Monday, July 6, 2015

Cap's Comics - Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge 1 (405)

It still seems strange to me.  Disney owns Marvel Comics.  And Disney has a long tradition of comics featuring Mickey, Donald and Uncle Scrooge. Yet instead of publishing new comics with these characters under a Marvel imprint, Disney has licensed these core characters to IDW!

Variant Derek Charm Subscription Cover
Uncle Scrooge #1 or legacy #405 contains three stories.  The first story, "Uncle Scrooge vs Gigabeagle King of the Robot Robbers" by Rodolfo Cinino and art by Romano Scarpa pits Uncle Scrooge against the Beagle Boys who of course wish to steal Uncle Scrooge's fortune.  This time the robbers use technology, creating a giant robot beagle who uses his massive strength to make an attempt to swipe Uncle Scrooge's money bin.  The entire Duck crew is called in to keep Uncle Scrooge calm and face down the villains.  The second story, "Pure Viewing Satisfaction" by Alberto Savini with art by Andrea Freccero is a one page tale that features Uncle Scrooge's television viewing habits.  The third story, "Stinker, Tailor, Scrooge and Sly" by Scarpa and Luca Boschi with art by Scarpa demonstrates Uncle Scrooge's cheapness as a robber attempts to steal his very aged jacket.  The story includes Uncle Scrooge attempting to get his coat fixed for free, since the cheap job from over decade ago is finally wearing thin.  The readers discover that the thief has a very important reason for wanting the coat, a secret discovered by the Duck fashion community.  

I have some mixed feelings about the book.  First, the book features Duck experts from the Italian Disney comics scene.  So I do like the idea of them receiving exposure in the United States.  But I did find the story a little slow.  I personally liked the story from Walt Disney Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity.  But the Between Kid still enjoyed the story, it appeared.  Though I was convinced the issue was too slow paced for a young appetite.  And there was a request from issue #2 which has a cover featuring Huey, Dewey and Louie on a pirate ship.  Though I will admit I have not bought it yet.  

I do think this is a great priced comic.  $3.99 for 48 pages!  This price cannot be beat for a monthly title.  So I would say if you want to dip your toe into a comic title these Disney titles may IDW may be a good place to start.
Andrew Pepoy Disney Legacy Adventureland Variant Cover

There are a variety of variant covers.  I did debate buying the Adventureland Variant because of my love of the Jungle Cruise.  I have not paid the higher fee yet, but I will likely continue to debate the purchase every time I go to my local comic shop.

I would say that IDW has treated Uncle Scrooge fine in Uncle Scrooge #1.  Experienced Duck creators are being given a greater exposure.  And the price is very competitive.  I may not grab Uncle Scrooge #2, but I will likely grab Donald Duck #1 just to see if these trends continue. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Between Books - Heir to the Jedi

In Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne, Luke Skywalker wishes to continue his Jedi training.  But he lost his master and teacher before he could even really complete many lessons.  Now the young Rebel finds himself struggling to discover the ways of the Force without a guide.  Luke is tasked to find a new supply route using smugglers.  But before he could complete the new alliance, he finds himself tossed into a mission to save a Slicer, hacker, from the Empire's control.  To save the unseen Slicer, Luke will put his life on the line against an merciless foe just so he can have the supplies needed to free the Empire's prisoner.  Luke does all of this while exploring a new relationship with Rebel Nakari Kelen who may be slowly stealing his heart.  The would be Jedi does all of this while worrying a traitor could be in his midst.

Honestly, this is a small story.  And that is really okay.  The story is told from Luke Skywalker's perceptive which allows you to go into his inner thoughts, and fears about being able to achieve the title Jedi.  It is really a street level story that revolves around 3 people in a galaxy far away.  And again, this is good.  But there is little tension for Luke's future since you know he is going to make it to the next movie, though you spend enough time with the two new figures that some tension can build.

Though it is a small story.  And it never fully pulled me into the tale like I hoped it would.  There are parts horror, parts jail break and parts chase all this in tale and I like those elements in other stories (okay I do not dig horror) but they just did not pull me in like I wanted.  I will admit that the chase element felt really like Tarkin to me, just abbreviated.  I think the issue for me is the promise that Heir to the Jedi was gong to outline how Luke put himself on the path to being a Jedi.  And it does somewhat but never really pays off the way I wanted.

