Dave's Capsules for October 2023

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 2

In this installment: The Little Trashmaid Diving Deeper 01, Franken Fran vol 1-8 (Omnibus editions), Chainsaw Man vol 12, Kaiju No. 8 vol 8, Spy x Family the Official Guide Eyes Only, Spy x Family vol 10, Asadora! vol 7, The Great Cleric vol 1, Henshin! vol 1, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 2, Comics For Ukraine - Sunflower Seeds, Fantastic Four #12, Superman Lost #6 (of 10), Transformers #1, Gargoyles #9, Gargoyles Dark Ages #3, Vampirella/Dracula Rage #2 (of 6), Mech Cadets #2.

"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.

Loki Season 2 started this month, and is pretty promising so far.  I finished watching the first BluRay release of Spy x Family (first half of season one, so well behind Crunchyroll), and it's a good adaptation.

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 Little Trashmaid Diving Deeper 01
: Silly Studios - This is an anthology ebook of stories featuring The Little Trashmaid largely written and drawn by other creators.  These stories break the usual "no words, just occasional pictograms" rule the series follows, with the first one deliberately poking fun at the convention by showing that everyone had plugged ears (earbuds for the human, chewing gum for the mermaid), so once everyone's ears are cleared the rest of the book has dialogue.  Fortunately for me the dialogue is in English (it's an Italian studio), and the English is good.  This break in the format does let them explore some stories that would kinda hard to set up in wordless format.  I guess that's one way to interpret the "Diving Deeper" title, although for the most part the stories are tonally more shallow than some of the best of the regular series.  Recommended, available from sillystudiosofficial.com for 4.99 Euros.


Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.
Franken Fran vol 1-8 (Omnibus Editions): Seven Seas Entertainment - Years ago, a friend pointed me at this series when it was being posted online (the site that carried it no longer has it...the link page is there but all the links are rotted).  I found it amusing, but didn't like reading it online, so gave up around chapter 7, still in volume 1.  A few months ago I discovered it had been "completed" (although it's more that the creator wanted to do something else, it doesn't really resolve much) and was available in four two-volume omnibus editions.  So I decided to get it.  Now, here's the important part: this is rather gory horror humor.  Like, it had a lot more bare breasts than I'd remembered (early Seven Seas was apparently big on that), but frankly if you're bothered by the nudity the medical horror is going to be WAY worse for you.  This entire series is one big trigger warning for body horror, the cheesecake is tertiary at best.  (Other than the covers, Fran herself is always demurely dressed, typically in a lab coat, but apparently the creator knew his audience when it came time to do the cover art.)  That said, if you can handle a lot of detailed albeit black and white medical horror depiction, I found this to be darkly humorous and while things got problematic here and there (a touch of homophobia, more than a little misogyny on display), it did a pretty good job of selling its high concept.  What's the high concept?  What if a Japanese WWII version of Mengele escaped justice and created a "daughter" to carry on his work advancing medical science?  Fran Madaraki is that daughter, a sort of cute girl Frankenstein's Monster complete with giant bolts on her head (for some reason the neck bolts of Karloff's portrayal migrate onto the sides of the head in a lot of manga/anime homages).  She has an ethical code and honestly tries to make the world a better place, but she's terribly naive and sometimes more interested in seeing what will happen next than in fixing the fallout of some of her works.  More than one story ends in Fran musing some version of, "Did I just doom humanity?  Ah well."  Most of the chapters fall into one of three basic categories: Monkey's Paw Wishes (Fran does a procedure to help someone become happy, and it does not work out very well), Poetic Justice (Fran does something for money and it rebounds badly on the horrible person who paid for it...rapists get particularly gruesome comeuppance), and Cryptobiological Mystery (strange diseases and parasites, or sometimes uncovering projects of her father's that have gone roaming).  There's a few other types of story in there, but those three cover most of the 60+ chapters.  The last omnibus is dominated by revisiting ideas from previous volumes, such as the living mascots of a theme park, or the ongoing Kamen Rider pastiches.  Along the way, Fran's crowd of weird minions (including a human-headed cat who has human intelligence but a cat's indifference to anything that doesn't affect him) is joined by a pair of sisters, other creations of the never-seen Dr. Madaraki.  Both the older and younger sister are way more interested in killing than healing, yet somehow Fran still does more damage in the long run.  Anyway, if anything I described seems even a little offputting, don't read this manga.  I have, if anything undersold it by a lot because I don't want to write a review that needs a trigger warning, and might already be in that territory.  So, if you've heard of this manga and think it's more "Nightmare Before Christmas" or "Frankenweenie" stuff, it is definitely NOT.  But if you're okay with some pretty outre biological horror described in a calm and clinical voice by a moe mad scientist, you might find this series amusing.  On a craft level, this is really "whatever amused/interested the creator at the time," and the continuity is a touch rough, a lot of chapters end on apparent cliffhangers that get ignored.  It's more about recurring gags (some of which will MAKE you gag) and characters than actual continuity.  $19.99/$24.99Cn per omnibus, four total.

