in
that regard.  Not that there's a lot of characters, per se.  It's a pretty
small cast, leaving aside incidentals: Megamind, Minion, Roxanne, Hal, and
Metro Man.  And Metro Man is practically a cameo.  They fit pretty well into
sitcom patterns, though.  You have the dorky protagonist, his dorkier buddy,
the unattainable girl of his dreams, the dorky rival, and the cool guy that
all the dorky guys resent.  Except, instead of being into 80s music and video
games and trying to impress the girl with his new car, the protagonist is
into 80s music and world domination and trying to impress the girl with his
giant doom dirigible and horde of robots.

     While the message it was trying to send got pretty confused in places,
it did stick pretty well to the "you don't have to be what everyone expects"
theme, both in positive and negative ways.  Megamind doesn't have to be the
bad guy.  Hal doesn't have to be the genially harmless schlub (although they
establish his creepy aspect pretty much right away).  And so forth.
Unfortunately, the confusion of message kicks in with the implication that
you can only break out of your alotted role if someone more competent than
you helps, either by stepping aside or by directly empowering you.  All three
of the main supers only manage to take control of their destinies after being
handed an opportunity by one of the other three.

     In terms of surface stuff, the animation is pretty good and mostly
avoids the trademark Dreamworks Sneer.  There's only one blatant Stupid 3-D
Trick (and, unfortunately for this movie, it's almost identical to Despicable
Me's Stupid 3-D Trick), but very little that really exploits the format
either.  And while there's a lot of jokes and references that will soon
become dated (another Dreamworks trademark), the fact that Megamind tends to
come across as that uncle of yours who thinks he's still cool means that many
of those references start out intentionally dated.  Oh, and the
mispronounciation thing that the ads really hammer on?  It barely shows up
outside of the scenes used in the ads, although it's an important plot point
in the climax.  I didn't find it particularly annoying in the actual movie.
And while the ads do give away one of the plot twists, there's several others
waiting in the wings, so it's not a huge deal.  In fact, giving away that one
twist in advance sets up the audience for another of the twists.  

     All in all, I enjoyed it.  It wasn't great, but it was good.  A pity the
toy line is so hard to find and so low-quality (another Dreamworks trademark,
sadly...doomed to languish in a corner of the Toys R Us next to Shrek 4 and
Monsters vs. Aliens toys).  Recommended. 

     Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam: DC Showcase - This is a
collection of shorts.  The all-new title short (at about 25 minutes it's not
THAT short), plus expanded versions of the previous Showcase offerings
(Spectre, Jonah Hex, Green Arrow/Black Canary).  Since I never got the DVD
that has the GA/BC short, I figured it was worth my fifteen bucks to pick up
this set.  And if you don't have the Spectre yet, the collection's worth
getting for that alone.

     The Shazam story is a retelling of Captain Marvel's origin, including a
lot of classic elements but mixing them up a bit.  It nicely finesses the
"isn't it kinda irresponsible to give that power to a kid?" issue by making
the subtitular return of Black Adam the spur to action.  The Wizard would
have liked to have waited a bit, but Adam is back and wants to kill any
would-be successor, so needs must when the devil drives annat.  It goes a bit
cliche at the climax, but is otherwise a pretty good updating of the
character and has some good depth to the background (hinting at why Billy's
in Metropolis rather than Fawcett City, for instance, without actually saying
so explicitly). 

     The other three are extended, but not padded out to 25 minutes.  We're
talking a few minutes extra, tops, each running about 13 minutes now.  The
Green Arrow piece, which was new to me, was a pretty good set piece involving
a running fight in an airport, which is always good for some Hong Kong style
action.  The Jonah Hex story is darkly amusing, and of course the Spectre's
is grindhouse gold.  The "Bruce Timm's Picks" add-ons are the BTAS Jonah Hex
episode, the Spectre episode of Brave and the Bold, the first episode of
Justice League Unlimited (featuring Green Arrow) and the Superman vs. Captain
Marvel ep of JLU.  Recommended just on the strength of the title short, and
if you don't already have the Spectre short that jumps to Strongly
Recommended.  $15 price point.

     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.