Heir to the Jedi helps shed light on Luke Skywalker's early days as a rebel, how he looked at learning about the Force and his romances an early Rebel.  It was fine book worth a read.  But I would likely recommend a borrow like I did.  Honestly, there is something about Star Wars that works best with a visual element like a comic, cartoon or live-action movie.  But I will admit I really dig seeing the Disney and LucasFilm logos side by side on the back of the book!  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Between Books - A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Volume 1

A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Volume 1 by Andrew Kiste reviews the real world history behind key Walt Disney World attractions. Kiste visits attractions in Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland and Tomorrowland in this volume. The author provides a brief overview of the land and then explores two to three attractions in more depth.

A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Volume 1 is a book for the history junkie! Do you want an extensive history of the Crystal Palace and its place in history? Would you be interested in architectural differences between the original Crystal Palace in London and the Walt Disney World version? Or would you like to know what happened to the original building in London and if it is still standing? If so, this book is one that you would enjoy. Do you watch a movie like Braveheart and then start to breakdown the differences between the real historical events and the movie? If so you might enjoy Kiste’s breakdown of Pirate of the Caribbean and the actions pirates took in real life in comparison to what is seen in the ride. Do you want to know the chances that a pirate would have been surrounded by gold and silver in a treasure room? Then again this book is for you.

Kiste’s writing is clear. But for some it may be too serious in tone at times. He has researched the real life non-Disney historical events and places very well. A good example is the Crystal Palace chapter which includes references to scholarly articles going beyond the typical Disney library.

Do you love history? Are you the person in your circle that enjoys sharing what others would believe are obscure historical facts? If so A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Volume 1 is probably the book for you.

Now I’m sure I will never look at the Crystal Palace in the same way again!

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Between Books - X-Men: Children of the Atom

I have liked the concept of Essential format reprint books, providing a lot of comics for a respectable pennies per page.  But I have not liked how generally these collections have lacked color and relied on black and white to lower the price point.  So when Marvel announced their Epic Collection, reprinting past Marvel comics in collections hundreds of pages in length...and in color...I had to sample one of the volumes.  And since I have never read the original X-Men stories I knew exactly where I needed to go first!

X-Men: Children of the Atom collects X-Men issues 1 through 23 in a 509 plus page collection.  The volume starts as a new student Jean Grey joins  Professor Xavier's private school.  The four other students; Scott Summers, Hank McCoy, Warren Worthington, and Bobby Drake, like Xavier and Grey are mutants.  Mutants are extraordinary humans who have been born with genetic enhancements making them more than human.  Together the five students under Xavier's command form the team the X-Men.  The students have a number of challenges to face from evil mutants like Magneto and the Blob, changing public opinion, mutant hunting robots called Sentinels, and alien entities like the Stranger.  The Mutants must learn to harness their powers and work together if they are to survive this volume!

The opening stories are written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby.  I have discovered I am not always a fan of the King's art.  And I generally am not a fan of his work in this volume.  For me what stands out is Stan Lee's writing.  That is not to say that much of it is not corn, because it is corn.  But as Walt Disney would point out, corn sells.  What Lee did was construct five solid young people that teens could relate to even today.  The group has relationship problems and struggle with concerns about fitting in.  And even decades later these themes stand out.  And I found myself shocked by how X-Men standards like Magneto and the Sentinels appeared so early in Marvel history.  Lee is eventually replaced on the title by Roy Thomas, who wrote Marvel's original Star Wars comics. And one can sit back and see how Thomas was attempting to build on Lee's work, while being really really wordy.  And I think both of them really focused on giving Proffessor X very specfic time measurements.

I still am confused on whey these issues have multi-colored word balloons.  Seriously, it is not like the baloons are color coded! 

Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Ice-Man, the Angel and Professor Xavier have a long and storied comic history.  And the X-Men has always been one of my favorite super teams.  I loved this Epic Collection and found myself hungering for more.  I personally dove into every one and then washed it down with an episode of The Danger Room podcast, which I highly recommend, and was saddened when I ran out of issues in this collection to enjoy.  I look forward to future X-Men Epic Collections, and have already dove into another Epic Collection enthusiastically.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Between Books - Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago...Volume 2

I have been reading a ton of Star Wars comics with the recent Marvel releases.  In fact, I have been struggling with which ones I should continue with in the future.  But one I thing I know for sure is that I will be reading all of the classic Marvel comics thanks to Between Books.

