Dave's Capsules for October 2018

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell (overall story rather than any single issue, so maybe wait for the trade).

In this installment: Daredevil Season 3 (episodes 1-9), Monster Atlas vol 1: the Americas, Spider Force #1 (of 3), Ms. Marvel v2 #35, Deathstroke #36, Catalyst Prime Astonisher #11, The Wrong Earth #2, Captain Ginger #1, Empowered and Sistag Spooky's High School Hell #6 (of 6), My Little Pony Nightmare Knights #1 (of 5), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #71, Transformers Bumblebee Prequel #4 (of 4), Optimus Prime #24, Transformers Unicron #5 (of 6).

Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order)Nothing. Weather on the East Coast did make several shipments arrive a day late, though.

"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. 
The angst, it burns!

Daredevil Season 3 (episodes 1-9): Marvel/Netflix - It's a competition between Kingpin and Daredevil to see who can be the most emo in the opening episodes.  But only one of them is sincerely emo...three guesses which one, and the first two don't count.  This season is based loosely on a 1980s Grim And Gritty arc that I never read, so I was pleasantly surprised by some of the plot twists that I didn't know were coming, but generally found the relentless drumbeat of "heroism just gets you killed, evil will always win" to be offputting.  The storytelling was good enough to keep me from dumping the series, and I'll admit to only having gotten the first 9 episodes watched at the point of posting this review, so it might turn around.  Still, this is definitely a story about how the villain became ascendant, and I prefer my "all powerful villain" types starting the story in that position so that stories can be about opposing and overthrowing them, not about losing to them every single episode.  Mildly recommended.

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.


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

Atlas himself is not a monster, and not
from the Americas anyway.

Monster Atlas volume 1: The Americas: International Monstergraphic (Kickstarter) - Just as a real atlas won't show every community, road, or body of water, this doesn't show all cryptids, movie monsters, or legends.  It's more of a cross-section, hitting the big names and a selection of lesser-known monsters that attracted the attention of the writer and artist, Glenn Kay and Greg "Lethargic Lad" Hyland.  (There's also some guest art by Gerhard, John Kovalic, Paul Pelletier, Bob Cram, and John Kalisz...which was part of the Kickstarter stretch goals.)  Except for a handful of beasts that get expanded entries with the guest artists, each monster gets a half page, with an illustration by Hyland and a short description/history of the monster.  All of the monsters are treated as potentially real, with monsters from fiction treating the stories as being documentary in nature or based on true events, so Jason Voorhees is taken as seriously as Mothman or the Wendigo.  There is a rough division of monsters into Cryptids, Folklore (something of a blurry line between those two), Literature, TV/Movies, and Other (which includes video game characters like Pyramidhead and sports mascots like the Phillie Phanatic...too bad it went to press too early to include Gritty).  Even though not everything is included that could have been, there's an awful lot of lake serpents and squatch-like cryptids, to the point I just started skipping over the serpent entries...gee, another case of ripples on the water being mistaken for a serpentine body, yay.  Now, unless you're a fan of Greg Hyland's Lethargic Lad work (which involves a fair number of public domain movie monsters seen in this volume), you might find this Atlas to be a bit underwhelming, especially if you have to pay for the fairly exorbitant cost of shipping from Canada to the U.S.  But if you can pick it up in some other way, or live in Canada, it's decent value ($45 Cdn was the Kickstarter price, shipping was almost that much on top!).  It's not a scholarly tome like Jess Nevins's Encyclopedias of Victoriana or pulp, but it's a good cross-section of monsters of the Americas.  Mildly recommended.  Available from www.lethargiclad.com/monsteratlas for those who missed the Kickstarter.


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.)

