Dave's Capsules for July 2018

Archive of older reviews

Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): My Little Pony:
Friendship is Magic #67-68.

In this installment: Ant Man and the Wasp, Luke Cage Season 2 (the rest), The Princess Who Saved Herself, Ms. Marvel #32, Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl & Ms. Marvel #1, Deathstroke #33, Future Quest Featuring Frankenstein Jr. #12, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest #1 (of 6), Smoketown #8 (of 8), Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Comic Free Preview, Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #5 (of 6), Real Science Adventures: the Nicodemus Job #1 (of 5?), My Little Pony Ponyville Mysteries #3, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #67-68, Transformers Bumblebee #1-2, Transformers Lost Light #19-21, Optimus Prime #20-21, Transformers Unicron #1-2 (of 6).

Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Amazingly, nothing.  Everything actually arrived the week it was supposed to, even.

"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.
This blocking pissed off the
"How dare they put Wasp in the
Man Pose, and Ant-Man in the
Woman Pose!"

Ant Man and the Wasp: Marvel - This was basically a string of macguffin hunts rather than a strict "caper" film.  Sometimes the protagonists are after the macguffin, sometimes the antagonists are, sometimes the antagonists have a different macguffin and the protagonists need to get it back, etc.  All against the backdrop of "Scott has two days left on his house arrest and can't afford to get caught doing anything shady."  Aside from the in-credits and post-credits scenes, it's all set before Infinity War Part 1, so it gets to stay pretty light-hearted.  If I have a significant complaint about the movie it's that Jimmy Woo runs a little too much towards comic relief, although it would be amusing to see this version of Jimmy find out he's heir to the leadership of the Agents of Atlas.  Recommended.

Luke Cage Season 2: Marvel/Netflix - I liked the full season quite a bit more than I expected to, based on the slow start.  It probably would have worked better as a tight 8 episodes (something that can be said for almost every Marvel Netflix season), but overall I give it a solid Recommended.
My earlier Fifth World column expands significantly on this, with plenty of spoilers.

Digital Content:

Unless I find a really compelling reason to do so, I won't be turning this into a webcomic review column.  Rather, stuff in this section will be full books available for reading online or for download, usually for pay.  I will often be reading these things on my iPhone if it's at all possible.

Nothing this month, although I would have gotten the digital version of the MST3K comic preview if I hadn't found the hardcopy at my local store.


Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever.  If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.

The Princess Who Saved Herself: Worldbuilders - This actually came out a few years ago, but when Greg Pak held a fundraiser for RAICES (legal help for refugees, notably helping with the whole "stolen children" thing), I picked this up.  It's an illustrated version of the Jonathan Coulton song of the same name.  32 pages long, usually with a single illustration and two or three lines of text per page, but Pak breaks it up with some two page spreads and some pages with two illustrations.  I haven't actually heard the song until I went looking for it while writing this review, and there's actually not a lot of lines from the song in this book.  Maybe four or five pages match up, Pak wrote a new story using elements from the song (and Takeshi Miyasawa drew it).  Very good art, decent kiddie story.  Recommended.  $20 pricetag.  


No, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they are floppy, yes?  (And not all of them come out monthly, or on a regular schedule in general, so I can't just call this section "Monthlies" or even "Periodicals" as that implies a regular period.)

Ms. Marvel v2 #32: Marvel - The basic premise of this issue is that Kamala and Bruno are trying to...not "fix their relationship," really, but find some new way they can be friends without it being emotionally weird.  Other kinds of weird are kinda inevitable, though.  So they try bonding through science, as implied by the cover art...and naturally things don't go quite as planned.  Recommended.  $3.99

