Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Comic Book Wednesday – Previews May 2015: SO. MANY. TOYS.

If you don’t know, Previews is the catalogue that Diamond Comic Distributors use to offer the products they distribute to comic book stores around the country. This is where you can view and order (through your favorite Local Comic Book Shop) comic books, trade paperback collections, t-shirts, books, media, and toys and other collectibles from hundreds of different vendors that deal in geek-oriented merchandise. The genius part is that you actually have to pay for your copy of Previews for the privilege of ordering other things to pay for. It’s like the Ren Fest except without the horse poo smell.

So every month a new edition of Previews is sent out to comic book stores. Contained in the pages within are products that might be currently available or could be released anytime in the next year; but typically about two months away. Or sometimes never. I’ve ordered lots of things that have just never come in. Without getting into the specific politics of Diamond, let me just say that they aren’t quite a monopoly and also aren’t quite the worst distributor anybody has ever dealt with in the history of the universe.

But I’m not here to discuss that. I’m here to discuss a few of the weird and/or wonderful items offered in this month’s edition.


We Stand on Guard – Image (Front Cover)

I remember reading about this whenever some big comic book thing was going on.
I’m sorry. That was a pathetic lack of specificity.

Anyway, this is a new book from Brian K. Vaughn, who is the guy that writes the greatest comic book that I have ever read, Saga. That being the case, I’m giving it a shot. I don’t care if it’s about something ridiculous like, I dunno - Canadians defending themselves against an American invasion, I’ll still…

Oh.

That is what it’s about. Man, Vaughn’s name can make anything seem awesome. I’m in. Plus, the art from the sample pages looks fantastic:



Cyborg - DC (Back Cover)

I want to care about a Cyborg book. I’m inclined to like Cyborg, but I think it’s mostly because of his depiction in the modern Teen Titans cartoons. This isn’t that Cyborg. I don’t even know which Cyborg this will be, as this comes out after Convergence. I’m not entirely clear on how that’s all shaking out. 
 
As far as creative, I’m not familiar with David Walker. Ivan Reis is a solid selling point, though.

Side Note: Convergence was awful. I picked up issues 0,1, and 2 of the main book and a few of the tie-ins. The tie-ins were all terrible. The main title’s best quality was that I understood what was going on. It just took me a couple of issues to understand that just because I grasped the events more than I usually do during a DC crossover, that didn’t mean it was good.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit – Dynamite (Inside Cover)

Frank Miller, right?

Arkham Knight Batman Action Figure – Play Arts Kai (3)

This is a beautiful figure. I like the size and level of detail on Square Enix’s Play Arts Kai line, but I just can’t justify the price. This one’s face is a lot less anime-looking than some of their releases, so I’m way more tempted. But no. I’ll stick with the DC Collectibles figure for a quarter of the price.

Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #3 – Dark Horse (51)

I haven’t been reading this or anything, but I love this cover. The art is wonderful. Look at her face – so serious. She’s like, “Look at this thing. Look at it.” Also the cat stealing her marker is funny. If I had any tolerance for cats or aliens I’d probably buy this.

Aliens: Salvation HC – Dark Horse (65)

I don’t believe I ever read this, despite the fact that it came out in 1993 at the height of my Alien/Predator comic collecting. I would have known Mignola from Gotham By Gaslight, but I don’t know that Gibbons and Nowlan were big names to me yet. It’s still a little odd that I wouldn’t have bought it, though. This might be a case of a thing that I start reading and remember it. Anyhow, $10.99 is a steal.

Frankenstein Underground #5 – Dark Horse (69)

This is an excellent book. I like Mignola’s take on Frankenstein’s monster and the art is the sort of art you want on a Mignola book. There’s some weird, weird shit going on here. If you can grab these at your Local Comic Book Shop, do it. If not, buy the trade when it comes out. This is the last issue of the miniseries, so it should be soon.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters – DC Comics (86 & 87)

Apparently DC is making this into something of an event.