Spider-Force #1 (of 3): Marvel - Priest gets involved in the latest Spider-Crossover, Spider-Geddon.  The baddies from Spider-Verse have gotten loose thanks to Doc Ock's overweening pride, and it's time for more death, destruction, and fate of the multiverse stuff.  Spider-Force's role in this is a "race to the macguffin" story, with Kaine assembling a team of mostly veterans of Spider-Verse to go on a suicide mission.  Spider-Kid, a newbie, is added in so that there's someone to explain the plot to.  As a result, even though I'm not following Spider-Geddon in general, I picked up on all the important bits.  (There's more than a little Woody 2.0 in Spider-Kid's personality, BTW.)  As is Priest's wont, the action starts in media res, and then we get flashbacks for assembling the team and getting into deep trouble.  Artist Siqueira is decent, but way too enamored of "character leaps towards the viewer" layouts.  Recommended mostly for the banter.  $3.99

Ms. Marvel v2 #35: Marvel - Last issue was all the revelations, now it's cleanup time, albeit with a few last reveals (mostly answering Shocker's motives, since it wasn't purely for the lulz).  Nico Leon is a bit more standard of a superhero artist, but still manages to pack the backgrounds with the sort of Jersey characters and side stories that the book is known for.  Solid "everyone gets to be useful and have agency" resolution, plus a long-standing subplot gets some forwards motion.  Recommended.  $3.99

Deathstroke #36: DC - Flashback's over, now we're back to where we left Deathstroke at the end of Defiance: in Arkham.  Even in the real world, it's depressingly easy to commit someone for observation if powerful people want that someone out of the way, and since Deathstroke is currently seeing Virtual Wintergreen despite the lack of any hardware, it's not even too hard to manage it.  Something of an occupational hazard when you repeatedly find ways to technically avoid the law, eventually you piss off people who are technically able to abuse the law.  So it's into the Bat-Looney-Bin for Slade, and they've found a decent compromise between the therapeutic benefits of letting everyone socialize in costume...and being a complete sieve.  Of course, due to the vagaries of the Batbooks, everyone seen here has to be a character that Bat-editorial doesn't think will show up outside Arkham any time soon, so no Joker(s).  But a pretty good cross-section nonetheless, including one or two JLA villains...and one guy we've never seen anywhere before, who's just one of the non-supervillain crazies that end up in Arkham.  I mean, statistically there have to be a few, yes?  This one seems to be a fan of Priest's Marvel writing, quoting from it occasionally.  He's also important to the plot, which takes a severe left turn off the rails (and off the planet) when it turns out maybe he's not delusional?  Of course, he could be delusional AND right, it does happen.  Recommended.  $3.99

Catalyst Prime Astonisher #11 (vol 3 #2): Lion Forge - The really aggressive time-shifting continues, although it's less about the general "what happened between #9 and #10" stuff, and more about the specific "who's this lady who shot the protagonist in the head at the end of #10" question, and trying to prevent the whole head-shooting.  There's some present-day heroics mixed in to show what a jerk the protagonist is, but how maaaaaybe he might be learning to be slightly less of one?  Also, this universe's Hosun runs a Korean pizza place that the protagonist likes.  Probably slightly safer than doing tech support for Deathstroke.  Probably.  The story is still pretty aggressively nonlinear and hard to follow despite the timestamp captions, maybe it'll hang together better once some critical mass is reached.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

The Wrong Earth #2: Ahoy Comics - Hey, so innocent doesn't mean stupid.  Nor does it necessarily mean innocent by modern standards. We get more of each Dragonfly(man) in the other's reality, and see that the "Adam West" one has more than a little Doc Savage in him, and can be quite ruthless in his own way, while the grim and gritty one shows he isn't all rage and determination as he meets the dead-in-his-world Robin expy.  The backup "classic adventure" story lands with something of a thud, pushing the "defender of the status quo" criticism of golden age heroes past the breaking point as Dragonflyman fights a pretty weak strawman...next to the subtle menace of Doc Savagefly in the main story, the backup feels like a college freshman's first attempt at edgy satire.  It's like he saw where Peyer was going with Earth-Alpha's Dragonflyman and decided that more extreme is always better.  The text pieces are a mixed bag, with Ingman's "Lackey Luck" being pretty good, Kek-W's "How To Tell If You're A Time Traveler" feeling like it was thrown together while waiting for pizza to arrive, and Mark Russell's "Microwave Directions for Your Chicken-Fried Steak Entree" just being moderately amusing in its weirdness.  Overall, mildly recommended.  $3.99