Chainsaw Man vol 12: Viz/Shonen Jump - Now for something slightly less gory and body-horror-y.  While the title character does show up in the last couple of chapters, this is almost entirely about setting up a new antagonist, a girl who has to make a contract with the Devil of War to save her life from another devil-contracting classmate.  War thinks she can make Chainsaw "give back" an erased concept...in the first arc it was revealed that when the Chainsaw Devil killed another devil, it could utterly erase the concept that the devil embodied.  For instance, when the 9/11 Devil was killed, everyone forgot 9/11 even happened, save for devils and some of their contractees.  The reader has no idea if Chainsaw can un-destroy in the first place (and Denji sure has no clue, not that he's aware of this whole thing yet), so it could all be a fool's errand.  But in a world where 35% of people are likely to die to a devil, all errands may be fool's errands.  Interesting start to the next uber-arc.  Recommended, but gory.  $11.99/$15.99Cn/#8.99UK

Kaiju No. 8 vol 8: Viz/Shonen Jump - Sorry, still at least a little gore, but at least it's just monster gore.  Just as most of CSM12 is about someone other than the title character, Kafka only shows up in the last few chapters of this one as well.  The first two thirds focus entirely on two previously background members of the kaiju hunter force, one of whom is seeking to become worthy of a numbered weapon, one of the insanely powerful devices made from the remains of kaiju powerful enough to have earned numbers (the fact that after centuries we're on Kaiju No. 8 tells you how rare this is).  These guys get shoved center stage a little abruptly, although it doesn't help that the volume size is based on page count rather than story...if the last few chapters of vol 7 had been put in this volume it would've flowed a lot better.  Still, while he doesn't have a lot of pagecount, Kafka makes those pages count as he comes to a new understanding of his life and motivations.  Recommended.  $11.99/$15.99Cn/#8.99UK

"And then there's the precognitive dog."
Spy x Family The Official Guide Eyes Only
: Viz/Shonen Jump - Okay, no gore at all in this one.  This is a "fan book," something that's apparently common in manga but not really in American comics.  It's a combination of a character guide, episode guide (although most of the summaries are in teaser form), collection of bonus artwork (both design sketches and promotional pieces), interviews, and some tribute art (mostly from people Endo has worked with in some capacity).  Pretty content-dense as a result, and not always easy to navigate since a lot of stuff is peppered around the book hither and thither to avoid things spending too much time on any one topic.  It covers the material found in volumes 1-9 of the manga and has some small mention of the anime (mostly promotional art for it).  For those interested in process stuff, there's some more in-depth interviews with Tatsuya Endo, and occasional casual remarks about how he had his assistants doing this thing or that.  As I've noted in past reviews, the series is pretty accessible no matter where you pick it up, but it's still fun to see all the background stuff.  Recommended.  $16.99/$22.99Cn/#13.99UK

Spy x Family vol 10: Viz/Shonen Jump - And a week after the guide came out, it was rendered incomplete, ta dah!  About the first third of this volume is Twilight's fleshed out origin story, from his pre-war childhood through to his recruitment by WISE.  We'd gotten the basic strokes of this before, but this gives Twilight more depth to his character.  The cover is telling, with the nine volume run of "character sitting in a designer chair" motif being interrupted by kid Twilight sitting in bullet-pocked rubble with a toy gun.  His childhood wasn't just tragedy, it was tragedy relieved by hope that was then cruelly snatched away by forces beyond his control or even his knowledge.  The focus drifts around a bit as usual after this, with a sequence about Twilight's handler breaking in some rookies, Anya chatting with the ever elegant Mr. Henderson, and Yor making a new friend who could represent a Plan C.  Oh, and Frankie and Bond both strike out romantically.  Recommended.  $11.99/$15.99Cn/#8.99UK