If you don’t know, Justice League: Gods and Monsters is the next project from DC Animated. There was a preview for it on the Batman vs. Robin Blu-ray and I was intrigued. The whole thing is an original concept from Bruce Timm that features a dark, very different Justice League that essentially runs Earth as a three-way dictatorship. While I’m about a decade past wanting anything to be “dark”, “edgy”, or “gritty”, this is Bruce Timm. The character designs are, of course, great and the fact that Batman is a vampire Kirk Langstrom and Wonder Woman is one of the New Gods is very interesting.

Right now I’m all-in. Since these prequel comics (where’s Wonder Woman?) are one-shots by talented teams, they’re relatively low-risk. The movie itself and the action figures (more on those later) might be a different story. But it’s Bruce Timm. 
 
Batman Animated Series: Mad Love Action Figure 2-Pack – DC Collectibles (147)

I think that it’s really cool that they’re releasing this set, but I can’t justify it. I already have Joker and I’ll be getting the regular Harley. The repaints look nice, but I’m trying to be much more selective about what I buy. Which is a thing that I say a lot.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Action Figures – DC Collectibles (147)

This is a tough call. These look great and aren’t repaints. And if I love the movie I’m going to want them. But they’re not part of the DCAU canon, so I really don’t need to get them. I’m going to hold off. 
 
DC Comics Icons Action Figures – DC Collectibles (150)

Well, there you go. While I’m not planning to collect these regularly, I do collect Batmans and Deadmans. And I wanted to get one of these to review anyway, so it’s great that two of the only characters I’ll definitely want are in this first wave in the same month as the above three figures that I totally don’t need to get. I’m a little annoyed that this is “Brightest Day” Deadman because DC Direct already did one of those and I’ve got it, but at the same time Deadman doesn’t really have all that many different looks. Maybe someday they’ll do an Artist Series Kelley Jones Deadman.

Even More DC Comics Icons Action Figures – DC Collectibles (155)

I’m not ordering any of these, but I do want to point out how nice they look. If I didn’t collect so many other lines and didn’t already have these characters from Mattel’s DC line, I would buy all of these. Actually, if I could somehow trade my Mattel ones for these I totally would. The accessories and hip joints are far better. I almost want to get that Flash just for the Cosmic Treadmill. And Hal Jordan’s armor is just crazy. People – he’s only five bucks more than the regular figures.

Batman: Arkham Origins Action Figure 3-Pack – DC Collectibles (156)

Well, crap. Even more figures. I was relatively disappointed by Arkham Origins. If it had actually been the first game in the series (it comes first in the chronology of the narrative) it might have seemed great, but it was so vastly inferior to Arkham City that I just couldn’t enjoy it as much. It wasn’t bad by any means, it just wasn’t a worthy follow-up. I do love this selection of figures, though. Lady Shiva is awesome, Electrocutioner deserves a figure after being one of the silliest villains ever (clearly aping Earth-610’s Shocker), and the first-ever figure of Harleen Quinzel looks great. I don’t know that I would have demanded these characters as figures, but I’m glad they’re making them.

Star Trek/Green Lantern #1 – IDW (159)

IDW’s Star Trek crossovers have been fantastic so far. Both Doctor Who and Planet of the Apes nailed the characters and created situations that seemed appropriate for all franchises involved. Green Lantern seems like another logical match for the crew of the Enterprise, but I have to admit that I was disappointed to see the Abramsverse crew. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed both of the reboot movies to one degree or another and I love the cast, but I guess in my mind if you’re doing Kirk’s crew you use Shatner, Nimoy, and the rest. 
 
Regardless, I’m excited about this. I’m not familiar with any of the creative team, but I doubt that IDW or DC would leave something this potentially significant to amateurs. 
 
Maybe next year we’ll get Star Trek/Guardians of the Galaxy. I could see Spock getting into some pretty deep philosophical debates with Groot. And obviously Kirk would have to fight Drax. Or Rocket. Yeah – Kirk and Rocket could compare conquests.

Godzilla in Hell #1 – IDW (163)

I have never read a Godzilla comic. Not even the infamous Godzilla versus Charles Barkley. But there’s something about this that I can’t pass up. Part of it is the awesome way that James Stokoe draws Godzilla, part of it is the bizarre idea of the King of Monsters in Hell. I just want to check it out.

