Dave's Capsules for May 2021


Looks like image captioning is working again.  Sort of.

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Justice Wing: Plan, Prototype, Produce, Perfect; The Way of the Househusband vol 5

In this installment: Justice Society World War II, Justice Wing: Plan, Prototype, Produce, Perfect, Disreputable Persons, The Way of the Househusband vol 5, Hawking, The Other History of the DC Universe #4 (of 6), The Blue Flame #1, Maestro War and PAX #5 (of 5), The Trials of Ultraman #3 (of 5),Shang-Chi #1, DC Festival of Heroes. The Wrong Earth Night & Day #4 (of 6), Sacred Six #9, Vampirella #19, The Orville Digressions #1 (of 2), Kaijumax Season 6 #1 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Annual 2021, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #97, My Little Pony/Transformers II #2 (of 4), Transformers Beast Wars #4, Transformers Escape #3 (of 6), Transformers #29-30.

Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed to order): RWBY/Justice League #2 (of 7).

"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.

Justice Society World War II
: DC/WB - This is part of the new animated continuity that started with Superman: Man of Tomorrow.  Barry Allen happens across a fight between Superman and Brainiac, and due to plot device finds himself in the middle of WWII with a team he'd never heard of, the Justice Society.  Not only does he need to find a way home, during the trip he got a cryptic message indicating that he had to do something before leaving, and that sets up the plot.  They do a fairly good job of slowly unveiling the big plot twist, and there's even a little easter egg for LSH fans.  The climax is a bit of a dueling deus ex machina thing, but that's okay, as it's practically a denounment to the real climax.  The Kamandi short sort of ties into the main plot, and is...okay.  It feels like they were going for a sort of Thundarr feeling or perhaps even the partially-animated Kirby Marvel cartoons, but were unwilling to commit fully to the deliberately bad animation or rough designs.  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.

Okay, technically these are "other media" in that they are novels, but I also got them as ebooks, and Adventure Finders didn't put out an issue by May 28, so I wanted something in this category.

Justice Wing: Plan, Prototype, Produce, Perfect: Superfluous Press - Okay, so Eric A. Burns-White has been writing superhero fiction for decades, starting with the Superguy universe on Usenet, and then building his Justice Wing setting on his blog and later his Patreon.  The Justice Wing setting is largely and obviously a deliberate DC homage with what look like a few Marvel homages here and there, but it's also very strongly a Superguy homage...but you don't need to know that in order to follow what's going on.  Importantly, the main character of this novel is not a Superguy transplant in any meaningful way, he's Oliver Queen.  Sort of.  As pointed out in the end notes, one goal of the story was to create a sort of alternative to Longbow Hunters, making an unpowered archer into a serious hero without also making him a mass-murderer.  Broadhead is that archer, complete with weird facial hair (muttonchops in this case), an inherited fortune of questionable origins, and the whole "a hero who is an asshole" personality.  The story jumps around in time, with the main framing being set on what looks to be the last day of his career (and maybe his life), with various interjections about his origins, his impact, and his eventual alienation of just about everyone.  As the guy who was always there even if he had no powers and did have an annoying personality, Broadhead's life is the framework upon which the author sketches out the eras of his world.  Anyone who had been reading his online work to date (all of which have either bought the book by now, I suspect) can see where various stories fit onto this scaffold (like seeing the other side of Leather's fight against Broadhead here), but again it's not necessary.  This is about a single man determined to get things right even though the world is Wrong.  There are dark and bright mirrors aplenty through the flashbacks, from friends who have lost all hope but still fight, to enemies who should have been allies, and most of all the protege he was determined to protect from himself.  Strongly recommended.  $6.99 Kindle edition, $16.95 paperback.

Disreputable Persons: Signal Comics (that's what's on the cover, no publisher is listed on the Amazon page) - The fourth book in the "Signalverse" series that kicked off with Miracle Girl & Jack.  A few characters from the larger universe do show up or get mentioned, but this is mostly about a separate cast.  Specifically, a group of paroled ex-supervillains (who were generally never that villainous) and the one minor-league superhero who keeps her eye on them.  It's your basic "not very bad badguys stumble onto some serious villainy and have to stop it themselves because the heroes don't believe them" story, plus a romantic subplot that requires the protagonist be pretty oblivious.  A decent read the fleshes out Blake Michael Nelson's universe.  Recommended.  $2.99 Kindle, $9.99 print.