Marvel Rising Squirrel Girl & Ms. Marvel #1: Marvel - In my review of Alpha #1 I called this a four-issue miniseries using four number ones, but it turns out it's really a six issue miniseries.  This issue has a Squirrel Girl story by Ryan North (and guest-starring Ms. Marvel), and then a Ms. Marvel story by G. Willow Wilson (guest-starring Squirrel Girl), with Devin Grayson doing the arc-stitching-together work.  In the process, they slowly build up the team that will be featured in the upcoming cartoon, both calling in help on purpose and running into the "hey, superheroes gotta go to school SOMEWHERE, right?" concidences that kicked off this teamup in the first place.  Recommended.  $5.99

Deathstroke #33: DC - In which Damien Wayne spends an issue trying to troll Deathstroke, who just mentally sighs and goes along with it.  The whole deal of this arc is that pretty much everyone with a speaking role knows that the apparent plan is not the real plan, that it's all a ploy of some sort, but no one is entirely sure what the real plan is, whose plan it is, or if it's even worth finding out.  I mean, at some point one of Batman's or Deathstroke's plans is going to acquire memetic sentience (no, not like Brother Eye, I mean the plan itself with no actual computer running it becomes self-aware) and no one's going to have any idea what the deal is.  Heck, that might even be what's happening here.  Recommended.  $3.99

Forget about the giant robot, who gave
Johnny Sokko a handgun?
Future Quest Presents: Frankenstein Jr. #12: DC - A done-in-one story catching up on what Frankie Jr. has been up to since the climax of the maxiseries.  FEAR has developed a sort of kaiju critter, and (most of the) upgrades to Frankie are ready (more or less) in time to deal with it.  The main question asked by this story is, "Why does a thinking-machine giant robot need a Johnny Sokko type anyway?"  Giant Robo had no independent thinking ability, Frankenstein Jr. does, so why should Buzz be anywhere near the site of a fight?  The answer is a touch contrived, but so are giant robots in the first place, so I'll allow it.  Recommended.  $3.99

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest #1 (of 6): Top Shelf/Knockabout - So, the overt storyline is that this is a pastiche of The Tempest, one of the main Shakespeare works I have neither seen nor read.  But I suspect that just knowing the very basic outline is more than enough, since the obscure bits are all add-ons...such as extensive James Bond lore, or 1950s British comics, or social satire of a hundred or so years ago.  The plot, shockingly, seems pretty straightforwards: the trio from Century is regrouping and trying to get their bearings while a time-traveler from an oppressive 30th Century (with its own just-off-camera version of the LSH) finally remembers her mission and it brings her across Mina's path.  Lots of style changes and flashbacks/forwards and so forth, and the usual inundation of direct references and "serial numbers filed off" references (Jess Nevins has already annotated the issue).  Based on past performance, I'm guessing that this will not end with the liberation of the oppressed future in any sort of way that the inhabitants would have wanted (more like massive destruction and death and insanity), but Mina will survive.  Recommended mostly for the reference-catching, too soon to tell if the story itself will have been worth reading.  $4.99/$6.99Cn

Smoketown #8 (of 8): Scout Comics - I'll also be covering the series as a whole, because I decided a few issues back that this really wasn't meant to be read as a serial.  So, speaking of Shakespeare, this definitely has the general arc of one of his tragedies.  There is a great injustice at the start, it slowly looks like things might get better, and then almost everyone dies in the final act, bringing justice of a sort.  In some ways the serial nature did help in the sense of giving readers time to speculate before being proven right or wrong, and if it had actually managed a monthly schedule the dislocation from the series moving around in the timeline wouldn't have been so bad, but it definitely makes for a clearer read all at once.  In some ways, this story is like one of those songs about being stuck in a dying small town ("Allentown," "They Always Come Home," etc) but with more killing of the actual people.  Appalachian Gothic, small towns have their secrets, and no one can really ever escape.  Recommended, but maybe wait for the trade and read it all at once (some of the individual issues are no longer available).  $3.99

