Dave's Capsules for August 2020


Blogger changed its editing suite, so things may look weird.  Image captions cancelled until I can figure out how to make them not blend into the text.

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Avengers Assembly: Orientation

In this installment: Gundala: Rise of a Hero (BluRay), Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons the Movie, The Comic Book History of Animation #2, Adventure Finders Book 2 Vol 1 Chapter 10, My Little Pony the Manga vol 1, Avengers Assembly: Orientation, Ghost Spider #9, Maestro #1 (of 5), The Tick FCBD 2020, The Adventures of Byron One-Shot, White Ash #6 (of 6), Vampirella #12, Kaijumax Season 5 #4 (of 6), Ragnarok: the Breaking of Helheim #6 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #89, My Little Pony/Transformers #1 (of 4), Transformers '84: Secrets and Lies #2 (of 4), Transformers Galaxies #8, Transformers #22

Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order)Nothing, as far as I can tell.

"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. 

Gundala movie poster
Gundala: Rise of a Hero
: Well Go USA/Bumi Langit - Indonesian comics has a long history and loads of readers and frankly very few anglos like me know anything about it.  But that's not stopping the studio Bumi Langit from trying to launch a cinematic universe featuring the brightest lights of their superheroic output, starting with the lightning-powered Gundala (although the Wonder Woman-ish Sri Asih shows up briefly in the same way Wonder Woman herself did in Superman v. Batman).  Since it not only has to tell the origin of the main character but also set up the whole universe, this movie is very heavy on pre-superhero stuff...while technically the protagonist gets his powers in the opening sequence, he spends most of his life thinking he's just an ordinary orphan in the mean streets of Djakarta. (Aside: while Wikipedia says they stopped going by that spelling in 1972, the protagonist works at the printing presses for the Djakarta Times, so either the newspaper is retro, or they're using the older name to hearken back to the era when Gundala was first published.)  Anyway, this is your basic hyper-corrupt Gotham City sort of place, although my grasp of Indonesian politics is too shaky for me to say that it's not an exaggeration of the real city.  They definitely work hard to give it the impression of being isolated and inescapable unless you're rich or desperate, a claustrophobic feeling that definitely helps build the world that's so direly in need of heroes.  

While the original Gundala was explicitly powered by a lightning god, they take a more subdued approach in this new cinematic universe.  Not that there isn't magic at all, but it's more subtle and under the radar.  More Spider-Man than Shazam, if you will.  Weird science with overtones of mysticism, but the superpowers demonstrated by the villains tend to be at least explainable via pseudoscience (hypnosis of a more mundane kind, for instance).  However, even leaving aside Gundala's own lightning-powered abilities, the end of the movie leaves no doubt that there's some serious magic out there waiting to be tapped.  (I watched the dubbed version rather than subtitled, some of the pseudoscience got pretty bad, but that might have been the fault of the translation rather than the original script.)  

All in all, it did drag in places, but had some good humor that translated well, and the fight scenes were pretty well choreographed.  The big "Gundala vs. everyone" scene kinda cheaped out by having him in need of a recharge so that it was mostly just regular martial arts without any special effects beyond wirework, but that did leave room for escalation in the sequel.  Worth giving a watch, either on disc or streaming on Amazon Prime (definitely worth the time if you already have Prime).  Price varies by format.

Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons the Movie: DC/WB - A standalone tale, covering the origins of Deathstroke and rehabilitating his image to make him over as an Ethical Mercenary, who only takes jobs that he thinks will involve doing the right thing, and who will cheerfully turn on employers who he deems bad guys.  Even Priest's most sympathetic portrayal didn't go that far.  It seems most closely tied to his Arrowverse version in that respect.  According to Wikipedia, it started as a miniseries on CW Seed, which surprised me...CW Seed still exists?  Of course, it's not actually in continuity with the Arrowverse, it doesn't even seem to try.  The main plot weaving through the various eras and flashbacks is that HIVE wants him to work for them, and if he says no then they want him dead.  They're set up as the Unethical Mercenaries, you see.  And there's a global domination plot in the final act, and revised versions of his family (Grant seems to have been left out entirely, though).  All in all, it is an okay story, but feels like one of those stunt-written things where the author gets a tweet-summary of each character and is given free rein to make up whatever story they want with 'em.  The only extra of significance, even on the BluRay, is a short featurette about the creation of the comics version of Deathstroke, which only serves to show how much this movie's version diverges.  Mildly recommended.  Price varies by format.