     Nothing got shaken loose this week.

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.

     The Transformers #13: IDW - This issue is pretty much just set-up for
Costa to do an anti-homage, while also pulling a "bored now" with one of his
plots and brushing it aside without a real resolution.  Actually, it probably
counts for ditching at least two plots, while pulling a new one out of
Costa's reactor linkage.  An interesting change of style for Roche, at least,
but all in all the issue feels like Costa admitting that he never expected to
still be writing the book this long, and he'd just thrown out plot threads he
figured would be someone else's headache.  Very mildly recommended.  $3.99

     R.E.B.E.L.S. #22: DC - Drawing non-humans is always dicey...for
instance, one yardstick I tend to use to tell if an artist really belongs in
superhero comics is whether they can draw a credible Ben Grimm/Thing.  A lot
of otherwise good artists simply can't manage it.  But even when an artist
can do non-humans, there's going to be idiosyncracies, and that crops up in
this issue with two different artists (St. Aubin and Sharpe) splitting the
duties.  Even with strong inker Bob Wiacek doing his best to smooth over the
differences, the two artists' takes on Psions are so different that the Psion
Green Lantern looks like an entirely different character from page to page.
And it's the sort of distraction that a serious story like this one doesn't
need.  A few issues ago, it was commented on that no one could recall seeing
a female Psion (personally, I'd just figured they had no significant sexual
dimorphism, but the mammaries on Karkum contradict that pretty handily).
This issue explains why, and also explains why Karkum got a ring.  It strives
to be a powerful story, and it gets most of the way there despite the art.
And it does seem like they're setting of a Big Damned Cosmic Justice ending
to the arc, although again the art sabotages what was probably meant to be a
much clearer Final Page Reveal.  Mildly recommended.  $2.99

     Booster Gold #38: DC - Giffen wraps up the last few dangling threads of
the Book of Sorta Kinda Destiny before launching into a done-in-one story
that brings in another of the Justice League of BWAHAHA characters: General
Glory.  And the insanity is ramped way up for the good General, which makes
Booster's mild case of common sense seem downright Solomonic by comparison.
Recommended.  $2.99

     Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes #1: Marvel - This isn't a sequel to
the two 8-issue minis of a few years back, it's a tie-in with the new
animated series on Disney XD, possibly the first major network to include a
text smiley in their name.  Props to Yost for using Batroc's Brigade in the
opening scene.  :)  The main story is a decent if unspectacular "Captain
America tries to come to grips with being an exile" tale with a somewhat
too-simple resolution.  Scott Wegener (of Atomic Robo) does a pretty good job
of getting the look and feel of the animation without making a slavish copy
of the animation models.  Yost also writes the short backup, but artist
Patrick Scherberger doesn't even try to get the animated style, sticking with
his own Ramos-reminiscent style.  And apparently the EMH-verse version of
Whiplash is female, which I'm sure will lead to a LOT of fan art that
Marvel's lawyers will be deeply unhappy with.  The issue ends with brief
character profiles with uncredited art that is probably official animation
model stuff.  Recommended.  $3.99

     The Amazing Spider-Man #648: Marvel - "Big Time" starts this issue as
the title goes back to a more traditional publishing schedule.  One of the
dangers of having Spider-Man in the Avengers is that he works best in a sort
of middle realm, where the threats are potentially city-threatening but still
more or less comprehensible.  Make things too big and cosmic, and you run the
risk of losing sight of what makes the character work.  But, on the other
hand, you can only stomp on Parker for so long before it gets boring.  So it
looks like Big Time will be swinging things more towards the high end of
things (bigger threats, bigger payoffs) at least for a while, if only so that
Parker can crash and burn again later.  The Avengers are more involved this
issue, plus Parker gets a civilian job where all of his superhero-science
experience is actually relevant.  Obviously it can't last too long, but it
might last long enough to let them quietly shuffle off the "can't ever be a
photographer again" thing.  Probably the best part of this issue, though, is
the middle part, where the last threads of Brand New Day get dealt with and
Peter has to find a new place to live.  It lets Slott catch any potential new
readers up on all of Peter's interpersonal relationships without being too
heavy on the exposition.  The backup story takes place between the panels of
the opening Avengers-heavy sequence, and stars Spider-Girl as the latest
Marvel character to Twitter her adventures.  But unlike Galacta, she uses her
tweets for some positive social engineering.  I know she fights Screwball in
the opening of her own series (it's in the freebie previews book Marvel put
out last week), but I hope she keeps Screwball as a recurring foil, for the
contrasting views of social media.  Heck, the role of Screwball could get
passed from thrillseeker to thrillseeker like a franchise.  Oh, and while it
doesn't show up in-story yet, there's some images of Spider-Man's new
costume, which he either mugged Sam Flynn for or bought in Praetoria.
Recommended.  $3.99

