Dave's Capsules for November 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): Love and Capes: the Family Way

In this installment: Henchmen (DVD), New Mutants (Blu-Ray), The Comicbook History of Animation #3, Adventure Finders Book 2 vol 1 Chapter 12, Avatar the Last Airbender: the Search TPB, Love and Capes the Family Way TPB, Maestro #4 (of 5), The Rise of Ultraman #3 (of 5), Avengers: Marvels Snapshots #1 (of 1), U.S.Agent #1 (of 5), Marvel Action Avengers (2020) #2, Shang-Chi #3 (of 5), Big Girls #4, Bill and Ted are Doomed #3 (of 4), The Orville #3, Norse Mythology #2, Sacred Six #4, Vampirella #15,  Midnight Sky #6, Kaijumax Season 5 #5 (of 6), Gladstone's School For World Conquerors One-Shots (Ghost Girl/Mummy Girl, Skull Brothers/Martian Jones), My Little Pony/Transformers #4 (of 4), My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #91, Transformers #24

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.

: Vertical Entertainment - So, this apparently hit theater in 2018.  One theater.  Opening box office something like $500, total theatrical run take either $15K or $51K depending on where you look.  It has actual recognizable voice talent too, such as Rosario Dawson and Alfred Molina.  My guess is that this supervillain spoof was greenlit to try to cash in on the Minions niche, but...they lost faith in it, and only had a limited theatrical release for contractual reasons (they got funding from the Canadian government) or perhaps to qualify for some technical award that year.  And then it moldered in the vault for two years before becoming a Walmart DVD.  And sadly, molder is the right term.  This was...not very good.  It wasn't uniformly bad, and had some amusing bits here and there, but it was trying to be a farce and that is dangerous.  If you want a good treatment of people working for a professional henching organization, check out Eric Alfred Burns-White's Patreon for things like Being the Steve.  Don't bother with Henchmen, whose high point is Molina getting to chew virtual scenery.  Even the animation, which might have been pretty good for 2018, starts to feel dated already.  

New Mutants
: Fox/Marvel - Speaking of moldering, this movie just couldn't catch a break.  First it gets caught in the whole transition of assets deal, and then just as it's about to finally come out with major reworking, theaters all closed.  It finally limped onto streaming and disc release in mid-November, a few weeks too late for the Halloween season given that it was shooting for a horror movie motif.  Given that it was very very loosely adapting the Demon Bear Saga, a horror angle was certainly appropriate, and they tweaked enough things about the background to make it plausible (although, frankly, even the original comics' motivation for assembling the New Mutants had untapped horror potential...the Brood Queen growing in Professor X influenced him to do it so she'd have more mutant hosts for her eggs).  So, this wasn't an outright bad plan.  It could have been good.  It just...wasn't quite.  Leaving aside a pet peeve or two (and I can almost guarantee that most viewers will find a peeve or two in here), the biggest problem was structural.  It was set up as a horror mystery, where no one on screen knows why things are going so horror-tinged (other than, you know, being set in a former insane asylum full of 1950s trappings).  But anyone even remotely familiar with the comics immediately knows why, and there was no real attempt to obfuscate this...the only time the movie makes the viewer wonder if a particular incident is due to (actual cause) or maybe due to (red herring) is after everyone in the story has already figured out the actual cause.  Red herrings only work if introduced in a way that could lead people on one or both sides of the screen to change their minds about the plot device, and this one comes in during a harrowing chase scene where no one stops to think that maybe it was never (actual cause) in the first place.  Otherwise, it did change some stuff around for good reasons (frankly, changing Sunspot's powers helped with the horror aspects, and bringing in Lockheed and Limbo without needing huge chunks of X-Men backstory made sense), a few bits for the sake of twists, but it wasn't twisty enough to save the fact it was trying to be a "closed mystery" in which the audience is expected to not know the resolution until late in the game.  It's not a total write-off, but it falls into the common adaptation failing of trying to retell a mystery while acting like the audience is in the dark.  Mildly recommended.

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 Comicbook History of Animation Part 3: Evil Twin Comics - Individual issues continue to only be available to Kickstarter contributors.  This covers roughly the WWII years and a few years after, and just as animation was dominated by Disney in that era, so too is this issue dominated by the MausHaus.  There's a few bits of "what else was going on" here and there, including a decent chunk on UPA/Looney Toons.  Suffice to say, when the Alan Dean Foster news hit this month, I was utterly unsurprised by it, it's totally on-brand for Disney.  Definitely worth picking up the trade once it becomes generally available.    [Update: Part 1 comes out in print in early December from IDW.]