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

The Way of the Househusband vol 5: Viz - After a slump last volume, the quality is back up to par.  A good variety of situations and characters, playing up some of the humor in the non-mob cast once in a while helps keep it from falling into a rut. Strongly recommended.  $12.99/$17.99Cn/#9.99UK

Hawking: :01 First Second - Ottaviani bounces around publishers with various projects, and like his Feynman project this one from :01 First Second has the same "trade dress" and general style of having an autobiographical voice even though it's not a straight adaptation of an autobiography.  Oh, there's plenty of primary source material, and Ottaviani worked with Hawking on the script, but this is assembled from a bunch of sources, much like Primates was.  (The Naturalist, which I'll cover next month, is more of a straightforwards adaptation of an existing autobiography.)  I admit to having a different perspective on this than most, since I actually studied general relativity a bit in college and astrophysics in grad school...I might be the only person who read this and at some point thought, "Oh, he's foreshadowing the Kerr metric!"  As such, I may not be the best person to determine if the explanations are clear enough for a typical reader, but they seemed reasonable.  And as for the non-science stuff, it doesn't shy away from some of Hawking's personal failings (although the narration tends to speak of them almost at a distance..."Oh, and this relatively unimportant thing happened, and the work continued with adjustments," sort of thing when talking about divorces and remarriages).  Recommended.  $29.99/$34.50Cn (hardcover)

The Other History of the DC Universe #4 (of 6): DC - This one breaks away from the 70s/80s stuff and focuses on Renee Montoya from 92 to 2007.  Given that most of what I know about her is the BTAS version and her scenes in the 52 maxiseries, there's a lot of places where I'm not going to know if Ridley's contradicting canon in the way he did with Katana.  Note that starting with 1992 implicitly includes her BTAS appearances as part of her life story, if grafted into something like the main DCU.  And as near as I can tell (given how I avoided a lot of the Batovers starting in 2001), she gives a fair summary of events, if necessarily biased.  As happened in #1, the narrative voice evolves along with the character, so it feels like she was keeping a diary that got turned into the comic.  While the "other" aspect of #1-3 was mainly racial, Montoya's race only impacts things occasionally, with her sexuality being the main source of alienation, the main thing she had to hide in order to Pass.  (She repeatedly emphasizes that being anything but a cishet white guy was a Problem on the force, but as long as she kept the sexuality thing hidden she could metaphorically mask up and be accepted.)  And, of course, because she took up the mantle of the Question, there's a page or so tracking how he stopped being a Randroid.  Recommended.  $6.99


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 Blue Flame #1: Vault - This month's "Oh what the heck, I'll give it a shot," book.  The high concept here is that the title hero is both a silver age cosmic hero and a "DIY" Milwaukee hero on a team like the Mysterymen (Flaming Carrot), and maybe a third person (there's a short scene that seems disconnected from the other two).  One or more of these might be delusions.  Maybe the brewtown hero is hallucinating the cosmic stuff.  Maybe the cosmic hero is being subjected to alternate lives as part of his cosmic adventures.  Maybe the walls between realities are blurring together.  The first issue sets up a lot of possibilities but doesn't make it clear which one is "real" or if any of them are.  I'm curious enough to follow up and see where this goes.  Recommended.  $3.99

Maestro War and PAX #5 (of 5): Marvel - Eh, a few good bits, but mostly Maestro jobbing Doctor Doom.  On the fence regarding whether I even want to pick up the third miniseries (World War M).  Very mildly recommended.  $3.99

The Trials of Ultraman #3 (of 5): Marvel - After disposing of the robo-kaiju, most of the issue involves trying to figure out who made it, which runs through a plausible series of deductions while introducing some more worldbuilding.  There's a short "oh, and there's real kaiju to deal with" scene that mainly seems to be there for the "Dad isn't a fan" subplot.  I am amused by the cliffhanger reveal of another robo-kaiju, given the real-world origins of the kaiju in question.  Yeah, dancing around a spoiler there.  Recommended.  $3.99