Digital Content:

Unless I find a really compelling reason to do so (such as a lack of regular comics), I won't be turning this into a webcomic review column.  Rather, stuff in this section will generally be full books available for reading online or for download, usually for pay.

The Comic Book History of Animation #2: Evil Twin Comics/Kickstarter - As with the previous issue, this is currently only available to Kickstarter backers, when the whole series is done it will be available as a TPB.  This covers the rise of the talkies, as Disney starts to dominate the industry despite lack of a lot of the usual creative virtues and his positive talent for driving people away.  But he could get people with creative virtues to follow his vision as long as they did stay, which was his main talent.  This issue isn't all Disney, of course, and the competition did pretty well for itself as well, but this was definitely the era where Disney became the dominant force and everyone else could only imitate.  Recommended.  

Adventure Finders Book 2 Volume 1 Chapter 10: Patreon.com - After the short break, it's back to the Evil That Men Do.  Where #7-8 looked at the more personal-level crimes of venality, the kinds of things even a "good" army is likely to do (and this ain't a "good" army), now we have a big set piece battle of imperial expansion.  The Arao-ist forces are determined to drive elves and other demihumans out of their homes in order to mine for gold, but they find out the hard way that Clari and her friends have been upgrading from "tactical threat" to "strategic threat".  (Okay, Matze has been a strategic threat for some time now, but even Jolfe and Clari are at the "turn the tide of a battle" level now.)  It also helps that the elves have dinosaur cavalry, of course.  After a few pages of the bad guys preparing for battle, it's all fight scene...and on top of running to 45 pages this issue, the battle had to overflow into #11.  (At this point, I start to suspect that the endgame for this series if "Find Arao and kill him," in the grand tradition of D&D characters going hunting on the Outer Planes.)  Good as battle scenes go, but that's about all it is, so ya know.  Well, there's some text pieces in back that are letters circulated by United Crown nass-heads starting to freak out about Clari's band.  Recommended.  $1/month on Patreon.


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

My Little Pony the Manga vol 1: Seven Seas - And now the first volume.  This is more like what I expected the second to be, a bunch of vignettes with little to connect them...at first.  A few running gags do repeat, but only in retrospect are about half the vignettes actually tied together.  Good setup, and some good short gags, but not quite as strong as the second volume.  Recommended.  $10.99/$13.99Cn 

Avengers Assembly: Orientation
: Marvel/Scholastic - I've seen this described as "Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the Marvel Universe," and while I have very little familiarity with the Wimpy Kid books, the surface details do seem to be there.  For me, a more apt comparison would be to the pre-Faust version of DC Superhero Girls, in which young versions of existing characters are all together in a school for superheroes, and all at the same age regardless of whether they're the same age in the regular comics (e.g. the cover shows Miles Morales, Kamala Khan, and Doreen Green all about the same age, while things like Marvel Rising make a point that Doreen is a college student and not high school).  It's all in black and white with a mix of short comics, text pieces, and "artifacts" (like trading cards, postcards, diary entries, equipment checklists, etc).  Kamala even has a regular blog for things like her Captain Marvel fanfic ("Moomblr"), an encrypted blog for her superhero stuff, and writes really secret stuff on paper.  From the art style I'd peg them as junior high aged, but the story feels more like they're all high school age.  And Doreen may actually be a college student, they don't make a big deal about what anyone does for their regular school other than Miles starting out the book in his Brooklyn Visions Academy dorm.  It's clearly its own continuity, however, and they don't try to make it fit with events in anyone's comics (e.g. Kamala first meets Lockjaw in his capacity as a professor at the Institute, rather than just stumbling across him as happened in the comics).  It's clearly inspired by the comics, though, what with things like Kamala's fanfic, Quicksilver being seen as a touch shady, and so forth.  Anyway, mechanics aside, it's a really fun book.  It doesn't try to be a parody, it's more of another take on the Avengers Academy idea, but with a larger student body and less of an ominous backstory.  Preeti Chhibber has a great ear for the dialogue of the main characters, and if James Lancett draws them all looking a bit too young, it still works for the story.  Strongly recommended.  $13.99/$18.99Cn/#8.99UK


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.)

