Dave's Capsules for July 2019

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Nothing, but Death's Head comes close.

In this installment: Shazam! (movie), Alita: Battle Angel (movie), Death's Head #1 (of 4), The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #5, Marvel Rising #5 (of 5), Marvel Action Black Panther #2, Ironheart #8, Captain America and the Invaders: Bahamas Triangle #1 (one-shot), The Unstoppable Wasp v2 #10 (FINAL ISSUE), Marvels Epilogue, History of the Marvel Universe #1 (of 6), Deathstroke #45, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Tempest #6 (of 6), Vampirella vol 5 #1, Ragnarök: the Breaking of Helheim #1 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #79-80, Transformers #8-9, Transformers/Ghostbusters #2 (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. 
No one seemed to be using the
Wisdom of Solomon.

Shazam!: DC/WB - And now the other Captain Marvel movie comes out on disc.  I am told that this movie is actually pretty close to the current Shazam concept in the comics, which is to say it's pretty radically different from the "Power of Shazam" era or the original CC Beck stuff.  The premise is that the Wizard (played by Djimon Hounsou, who was also in Marvel's Captain Marvel movie as Korath) has been trying for a while to find a worthy successor, leading to a sort of "cryptid" status where many people claim to have been pulled into his lair and found wanting.  Sivana was one of these people, leading to a life-long quest to get the power he was denied...basically, this is very little like the classic Dr. Sivana of the comics other than being bald and disliking Captain Named Something Else Because Trademark.  And Billy isn't a whole lot like in the older comics either, nor are his parents...basically this feels like a movie that was written by people who were given an "elevator pitch" version of the main characters and came up with their own interpretations.

And that's okay, it turns out.  Yeah, it's a bit jarring to have Billy as a selfish, cowardly young punk, but he's never actually a BAD person, just...human.  And broken, as one would expect from someone in the foster system, unfortunately.  When he gets the power, it feels like the Wizard has just given up and grabbed the next available sucker in the hopes that it might work out, and there's an air of "Please let this work" through the entire film.  But it's an intentional theme.  Have faith in people, and they will rise to the challenge.  Despite that underlying desperation, it's still mostly a light movie, because...well, KIDS.  As dire as Billy's situation might be, he's still a smart-aleck kid.  Freddie needs crutches to get around, but he's a snarky nerd.  Together, they fight crime.  And screw around a lot.  Mostly screwing around, because neither of them really knows what the hell they're doing, and the Shazam powers seem to require intent to work (i.e. until Billy remembers the Wizard mentioning the Wisdom of Solomon, he probably won't even know to try it).  Greatest American Hero, basically.  It was a fun enough movie, they definitely set up a possible sequel at the end, and they left open a big mystery of how much of the "Shazam Family" will return if there is a sequel.  (The pretty good action figure line kinda spoiled that he'd split the powers with other kids, but it involves a plot device in the movie and might not work again in the future.)  Recommended.  Price varies with store and format.

Alita: Battle Angel: Twentieth Century Fox - This has a very episodic feel, and many have complained it sets up an "unearned sequel" at the end, but both of those factors come from the fact it's an adapted work.  On the down side, you can definitely feel where the volume boundaries are...there's several distinct "endings" along the way.  But unlike a lot of movies adapted from long-running properties, it doesn't try to cram a Final Showdown into the first movie on the off chance there's no sequel (for instance, how so many comics-based movies kill off their villains rather than saving them for later appearances).  As a result, yeah, it has a definite "Buckaroo Banzai Will Return..." vibe to it, but in this case that's because the manga kept going past this point.  (Disclaimer: I never read the original manga or watched the original anime, so I don't know how faithful this has been to either story, but it's very faithful to the FEEL of serialized manga.  I am told it's actually based more closely on the 90s OAV anime adaptation than on the original Gunnm manga.) 

A lot was made of Alita's creepy big eyes when the early stuff started coming out about this movie, but most of the time I barely noticed them.  Just another bit of weirdness in a movie full of weird cybernetics and body modification.  The CG "goo" style effect used on her eyes was done smoothly and didn't interfere with her expressions.  Probably the weakest bit of CG was on the face of the big bad grunt cyborg, who was basically entirely CG but had a mostly organic head...it just didn't quite feel right most of the time, it looked more like a rubber mask practical effect.  

Anyway, aside from the weird pacing, it worked pretty well, and if it gets a sequel I'll definitely pick up the disc for that too.  Recommended.  Price varies by store and format.

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.

Nothing this month.


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

Nothing this month.


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 back cover of most of my Marvel
books in late July.  This...bodes ill.