I would like to have the EC Comics tribute cover, but IDW is somewhat disingenuous with the way they present their variant covers, or “sub covers” as they call them. From reading their solicitations, a customer might think that if they simply add this comic to their subscription at their Local Comic Book Shop they can get the cover. That is not the case. These are variant covers that retailers get for making a minimum number of orders for specific titles. And for smaller stores the minimum order numbers tend to be ridiculous.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #48 – IDW (175)

Speaking of variant covers, this one by Ryan Browne - who created and designed a number of the original TMNT action figures – is phenomenal. I might actually go out of my way to spend some money on this one.

Joe Frankenstein HC – IDW (187)

So far I’m really enjoying this different take on Frankenstein’s monster. He’s a filthy rich world traveler and adventurer that has been watching Frankenstein’s lineage for centuries. And now the most current ancestor is IN TROUBLE! If you like action, adventure, and monsters I recommend this collection. The series hasn’t all been published yet, so it could just go down the crapper, but I doubt it. 
 
Bloodstrike #1 - Image (208-209)

Morbid curiosity almost had me ordering this. 
 
I’ll be honest – I liked Rob Liefeld until it was pointed out to me that he was not, in fact, a very good artist. Well, not a very consistent artist. I never really noticed issues with his stuff, but there’s no denying the ridiculousness of the pieces that always accompany mentions of Liefeld’s name. That Captain America is just disturbing. 
 
Thinking about Liefeld back in the X-Force and Youngblood days makes me want to take a look at Image and figure out how long I collected each of those original titles. There were some I genuinely enjoyed, some that I was glad to drop, and some that I just lost patience with.

Now my take on Liefeld is that he was a lucky kid that’s grown up into an interesting guy. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, you should. He’s very frank about the comic book industry and more often than not has what I consider to be the wisest and most insightful opinions. Certainly not the most popular, though.

I’m glad he’s got a new book, but in all honesty it just doesn’t look like anything I’d be crazy about. 
 
J. Scott Campbell: Time Capsule HC – Image (211)

Campbell is one of my all-time favorite artists. In today’s climate I honestly fear for the careers of the pin-up guys. I’m sure there will always be a market for drawings of beautiful women, but I can see things going in a direction where guys like Campbell and publishers like Zenescope can’t even show up to certain cons. Liberal fascism is very real, folks, and no less dangerous than the conservative variety.

Star Wars: Lando #1 – Marvel (M78-79)

It’s a pre-Empire Strikes Back title about Lando Calrissian. I’m in. Even if it wasn’t illustrated by the mega-awesome Alex Maleev. I haven’t read much by Charles Soule, but Disney and Marvel seem to be taking these new Star Wars comics pretty seriously, so I have faith.

Archie vs. Sharknado – Archie Comic Publications (269)

Afterlife With Archie is fantastic. Archie vs. Predator was cute but I don’t think I’m continuing it. This… this is enough. Stop. Sharknado is smirking, self-aware garbage. It’s not clever, it’s lazy.
I would, however, be all for Archie vs. Sharktopus.
Nocturnals: Black Planet – Big Wow Art (288)

This gets my highest recommendation. Dan Brereton – the writer and artist – is one of my favorites and this is the first story from his creator-owned Nocturnals series. If you’re into monsters and the supernatural, you have to buy this. It’s an awesome story with amazing artwork.
Hacktivist Vol. 2 #1 – BOOM! (296)

I had no idea Alyssa Milano was creating comic books. From the presence of “activist” in both the title and the description of Milano (actress/activist) I can tell that it’s nothing I would ever want to read, but good for her.
Star Wars #1 DF Exclusive Greg Land Cover – Dynamic Forces (353)

Is it just me or does it kind of look like the Millennium Falcon is flying out of Princess Leia’s butt?
Side Note: On some websites this would have been considered enough material for its own post.
Titan Comics (391-404)

Presented without comment, a selection of blurbs from the publisher’s solicitations:
BASED ON THE NBC TV SHOW!”
THE PERFECT BLEND OF CSI AND HARRY POTTER
AKIRA FOR THE JIM LEE GENERATION!”
BREAKING BAD MEETS ATTACK THE BLOCK
OPTIONED FOR A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE”
SUPERMAN MEETS BLADE RUNNER
IT’S LIKE DEXTER: THE EARFLY YEARS!”
THE ORIGINAL GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY”
FROM DREAMWORKS ANIMATION!”
No comment other than Titan, like Image, has multiple listings for the same titles for some reason.
Batman: Arkham Books (460)

The Batman: Arkham games are my favorite video games ever (except maybe for Flashback). I buy just about anything related to them. I’m definitely more excited about the art book, but I think they’ll both be good. I enjoy these kinds of things as long as they pertain to something I’m way into. They don’t make for good “casual interest” purchases, though. 
 