Adventure Finders Book 2 vol 1 Chapter 12: Patreon.com - To the victor go the spoils, but when the victory is not already spoiled it can be hard deciding the disposition of the losing side.  This chapter is devoted to sorting out who among the invasion fleet needs to be tossed overboard (often literally) and who's just decent people trying to do their jobs.  Not a lot of hard calls here, though, as the thorough drubbing of last chapter has convinced all but the total nass-heads to mend their ways should any ways need mending.  Clari herself is off-screen all issue, we'll be finding out what she was doing next issue, presumably.  Lots and lots of non-battle crowd scenes and detailed backgrounds, even for the sort of dialoguing scenes that most artists would put in featureless expanses and tight closeups.  Recommended.  $1/month on Patreon.com.


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

Avatar the Last Airbender: The Search TPB: Dark Horse - This was the first [correction: second] official continuation of the ATLA story, originally issued as a trio of slim square-bound volumes as has become the style of Avatar comics.  With the individual parts becoming hard to find, they have now issued a new printing of the collected edition...I got interested in reading it after watching the entire ATLA series over the summer, but I decided to wait for this edition rather than chase after the older versions online.  Gene Luen Yang picks up the story not too long after the end of the series, with Zuko deciding it's time to figure out what happened to his mother Ursa.  Of course, daddy dear ain't likely to help, so it comes down to trusting Azula, who is actually crazier than before.  I mean, she was a sociopath with paranoid delusions by the time Sozen's Comet arrived, but now she's hallucinating as well.  Yang sets this up as a possible redemption arc for her and since she was never really mentioned or shown in Legend of Korra he's pretty free to run things the way he wants.  While technically this is a rather old story, I'd rather not give away the ending.  It's definitely worth the reading, even if you're only vaguely familiar with the setting.  Recommended.  $24.99/$33.99Cn 

Love and Capes: the Family Way: IDW - One of the weird consequences of 2020's effect on comics distribution was that IDW announced a bunch of series that would start off as online in single issues and then only get paper releases as collections.  Some, like TF/MLP below, ended up with paper floppies after all, but this one held off and only went hardcopy as a completed collection.  It jumps ahead a few years from the last story, and now Crusader and Abby have both a young son and a baby daughter.  But while things are going pretty well for them, a lot of the supporting cast have had their happy endings undone pretty severely, providing conflict and some mystery.  And a running gag involving Amazonia's tiara replacement (abdicating at the end of the last series meant she wasn't allowed to wear the old one anymore).  Interestingly, the main resolution takes place in the "fifth issue" with the last part being heavy on flashbacks to fill in some of the missing time and denouement.  Anyway, it's really well done and I frequently found myself laughing aloud.  (As an aside, if you subscribe to Zahler's Patreon, you can see a new short piece on how their world deals with COVID-19.)  Strongly recommended.  $19.99/$25.99Cn


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 #4 (of 5): Marvel - Hulk versus Hercules, which was pretty good, but I could see the forced Avengers movie reference coming well in advance and kinda winced when it happened.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99
The Rise of Ultraman #3 (of 5): Marvel - The basic rules of the Ultraman shared body thing, including beta capsule, get laid out while it becomes clear that the bad guys might be in charge of the good guy organization.   So...yeah, a darker take on the Ultraman concept than is usually seen, although I'm nowhere near familiar enough with Ultra-stuff to say if it's an outlier or just a bit unusual.  Those who fight monsters become monsters, etc.  They also set up a "use the power too much and you die" Spawn trigger.  Interesting take, gonna stick with it.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Avengers: Marvels Snapshots #1: Marvel - Barbara Kesel tells the tale of a couple of emergency responders caught in the middle of the Avengers' fight with Red Ronin (I presume...he's never named on-panel and we only ever see a hand and a partial shot of the back of the head), interspersed with them and others trapped with them relating stories of living in disaster-prone New York City.  A decent read, although I didn't care for Staz Johnson's and Tom Palmer's art.  Mildly recommended.  $4.99