Asadora! vol 7: Viz - No gore, but some emotional damage as Asa's marathonner friend Sho enters full on tragic territory, caught between the demands of his family, the temptations of performance enhancing drugs (which turn out to do nothing of the sort), and a kaiju.  The kaiju is the least directly dangerous to him, his own delusions are what will definitely destroy his life and pretty soon.  Asa gets another shot at the kaiju with somewhat more success, but then her home life and the issues with her other friends come to a head.  Still, as rocky as things are for Asa, Sho is gonna be really lucky to survive until the kaiju attacks in 2020.  Again, the running theme of this series seems to be that while kaiju exist, the real monsters are people.  Recommended.  $14.99/$19.99Cn/#10.99UK
The Great Cleric vol 1: Kodansha - This is another one of those things I first noticed via captioned screencaps of the anime version, and another series that started as light novels.  Apparently there were some rights-sales bumps along the way, this volume came out in 2017 in Japan but only got translated for English language release this year.  (Barnes & Noble around here only carried vol 1, but on Amazon I was able to find 2-5, with 6 coming out in November...it can be tricky buying online when there's both manga and light novel editions around!)  It's another isekei "reincarnated in a fantasy world" series, with the protagonist being "Japan's Greatest Salaryman" who works himself to death is shot by a sniper for no readily apparent reason (maybe a Happy Kanako stealth crossover) and reincarnates as an adult (well, a teenager, but in that world he's considered an adult at that age) in a fantasy setting.  So far, he's been using his "only closers get donuts" skills to try to level up as fast as possible so he can retire to a comfortable life, but the groundwork has already been laid for him probably reworking society on the large scale as he just sort of trips into social reform simply because his Rules For Salesmanship include things like treat all customers as valuable and always provide good value because cheaters lose in the long run.  He's a highly ethical Ferengi, but without their prejudices.  He's not overpowered like Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear's protagonist, but he does have significant potential and a salaryman's almost psychotic work ethic which leads him to training way harder AND way smarter than almost anyone else.  He lives for the grind, and this is a world that rewards that...the world is very much a Gaming World.  It has character sheets, stats and so forth, and lots of hot women and grizzled men and people with wolf or cat or bunny ears.  One of the running gags is that the protagonist keeps meeting devastatingly cute women who are nice to him and he wonders if he's actually in a harem anime.  I don't read enough isekai to tell if this is normal, but he doesn't really worry about going back to Earth or even wonder a whole lot about why this happened to him...heck, he doesn't even wonder about how someone in Japan could be murdered by a sniper rifle.  It's not like he's from America!  Recommended.  $12.99/$16.99Cn

Henshin! vol 1: Rockport/Saturday AM - Okay, this was one of those things that popped up in a "recommended for you" list online, and I decided to give it a try.  It's a British creator doing a tokusatsu (Kamen Rider type) story, which apparently started as a webcomic but then got completely redrawn for the print edition.  The story is pretty standard stuff (other than all the major characters being LGBTQ+), and the art...meh.  Weird semi-chibi proportions and a focus on getting to the big finishing move splash pages.  Bon Idle has potential, but right now it has yet to be developed enough that I'm inclined to pick up the next volume.  And if the art is amateurish, the plot seems deliberately so, just riding the cliches without doing anything beyond making the main romantic subplot M/M.  The imprint's tagline is "The World's Most Diverse Manga-Inspired Comics," and it does fulfill the diversity claim, but this volume does not back it up with much quality.  Neutral.  $13.99/#9.99UK/$18.99Cn

Turns out, this is foreshadowing.
Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 2
: DC/Webtoon - Collecting chapters 26-51 of the really good webcomic, although a couple of chapters are mis-numbered (the chapter numbers were added for print, and they screwed up on 27 and 51, labeling them as 28 and 50 respectively).  With this half of the first season, CRC Payne delved more into the non-comedy character exploration stories, such as the chapter in which Jason Todd has a PTSD breakdown over what sounds like a crowbar scraping across the floor.  But whether the stories are funny, touching, or a combination, Payne does a good job of keeping the tone from feeling wrong, and Starbrite's facial expressions always help sell the mood.  Strongly recommended.  $14.99/$19.99Cn