Companies That Aren’t Making Superhero Shirts In Sizes For Kids (476-487)

Hey, companies – you know who loves wearing superhero shirts even more than I do? My son! But you guys don’t ever offer these in kid sizes. Not even when it’s Super Pets or Robin or Teen Tians(!). 
 
Having said that, amongst these shirts are a few worth noting:
Batgirl: Attitude - Barbara Gordon is one of my favorite characters and Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, and Brenden Fletcher have breathed new life into her after a shaky start in the New 52. There has been this odd surfeit of purple shirts with things that I like on them lately. I certainly don’t need to add any more t-shirts to my brimming full closet, but I can’t pass up cool purple tees.
Transformers: Family Portrait – Not the best designation for a shirt featuring a mix of Autobots and Decepticons, but it’s the Movie-era crew on a purple shirt. I can’t resist.
Hulkamania – Mrs. Troublemaker bought me a shirt that looks exactly like this for $6.96 at Walmart. This one costs $18.99.
Mega Dork Hats (485)

I’ve spent the last few years trying to be a kinder, gentler Phantom. I don’t want to upset people or hurt people’s feelings. I try not to make fun of people or what they do or wear. Which is why I am providing the following Public Service Announcement:
If you wear this style of hat, you are a dork. You look like a dork and everybody that sees you thinks, “What a dork”.
If you wear this style of hat with comic book stuff on it, you are a FUCKING MEGA DORK.
If that’s your choice, then I support your right to choose. But you have chosen to be a FUCKING MEGA DORK.
Ghostbusters Select Action Figures – Diamond Select Toys (490)

Damn, I’m torn on these. I already have the Mattycollector figures, but these look so much better. Except for Tully’s face. I don’t know about that. DST has twelve releases planned. Even if they do each Ghostbuster twice, that still leaves four other characters. I’d like to know the whole lineup before I commit. Then again, Viggo is the only figure I’d really be heartbroken to give up and Matty’s Vigo is pretty big. It might work okay with these guys. Which brings up my main issue with these and all of the other DST figures – the 7” scale. I assume it has something to do with the sculpts being more detailed, but dammit it makes them not fit with any other lines.
I just noticed that the splash page for the figures gives more details – each figure comes with a diorama piece and if you collect all twelve it builds the rooftop scene from the end of the movie. That’s awesome, but it does rope you in to buying all twelve, and I don’t want two of each Ghostbuster if that is, in fact, what they’re doing. The only other characters that seem likely are Louis Tully (happening), Janine Melnitz, Walter Peck, Slimer, and Dana Barrett. I don’t know that DST will delve into the second movie, though Vigo and Janosz would make for two more.
I just have too many questions about this line.
Worf Bank – Diamond Select (491)

You know you want a Worf bank. I want a Worf bank. It looks great. But I want a Worf bank where he’s getting knocked out.


Gotham Select Action Figures – Diamond Select Toys (492)

It’s so weird that DST is doing DC figures. If I were collecting the Flash and Arrow figures I’d be frustrated as heck that these aren’t the same scale, because otherwise they’d look really good together. I’m very tempted to buy just the Penguin figure because I like that character so much, but he wouldn’t fit in anywhere in my collection.
Universal Monsters Select Action Figures – Diamond Select Toys (498)

Well, sonofabitch. There are too many damned toys coming out this month. I held off on buying the original DST Universal Monsters because they weren’t really much of an upgrade from the Sideshow Toys figures I’ve already got. But these are sculpted by Jean St. Jean and feature a ton more articulation, like their Creature from the Black Lagoon. I didn’t buy the DST Van Helsing because he just didn’t look quite right to me, but I really like this Lucy.
Pop! Cthulu Glow-in-the-Dark Vinyl Figure – Funko (514)