     Atomic Robo v5 #1 (of 5): Red5 Comics - "Deadly Art of Science" is the
arc name tnhis time out, as Clevinger and Wegener bounce back to 1930.  I
think.  The black-bordered purple letters on dark blue background are kinda
hard to read on page 1.  Oops.  Anyway, so many Atomic Robo stories involve
the already world-weary Robo, and there's evidence he grew up really fast, so
his wide-eyed innocent years were few indeed.  But this is smack dab in them,
and a starstruck Robo Tesla meets an honest-to-gosh masked vigilante right
outta the pulps and just MUST join his quest for justice!  Yeah, the
vigilante isn't too happy about that either.  His Oracle-1930-equivalent
likes the idea, though.   Oh, and I think this might be the first time we've
actually seen Nikola on screen with Robo, he's always been conveniently
absent during previous stories set during his lifetime.  Clevinger makes the
interesting decision to portay the older Nikola as a very level-headed
non-mad scientist, making for a good contrast with the sort of world that
followed his life and death.  Strongly recommended.  $3.50

     Special Online Add-on!  The sporadically updated Atomic Robo online
comics have been updated some more!  They start with the 2008 FCBD story at
http://www.nuklearpower.com/2008/07/18/free-comic-book-day-2008/, then hit
the "Next" link to get FCBD 2009 (Dr. Dinosaur first appearance), The Yonkers
Devil (which I've reviewed before), MXII (how conspiracy theory favorite
Majestic-12 got started in the Robo universe), The Getaway (the aftermath of
a bigger story, in which a getaway is foiled), Rescue Mission (picking up
from MKII fifty years later and establishing a VERY important turning point
in Robo's relationship with the U.S. government), The Lizard Man (someone
else finds Dr. Dinosaur's island and runs afoul of his genius), and finally
the FCBD 2010 Terror Birds story.  Go.  Read.

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 11/10/10: Invincible #72, Tom Strong and the Robots
of Doom #3, Transformers Ironhide #4, Gorilla Man #2, Atlas #4, 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 #1-2, Dynamo5 Sins of the
Father #3, Science Dog #1, Women of Gold Digger #1 and Gold Digger Books of
Magic #2, Chaos War #1, Taskmaster #2, Transformers Drift #4.  Add Tron Movie
Adaptation #1, Official Index to the Marvel Universe v2 #7, Tom Strong and
the Robots of Doom #6 (if this doesn't come in next week, I'm cancelling my
orders for it and #3).


"Tighten That Nut" Award to Megamind

"Killing Him Would Be Wrong, But Bluffing Him Into Suicide Is Peachy" Award
     to Superman/Shazam: the Return of Black Adam

"There's Probably A TVTropes Term For This Sort Of Story" Award to The
     Transformers #13

"Bad Breeding" Award to R.E.B.E.L.S. #22

"And Really, Who DOESN'T Wanna Punch Some Nazis?" Award to Booster Gold #38

"Galactus Requires Three Calls" Award to Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes

"Marla Should Found A Support Group With Bobbi Morse For Women Who No One
     Recalls Are Scientists" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #648

"I Think Wegener's Been Watching Aeon Flux Lately" Award to Atomic Robo
     v5 #1 (of 5)

   Dave Van Domelen, "Fixer, please...he is very old, no? Show ze elderly some respect. And THEN eliminate him." - Batroc ze Leapair, referring to Captain America, Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes #1
Tags: comics
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