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago…Volume 2 collects issues 28 through 48 and annual #1.  The majority of the issues are written by Archie Goodwin with art by Carmine Infantino.   Though not all issues are written and penned by this duo with Chris Claremont authoring the annual and Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon providing art for The Empire Strikes Back adaptation.  The majority of issues before the movie adaptation revolve around the industrial Tagge family and their grudge against a young rebel named Luke Skywalker.  The powerful and vengeful Tagges will use connections to politics, industry, military and religion to attack Luke and his friends.  The action climaxes with a lightsaber battle between Luke and Baron Tagge.  With the Tagges revealing their hatred, Darth Vader manipulates the family for his own evil purposes.  The Marvel original issues are then broken up with the film adaptation.  After The Empire Strikes Back, Lando and Chewbecca seek out Han.  And the issues transition from major continuing arcs to one-shots with revolving artists and writers.

When I was a kid every other time I was sick I read one book.  I tore through Scholastic paperback sized Empire Strikes Back Marvel collection.  And I will admit there are images from the film that I know better through the comic than through the movie itself.  It has been at least a decade if not two since I last read this adaptation.  And to me this multi-issue arc still really holds up to this day.  I do not mean to criticize Carmine Infantino, but I really enjoy the change to the Williamson art.  Williamson and Garzon just seem to be able to handle some key characters like Chewbecca quite a bit better than Infantino.  It is more realistic and less cartoony.  Seriously though, this collection gets five stars from me just by including this adaptation. 

The Tagge saga was new to me.  And it takes up a good portion of the collection.  Honestly, Goodwin did a good job creating a villain that felt Star Wars.  And I mostly bought it when Baron Tagge and Luke went lightsaber to lightsaber.  To be fair, Luke was new to this style of fighting so it was believable that a non-Jedi could hope to match Luke…but probably not Vader.  My biggest confusion was the relation of s film character name Tagge and these Tagges…the answer is no relation!  And that is key to understand since the original Tagge is currently present in today’s Marvel comics.

Hey…Chewy said Groot!

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago…Volume 2 collects over 20 classic Marvel Star Wars comics.  The stories overall feel like Star Wars and help me come to the conclusion that Star Wars works best with a visual element.  And I am impressed with the episodic storytelling that the pages provide.  But most of all, this volume contains a classic story that was a big part of my childhood.  


Monday, June 1, 2015

Between Books - Son of Faster Cheaper

When I opened the envelope and saw the book I knew Son of Faster Cheaper was different than most Between Books.  This half-sized book reminded me of the cartoon books that I would often check out as a kid collecting newspaper comics.  And that was really not where the parallel ended.

Son of Faster Cheaper: A Sharp Look Inside the Animation Business by Floyd Norman showcases cartoons drawn by Norman during his 50 plus years in animation at studios including Disney, Hannah-Barbera and Pixar.  The cartoons are arranged in themed chapters that include glimpses of “Working for Walt”, Disney under the Eisner era, the “Animation Boom”, Norman’s forced “retirement” from Disney, and more.  The typical page is filled with one of Norman’s cartoons with maybe a sentence or two of commentary about what his image was capturing about the studios.  The book includes several negative perspectives about Michael Eisner and his era.  And being a story artist he attacks the mistreatment of animators and studio artists. 

One of the things that Norman does not back away from is Walt Disney.  And he does not give Walt, who I have always been under the impression Norman respected, an easy time.  He does show in his images the grumpy Walt who could be tough on struggling story men.  And his Disney model is very much an older gentleman with a hump and cigarette who is tougher older businessman than Uncle Walt.  And one gets the feeling he can capture the tough side of Walt with “love.”  But the man he does not appear to love is Michael Eisner and his stream of vice presidents.  Norman paints the Eisner era as one of greed with images of Eisner retooling the new Animation building and leading Disney animation through high profits for the few and never the animators.  Though, Frank Wells does seem to get a fairly positive depiction in his cartoons. 