This is Gary’s Madness of the Month! Originally an Entertainment Earth Exclusive.
Godzilla Vinyl Wars Wave 10: Napping Godzilla PX Sofubi – Bandai(?) (549)

AKA Playgirl Godzilla, AKA “How You Doin’” Godzilla.
I’m no fan of these ugly Sofubi things, but if there weren’t so many other toys coming out this month I’d order one of these.
DC Comics Hacky Sacks – ? (576)

I am not calling these “footbags”. These are to go with your MEGA FUCKING DORK bucket hats.
Unaffiliated Thoughts

Here’s a thing that occurred to me – I don’t know how I feel about cover artists. As shitty as that sounds coming from the guy that is worried about J. Scott Campbell’s career, I don’t like not knowing what the art on the interior of the book is going to look like. Why can’t the interior artist do the cover? I understand that the publishers want flashy, beautiful covers to grab your attention, but isn’t this deceitful? If the interior artist isn’t talented enough to be featured on the outside of the book, why are they working for you?
This thought has been percolating in my head for a long time. I think the first time this practice bothered me was back in the late 90s when an X-Men book I won’t specify had a regular cover artist and a non-stop series of terrible interior artists. Obviously I know why they did that, but there seems to be a failure of concept if you can’t keep a good artist on a book. Maybe this would make a good podcast. Maybe not.
*****
Image has done a new thing this month where they have put a new section in the middle of their regular section. The new section features all of the titles that were solicited in the regular section separated out by release date. This is handy, but it seems like there could be a better way. And then the collections are listed a third time on a page of their own. Finally, on the last page, everything is listed again in checklist form. Which isn’t a bad idea, but damn, Image. 
 
*****
Wow, Marvel. One new book. I guess I should thank you and DC for saving me so much money with your bloated crossovers.
*****
I’ve got a lot of thoughts this month. This one is about Gotham. It’s not a good show. The pacing is erratic, the stories are muddled and there’s just something about the flow of the narrative that’s very unsatisfying. Additionally, the act of having to constantly go, “This totally opposes everything I know about this franchise” does get exhausting. As many times as I’ve defended Gotham as an Elseworlds type of thing, it does get old.
I’m still watching it because of the characters. Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot is one of the most compelling characters on television right now. Donal Logue is an actor that I’ve always liked and his portrayal of Bullock is great. Jada Pinkett is pure animal menace. Sean Pertwee is a guy that I’ve liked since before I even realized who his dad was. His Alfred is reminiscent of Earth-One Alfred, which I liked a lot (if you haven’t read Batman: Earth-One you really should).
And the rest of the cast are all doing great jobs – Montoya and Allen, Nygma, Falcone, Moroni, Oswald’s mother. These are all interesting characters that I enjoy watching every week. But the stories they’re involved in are not great. I loved Milo Ventimiglia as the Ogre, but his story was so boring and unoriginal. 
 
I hope somebody is aware of the show’s significant problems. I want it to work and I want to see these characters develop and interact over the next three, five, seven years – whatever. But somebody creative and original needs to be brought on board to change things around. They’ve already thrown all existing continuity other than names out the window, so why not just make Gotham its own thing at this point and drop any pretense of telling a backstory for Batman?
You want to know something weird? I work with a bunch of people who are completely oblivious to nerd culture. The people who have watched Gotham or are aware of it in some way think that it is in continuity with not only the Nolan movies, but the older Burton/Schumacher movies as well. They pretty much think that all of these interpretations of Batman are one story. And this isn’t one dude that only watches football and NASCAR. This sis several people, some of whom do watch the comic book movies and shows and stuff.
I didn’t really have a point here other than I think sometimes those of us in the nerd community don’t realize just how insular or world is.

This past Saturday I realized that Game of Thrones is my favorite show ever now. For years it was Buffy, then once I finally watched Firefly that was the winner. But it just hit me while I was talking about TV the other day that no other show has ever gotten me as invested as Game of Thrones. This probably warrants a podcast.
*****
That’s all I’ve got for this month. Start putting your pennies in your Diamond Select figural bank and remember to drop your order form off at your Local Comic Book Shop!

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