Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comics shop comics: August 11-18

Atlas #4 (Marvel Comics) Hmm, this issue seems pretty off, perhaps because a longer story arc is being collapsed in to fewer issues so that “The Return of the Three Dimensional Man” can be wrapped up in next month’s fifth and final issue of the canceled series.

In the first three issues, Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman have devoted the first two-thirds of each book’s pages to a chapter of “The Return” story, while Parker and another artist have filled the back half with separate but more or less connected stories.

In this issue, Parker and Hardman present part four of “The Return,” which ends with a cliffhanger on page 13, and then on page 14 artist Ramon Rosanas picks up with part five. Hardman and Rosanas are both fine artists, and it’s not unusual for an entire comic book to be devoted to telling a part of the same story, but it’s weird in this instance; the art change now looks arbitrary (if Hardman did four more pages, then Rosanas would have handled just the pages set in a different reality) and rushed.

The quality of these last few issues probably isn’t all that important though. It’s a good read as always, its production challenges are simply calling attention to themselves this time out.

Birds of Prey #4 (DC Comics) I think four issues is a more than fair chance to give a new creative team and or a new title to hook a reader (Actually, I generally only give a team or book a single issue, but I was curious enough about the identity of the White Canary character to stick around until it was revealed).

And the Gail Simone/Ed Benes/Adriana Melo/J.P. Mayer team didn’t exactly hook me over the course of the first four issues, although I suppose this is the strongest of four.

In this issue, the various villains and their various motives are revealed, and most of the events of the previous issues are made clear. (Or at least clear-ish. I’m not sure what Savant and Creote’s faked deaths were all about, other than to shock/weary readers). Basically, Savant and the sister of a group of minor villains from a storyline back in the last volume of the title want revenge against Oracle and Black Canary, and they ally themselves with The Penguin to achieve it.

The artwork is again split between two teams, with Benes penciling and probably inking the Black Canary passages, Melo and Mayer the Oracle passages, and the two teams splitting up the parts involving the other Birds and The Penguin.

The sections vary in competency, but all are fairly lazy in the background, detail and staging department, and there’s still some basic proficiency problems I’m still surprised by whenever I see ‘em in a big publisher book like this (For example, if a character Is holding an object in his left hand in the first and third panel in which you show that character’s left hand, he should probably also be holding it during the second panel—especially if it’s a tense, you-won’t-shoot-me-because-I’m-holding-this-knife-to-the-throat-of-your-friend sort of situation).

Anyway, that’s more than enough Birds of Prey for me for now.

Brightest Day #8 (DC) This is a pretty Hawkperson heavy issue. After two pages of Hawk, Dove and Deadman (whom I really wish would change clothes at some point), the rest of the book is devoted to jumping back and forth between Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s adventures on the new Hawkworld, and J’onn J’onnz’s hunt for the space monster.

With the Firestorm storyline not showing up at all, the artwork in this particular installment is all fairly strong, although the two-page spread of Hawgirls saying “Back The Hell Off!” while something unintelligible happens in the background (it looks like two animal people shot her out of an invisible cannon, which exploded and killed them) is a pretty big waste of paper and story real estate.

Dungeons & Dragons #0 (IDW) A combination of nostalgia and brand affection, not to mention an attractive $1 cover price, was all it took me to give IDW’s attempt to turn out comics based on the world of D&D a look, but I’m afraid nothing in here made me think I’d want to give the books a second look. (Unless maybe they’ll only be $1 a piece too?)

This issue features two short stories by two creative teams, each apparently leading to a different ongoing series.

The first, by John Rogers and Andrea Di Vito, is so straightforward and traditional that reading it was even less exciting than reading a few paragraphs of a source book from the early eighties.

A campaign party consisting of a human fighter, an elven archer, a dwarven cleric (I think he’s a cleric; he take a lot of religious sounding oaths and has a hammer instead of an axe), a Halfling thief and pink-skinned, tail-having, horn-headed magic user descend through a trap-laden dungeon, fight gnolls or knolls or kobolds (it’s been a while since I’ve read a sourcebook; whichever one refers to hyena-men) and then a black dragon and, um, that’s it.

I guess it’s a little like watching a couple of other people play with a very boring Dungeon Master use a pre-built dungeon for a few minutes, and not being allowed to mess around with the di at all?

It’s certainly possible that Rogers and Di Vito have chosen such a generic start to their story in order to do something more subversive, dramatic or interesting later, but as a ten-page unit, this was competently executed but as boring as a D&D comic could possibly be.

