Dave's Capsules for June 2019

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Cells at Work vol 1-5

In this installment: Batman/TMNT (movie), Captain Marvel (movie), Jessica Jones Season 3, Cells at Work vol 1-5,  Escape from Bitch Mountain, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #4, Marvel Rising #4 (of 5),  Ironheart #7, The Unstoppable Wasp v2 #9, Deathstroke #44, Steel Cage #1, Princess Revolution #1, Beasts of Burden: the Presence of Others #2 (of 2), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #78, My Little Pony Spirit of the Forest #2 (of 3), Transformers #7. Transformers/Ghostbusters #1 (of 5).

Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): Nothing this month.

"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. 
"A guy dressed as a bat?  Yeah, right."

Batman/TMNT: DC/WB/Nickelodeon - Well, it looks decent and the writing's okay, but most of the voice acting feels like they grabbed whoever was hanging around the studio.  I suspect they got the VAs from the current TMNT series to do the entire thing, with maybe one or two extras (like Tara Strong, voicing both Harley and Ivy).  The guy they had doing Batman and Joker was fairly credible in sounding like Conroy and Hamill, but Ra's al Ghul and Robin were pretty bad.  Otherwise, it felt kinda like they looked at the first Batman Unlimited direct to disk movie and decided they could do it better.  Lots of "Hey, this looks like an excuse for a toy line" stuff in the last act.  I suppose it was better than Unlimited, but not by a lot.  More notable for clever lines and visual schtick than for an engaging plot.  I enjoyed it as I watched it, but it had a bad Spirit of the Stairs letdown.  Definitely watch the credits, though, which are full of classic DC and TMNT covers reimagined with crossover stuff.  Mildly recommended.  Price varies by format and store.

Captain Marvel: Marvel - I found it to be a good middle chapter in the journey of a hero.  It's not exactly an origin story, because it starts on the day that the journey towards heroism is completed, with limited flashbacks, but they did a good job of filling in the important pieces without hewing to a traditional Marvel Origin Story Movie mold.  Recommended.  Price varies by format and store.

Jessica Jones Season 3: Marvel/Netflix - Welp, it's the end of the Marvel Netflix universe, it'll all get rebooted for Yet Another Streaming Service that I may end up only watching via shady means or season set DVD release.  I only watched the first four episodes before deciding to stop, though.  Maybe if Flash hadn't been the last straw for my tolerance of the "Killer who's smarter than anyone else and spends the season walking them through his elaborate trap before finally losing anyway" plotline I could have stuck it out a little longer, but as soon as the season's main villain was revealed, I was out.  Nothing says padding like "We know he's a killer" in episode 4, but he can't actually lose until episode 13 because his whole schtick is plot armor...er, I mean, super-intellect coupled with absolutely no moral core that could be used to get him to hold back.  Maybe they did something new and interesting with that cliche, but I have such an ingrained disdain for it at this point that there's no way I'm sitting through more than two or three episodes of dealing with a Smartest Killer In The Room antagonist.  Avoid unless you like dreary, failure-filled series.

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.

"No, I didn't say they were HIRING scabs..."
Cells at Work vol 1-5: Kodansha - I got these for $1 from the Humble Bundle, having seen enough bits and pieces online to be intrigued.  These are basically science education stories, focusing on a limited number of recurring characters (an airheaded red blood cell, a handful of white blood cells of various types, and in the last volume a regular cell who takes the red blood cell's place as hapless doofus).  It's...a bit bloody, which you'd think would be tricky since the blood cells are represented by people, but the main white cell somehow manages to end up drenched in blood-stain-like bacterial fluids on the regular.  The last volume even has a couple of obvious JoJo's Bizarre Adventures references.  The stories cover everything from cuts and scrapes to illness to cancer, with a mixture of "awwww, cute" and guro that not everyone will enjoy, but it works great for me.  I particularly like the motherly macrophages with their big frilly dresses and bonnets and giant cleavers.  And the platelets are adorable (and never gory).  Strongly recommended if you don't mind the occasional confusingly metaphorical gore.  $1 level on Humble Bundle, probably a bit more once the Bundle is over.  (Amazon has the hardcopies for $11 a volume, they're also on Comixology for about half that.)


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

Comic Book Slumber Party Presents: Escape from Bitch Mountain: Avery Hill Publishing - While there isn't a "here's the high concept" explanation in the book, the "Comic Book Slumber Party" suggests an intentionally loose collaboration.  Everyone got the core characters and a basic premise (Adventurer deals with a fairly lame dungeon and hooks up with the boss at the end) and wrote a scene, then the core writer/artist/editor team put together framing sequences to tie it all together.  The story starts in the middle, after the first run through the dungeon, and then sends the protagonist on a second run through with a new quest, with a mix of flashbacks and regular-order stories that makes me suspect that the individual creators weren't all on the same page and the "twice through" conceit was worked out after the fact to make things fit better.  The writing is arch and pokes fun at various genre conventions (a lot of the riddles and challenges are deliberately lame), while the art is a mix of aggressively (one might even say stereotypically) "indie comic" styles.  The cover layout evokes the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, but the story inside has nothing of that to it.  It was a decent, if needlessly confusing read, but didn't really live up to my expectations when I saw it advertised by someone on social media.  Mildly recommended.  $15.00/#10.00UK


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.)