Captain Ginger #1: Ahoy Comics - The solicitations made this sound like "Star Trek, but with cats," but the high concept is closer to "What if humans got wiped out by a genetic plague, but before they all died they uplifted enough cats to run a starship?"  Unfortunately, writer Stuart Moore can't decide if this is a LOLcats In Space or a serious piece of SF, and the tone of the story just thrashes around almost at random.  Similarly, the textpieces wobble between goofy and grim.  This isn't the sort of "humor that arises naturally within a desperate situation" deal either, it's just incongruity.  Some good ideas, but just not very well executed.  Neutral, I will not be picking up #2.  $3.99

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #6 (of 6): Dark Horse - While most of the issues of this series did a decent job of balancing the contributions of the two title characters, ultimately this was Sistah Spooky's story.  Her origins, her baggage coming back to haunt her, her high school nemeses.  So, naturally, it has to be Spooky who ultimately deals with the threat, with Emp playing supporting cast to keep Spooky alive long enough to figure it out.  One of the recurring themes in all the Empowered stories is "can you be comfortable in your own skin?"  In selling her soul for hawtness, Spooky merely deferred the question, whereas Emp has been dealing with it for pretty much the entire series (hence, she's never quite as rattled by the Evil Blondes, and her "Yeah, you can't really get under my skin" before the climax doesn't cut any ice with the Final Ashl**, since it's really Spooky's skin that matters.  Emp gets to reinforce how far she's come, but what's important in this story is how far her former nemesis Sistah Spooky has come.  Recommended.  $3.99

Real Science Adventures: the Nicodemus Job #4 (of 5): IDW - Now is the point in the caper when all the wheels come off, the cart plunges over a cliff into a fiery abyss, and yet somehow they keep it all together even as certain parts of the library start to resemble the Stateroom Scene from A Night At The Opera.  The reader is left wondering how much of the chaos is part of the original plan, how much is going the way the protagonists hoped it would when forced to improvise, and how much is "Oh crap, this isn't good."  Some aspects do seem to be shaping up according to plan, at least, if not always at the right time...the right thing at the wrong time can be worse than the wrong thing at the right time, after all.  If they didn't have to wrap it up in one more issue I'd wonder if the chaos would just keep escalating until the Crusaders sacked the city (which might even help the plan by that point).  The backup brings in Emir, the Muscle, and rounds out the "how they met" stories, so it's possible that the final issue will devote all its pagecount to the main story.  Or maybe the backup will be a "where they are a few years later" deal?  Recommended.  $3.99