Mystery Science Theater 3000 the Comic (free preview): Dark Horse - Riffing on comics is intrinsically difficult, because even in badly done ones the flow of the art is important.  If you just slap a Shadowrama under every panel, it messes with that, something pointed out in the extra pages found in the online version of this free comic (I got the hardcopy, but also looked at the online one).  I vaguely recall Marvel trying to do a MST-style book back in the 90s, maybe as a feature in something else, but it never really worked out.  So they're taking the hard way: redrawing everything to put Jonah and the bots into an old teen comic, and relettering it so that both the original dialogue and the snide asides have room (and can be told apart).  Todd Nauck draws the framing story, while Mike Manley redraws the teen reporter comic.  Loads of people are listed on the writing credits, basically a regular riffing team.  I'm not sold on the comic, though, as it feels like they're overexplaining some of the jokes, afraid that readers won't Get It.  Something to keep an eye out for the trade paperback, perhaps, in the hopes that they find their groove after a few issues.

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #5 (of 6): Dark Horse - This issue is dominated by vignettes of all the other ideas Warren had for set pieces, but which would have pushed this to a very draggy 12 issue series if they'd all played out at the same pace as the first few issues.  It ends up feeling like, "Yeah, we're tired of this too, on to the main fight scene."  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Real Science Adventures: the Nicodemus Job #1 (of 5?): IDW - It's a year before the first set of Crusaders tries to take Byzantium, and a disgraced former Advocatus is hired to steal back some stolen property...and the thief in this case has legal backing, and was the many who destroyed the life and reputation of the former lawman.  So, it's your basic Ethical Caper Movie plot, in which rogues go after the real villains, etc.  This issue is basically the "get the team together" part, with a flashback or two that establishes how some of them know each other.  At the time the issue saw print, all the installments had been posted on atomic-robo.com, but I still like having these in hardcopy form.  Recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony Ponyville Mysteries #3: IDW - A spot of arson in an old folks' home, fairly by the numbers story.  Mostly notable for featuring Scootaloo's "aunts" who take care of her while her parents are out of town (which they usually are).  Unsurprisingly, fanon holds that one aunt is an aunt by marriage (to the other aunt), but this is not something addressed in any form in the comic.  In fact, it's not even made clear until later in the issue that Scootaloo lives with them.  And yeah, the fact I'm rambling about them rather than the actual story should be a clue how engaged I was by the actual story.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

"Friendship is horse apples."
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #67-68: IDW - Well, both issues came out this month, and it's a two-part story, so fair enough to review them together.  This is the story of what became of Tempest Shadow after the movie, as she wandered the world trying to find a place for herself.  Lots of good snark as Tempest criticizes various elements of Equestrian society, and grumpy Tempest on the cover of #68 really needs to be made available as a poster.  Very strong finish to the story, which despite taking plenty of opportunities to mock the ideals of friendship and the like ends up showing Tempest that those ideals are still important.  They don't take the same form for everyone.  And if her face turn in the movie felt abrupt and contrived, Whitley and Price do a great job of justifying it here.  Strongly recommended.  $3.99 each.

Transformers Bumblebee #1-2 (of 4): IDW - The official prequel to the upcoming movie definitely puts the "reboot" into "soft reboot" here, since 1960s Bumblebee can talk.  And does.  A LOT.  It's essentially a spy movie spoof/homage (it's never quite sure if it's being serious or not), featuring Bumblebee working with not-James-Bond and not-Emma-Peel for MI6 while Decepticons work with the KGB.  Well, use them and discard them.  Anyway, if this were an "Elseworlds" like Hearts of Steel (before they retconned it into being part of the main timeline afterall), I'd probably have enjoyed it more for what it was.  But not only does this not feel like it fits into the movieverse (and that's hard to do, given how loosely the five movies fit with each other in the first place), it doesn't really feel like any version of Bumblebee.  And there's been a lot of versions of Bumblebee.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99 each.

