Dave's Capsules for September 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): Nothing this month.

In this installment: Superman Man of Tomorrow (BluRay), Overwatch: the Cavalry #1, Adventure Finders Book 2 Vol 1 Chapter 11, The Way of the Househusband vol 4, Maestro #2 (of 5), The Rise of Ultraman #1, Shazam #15, Lady Mechanika FCBD 2020, Jack Kirby the Epic Life of the King of Comics FCBD, Owly the Way Home FCBD 2020, Big Girls #1-2, Bill and Ted are Doomed #1 (of 4), The Orville Launch Day #1 (of 2), Sacred Six #2, Vampirella #13, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #90, My Little Pony/Transformers #2 (of 4), Transformers '84 Secrets and Lies #3, Transformers Galaxies #9-10, Transformers #23

Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order)Nothing, as far as I can tell.  A bunch of stuff got delayed, but came out in the right 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.

Superman Man of Tomorrow
: DC/WB - With the nu52-based movie continuity come to an end, the direct to video animated team is starting over again, with a Superman origin movie.  It's set when Clark and Lois are both interning for the Daily Planet, Clark is secretly doing good deeds but doesn't have a proper costume yet, and there's few if any open superhumans yet.  The inciting incident is that someone hired Lobo to bring them the "last Kryptonian," and the Martian Manhunter reveals himself to save Clark from the bounty hunter.  The three aliens set up an effective triad for two of the big themes of the story: what does it mean to be the last of your kind, and to what degree can or should an alien "pass" in an attempt to keep humanity from freaking out.  In both themes, Superman straddles the extremes (Lobo at the "Frag 'em if they can't handle the Main Man...actually, frag 'em anyway, it'll be fun," end, and J'onn at the Survivor's Guilt and Hide From The Humans end), although he sympathizes far more with J'onn.  A literally larger threat arises, though, and the three end up working together, with Superman accepting that while Lobo is a horrible person, he's not always wrong about things.  It's a coming out story, with Superman coming out as an alien on his own terms, rather than adopting either extreme position being modeled for him.  (Oh, it's PG-13, and obviously Lobo gets to say the one Naughty Word...which felt weird, since he has his own words which are implied to be far filthier but we're too unhip to understand them.)  Recommended.  Price varies by store and 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.

Overwatch: Tracer - London Calling #1 (of 5): Dark Horse Comics - Dark Horse has been doing 8 page free vignette comics for Overwatch for a while now, this is the first time they've put together a single longer story, with the first installment (and probably the rest) being 20 pages of story.  Still free, though.  This is set after the end of the superhero era Overwatch, but before the events of the game, with Tracer living in London with Emily and trying to find some purpose in her life.  A little light superheroics, hitting the shops, and so forth.  She stumbles across an Omnic (android) literally underground subculture and bonds with some of them over music, but the rest of the community mistrusts humans in general...and former Overwatch members in particular.  The art is decent, but better suited to a physical page, as some of its looseness turns into scratchy and messy lines when zoomed on by Guided View.  Recommended, free on ComiXology.com.

Adventure Finders Book 2 Volume 1 Chapter 11: Patreon.com - More epic battle time, with a pause every so often as Clari takes in the horrors of war...even when you're on the winning side, it's pretty terrible.  There's a helpful "battlefield diagram" summary at the end, which also clarifies what some of the stuff was even named (not much time for introductions in the heat of battle, particularly when the Angry Miyazaki Spirits showed up).  Recommended.  $1/month on Patreon.


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

The Way of the Househusband vol 4: Viz - Another good installment, but it felt like Kousuke Oono is treading water a bit.  It leans too hard on the "He sounds like he's up to something horribly illegal while talking about normal household chores" gag at the expense of some of the other good stuff in previous volumes.  I guess it's more a problem of balance, focusing too much on one aspect of the ludicrous situation over others.  (My favorite story in this volume, the beach volleyball game, backed way off on the "sounds like criminal activity" gag, as did the 100 Yen Store segment.)  Still a good read, just not as good as the previous three volumes.  Recommended.  $12.99/$17.99Cn/#9.99UK


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.)