Comics for Ukraine - Sunflower Seeds: printed by Zoop - This was a crowdfunded piece that launched last year, raising money for Ukraine relief.  On the one hand, everyone back then hoped things would be over by now.  On the other hand, everyone also FEARED things would be over by now.  These are generally not bright and cheery tales, at best we see evil defeated but at terrible cost for the people living there (as in the Groo story).  Many of the pieces are like Busiek's Astro City contribution, which ends on a defiant but uncertain note.  Only a few are literally about events in Ukraine, most creators choosing to use their own known properties to tell metaphorical tales, such as Scary Godmother (Jill Thompson) dealing with bullies or a retired Star Slammer (Walt Simonson) wreaking terrible vengeance that's too late to undo the horrors of war.  This is not a happy read, but it's not a happy situation.  This is not currently for sale outside of the Kickstarter backers, but zoop.gg promises that they will be selling copies of this at some point.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear vol 7 technically comes out in October, but on the 31st, so it'll go in the November reviews.  Go Go Loser Ranger vol 7 came out in time for an October review, theoretically, but my local B&N is continuing its streak of not bothering to get new GGLR volumes until a week or two late (I'm not driving down to Lubbock to pick one up), so that won't arrive in time either.  Got a tall enough stack of manga this month anyway.


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.)

Fantastic Four #12: Marvel - Okay, the timer on the Baxter Building's reappearance is getting close to zero, but not QUITE yet.  Still time for a few more "save the world/universe/multiple universes from destruction" adventures, this time involving some dinosaur comics.  But not Dinosaur Comics.  Merely a universe that is everything Sauron ever wanted and boy will he be pissed he didn't get to see it.  And, of course, it's not enough to be an entertaining coincidence, the coincidence is a Bad Thing, the sort of Bad Thing that might otherwise be used as the premise for a year-long mega-crossover event.  Fortunately, it won't be.  :)  Recommended.  $3.99

Superman Lost #6 (of 10): DC - Sometimes uniting a fractious world isn't what it's cracked up to be.  (Reminder, since my name's in the credits I'm not going to recommend one way or another.)  $3.99

Transformers #1: Image/Skybound - This issue has two messages for me.  "Yes, we're tired of Bumblebee too," and "We're not like those wimps at Marvel that only massacred characters once a year to make room for new toys."  The art is grungy, and while the cast is pretty small it drops by several already thanks to mostly Starscream.  Yes, this isn't written by Kirkman, but I have a bad feeling that the ultraviolence by Decepticons is being turned up so that Johnson can make the Autobots much more morally gray while still being technically the good guys.  Due to how my mail order pull works, I'm committed for at least two more months, but I seriously doubt I'll warm to this series.  Neutral.  $4.99

Gargoyles #9: Dynamite - Despite being a mostly static trial ("it's a hearing" "whatever") episode, the art looks even more rushed.  Maybe Kambadais isn't all that interested in putting time into courtroom scenes?  This feels like the kind of thing that could've been really good in animation, with tense voice work and background music to match, but as a comic it just falls flat.  Neutral.  $3.99

Gargoyles Dark Ages #3: Dynamite - Very quickly the battle is over except for the dialoguing, and despite this being set twenty years before the events at the start of the cartoon, the story is very intent on setting up just about every bit of personality and conflict now, as opposed to letting some of them crop up over the decades.  A rather fanficky "gotta explain things NOW" tone, unfortunately.  On the plus side, that does mean it's unlikely they'll try to continue the series past its originally planned ending.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Vampirella/Dracula Rage #2 (of 6): Dynamite - "I'm Not Dracula" and "I'm Not Draculina" hang out in some murkily drawn wreckage and between them narrate how Vampirella ended up in that location in order to generate all the wreckage.  It has the sort of "summing up" feel that I'd expect in the second to last issue of a series that got shortened after starting.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Mech Cadets #2 - Boom! Studios - Ominous vaguely evil Earth defense commander insisting that the general get those kids under control while being (possibly justifiably) xenophobic, those kids trying to do the right thing against overwhelming odds, then a heroic sacrifice designed to give the kids massive angst to impel them through the rest of the arc.  Other than the new character brought in last issue, there's no further obvious moves to bring the comics continuity in line with the cartoon's, although the theory presented here about the Sharg might come up in the cartoon too.  Mildly recommended.  $4.99

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), finally had a surgery that added something rather than removing something, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"Honestly, this is probably only the NINTH weirdest thing you've done this year." - alternate Franklin Richards, Fantastic Four #12


Dave's Capsules for October 2023 Dave's Capsules for October 2023 Reviewed by Dvandom on Friday, October 27, 2023 Rating: 5
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