Shang-Chi #1: Marvel - An ongoing series by Yang, building on the recent miniseries.  This is the sort of thing Agents of Atlas was setting up for, but then...didn't really.  Heroic heir to a criminal empire, trying to bend it towards good while still stuck with the fact that it's a criminal empire.  AoA made the transition to Good Guy Group With Some Shady Bits with unseemly haste, Yang appears determined to play out the moral quandaries more directly here.  Recommended.  $3.99

DC Festival of Heroes: DC - Well, this was a worthy high concept, an anthology spotlighting DC's Asian heroes, done as a fancy square-bound 100 page giant with a $10 price tag.  Unfortunately, most of the story quality is more appropriate for a $5 newsprint 100 page giant of the sort Walmart used to carry.  (FWIW, I picked it up because of Yang's Monkey Prince story, I've been a Sun Wukong fanboy off and on since I was a kid.)  Very mildly recommended.  $9.99

The Wrong Earth Night & Day #4 (of 6): Ahoy Comics - A big chunk of this issue involves the Alpha and Omega versions in a role-reversal, with Stinger-Alpha believing each one is the other.  Interesting character dynamics, and it's not entirely clear whether either has truly been changed by their time in the other's boots.  There's still some slightly cringey bits where Peyer shoots for Batman 66 tone meets modern sensibilities and misses, though.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Sacred Six #9: Dynamite - (Looking at Previews, the series appears to end at #12, but it's not technically solicited as a maxiseries.)  A somewhat scattered issue, mostly involving Nyx in some way, but with a lot of flashbacks and side stuff.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Vampirella #19: Dynamite - Meanwhile, in another reality after or before Sacred Six it's not really that clear, Vampi runs around Drakulon (well, under it) while trying to explain it to Doc Chary and generally not getting anywhere on either front.  The former because she's still mostly trying to figure out what web of intrigue she's been dropped in, and is still gathering enough information to even tell which direction "getting anywhere" might be.  The latter because what Vampi does understand is not something Chary is willing to buy...Drakulon is in another dimension rather than another star system.  (How, if at all, this interfaces with the Dark Powers series, I dunno.  Not entirely sure Dynamite is even trying to have an actual coherent universe, I don't read enough of it to tell...or care.)  This is an issue that will probably work better re-read after the arc wraps up, though.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99 

The Orville Digressions #1 (of 2): Dark Horse Comics - This story fills in some of the gaps between when time-displaced Kelly Grayson was sent back without her memories properly wiped, and the dark alternate timeline jump in the final arc of season 2.  Basically, showing how Ed ended up in a dead-end position and no one was available to stop the Kaylon invasion.  It also brushes on a few of the smaller scale issues, like how without Ed as captain of the Orville, a lot of personal-level things didn't work out as well as in the proper universe.  Recommended.  $3.99

Kaijumax Season 6 #1 (of 6)
: Oni Press - The final season begins with an alliance of alien invaders launching a coordinated assault on Earth, and the planet's salvation is in the hands of...not the Kaijumax prisoners.  However, they're being recruited to help in a purely support role behind the lines, however meaningful that distinction is when the enemy flies and teleports.  The main metaphor here is how prisoners in real life "volunteer" for forest firefighting even though their criminal record means they'll be unable to get jobs as firefighters once they finish their sentences.  Within this framework lie at least two major subplots...Electrogor hoping to reach some kind of rapprochement with his daughter, and one of the prison gangs deciding this duty would be perfect cover to pull off a heist.  There's a few other threads getting page space, including one that seems minor but grabs the "next issue" splash page so I guess it'll blossom into a third major subplot.  Will Cannon manage to catch up with everyone and give them proper resolutions?  Maybe, although for some it'll probably be heroic (or not so heroic) death.  But the series started with Electrogor, and he's definitely getting some sort of ending.  Recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony Annual 2021: IDW - Squeezing an extra two issues out of the Season 10 year by making the Diamond Dogs visit an Annual.  I have to wonder if it was supposed to be two regular issues but due to scheduling issues they put in some one-shot fillers and had to move this to being an annual?  At 30 pages it wouldn't have quite made it to two full issues anyway (there's some reprinted short pieces and covers to flesh this out to 48 total).  Anyway, the more refined Diamond Dogs of this settlement have no particular link to...anyone, really.  They just invited a delegation from Equestria in the interest of establishing diplomatic relations.  Rarity's experience with the uncivilized DDs is as close as anyone gets.  As a result, this one isn't as impactful as the other two (which fleshed out Zecora's mysterious background, and at least gave some more background to Capper).  Not having to carry significant external narrative load makes it feel a little lighter in turn, and the main plot complication comes down to OSHA violations.  Or would, if OSHA existed in this world.  (This world really really really needs an OSHA.)  Mildly recommended.  $5.99