Maestro #2 (of 5): Marvel - A few more of the dramatic personae of Future Imperfect show up as Hulk tries to find what's left of humanity.  A lot of brooding in ruins, but he stumbles across a dying community under the ruins of Washington DC and finds out about Dystopia's existence, and its leader (who is not yet him, but not much of a spoiler to say he'll take over before the end of the miniseries).  On the way there he stumbles across the wasteland band led by Rick Jones, but doesn't meet Rick himself, and finally ends up in Dystopia and meets its mysterious master.  It's a bit convenient who that master is, but I suppose it makes sense.  And there's still some suspense despite being a prequel story, since there's a number of ways Hulk could become Maestro with varying body counts involved.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99
The Rise of Ultraman #1 (of 5): Marvel - So, Marvel got the Ultraman license.  My Ultraman lore is pretty spotty, but I know just enough to get the impression that this is a sort of "Millennium Godzilla" reboot, in which the very earliest material is still canon to the new story, but the intervening decades lacked all the other stuff.  In this case, the original Ultraman series started as a "science adventurers dealing with the strange and monstrous" with more of a weirder Man from UNCLE vibe, with Ultraman himself showing up in the sequel series, followed by a bazillion variants and imitators.  In this case, the United Science Patrol (Ultra Q) has been around since the early 60s, but the incident that led to Ultraman fusing with USP agent Moroboshi ("Falling Star") instead (apparently) killed both.  Cut to 2020, and there's another Ultra incident, which a couple of USP agents and the failed-the-USP-entrance-exam brother of one of them stumble across the arriving Ultra alien.  It's a slow build, although the USP agents do face a kaiju (non-dai version, so only about human sized) around the middle of the main story.  There's a backup story set during the Ultra Q days, more of a body snatcher horror sort of dark SciFi story, and then one-page gag "in setting" comics featuring Pigmon and a hapless USP agent along the lines of WWII army instruction comics.  Didn't care for the Pigmon pages, to be frank.  Anyway, they're clearly aiming to play up the horror aspects of alien invasions for now, even though the USP has handguns that can hurt a daikaiju it's hard to shoot at what you don't know is there.  I'll probably stick it out for all five issues (unlike Maestro, it doesn't say anywhere on the comic that it's five issues, but it is), mildly recommended.  $5.99

Shazam #15: DC - I wasn't really interested in the big Seven Worlds plotline that launched this series, but after reading a scan of this issue I decided to pick it up.  It's basically a done-in-one downtime story that explores some of the conflict between Billy's lives, and what it means to have a purpose, etc.  Has this been done before, a lot?  Yeah.  But this is a good implementation of the concept, even if it does seem to be trying to set up a hella problematic love triangle (as bad as the Superman/LL/Clark ones were, any with Shazam and Billy as two of the corners is gonna be a lot worse).  Recommended.  $3.99
Lady Mechanika FCBD 2020: Benitez Publications - This is a reprinting of Lady Mechanika #0, and while it does eventually set up the basic premise of things, it still reads like something aimed mostly at readers who already knew about the character and her general background.  Grabbed this as part of my general resolution to try to be a little more adventurous in my purchases, but...this one ain't going on my pull. It's basically Wolverine as a steampunk woman with a stereotypical T&A build.  She's a powerful cyborg with built-in extendable claws, no memory of her life before waking up as a cyborg, searching for clues about who did this to her, etc.  This story has her run across a creature who may have been created by the same mad scientist, but ultimately finding nothing useful (especially given that volume 6 came out over the summer and I presume she still hasn't found her mad scientist).  While it's not bad per se, it also didn't inspire me to want to read anything else about the character or by the creator.

Jack Kirby the Epic Life of the King of Comics FCBD Preview: Ten Speed Press/Random House - Tom Scioli has always made it obvious that he's a big fan of Kirby, and now he has the chance to tell Jack's life story.  It's written as an autobiography, although as far as I can find it's not adapted from any prose form autobio done by Kirby himself (he did a ten page comic autobiography once, but not a full book).  Consider it an artistic conceit.  Another artistic conceit is that Jack himself looks like a young boy manga protagonist even as an adult, which is kinda weird.  Anyway, this excerpts the first dozen or so pages, going from childhood through the creation of Captain America.  If you're curious about whether the full book is worth picking up, this preview will definitely give you enough of a taste to tell whether it's to YOUR taste.  