Ghost Spider #9: Marvel - Welp, they reversed their decision and went ahead with hardcopies after all, albeit a month or so behind the digital release.  The cover is more symbolic, with the more Venom-y version of her costume reflecting her frustration over being unable to control some parts of her life, but the main plot involves the sociopathic Storm twins making their move to become superheroes and idols of millions...for all the wrong reasons, of course.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Maestro #1 (of 5): Marvel - While bits and pieces of "how did Hulk become Maestro" were laid out in Future Imperfect, this miniseries sets out to fill in a lot more of the blanks (I do wonder if it started as a "The End" pitch but editorial decided to expand on it).  German Peralta gives us a very good Gary Frank style merged Hulk in the opening scenes without being a complete trace job, and the whole "the world as you know it is gone" thing is worked in slowly, being more in the way of an open mystery where the reader already knows the punchline.  By the end, Banner's basically gone, but Maestro has yet to tread the stage.  Recommended.  $4.99

The Tick FCBD 2020: New England Comics Press - Two short stories.  The first is pretty straightforwards, an alien parasite that feeds on excitement attaches itself to the Tick and it's up to Arthur to bore it to death.  The second is mostly dialogue-free and seems to be the Tick hallucinating or dreaming or somesuch.  Moderately amusing, if incoherent.  Doesn't really inspire me to seek out whatever regular Tick book these creators are working on, though.  Free.

The Adventures of Byron One-Shot: Scout Comics - I picked this up as part of my New Year's Resolution to make more impulsive buys at my local comic shop in order to try to give them more business.  Near as I can tell it started as a Kickstarter comic in 2018 before being picked up by Scout, dunno if this is the same basic "story" as the KS version.  The premise is that there's three monsters who live together (a fairly intelligent octopus monster name Paxton, a rather stupid rabbit monster named Oswald, and an equally stupid one-eyed monster who is never named on-page...I guess that's Byron?  The name Byron never shows up anywhere in the story) and the two stupid ones decide to write their own comic book.  So there's a few story-within-story bits and eventually something resembling a plot emerges, the end.  I kinda see what they were going for here, the "so stupid it's funny" style of humor, but despite getting it, I didn't care for it.  Neutral at best, no interested in more with these characters or this writer.  $3.99

White Ash #6 (of 6): Scout Comics - So ends "Season One" of the title.  Scout isn't much for open-ended ongoing comics...they have a few, but mostly do one-shots and miniseries.  It's not too hard to see where things could have been done differently in the second half had Season Two not been greenlit...it's very heavy on setup, but could instead have dealt with tying off loose ends instead of spawning even more.  It does mean, though, that the Climactic Fight against Seth is a bit on the short side.  As a whole, Season One has some interesting ideas and I'm interested enough to stick around, but some of the pacing and specific writing choices didn't work for me.  Still, better than a lot of the books I grab on a whim and a New Year's Resolution to try to give more business to my comic shop.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Vampirella #12: Dynamite - (I got the photo cover, decent cosplay.)  While there's some advancement of subplots and a view into Katie the wannabe's past, this issue is dominated by Lilith's origin story as told by Vampi (with a strong implication that next issue will be those events as told by Lilith herself), with poor Doc Chary caught in all this vampire Karen drama.  It's your basic "The hero lives long enough to become the villain" story. explaining her motivations without excusing her actions.  Recommended.  $3.99

Kaijumax Season 5 #4 (of 6): Oni Press - The truth comes out about the barber and the tattoo artist, with one being a lot more innocent than he lets himself believe, and the other a hell of a lot more guilty.  The Pikadon plot is mostly backgrounded, although it does turn out that the barber is being leaned on by the don's crew to get dirt on the tattoo artist for the upcoming trial.  The other main thread this issue brings back the volcano kaiju in an ill-fated attempt at closure for the family of one of his victims.  On its own, not an easy issue to follow, and it has numerous callbacks to previous seasons, but you're gonna get that once continuity starts building up.  Recommended.  $3.99

Ragnarok: the Breaking of Helheim #6 (of 6): IDW - Well, Thor breaks Helheim.  There's a "clever bit" involved in it that felt more like a backfill to explain why there had to be a very short fight scene that could be on the cover.  Very mildly recommended...I think Simonson's running out of steam on this.  $4.99 