U.S.Agent #1 (of 5): Marvel - John Walker comes into a Scout Comics town and blows it up.  Well, a little more than that, but after his last status quo ended with all his supporting cast killed off, U.S.Agent is at loose ends and ends up sent on a "check this thing out" mission in the wake of SHIELD disbanding again.  A redneck in redneck country, but not really fitting in for all that.  And he picks up a snarky old man named Morrie Watanabe (confirmed with Priest to a joint homage to Irv Watanabe and Morrie Kuramoto from the 80s Marvel offices) as a neither-wants-this sidekick.  Lots of setup, giving the feel of "superhero(ish) guy gets mixed up in spy games and corporate crap" story...but is it really?  USAgent comes across as more reasonable than usual, but some of that could be the artist.  (I can't really speculate here, because I helped with some of the background brainstorming on the series so, I mean, I probably know spoilers.  Unless Priest changed the whole plot around after the brainstorming, which is entirely possible.)  Recommended as long as you don't mind unlikeable protagonists.  $3.99

Marvel Action Avengers (2020) #2: IDW/Marvel - Katie Cook's second issue, originally planned for, um, February.  But the 2019 series ran long, delaying the start of this one until March, at which point it all fell apart.  Maybe Cook's final issue will come out in December?  Anyway, this one has a somewhat Flanderized Captain America visiting schoolchildren with the help of Squirrel Girl, at which point a decidedly not-Earth-616 version of an old supervillain decides to attack.  Fun, decidedly in its own little world, but it doesn't do Cap many favors.  Recommended.  $3.99

Shang-Chi #3 (of 5)
: Marvel - Very much a middle part, recovering and training up and tracking down clues but ultimately not succeeding despite it all, because this is a 5 part story and not three.  A lot more sibling squabbling going on that reaches a point I'd almost call tsundere except I really doubt Yang is setting up a romantic relationship between half-siblings.  (Weird reading this right after The Search, especially since I got the Phoenix variant color that makes Shang-Chi look like a firebender.)  Recommended, but if you haven't picked up any yet, maybe wait for the trade.  $3.99

Big Girls #4
: Image - Maybe a 6 issue series?  Almost no one says so in the actual comic anymore, but the solicits for #6 look pretty final.  In any case, this is also very much a middle-of-the-arc story, with a lot more flashbacks to set up why the antagonist is driving this particular plot, while the protagonist learns some hard truths about her world, just in time for the Big Damn Kaiju Fight to start.  The story is cohering better than last issue.  Recommended.  $3.99

Bill & Ted Are Doomed #3 (of 4): Dark Horse Comics - To be honest, this series is sadly just sort of sliding off my brain.  It feels like an attempt to cross over with Metalocalypse but without really committing...which is weird, since musical fandoms are kinda Evan Dorkin's thing, even moreso than media fandoms.  It's not even that there weren't some good bits in here, but it just didn't cohere for me.  Part of it is probably that there's a lot of plot threads (comeback tour, the robots get brides, impending doom, setup for Face the Music, the whole death metal economy going on) and it all feels like slow burn for a 12 issue storyline rather than something that's over next month.  Mildly recommended, mostly for the parts rather than for the whole.  $3.99

The Orville #3: Dark Horse Comics - First half of the second "episode," Heroes.  This focuses on Talla, the heavyworlder security chief, and starts with a flashback to one of her early assignments, scouting out a world where the natives were maybe 20th Century tech level and appeared to be related to her own people, but with no cultural similarities and no trace of heavyworlder adaptations.  Cut to the present, and that beautiful world is being exploited by a non-Union race who might go to war if the Orville forces them to stop doing that.  Fairly obvious plot setup for part two, but it'll be interesting to see how it plays out anyway.  Recommended.  $3.99

Norse Mythology #2: Dark Horse - The entire issue is devoted to finishing "The Treasures of the Gods," no short pieces to accompany it.  A good solid myth to hang an issue on, and one I fondly recall from childhood (and would later wonder if Shakespeare was familiar with, since his solution to the "pound of flesh" plot point was similarly legalistic to Loki's way of keeping his head attached to his shoulders).  Recommended.  $3.99

Sacred Six #4: Dynamite - Jae Lee's not involved in this one, a different artist does the "ancient flashback" sequence, and there's not quite as jarring a transition to the main art.  Things are starting together, although Vampi has to do an awful lot of narration in the first half to make that happen.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Vampirella #15
: Dynamite - A done-in-one ghost story, although the scary part of it is not the ghosts or astral plane whatever technobabble you use to justify them, but rather the torn from the usually buried on page five stories of police abuse of power that underlie the ghost story.  (Granted, recent events have driven home more and more that part of this story is implausible, and I don't mean the ghosts.)  Recommended.  $3.99

Midnight Sky #6: Scout Comics - Infiltration of not-Disneyworld continues apace, and with it the origin of the alien invasion.  It gets a bit weirder, perhaps even slightly mystical in nature, than the usual alien invasion plots.  Recommended.  $3.99