Owly the Way Home FCBD 2020: Graphix/Scholastic - This is unlike most previous Owly comics from FCBD in two major ways.  The big one is that it's not a standalone story or part of a sampler, instead it's the first part of a graphic novel (which is becoming a much more common sort of FCBD offering).  The second is that it's a lot more wordy than I remember Owly comics being.  Owly himself still talks only in pictures, but a bunch of other characters have regular word balloons...makes me wonder if Runton either got tired of the wordless style, or if his new editors insisted on more words.  Anyway, this is clearly part of an attempt to get a broader audience than Top Shelf could offer, and it starts off setting up the core conflict for Owly: he just wants to be friends, but since he's a predator species, everyone runs (or flies) away.  It could be seen as an origin story for the Top Shelf version, I suppose, as he establishes his circle of friends along the way to helping newly-met Wormy (no relation to Trampier's) get home after a flood.  Mind you, aside from buying a few of the trades as gifts for my then-young nieces, I've never really been interested enough on the Owly FCBD books to buy the regular ones for myself, and something about the newer writing style feels just off enough to me that I don't plan to get the full version of this either. 
Big Girls #1-2
: Image - I read a scan of #1 in August and was interested enough to buy it, but my store was out by that point and I had to wait until September (I prefer to wait and review stuff after getting a physical copy in my hands).  The high concept here is that humanity approached singularity and then failed, with various disasters reducing civilization to scattered bands of civilization and one remaining high tech enclave.  No one's quite sure why some people are born with the mutation of turning into giants, but since all men born with that mutation eventually become ravening giant monsters, it is a Problem.  Fortunately, women who become giants retain their intelligence and human appearance (aside from, you know, being huge), and are enlisted to protect the city from the monstrous men.  Not really a subtle social commentary, but it's a kaiju story, eh?  The protagonist is a reluctant warrior, and has doubts about the official line that all men become monsters.  And there's hints that the main antagonist is the reason all men so far have turned monstrous, but so far just hints.  That's good, though, because it gives the plot room to breathe...is the protagonist right that some giant little boys can be saved?  Is the government lying to her, or are they also victims of an evil plot?  Or is the evil plot just taking advantage of the fact that the official line is RIGHT?  Dunno yet.  It's on the darker and more morally ambiguous side of kaiju stories, but is so far still spending a lot of time on the kaiju battling and not shifting more heavily to the social metaphors like Kaijumax does.  (Kaijumax tends to assume you've seen the fights and is more interested in telling about the "not so happily ever after" part.)  Mildly recommended, but interesting enough to keep up with for now.  $3.99 each.

Bill & Ted Are Doomed #1 (of 4): Dark Horse Comics - Rather than just do an adaptation of Face the Music, Evan Dorkin and artist Roger Langridge are filling in some of the time between movies, with this story set in the year 2000.  They're running out of money, they are considered has-beens already, and they're making no progress on The Song (unsurprisingly, given that by 2020 they've still made no progress).  Station and the good Bill & Ted robots are still part of the cast, as is the Grim Reaper (although he's drawn to look more like the movie version, as opposed to the actual skeleton Dorkin himself drew in the short-lived Marvel series).  Given its premise, this is likely to be a bit of a bummer, but hopefully darkly humorous along the way.  It starts okay, it feels like Dorkin is still getting back into the swing of the characters, though.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

The Orville Launch Day Part 1 of 2 #1 (of 2): Dark Horse Comics - I'm always leery of comics adaptations of TV shows or movies, especially when the acting is a big part of why I like them.  Sometimes it turns out well (Bill & Ted previous series, My Little Pony in general), but it often falls flat for me.  In this case, it does help that the writer David A. Goodman is the producer of the show and wrote three episodes, and it shows in how he captures the voices of the characters.  Unlike a lot of TV writers, though, he does seem to grasp the pacing needed for a comic, he's not trying to squeeze a full Orville episode into this two issue series (or if he is, all the squeezing comes next issue).  Mind you, I could be wrong, #2 is solicited for the first week of October and it's listed as "Part 1 of 2 #2" so maybe the story is being told in two miniseries?  The Orville wiki says that it's just the second part of the issue, so maybe the cover layout was oopsed.  Anyway, this issue feels paced about the same as a single 11 minute act for a TV show, which is about right.  This is the first story of "Season 2.5" that takes place between the last broadcast episode and the first streaming episode, about a year after the end of season 2. As stories go, it's a rather blunt allegory...Orville once again homaging Star Trek in that way.  But since Orville plots have a tendency to subvert expectations and cliches, I trust that the payoff will be interesting, even if it doesn't quite work on all levels.  Recommended.  $3.99

Sacred Six #2: Dynamite - Well, it's more coherent than #1, but that is faint praise.  More maneuvering for position as the players take the field or vice versa, and it might make a little more sense to read after Vampirella #13 (the origin of a macguffin is explained there).  #1 would have been better placed after Vampi #13 as well, since it introduces Ashthorne in the main book.  Mildly recommended, but I strongly suspect that this whole first arc will cohere better if read in a single sitting...Priest does not generally Write For The TPB, but that's the feeling I'm getting here, combined with some bad timing in terms of release schedules.  $3.99