The other story is set in the “Dark Sun Campaign Setting,” of which I know absolutely nothing—the two paragraph prose foreword makes me think “space desert.”

The six-page story by Alex Irvine and Peter Bergting has less of the standard D&D trappings about it, and the artwork has a lot more character and life to it, but, again, it’s nothing to get me excited about what happens next.

A muscular dude with a Mohawk and a lot of tattoos (not Daken is in bed with a lady, and then he gets captured by slavers, and then there’s a riot and he escapes and then it’s time for the back-matter.

I didn’t read the creator bios, Q-and-A’s with the creators, or the Young Black Dragon stats (hey, I don’t see the word THACO…do they not say THACO anymore? I loved that acronym!), but I see now that IDW has plans to release the very first trade collections of the DC/TSR material.

This is fantastic news! I have all of AD&D (Confidential to IDW: Hit me up an advance galley for a super-early review; I would love to write a blurb this book! AD&D was the comic that got me into comics! Damn, I wish I was famous enough to write introductions…) and a bunch of Forgotten Realms (Rags Morales art! This book is awesome!), but no Spelljammer or Dragonlance).

They’re also going to collect some of Devils Due’s stuff, which I think was all based around R.A. Salvatore’s drow elf novels, and there will apparently be new material set in “the fan favorite world of FORGOTTEN REALMS” at some point.

So woo-hoo!

Damn, this preview book made me awfully excited about future IDW/D&D publications, even though I didn’t care for either of the comics stories in it or plan on buying the #1 issues of either of the series previewed.


I’m not sure how much overlap there is between People Who Read Every Day Is Like Wednesday and People Who Play Dungeons & Dragons, if any, but if any of you know the answers to these questions, leave ‘em in the comments!

1.) What the heck is that pink lady named Tisha supposed to be?I have no idea what she is exactly, but she doesn't remind me of a "playable race," or any race exactly, from the game I remember.

2.) Are Halflings different than they used to be? This character in the sequence below is supposedly a Halfling...
...something I didn't realize simply by looking at her. It wasn't until the fighter character mentions her "Halfling luck" and they show her next to the other characters so her lack of height is apparent that I realized that she wasn't human.

I thought Halfling's were more Hobbit-like. This one's wearing shoes, doesn't seem to have over-sized feet, and doesn't seem as squat and round as all the other Halflings I've seen. Did they dehobbitify them in the last decade or something? This is a very important question to me.

3.) What happened to the ampersand?! It's different than it used to be!
Aaaaaa! Change!

Justice League: Generation Lost #7 (DC) The new JLI attempts to break into the Checkmate castle, now under the control of Max Lord. They do so by disguising themselves in Rocket Red costumes, so that if (well, this being the JLI, when) they’re discovered, Lord and Checkmate may suspect Russia instead.

—Cliff Chiang draws another great color, which includes one of the best renditions of Ice I’ve ever encountered

—Max Lord tries on his White Lantern uniform (previously see in Brightest Day #7), which is just a different color golf shirt and pants, with an embroidered White Lantern symbol on the chest

—Someone shouts “The Hell?!” This still happens in comic books, apparently

—Even though Rocket Red has a few lines of dialogue explaining how Russia has never let women join their Rocket Red brigade, Fire and Ice wear Rocket Red costumes that include breast-shaped armor to cover their breasts

—Booster Gold’s floaty little robot friend Skeets disguises himself as a Rocket Red too:This is the best Skeets scene since the floaty little robot rode a horse in the pages of Booster Gold. The only way I could have possibly liked that panel better would be if instead of simply putting on a Rocket Red-patterned, rocket-shaped holographic disguise, Skeets turned into a floaty little Sputnik.

All in all, Generation Lost remains a decent if unremarkable read, one for fans rather than converts.

Tiny Titans # 31 (DC) One of the (admittedly many) things I love about this particular title is how often Art Baltazar and Franco end up showing me things I had no idea I even wanted to see until I’ve read them in a panel of Tiny Titans.

For example, all of the various Brainiacs hanging out together as The Brainiac Club
or Baltazar’s version of Jor-ElI suppose I should note that as I was sitting on the floor of my sister’s kitchen, reading this short stack of newly acquired comics, a nine-year-old relation of mine came over and started flipping through the books and asking questions about comics in general and the ones I had with me.

Tiny Titans is the one she spent the longest with, and the only one she really read more than a few pages of (She started Atlas too, but lost interest quickly), noting that it was much brighter than all the others.