Death's Head #1 (of 4): Marvel - Well, I decided to give the new mini a shot...couldn't be worse than the Abnett & Lanning series, right?  The original DH is back, last seen in (I think) Iron Man during Tony's time running around in space a few years ago.   He has run afoul of a less than honorable employer and found himself in unpleasant straits on Earth.  Worse, his fate seems tangled with a pair of Terran superheroes, always bad for business, yes?  While I was not really thrilled by Kei Zama's art on the Transformers books, the various grungy locales in this issue (a dive bar, the scuzzy offices of DH's scuzzy now-former boss, the apartment of the pair of superheroes) suit it well.  A promising start, definitely glad I decided to give it a chance.  Recommended.  $3.99

The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #5: Marvel - Sigh.  It's as if Ahmed didn't really want to write Wilson's characters at all, and dedicated his first arc to undoing big chunks of the previous series.  He threw in a cliche in #1 ("Dad finds out, forbids her from being a superhero") and then didn't even really move FORWARDS on that premise.  He deus ex machina's out of not only his own plot complication, but he also uses it to roll back chunks of the old series too.  I'm outta here.  Avoid.  $3.99

Marvel Rising #5 (of 5): Marvel - Well, friends are made, villains are thwarted, making friends with the villain is kinda thwarted too, and everyone exchanges texting info.  All in all, I think the weakest aspect of this series was the choice of Morgan Le Fay as the villain, when it was clear that the writers didn't want the version who fought the Avengers and so forth.  I wonder if the original pitch was for an entirely new mystic villain, but they were advised to grab Le Fay because she was available.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Marvel Action Black Panther #2: IDW/Marvel - With the trade coming soon, I half expected they were pulling a "Binge" on this title, only releasing #1 as a floppy, given how long it's been since that issue came out.  I'm still giving it the full first arc, but I don't have high hopes at this point.  Kyle Baker on writing was a big selling point, but the story's just not gelling for me.  Maybe it's the art, which tends to be just as frenetic and busy in the quiet moments as in the loud moments, giving everything a sort of uniformly chaotic feel that hurts the storytelling.  Very mildly recommended.  $3.99

Ironheart #8: Marvel - A few pages of debriefing with Wasp, and then Riri is off to do the smart thing: consult an expert.  Too much magic weirdness showing up in her life lately, and unlike Tony "I HATE Magic!" Stark, she's willing to accept that it's a thing and that there are people who know how it works.  Specifically, Dr. Strange.  He also knows how continuity works, so readers get a very brief hint of how the plot device of the arc ties into New Warriors and Thunderbolts.  Despite a short fight scene in the middle, this is mainly a talky issue, but it works pretty well.  Recommended.  $3.99

Captain America and the Invaders: Bahamas Triangle #1 (of 1): Marvel - A sort of Invaders #0, with the various Invaders working together before they officially became a team.  Roy Thomas writes, and it's basically what you'd expect from him, both for good and for ill.  Jerry Ordway's art fits the general retro feel, if not the specific art style of the 70s Invaders issues.  It goes through a few too many contortions to keep any of the Big Three from knowingly interacting, but even that is appropriate for the feel of 1970s Invaders comics.  If you don't have any nostalgia for the old Invaders comics, you probably won't find this worth the five bucks, but I liked it.  Recommended with serious caveats.  $4.99

The Unstoppable Wasp v2 #10: Marvel - Final issue, sigh.  It definitely feels like the end of the beginning, wrapping up the "level boss" and gaining new allies for what looks to be a bigger fight down the road, but it's over again.  It does have to rush through some of the resolution at the end, throwing out some plot points that probably would have come up more slowly over the next several issues had there been any next issues, but it's still a solid wrap-up to the second volume.  Recommended.  $3.99

Yeah, there were a LOT of
variant covers.
Marvels Epilogue: Marvel - A new 16 page story set during Uncanny X-Men #98, and then a lot of interviews and all the pencils for the story.  While there was a sequel series to Marvels, this does feel more like a proper epilogue than that did.  Hence the name.  The actual overt events (being in Rockerfeller Plaza when the Sentinels attacked) are just another day in Marvel's Manhattan, but the real story is about passing the torch to a new generation.  Just as the X-Men were "all new, all different," and the new-at-the-time Nova shows up, the superhero reporting bug gets passed on to Phil's kids.  Perhaps a bit light for a $5 special, but satisfying nonetheless.  Recommended.  $4.99

History of the Marvel Universe #1 (of 6): Marvel - I remember Marvel Saga....  Anyway, the framing sequence is that Galactus and Franklin Richards are sitting and waiting for the end of the universe so that Franklin can be the Galactus for the next universe, and he wants Galactus to remind him of everything that happened so he has a better chance of remembering the lessons learned when he enters the next universe.  The retelling is pretty Earth-centric (and there's been a load of relatively recent retcons to hammer home why Earth seems to important), although given that it's being told to Franklin, that makes a certain amount of sense.  I wonder if the last issue will try to make up far future events, or if it'll just end with Franklin saying, "Thanks, I remember the rest."  The "backup" goes back through the events related by Galactus and cites issues where the various events happened or were explained.  Recommended.  $4.99

Deathstroke #45: DC - So, Slade is dead, but Deathstroke can't die until he's fulfilled his contracts.  So, someone's gotta step up, yes?  One of the running themes of this title has been that Slade's kids are messed up by being in his life, but none of them really turned into their father.  Even though Rose's costume is modeled after Slade's, again and again over the last few years it's been made plain that she's not her dad.  Which makes her attempt to fill his shoes more than a little doomed.  Speaking of doom, or legions thereof, this issue has a Year of the Villain: The Offer banner on the cover, making the real suspense the matter who who gets the offer...so many people trying to be heroes in this book, but being better suited to the role of wheel-on.  Recommended.  $3.99