Vampirella #13: Dynamite - Lilith continues to relate her origin to Doc Chary, who is believing none of this hoodoo crap.  He doesn't quite fall into the "straw skeptic" category, since this is not a setting where the typical person has run into supernatural stuff...it mostly stays hidden.  But his denial is going to reach a point eventually where he has to abandon it, or it becomes its own sort of pathology.  Anyway, we finally get Lilith's motivation spelled out clearly: she is trying to find her first daughter, and all her other children (Vampirella most of all) are just tools in the search.  It's hinted that the goth teenager dancing around the edge of the storyline might be that daughter, but Vampirella's recently-dumped girlfriend seems to want the role as well, and I have my own spoilery theory about who it really is as well.  A bit of a slow burn, but it is burning.  Recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #90: IDW - Ah, the secret origin of Zecora continues, with rather strong parallels to Twilight Sparkle in that she buried herself in studies and grew apart from her friends.  Their attempts to include her were interpreted as mockery (and there was some actual prank-playing that was not appreciated), while her reaction to that was seen as snubbing them, further driving a wedge between childhood friends.  But rapprochement must wait, as there is a giant monster.  There is always a giant monster.  I suppose that's part of why Zecora felt at home in Ponyville?  There's a few places where the art and story seem at odds, such as "Equestria is a nearly mythical place that might not really exist" within a few panels of scenes of playing Ogres & Oubliettes (which suggests stronger cultural ties, unless a lone traveler from Equestria claimed to have made up the game and sold it in Zebra lands).  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony/Transformers #2 (of 4): IDW - Oookay.  So, any chance that this is a unified story went into serious doubt in the Spike/Grimlock story, and totally out the window with the Pinkie/Gauge story.  I mean, if the first fits into the same setting as the framing story of #1 at all, it takes place after Chrysalis has been defeated and regular travel between the worlds established.  And the second story is purely a one-off, no-continuity gag piece.  This series was originally supposed to be serialized weekly online and only come out in print at the end, and I guess the creators weren't given any sort of guidance other than maybe a dibs list on characters.  The Spike/Grimlock story is okay, but the Pinkie/Gauge story is just stupid, and not in a fun way.  Neutral.  $3.99
Transformers '84 Secrets & Lies #3 (of 4): IDW - While I was initially setting up the framework for this month's column, I didn't think #3 had come out this month, because I couldn't recall having read it.  That is never a good sign.  Anyway, part of that is because the big fight this issue is forgettable, a dazed Grimlock versus mindless shells of several Autobots under the control of the Ark's computer, AUNTIE.  There's also some warfare on Cybertron, with the triumvirate of Straxus, Thunderwing, and Scorponok carving up Cybertron amongst themselves and Star Saber and Ultra Magnus trying to hold the line against them.  In a series already written like a timeline checklist, this one is particularly bad about it.  Very mildly recommended...it's not bad, it's just sort of...there.  $3.99

Transformers Galaxies #9: IDW - Fun with printing delays led this to come out in September even though it hit ComiXology in August.  This wraps up the Reversionist arc, and I think artist Beth McGuire-Smith was running into deadline pressures because the art gets pretty sketchy in places.  The story feels kinda sketchy as well, as if it was originally planned as four issues but the last two had to be compacted into one.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers Galaxies #10: IDW - Also suffered a delay that made the print version lag a couple weeks behind the online version (TF #23 had this happen too), but at least it made it out in September.  This picks up a new arc, focused on Ultra Magnus and what he's been up to while Cybertron descends into war.  It has a lot of the usual, "Such an honorable warrior, blind to the corruption you serve," stuff that characters like Magnus tend to attract.  IDW1 Minimus Ambus was such a strong take on the character that it's going to be hard to come up with something different that isn't just Stoic Soldier with maybe a little angst.  Several other familiar faces with new personalities show up, and it's hard to avoid thinking of this as "the boring Lost Light".  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers #23: IDW - "Rise of the Decepticons" subtitle.  It's coup d'etat time, and while the Senatorial Guard and Orion Pax are aware something is up, stupider and oranger heads prevail and the Senate sets itself up perfectly for Megatron to seize control while also maintaining a veneer of righteousness.  This is mostly the "oh crap" installment leading into (depending on how Ruckley wants to pace this) a climax in #24 or #25.  Given that the next miniseries coming out in a few months focuses on fleeing Cybertron, it's safe to say that history plays out in its usual path and Megatron wins.  Given the fairly slow burn and the inevitability of the outcome, this book lives or dies on the character moments, and they're a bit sparse in a fight-heavy issue like this one.  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), shocked public schools are still open, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing.  So let us HAVE DONE with you!  I say you are no Senate WORTHY of the name!  In the name of Primus, GO!  NOW." - Megatron, Transformers #23
Dave's Capsules for September 2020 Dave's Capsules for September 2020 Reviewed by Dvandom on Friday, October 02, 2020 Rating: 5
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