The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #4: Marvel - Back to Kamala telling her own story, with a theme this issue of "people keep trying to tell my story for me," perhaps a bit too on the nose given that her mom narrated last issue.  Pretty bog-standard "plucky rebels enlist help of hero to fight a horrible tyrant," stuff, with a side order of Kamala's parents being a bit peeved at her obvious attraction to shirtless alien rebel leader dude.  There's a bit of a twist at the end, but the Obvious Villain schtick got pushed way too hard for there to be any retrenchment on that front, even if Obvious Villain wasn't lying about 100% of the things.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Marvel Rising #4 (of 5): Marvel - Okay, this Morgan Le Fay doesn't seem to be even a little bit connected to the Avengers villain...Ultimate version refugee leftover from the Secret Wars crossover, I guess?  I shouldn't have to scour the Marvel Wiki to tell if this is a different character, a retcon, or what. Anyway, a lot of time spent fighting a Hudson River Hedorah before trying to talk Morgan down.  Some of the layouts and bubble placement are confusing, as if there was a breakdown in communications between writer and artist and the editor decided to not interfere.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Ironheart #7: Marvel - Riri, her guy friend, and Wasp take on a zombie invasion emanating from Midway, Chicago's other airport that rarely gets any media attention.  On the plus side for the heroes, if it had been O'Hare, they might have had to deal with a necromancied sauropod skeleton.  Not quite a one-shot story like last issue, as the necromancer was tied into Ironheart's ongoing plot stuff, but structurally a little too much like a repeat of last issue: Something's wrong, the threat isn't a big deal and more of a nuisance short term, finally find the person behind it and suddenly it's a huge threat until their weak spot is located and zapped.  Eh.  At least Ewing did a decent job capturing Nadia's voice.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

The Unstoppable Wasp v2 #9: Marvel - A lot of things about El Cucuy bug me in this issue, mostly how they seem to have come out of nowhere to be nearly unstoppable.  Their schtick doesn't seem to be able to account for a lot of what they do, although I suppose the suit might be a dodge and not the real source of their powers.  (At one point they say to call them Fantasma, so this might be a character from a 2011 Black Widow comic playing at obscuring their gimmick.)  Unfortunately, as a nearly all-fight-scene issue, it's a bit short on the sort of things that I like about the title...there's still some good banter and interactions, but too much of it is the spotlight being stolen by villains that I don't find as interesting as the heroes.  The strongest scenes involved Janet Van Dyne dealing (again) with her stalkery recurring villain, Whirlwind.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Deathstroke #44: DC - Funeral for a fiend, and all that.  Slade's children work through their feelings about what happened (and this, unsurprisingly, involves a great deal of punching), while the villainous community steals his body for a funeral ceremony.  The Legion of Doom even shows up, as pointed out on the cover, to make as sure as possible that the bastard is not only merely dead, he's really quite sincerely dead.  Of course, this is only part 1 of the "R.I.P." arc, plus the whole Year of the Villain thing is getting into motion, so we might be in for a sort of Reign of the Deathstrokes as various people try to prove themselves worthy of the mantle.  I can't wait to see Cyborg Deathstroke.  Recommended.  $3.99