Oh, and so as not to be positive, allow me to restate my displeasure at the change in paper stock. I do not like the new, slicker paper stock! I liked the old stuff better! Please switch back DC; for em.

Okay, now I’ll try not to complain about that every month from now on.

Usagi Yojimbo: One for One (Dark Horse Comics) This is one of Dark Horse’s latest round of $1 reprints, focusing on the first issues of classic DH franchises. Hence the title. Stan Sakai’s Usagi, like Love and Rockets, is one of those long-lived series that I’ve always found a bit intimidating, ones so big I was never quite sure where to start reading, but whatever volume I picked up and read, I ultimately enjoyed reading, even if I was never sure if I was reading it the “right” way, or the way the creators intended.

I haven’t read this story, which is apparently the first issue of Sakai’s samurai rabbit’s adventures in funny animal version of feudal Japan published at DH. It opens with four splash pages recapping the basic’s of Usagi’s whole deal, and then plunges into a story that starts but doesn’t finish.

It seemed like a really good introductory issue to me—although Usagi Yojimbo has a relatively low threshold of Stuff You Need To Know before plunging in, given the whole wandering samurai having episodic adventures thing—and I was pretty sorely disappointed when I got to the last page and realized the conflicts raised in the story weren’t also going to be resolved.

I noticed that while I’ve gotten used to the fact that there are tiny little sauropod-like dinosaurs running around in Sakai’s Japan, the sight of anthropomorphic animals riding around on plain, old non-anthropomorphic horses still disturbs me.


VectorSigma said...

Caleb -

Re the D&D comic...the game is now on its fourth edition; THAC0 hasn't been around since 2nd. Tons of changes, a pretty different game mechanically, even if the general themes are the same.

The pink-energy lady is probably a tiefling (descended from demons), and her class is probably 'warlock'.

Art for halflings generally shows them as way less 'hobbity' than back in the day.

And the ampersand has changed with every edition (sometimes multiple times).


Jeremy said...

So ummm, Namora on that Atlas cover...

Does it look to anyone else that she's having a "special alone moment" there? Just me? Ok.

David said...

New Forgotten Realms material isn't really cause for woohoo. You either hate the setting (Like yours truly), or hate what they did to the setting in 4th Edition(Finally cleaned house on all the author Mary Sues running around, and threw the baby out with the bathwater.)

Dark Sun is best described as magical post-apocalypse setting. A world where magic drains life and a bunch of sorcerers used a lot of it fighting each other.

Probably the best chance of the D&D comic being interesting is if they replace the Points of Light comic Rogers is apparently doing with an Eberron comic with the pulp noir feel the setting is supposed to have yet rarely does.

Randal said...

Just let's continue with the Drizzt adaptations. That's all.

Plus, let's reprint the Kenzer D&D issues as well. Missed those.

That statue the halfling is robbing the jewel's THE statue, isn't it?

mordicai said...

As VectorSigma said, she's probably a tiefling warlock. Tieflings-- the part-devil creations of Planescape-- are now part of the core rules, which makes sense, since it gives more metal-minded players something "bad ass" right out of the gate. Her class is probably warlock, which is a more "blaster" oriented kind of arcane caster-- well, blaster & also spooky-stuff; they are where all the creepy magic powers end up.

Halflings have largely divorced themselves from Bilbo. They swallowed up kender, took some of those traits, & well-- here they are. They are tiny, lucky, resilient little dudes.

The ampersand changes all the time.

Martin Gray said...

Thank you! I'm glad someone else is fighting to end comics' obsession with 'THE HELL!?'

And I'm with you on the DC kids paper stock - I liked the old paper, and price point, better too.

Comics & More said...

Archie comics bumped their paperstock up with the 50 cent price hike too. Like its some kind of "added value" to make up for the higher cost.
I can't tell you the number of kids, and moms too, that have complained to me "they just don't feel like an Archie comic anymore".

LurkerWithout said...

Also since the other D&D nerds left it out, the hyena-dudes are Gnolls. Kobolds are small dog/lizard looking dudes. A Knoll would be a grassy hill...

Though I think the Munchkin d20 monster book might have had stats for them...

Nada Soul said...

the old D&D ampersand is pretty damned cool!

Jacob T. Levy said...

It looks like all your D&D questions have been answered, but I might as well chime in that I'm also certainly part of the "overlap... between People Who Read Every Day Is Like Wednesday and People Who Play Dungeons & Dragons." Still play 3.5 ed, though. 4th just doesn't grab me.

Caleb said...

Wow, thanks for all the D&D science dropped in this comments thread, gang. My knowledge is woefully outdated.