Norman also depicts the work of animation.  In one chapter he captures in images the thankless job of the story artist, which very much feels like a visual representation of some of the themes found in Mouse in Transition.  And he also provides his thoughts on animation directors, having worked with both good and bad ones.

Norman’s images are simple.  But many of them are striking.  For some reason his depictions of the new Animation building really caught my attention, showing the state of things as he saw them under Eisner.  And much like those cartoon books of my childhood, Norman gave me several chuckles.

Son of Faster Cheaper is a quick and easy to read.  It helped me remember cartoon books of my childhood.  Personally, I like having a physical copy of this book in my hands, just so I can flip through the cartoons drawn by a legend.  And I found myself happy to see that future volumes by Norman, which I assume will be similar, are forthcoming in the future. 

I guess like when I was a kid, I like a good gag!

Review Copy Provided by Theme Park Press    

Monday, May 25, 2015

Between Books - Before Tomorrowland

It takes a lot of people to put together a movie as big as Tomorrowland.  And apparently the same can be said with tie-in books.  Before Tomorrowland by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case, with a story by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird and Jensen and art by Jonathan Case offers the early history of Tomorrowland to the fans anxiously awaiting for the film.  Will Before Tomorrowland make me more excited for the film or cool my enthusiasm.  

It’s July 1939 and Lee Brackett is making a hasty trip to New York City with his mother.  The trip is well, not a good idea, as Clara Brackett is fighting the cancer that is physically wrecking her body.  But she insists on this trip so she can visit a science fiction convention sponsored by a group called Plus Ultra.  For Plus Ultra, a group of the world’s greatest thinkers including Nikola Telsa, Howard Hughes and Albert Einstein,  the convention is actually a dress rehearsal of their public reveal of their greatest secret…another world!   While the Bracketts are invited to play the game through a comic book that will lead them to the other world, their lives are further put at risk.  A former Plus Ultra scientist, Werner Rotwang,  is collaborating with the Nazis to steal Plus Ultra’s technological advancements.  And in the middle is the mind of a man trapped in a robot body that has a grudge against Plus Ultra.  To make things worse, the man has been abused by Rotwang.  Will the Bracketts be able to survive this struggle?   Can the presumed dead security head of Plus Ultra Amelia Earhart be able to protect the Bracketts and her Plus Ultra colleagues.  And will anyone figure out a really cool name for the Other World?  The book closes with a copy of the comic book used by Plus Ultra to invite visionaries to visit their Other World.  

Before Tomorrowland is a Young Adult novel that is also targeted to Disney geeks like me who are overflowing with enthusiasm for the movie!   It is my excitement for the movie which lead me to do something I really do not do anymore, buy a physical fictional book.  Now, my overall assessment of my investment is that the book is fine but a three or four on a five point scale not a five.  The plot is fairly low key to me and is not overly complex.  Being a Young Adult book it is really written to that audience not an adult market.  So at times it just really did not keep me excited.  Second, someone who is excited about Tomorrowland really does not need to read this to stay excited.  I do not feel like I have been spoiled on much.  I feel like I know more about the history of Plus Ultra, understand that robots are very important in Tomorrowland and the history of some early Tomorrowland development.  And I am guessing that everything I need to know about these topics will be evident in the movie.  I would say that most who consider reading Before Tomorrowland should consider a borrow not a buy.  

Though written for an young adult audience the book is at times very adult.  There is a lot of death.  The book contains graphic scenes of violence.  And there are plenty of folks with questionable morals running around.  So maybe it would not be the best choice for some younger readers.    

You should be aware that the Before Tomorrowland book on Kindle is not the same as the print copy.  The Kindle version, which is free, is the comic book portion of the book.  The good news is you can get this short comic to help prep yourself for the movie for free.  The bad news is I wanted a Kindle version of the whole book to save shelf space and a few bucks.  So I find myself somewhat confused on why a digital copy is not being offered by Disney of the full book.    

Before Tomorrowland really did not change my enthusiasm for Tomorrowland.  I am still excited, at time of writing, to see this film which I hope will feature the ideas of progress that Walt Disney held dear.  And I am pumped to see what Brad Bird will do with translating a theme park land into a fictional story.  But if you are less excited than me, I would recommend reading this book but perhaps borrowing instead of buying.