Kaijumax Season Five #5 (of 6): Oni Press - This issue is dominated by the life story of Pikadon, setting him up as a tragic figure and victim of a corrupt system who decided to deal with the system by becoming the most corrupt part of it.  A rather touching tragedy, for all that it has its basis in the rather low hanging fruit of "Pokemon is just a bunch of kids abusing animals in pit fights."  Dr. Matsumoto's arc gets a little time as well, although it's doled out in such small bites that I'm still not sure what's going on beyond a sort of general covering up police corruption thing.  Recommended.  $3.99

Gladstone's School for World Conquerors One-Shots: Maneki Neko Books - While we continue waiting for a fourth volume of the main Gladstone storyline, this year's Kickstarter was for a pair of flip-book one-shots.  One book has Skull Brothers and Martian Jones as a flip-book, the other has Ghost Girl and Mummy Girl.  Kid V had a one-shot in the previous Kickstarter, so this gives all the core cast their moments in the Sun.  Or in the shadow, as the case might be.  (Secondary cast member Speed Spectre gets a one-shot next year, though.)  There's no unifying theme here, they're set along various points in the timeline if all presumably prior to the current-as-of-volume-three space journey storyline.  The Skull Brothers are making their audition video, Ghost Girl is getting in some family time before the first day of school, Mummy Girl just has an unwanted adventure while she's supposed to be working on her homework, and Martian Jones has to deal with accidentally self-caused problems at school.  Problems of a "Why do we even HAVE that lever?" variety, frankly, but mad science can be like that.  One thing the stories do pretty well is establish a spectrum of villainy.  The Skull Brothers are dedicated to being evil, to the point that the can't really fit into the kayfabe reality of their current era, while Ghost Girl is clearly set up to be a hero down the line.  Martian Jones is slightly villainous, more of a villain because he can't be bothered to follow the law when it gets in the way of SCIENCE! (the exclamation point is important there), while Mummy Girl is basically a legacy, kinda neutral on the ethical spectrum but willing to follow in the family business.  She'd probably make the best modern-style villain of the lot, as a result, because it's not personal.  She's doing the job, living up to her responsibilities, and willing to take a dive if that's what the job calls for.  Recommended.  Not marked for individual sale, but will probably be available online soonish once all the Kickstarter backers get their copies.

My Little Pony/Transformers #4 (of 4): IDW - It's the Apple Clan versus the Insecticons for the fate of Sweet Apple Acres (with more help from Discord) and then a valiant attempt to pretend that this was all part of one big story and cap it off with a huge cliche blast.  While there's some cute gags (Megatron gets an orange safety cap on his barrel, Spike shows up in human-Spike's exosuit, etc), it ends up feeling like someone's first fanfic.  Very mildly recommended.  $3.99
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #91: IDW - Well, it says "The Musical" on the cover, but there's only one musical number near the end.  Mostly it's an alternate sextet getting back into the groove of solving problems together like they did before Zecora fled for Equestria.  It feels kinda like Whitley decided to put part of a Tales of Equestria TTRPG adventure into the story, although it resolved differently than in the module.  Recommended.  $3.99

Transformers #24: IDW - Things were really rolling towards a Big Change on Cybertron, which traditionally would mean that this issue and next issue would be big slam-bang battles for the fate of the world.  Nope.  Time to go off to the Winged Moon, cut loose a few months ago, and see how that's faring for a couple of issues.  I mean, it's not a bad story to tell, but Ruckley is either deliberately bucking comics traditions or is utterly unaware of them.  Anyway, it's Engineers In Spaaaaace (well, on a moon), with worse in store for them personally even if they do save the Winged Moon from a sun-dive.  It's mostly G1 regulars (Wheeljack, Huffer, Gears, plus Cosmos) and Lancer (who gets a specialty and a few lines, but not much characterization beyond "good at her job and knows it").   It also has if not the first serious appearance by Enemy, the first serious appearance to give him much of a personality.  If you're expecting a traditional "#24-25 blowout" story, you're not going to find it here, but it's decent on its own terms.  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), still COVID-free, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"What?  Who calls themselves ENEMY?  Oh, wait...you didn't choose it, right?  Someone ELSE came up with your name?"  "No.  I chose it."  "Wow.  I mean, to each their own, but...wow.  Issues much?" - Lancer, Enemy, and Huffer, Transformers #24
Dave's Capsules for November 2020 Dave's Capsules for November 2020 Reviewed by Dvandom on Monday, November 30, 2020 Rating: 5
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