My Little Pony #97: IDW - Wrapping up the Abyssinia story, and now only one Tree of Harmony remains to be rediscovered.  In terms of actual sense of threat, that only exists until Discord gets his magic unblocked, at which point the story's just about over.  The tree bit is almost perfunctory at this point, with Pinkie and Fluttershy pretty much chivvying every cat onto their proper spaces.  Along the way, though, there's some decent character development bits.  Recommended.  $3.99

My Little Pony/Transformers II #2 (of 4): IDW - The first story sticks pretty close to the original concept, with just G1 Transformers and G4 ponies, as the Wonderbolts help Starscream and the Seekers round up a bunch of Sombra-controlled Cybertronians and ponies.  The second story has Applejack and Wildwheel in a standoff plus G1 Skids and Beast Wars Quickstrike, in a piece set in the Rust Sea (maybe) with no real connection to anything.  AJ has simply found herself on Cybertron and runs across Wildwheel (Cyberverse).  Random fanfic stuff.  Looks like the extra time to consider things has not led to anything like a coherent storyline or setting, just a licensed version of grabbing random toys and playing with them...which I can do without paying $4 an issue.  Neutral.  $3.99.

Transformers Beast Wars #4: IDW - This is mostly Nyx trying to make her way back to the Axalon, getting some unexpected (to her...readers knew this was coming) help from Dinobot, and then Dinobot making his expected offer to join the Maximals.  The actual plot is pretty much obvious even for the hypothetical reader who didn't watch the cartoon, of whom I suppose there must be SOME.  The only potentially important and interesting bit requires that Burcham's art accurately reflects the intent of the script, because a decidedly non-Terran critter shows up.  Vok import?  Clue that this isn't actually prehistoric Earth after all?  As long as it's not an art foulup, it presents an actual mystery, if not a huge one.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers Escape #3 (of 6): IDW - This happens more or less during this month's issues of Transformers.  The Insecticon ambush is fought off, but it was never really their main goal, just an attack of opportunity.  A bit of a three-sided conflict is set up this issue, with some obscure European-origin Decepticons being sent by Shockwave to deal with the disobedient Insecticons.  It's very much a breather in the middle of the story, so not a great read on its own.  The art is also a bit uneven, as if McGuire-Smith were having trouble with deadlines...it gets sketchy in places, and backgrounds almost entirely go away in some scenes.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Transformers #29-30: IDW - They must've had an issue with their printer, because both of these issues (and Escape #3) came out the same week (although ComiXology spaced them out).  Weirdly, Dai Atlas is on the cover of #29, despite having nothing to do with the story inside.  #29 chronicles the fall of the remaining Titans (generating some stubs for TFWiki in the process) and another dark secret of Autobot rule.  #30 involves a "neither side really expected it to work" parley between Megatron and Optimus Prime, but mostly focuses on Pyra Magna's background and why Cyclonus wants her dead.  Both work reasonably well, Ruckley finally seems to be getting the point that each issue needs to be at least somewhat readable on its own, rather than incrementally advancing every plot very slowly.  #29 is mildly recommended, #30 is recommended.  $3.99 each.

Dvandom, aka Dave Van Domelen, is an Associate 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 masking up just in case, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"What?  What's wrong with MY modes, Blitzwing?" "They're not very good." - Apeface and Blitzwing, Transformers #29
Dave's Capsules for May 2021 Dave's Capsules for May 2021 Reviewed by Dvandom on Saturday, May 29, 2021 Rating: 5
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