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #89: IDW - "Season 10" launches, and the extended universe no longer needs to worry about being contradicted by episodes of the show (technically, most of the issues were less contradiction and more "doesn't really fit that well," but it's still a problem with the deuterocanonical comics).  Realizing that she's going to be too busy running things to go adventuring, Twilight Sparkle sets up her friends in teams to go delve more deeply into the places that were only touched on or implied in the show, like Abyssinia (which got a short scene in the movie prequel comic) or Zecora's homeland (which hasn't even been mentioned before).  Four teams, so four arcs (Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie co-lead the team to Abyssinia), with the first being Applejack's mission to the Zebra homeland of Farasi.  But the hitch is that Zecora left for a very good reason and isn't keen on returning.  What reason?  That's for next issue to reveal!  Andy Price is on art, so it's chock full of background detail and little side stories that we only get slices of.  Recommended.  $4.99

My Little Pony/Transformers #1 (of 4): IDW - (Transformers have top billing on the cover, but the indicia put MLP first.) Okay, so the basic premise is that Chrysalis seeks shape-shifting allies from another reality and gets a bunch of Cybertronians from a G1-cartoon-ish universe (not exactly G1, because Windblade is around, and Bumblebee coexists with Arcee).  The lead story sets up this premise with story by James Asmus and art by Tony Fleecs (great ponies, not very good Cybertronians), and then we get one of the "what happens after the Cybertronians scatter all over the world" stories written by Ian Flynn (kinda flat and stereotypical characters) and drawn by Jack Lawrence (good ponies and Cybertronians).  The letterers get in on things with a more traditional comics font for the Cybertronians and a different font (used in the main MLP comic lately) for the Equestrians.  Definitely an anthology title, presumably wrapping up in either all of #4 or the second half of #4, with each of the Mane Six getting spotlight stories either solo or in pairs...but I guess I won't know until #2 comes out if they're all "The JLA splits up to chase pieces of the macguffin, one of which fell in the ocean" simultaneous stories, or if there will be some plot threading through them so that the order matters.  The iTunes preview of #2 shows Spike gets a focus story, though, so either not all of the Mane Six get "solo teamups" (that made more sense when I started typing it), or the stories will be shorter in the middle issues.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers '84 Secrets and Lies #2 (of 4): IDW - Bits and pieces of the fight between the Nemesis and Ark crews get seen from other angles, a bit of a muddle if you don't already know exactly how that fight went.  In the comics, though, not the cartoon.  Furman uses this issue to try to clear up the muddle various writers made of the "How the Dinobots and Shockwave ended up on Earth between the Ark's launch and the 1984 awakening" story (lampshading it by having Punch claim there's a lot of apocrypha floating around about the story), although it only makes things less clear IMO.  It looks like the fight happened after the Ark crashed but while the Nemesis was still in orbit?  I guess the Nemesis ending up in the ocean will be covered in #3 or #4.  The end notes help a little, but we're still getting another layer of retcons on top of other retcons and trying to "fix" comics from 35+ years ago.  It is the Generations Selects of comics, putting a lot of effort into obscure points almost no one even knows existed.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers Galaxies #8: IDW - The sinister plan of the cultists is revealed (and is a bit disappointing, IMO), and Gauge has to make a decision whether to follow her new life or try to recover the remnants of the old one.  There's also a flashback chunk in the middle where the in media res nature of #7 is dealt with and the story from the main series is connected up to how they got where they are now.  A little too expository, it takes the wind out of the sails of the mystery set up in #7 and replaces it with the expectation of a running fight scene and boss battle in #9.  It might be better than that, but....  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers #22: IDW - "Rise of the Decepticons" subtitle.  The resolution of the fight against Sixshot goes roughly as expected, with the heretofore unseen Leviathan arriving and not so much tipping the scales as stomping all over the scales.  It's not as one-sided as all that, though, more of a limited or even pyrrhic victory for the Autobots.  And then, of course, even what little victory they were able to achieve is screwed up by Evil Plotting.  We're still in the very very very slow build to the climax of this tragedy, so the Autobots aren't allowed to make a whole lot of progress.  It's starting to feel like one of the later seasons of Flash or Arrow, where the villain's master plan takes SOOOO LONG to play out and most stories involve the protagonists taking one step forwards and then being knocked two steps back.  The story is still holding my interest, but Ruckley needs to find a point and get to it.  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), back to teaching in person, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"4 - Is it weird to write fanfic about people that I meet IRL?" - Kamala Khan's "Cons" list for accepting the invite to the Avengers Institute, Avengers Assembly: Orientation
Dave's Capsules for August 2020 Dave's Capsules for August 2020 Reviewed by Dvandom on Monday, August 31, 2020 Rating: 5
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