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Tempest #6 (of 6): Top Shelf/Knockabout - Alan Moore throws everyone over Reichenbach Falls, basically.  And throws himself out an airlock.  This is the final LoEG story, and he means it.  As such, it's mostly the protagonists watching things happen, although there is one little bit of a protagonist actually taking action.  "And there you have it!  Everybody's in love or dead, so join us next time for...oh, right." That pretty much sums it up, yes?  Not exactly a swan song, more of a "Here, you jackals, now go away!"  Mildly recommended.  $4.99

Vampirella vol 5 #1: Dynamite - Yes, I'm reading a Vampi book.  Because Priest is writing it.  And it turns out that while Priest on a book doesn't make a real sales bump on the scale of a Marvel or DC title anymore, it does wonders for Dynamite (it's reportedly doing better than they expected).  The FCBD special is set after the events of this issue, possibly after the entire first arc, starting with the crashed airplane referenced in the #0.  Most of the issue involves Vampi undergoing NTSB-provided trauma counseling with a Dr. Chary (who seems to be a fusion of Priest at his snarkiest and Mike Chary at his Chary-est).  Plenty of action as she tells an unbelieving Doc Chary what happened aboard the airplane, and it's made clear that however long Vampi has been active, the whole "existence of the supernatural" thing has not yet been blown wide open in the public eye.  But it's gonna, since she's the survivor of an unsurvivable crash.  All the pieces are in place, all three major characters seen in #0 at least show up, and now for stuff to happen.  (Or not, the Next Issue box indicates #2 will be an origin story dump.)  Recommended.  $3.99

Ragnarök: The Breaking of Helheim #1 (of 6): IDW - Oddly, this wasn't on Diamond's list for the week I got it.  Or the week after.  While kicking off a new arc, this issue is really more of an epilogue to the previous arc, starting immediately after the big battle of actually-issue-12.  Thor tries to figure out what to do next, and gets filled in on what happened after he was sealed away during Ragnarok (which played out differently than in the usual myths, mostly because Thor wasn't there to play his part).  There's also a little bit of the forces of evil reacting and planning, but for the most part this feels like, "Oh, yeah, probably should've mentioned this stuff during the first arc?" backfill.  Mildly recommended.  $4.99

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #79-80: IDW - A couple of done-in-one stories from Sam Maggs.  #79 is a very sitcom-ish "Keep the character distracted while we plan a party for them" story, ending on a guest star that comes out of nowhere and is accompanied by what I'm guessing are OCs of the writer and artist?  I don't recognize them and they aren't ever named.  Meh.  #80 has Pinkie Pie running a LARP fantasy adventure (oddly, Ogres & Oubliettes is not mentioned at all, or really any mention of what system Pinkie is using), in which everyone has to learn that only together can they win...really?  Kinda a season 1 lesson, there.  Both issues feel like inventory stories or try-outs, and while it's nice to have a break from the Big Cosmic Arc stuff, this fluff is too bland.  Very mildly recommended.  $3.99 each.

Transformers #8-9: IDW - #8 came with another booster pack, but #9 was back to just the comic.  Note, while #9 has Sentinel Prime, Starscream, and Nautica on the regular cover, they don't show up yet.  Maybe a case of editorial messing up and using a later cover by mistake?  Anyway, while there's some side plot service, the cores of both issues take place at an old war memorial that the Rise have been using as cover for a secret base, first Cyclonus stumbling across it, and then later the authorities returning after Cyc's warning to see if they can find any clues or slow-moving evacuees.  So, a lot of fight scene stuff, much of which is melee because of the general prohibition on guns.  Probably the most significant other scene involves Megatron speaking with the Ascenticon spiritual leader in a scene mirroring Optimus's visit with his archivist mentor, well done if short.  Both issues mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers/Ghostbusters #2 (of 5): IDW - So, in between getting zapped and trapped, Starscream is given a chance to explain himself and drop some more exposition.  The "real villain" is revealed and looks like someone who'd fit in better over in He-Man or something (doesn't resemble any Real Ghostbusters villain I can recall, but might be based on one of them).  I put quotes around that, because it's likely Starscream is lying...okay, he's DEFINITELY lying, but he's also likely lying about the mysterious robed stranger he blames for his ghostly condition.  Maybe Starscream will be the final boss of this miniseries, maybe they'll escalate all the way to Gozer (especially if they don't expect to get a second series).  In any case, this issue carries a lot of expository load.  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), is done with summer teaching for the year, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.

"And that band was using him as an amplifier?"  "I mean, they sounded great until the screaming started." - Hulkling and Wiccan/Demiurge, Death's Head #1 (of 4) 
Dave's Capsules for July 2019 Dave's Capsules for July 2019 Reviewed by Dvandom on Thursday, August 01, 2019 Rating: 5
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