Transformers Lost Light #19-21: IDW - Yes, THREE issues came out this month, as I expected would need to happen for the final issue #25 to come out around the same time as Unicron #6.  A different artist pencils each issue, but at least there's a single artist throughout the whole issue each time, rather than a mishmash.  These issues form parts 1-3 of The Crucible arc, even though #18 ended on a cliffhanger.  I suppose The Crucible really started a few pages before the end of #18, after they'd figured out they broke the afterlife but before the sparkeaters popped out of a spatial rift.  Anyway, this arc is about the last chance to wrap up danglers before finding some way to get the crew involved in the Unicron event, and there's no guarantee they'll even get to that party on time if this is a 7 part arc.  :)  Anyway, lots of run and gun.  #19 has them purely on the defensive, falling back and trying to find a moment to catch their breath, #20 is the counterattack and boss fights, #21 is "Oh, you thought THAT was the boss fight?  Here's the actual boss!" but not yet fighting.  Rodimus gets a nice bit of dialogue in #21 about how much weird cosmic stuff they've already dealt with as a team, and how he's finding it increasingly hard to feel particularly threatened by the next "oh, this is the final boss" encounter.  It's all a bit frantic, thanks to the need to wrap it all up on someone else's timetable, so there isn't room to let some of the bits breathe properly, but it's still pretty good.  Also, fairly clever fake-out in #21 regarding the Grand Architect's plans.  Recommended.  $3.99 each.

Optimus Prime #20-21: IDW - Only two issues here, but this title wasn't as far behind.  But where Lost Light is pretty much its own thing, Unicron #1 comes out of the end of Optimus Prime #21, so kinda bad ordering anyway.  And there's still signs of being pressed for time, with the Maximals being thrown around as mindless goons with no real chance to be used as CHARACTERS.  I mean, Optimus Primal and T.rex Megatron are on the cover of #20, but they're just random goons.  Optimus and Bumblebee need to get out of their predicament, but since we've already seen them in Unicron #0 we know they get out (hey, this is Transformers...in any other year, they could have both been left in the black hole for a while or just assumed dead, it's not like neither has been dead before).  Oh, and on the topic of covers, Zama's art on #21 makes it kinda unclear who is rescuing whom, but it turns out to be a pretty important moment in the issue, and one much-discussed among fans.  On the insides, the art is a mishmash of multiple pencilers as they try to get on schedule, rather than giving each issue wholly to one person like Lost Light did.  Zama, Pitre-Durocher, and Ramondelli take turns being kinda confusing.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers Unicron #1-2 (of 6): IDW - And here it is, the big slobberknocker that's supposed to put a bow on the IDW continuity before going on to whatever the next continuity is.  Lots of running battles and losing planets to Unicron, evacuating refugees, etc.  Starscream decides to take advantage of the confusion and rallies the Decepticons to his literal banner once more, claiming he has a plan that can stop Unicron.  Since it's only #2, it's not remotely a spoiler to say that his plan fails in probably the worst possible way.  But hey, give him credit for a sincere effort.  Visually, #1 is a jumbled mess on purpose, to give the feeling of chaos and desperation, with lots of big battle scenes.  #2 slows down a bit, with more of the conflict being of personalities as everyone debates what to do now.  Each issue has a backup feature in which one of the other properties (Rom in #1, GIJoe in #2) gets to deal with the events of Unicron's passage.  Barber writes and Milne draws the main stories in each issue, while the backups are done by other creative teams (probably ones who worked on those books, but I didn't really get either series).  There's also text features in which various IDW creators look back on their work.  Recommended.  $4.99 each.

Dvandom, aka Dave Van Domelen, is an Assistant Professor of Physical Science at Amarillo College, maintainer of one of the two longest-running Transformers fansites in existence (neither he nor Ben Yee is entirely sure who was first), long time online reviewer of comics, finished up his summer class tonight and no one failed, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"Could it be there are no true monsters?  Are they all just hurt children trying to regain something they've lost?" - Tempest Shadow, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #68
Dave's Capsules for July 2018 Dave's Capsules for July 2018 Reviewed by Dvandom on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 Rating: 5
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