Steel Cage #1: Ahoy - The premise here is that we get teaser stories for three comics, and whichever gets the most votes online gets to go to series.  This feels like it would have been a better choice for their FCBD offering than the Dragonfly one-shot.  "True Identity" is basically, "What if Superman grew up on Krypton and was sent to Earth out of pity because he was such a loser on Krypton," sort of story from Tom Peyer...a real eye-roller that I hope doesn't win.  "Bright Boy" by Stuart Moore is a little more interesting, "What if an egotistical comic book supergenius had a nasty side effect from overusing his intelligence?"  Mark Waid's "Noah Zark" is more of an all-ages book, in which a young boy abducted by aliens for a traveling zoo managed to free his fellow inmates and now seeks to return everyone home.  So it has a good over-arc (fleeing the zoo owners, trying to get everyone else home, then himself), with plenty of opportunities for single-issue plots as each alien's return home can come with complications.  I don't think I'd buy such a book, but it's the only one of the three I'd like to see made.  Oh, and there's some text pages in between stories as with other Ahoy books, and as with the other Ahoy books after the first couple, I didn't bother reading them.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Princess Revolution #1: Scout Comics - Speaking of gimmick premises better used for FCBD, this is part of Scout's new "Binge" line...something I forgot about when picking it up on impulse.  The conceit is that you buy a $4 comic that is the first chapter of a TPB, and if you like it, buy the entire TPB a month or so later.  No other single issues available.  So...pay $4 extra to get the first chapter twice if you like it?  And, um, trying to say you're modeling this after "binge-watching" is a HORRIBLE idea!  Stuff going directly to trade has been a standard model for years in the manga and Young Adult (e.g. Scholastic Press) markets.  All Scout is doing is charging full price for a teaser chapter, instead of releasing a teaser free online to drive sales.  (Actual binge-watching involves a service where you've already paid for all the content, so your only remaining investment is time.  It doesn't really apply to a model where you have to pay extra to watch the rest.)  This gimmick is useful for only a very narrow market, people who think they might be interested, but think their store won't be ordering any copies of the trade for the shelf, so they won't be able to skim in advance.  If these opening chapters were priced as loss-leaders, it might be a decent plan, but I'd have to be unreasonably on-the-fence to be willing to spend $4 to decide if I want to buy a $16 (or whatever it ends up being) TPB.  To make things worse, this isn't even a good teaser!  Apparently, the premise is that three separate characters are going to be joining up for common cause, but nothing about this issue indicates the full story will be anything but a solo story focusing on the protagonist of this chapter.  It's very leisurely and decompressed, and either the other characters will get short shrift in their introductions, or the entire TPB will be leading up to them meeting for the first time.  Anyway, if this were the first issue of a regular series, I might have given it a couple more issues to see where it was going, but this "binge" model raises the bar a lot higher, and I didn't like this issue enough to commit to rebuying it on top of several more chapters in one chunk.  Actual story very mildly recommended, sales model not recommended.  I would like to see Scout succeed, but this is not the way to do it, IMO.  $3.99

Beasts of Burden: the Presence of Others #2 (of 2): Dark Horse Comics - Okay, that was a lot shorter than I expected.  Probably would have read better as a single double-sized special, to be honest.  Basically, while there's a little more worldbuilding and another mystic attack, the thematic focus suddenly skews to the side to focus on purely natural evil.  Yeah, it's a believable threat, but it didn't really feel like it got the room to develop.  A three issue story could have don't a bit more foreshadowing, rather than relying on "You know that..." exposition to explain the eventual villain's motives.  Weak ending to an otherwise decent story.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #78: IDW - Conclusion of the Cosmos arc.  Crazy Pinkie plan, ablative protagonist group, coming down to Discord vs. Cosmos...the actual plot was pretty predictable and by the numbers.  This was more of a substrate onto which Cook and Price could hang in-jokes and sight-gags, of which there were a lot.  Ultimately, it was a misguided story, in my opinion.  It robbed Discord's redemption of most of its power by retconning that he was never really that bad or in need of redemption, he'd just fallen in with a bad person and then took the fall for her crimes in order to keep people from digging too deeply and reawakening the threat.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony Spirit of the Forest #2 (of 3): IDW - In which the Standard Hijinks are attempted in pursuit of getting Filthy Rich to stop abusing natural resources.  Reason and sentiment fail, government can't do anything, and trying pull a Reverse Scooby Doo to scare the rich guy off the land ends up backfiring.  At this point, the CMC are going to either have to turn full-bore ecoterrorist, or find that the spirit they faked is real after all.  (Note: not only did a recent episode of the cartoon involve hunting for a spirit that may not exist, a previous issue of the MLP comics did too...so hopefully they abandon that thread entirely and go for more of a "spirit of pony-anity" thing with Diamond Tiara taking center stage or something.)  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers #7-: IDW - Wow, 90s throwback...this was polybagged with a pack of the Transformers CCG (one big character card, seven regular sized battle cards...I got Optimus Prime).  This issue is mostly people being bummed out over having failed to do their jobs over the last six issues, plus a looming threat of Sentinel Prime and Starscream coming back to make things worse.  Basically, this is a "pause to reflect" issue, although there is some reflecting via punching.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers/Ghostbusters #1 (of 5): IDW - Another cartoon crossover.  This time, it's the Real Ghostbusters cartoon crossing over with an alternate continuity of G1 Transformers where Gozer destroys Cybertron shortly after the Ark flees.  The main Transformers character is (not coincidentally) a toy tie-in, who ends up with Ecto-1 as his altmode (the toy itself is due to ship soonish).  This issue is mostly setup, establishing a reason for Ectotron to go to Earth alone and meet up with the Ghostbusters.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

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), a firm believer that anything that beeps loudly and infrequently to get your attention should have an obvious visual cue, an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.

"The Dodgers?  Seriously?  You have two and a half perfectly good teams within 100 miles of here, so...why?" - Ray to Winston, Transformers/Ghostbusters #1 (of 5)
Dave's Capsules for June 2019 Dave's Capsules for June 2019 Reviewed by Dvandom on Friday, June 28, 2019 Rating: 5
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