"Gentlecolts, let's steal ourselves a Moon."
My Little Pony Nightmare Knights #1 (of 5): IDW - From a caper movie set in ancient Byzantium to a caper movie set in an alternate reality Equestria!  The high concept is that for reasons adequately explained in this issue, Luna needs to assemble a team of skilled individuals who can honestly say that they have been villains at some point in their lives, and get them to be heroes.  Hey, if we can't get Tempest in the cartoon because of the voice actress being too expensive, I'm fine with her appearing in more comics.  Good start, recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #71: IDW - While the cartoon's Halloween episode was actually a Christmas episode this year, the comics are free to actually put out a Halloween issue in October, so that's what they did.  It takes place during Peter Parker's fresh...er, during the first year of the School of Friendship, with the Student Six experiencing their first Nightmare Night together, at the Grim Grinning Gala.  The opening two page (well, the top 2/3 of two pages) splash is a total easter egg hunt, including Celestia as Elvis, Luna as Joan Jett, a bunch of unnamed ponies as the Peanuts gang, the CMC as the Three Stooges, Lyra and Bon-Bon as Leia and Uhura, and someone as Optimus Prime.  The main plot is that the Mane 6 arrange for the Student 6 to experience a haunted house, but everyone contributes elements without checking with the others, and what was meant to be scary fun ends up genuinely dangerous.  Meanwhile, in the margins, Andy Price does little Aragones-inspired doodles.  The main lesson is "Coordinate your plans, dummies," but the other one is about how Yaks deal with fear, with Yona getting to be the hero.  (Side note: the Student 6 don't have a theme to their costumes, and only some even wear 'em, but the Mane 6 are all Universal Monsters.  Pinkie is the Gill-man, Fluttershy is the Wolfman, Spike is the Mummy, Twi is Igor, Rarity is Chaney's Phantom of the Opera, Dash is Frankenstein's Monster, and Applejack is Bride of Frankenstein, meaning someone on the creative team is in the Appledash shipping camp.)  Recommended.  $3.99

Transformers Bumblebee Prequel #4 (of 4): IDW - Meh.  An extended fight scene where almost all the Decepticons end up fighting each other at some point rather than fighting Bumblebee, which is about the only way it could work with him being the only Autobot in the book, but it makes for a muddle.  A lot of it feels pretty forced, to give Bee a reason to want to go after Blitzwing in the movie, and really nothing about this entire storyline feels like it fits into the Bayverse.  It's more of an attempt to do Austin Powers but with Bumblebee wedged into things.  There's a few good lines of dialogue here and there, but that's about it.  It really doesn't feel like it adds anything to the understanding of the movie that couldn't be explained by two or three lines of dialogue, and Austin Powers did the spy spoof a lot better than this.  Or Our Man Flint.  Or Woody Allen's Casino Royale.  Neutral.  $3.99

Optimus Prime #24: IDW -Unicron just sort of spends the entire issue hovering inside the Roche Limit, having no discernable tidal effect on Earth other than a few localized floating rocks, while people talk through flashback sequences to events just before Unicron showed up.  A pretty clumsy way to avoid just saying, "The events of this issue take place before Unicron #whatever," TBH.  Combine all the talking scenes and flashback scenes and changes of art teams, and this issue is a bit of a muddled mess.  It's trying to tie up loose ends before everything comes crashing down, but it really just gives me the impression that Barber has been winging it for a couple of years, with no actual endgame in mind.  Over in Lost Light, it feels like things are being rushed to a conclusion, but that everything was planned at least in a vague sense.  Here, it's like Barber had decided on themes (the responsibility of power, the cost to those who follow a leader, etc) but not on any actual events or plot points.  So when it came time to wrap up, he just hammered on the themes a few more times using whatever danglers seemed handy.  There's a few scenes that do stand out, but there's a pretty low bar against which to stand out.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers Unicron #5 (of 6): IDW - As with Optimus Prime, Unicron is just sort of hanging out all issue.  However, Bludgeon and many of the Maximals claim to be acting in his name, so something is happening here at least.  One last effort is assembled to try to fight through Starscream's failed backup plan and get to Unicron, as the magnitude of this all becomes apparent: Unicron is not just eating Cybertronian colonies (which is bad enough), he's snuffing out random stars to power himself in the process, potentially ending with the death of everything if the fight lasts too long.  And in a single page, Barber does a better job of wrapping up things emotionally with Prime and Arcee than he does in many pages over in Optimus Prime #24...I guess the enforced focus made him cut through the crap.  Mildly recommended.  $4.99

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), annoyed at his dental insurance, a long time online reviewer of comics, an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.

"For once, Starscream is right." - Optimus Prime,
Transformers Unicron #5 (of 6)
Dave's Capsules for October 2018 Dave's Capsules for October 2018 Reviewed by Dvandom on Thursday, November 01, 2018 Rating: 5
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