Dave's Capsules for December 2023


Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): My Little Pony Classics Reimagined: Unicorn of Odd #3 (of 4)

In this installment: Adventure Finders Book 3 Episode 15 Extended, I'm In Love With The Villainess vol 1-5, The Illustrated Guide to Monster Girls vol 2, Chainsaw Man vol 13, Mr. Comics and the Hey Comics Kids, The Amazing Cynicalman vol 1-2, Animorphs the Graphic Novel vol 4: The Message, Fantastic Four #13-14, Moon Knight #29, Superman Lost #8 (of 10), Transformers #2-3, Vampirella/Dracula Rage #3 (of 6), Mech Cadets #4, My Little Pony Classics Reimagined: Unicorn of Odd #3 (of 4).

"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.

Nothing this month.  What If? Season 2 started up at the end of the month, and so far seems to be avoiding the "build towards a big event" thing that Season 1 did, but either way I won't review it this month. 

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.

Adventure Finders Book 3 Episode 15 Extended: Patreon.com - Turns out that there was so much content planned for this episode that it couldn't be finished in a month, so the completed version was posted this month.  Most of the new pages are fight scene in which the rather OP-by-now heroes wipe the floor with Arokian troops...just in time for the REAL cliffhanger.  Recommended.  $2/month or more on Patreon.


Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.
Not doing great at the job interview.
I'm In Love With The Villainess vol 1-5
: Seven Seas Entertainment - This month's "try a new series based on the anime screencaps on Tumblr" is another isekai.  But unlike Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear or the Great Cleric, where the protagonists end up in an MMO-like world that is otherwise new to them, Rae Taylor ends up inside a dating sim that she's OBSESSED with.  Like, to the point of being able to write a doctoral dissertation on the economics of the fictional setting (but using that info to write fanfic instead).  It's a dating sim that includes magical combat, so there's plenty of action scenes.  The key conceit here is that Rae is gay.  So she has no interest in any of the three princes she's supposed to go after, and instead is very unhealthily obsessed with the noblewoman rival in the game.  And therein lies the problematic aspect of the book, for all that it's otherwise light romantic comedy that pushes cringe all the way through to absurdist comedy.  She's more than a little stalkery, plus she appears to have a humiliation fetish.  As the story progresses and Rae tries to bend the rules of the game to let her be with Miss Claire (or at least avoid any of the Princes), she starts to run into the problem that the more successful she is at changing things, the less useful her detailed knowledge of the game becomes, and she starts to get surprised by events.  She's still magically very OP (only one person can really beat her in a fight, and that person is a guest star in volume 5), but it's a dating sim not a combat-focused game.  We do get to hear her internal monologue, especially when she's deliberately lying to people about things about which she has special knowledge, and this does slowly humanize her a bit.  Volume 5 is the real turning point, though, which conveniently also provides the setting with someone who is way more problematic than Rae while at the same time providing Rae a dark mirror to convince her to change her ways.  Basically, if you can get through volume 1's pervy creeper gags, it becomes an interesting maybe-doomed love story about trying to fight a fate that's literally hard-coded into reality.  Recommended with the caveat that if a male protagonist did what Rae does this would probably not have been as successful due to reader/viewer revulsion.  $12.99/$16.99Cn rated Teen 13+ (some tastefully obscured nudity and a lot of creepy stalker stuff).

The Illustrated Guide to Monster Girls vol 2: Yen Press - Eh, I think I'll be giving up on this one.  After setting up the premise (extremely stupid and incompetent high school students but they're monsters at monster school) in the first volume, this doesn't do much new with them, or even really introduce much in the way of new characters or concepts.  In fact, the cast is slightly trimmed down.  It's goofy misadventures with a lot of "harmless" gore since the characters revive when killed (but forget most of the stuff that happened that day, leading to a vicious cycle of poor performance), and a bit more focus is on the rival teachers (well, one-sided rivalry), but...it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.  I suppose if vol 3 comes out during a bit of a manga drought for me I might grab it, but I can't really recommend the series much at this point.  Mildly recommended, and mostly for those who like slapstick gore.  $13.00/$17.00Cn rated older teen 13+.

Chainsaw Man vol 13: Viz/Shonen Jump - The title character gets a bit more time this volume, but it's still mostly about the War Devil and Justice Devil.  The ending of vol 11 felt like it had plans for Chainsaw interacting with the new Control Devil, but either that was a deliberate fake-out, I mis-read it, or the writer just got a new idea and abandoned the old one.  What is effectively the second episode of season 2 continues to...not really grab me.  I'll give it another volume or two, but it feels like the creator has decided to write a different series in the same setting and it just doesn't interest me as much.  Very mildly recommended.  $11.99/$15.99Cn/#8.99UK, rated Older Teen.

Mr. Comics and the Hey Comics Kids: Xylophone Media - The strips collected here started being posted weekly on cynicalman.com, so I scrolled down to the very 90s website store section and bought this (as well as the two collections below while I was at it).  They were originally done for a zine called Hey Kids Comics! (hence Xylophone Media and not Not Available Books), and it's kinda like McCloud's Understanding Comics but pitched for a younger age group.  It mixes explanations of comics tropes and visual storytelling with examples of such things (like a race to the bottom of the page which is won by the person who started on the left side of the top panel, because we read left to right).  It includes a glued-in copy of Cynicalman #1, since Mr. Comics is the teacher who got stepped on by Godzilla at the end of that story.  Recommended.  $6.99, free shipping if ordered direct from cynicalman.com.

Have a day.
The Amazing Cynicalman vol 1-2
: Not Available Books - These are collections of newspaper strips Feazell did for the local Hamtramck and Flint newspapers around 2000 (vol 1) and 2010 (vol 2), with the gap being due to other non-comic projects.  On the one hand, there's a lot of Local Interest stuff in here, compared to the more general "parody of superhero comics" stuff in other Cynicalman comics.  On the other hand, a lot of these local-to-Hamtramck issues are pretty broadly applicable to people who live in the U.S. or Canada.  Despite, or perhaps because of, Feazell's minimalist stick figure style, these are pretty dense reads, in part because any details that DO exist are probably worth paying attention to.  However, the origin as a weekly mostly non-continuity strip means you can read this in whatever size bites you want, there's no momentum to gain or lose.  Recommended.  $20 as a set with free shipping from cynicalman.com.

Animorphs the Graphic Novel vol 4: The Message: Scholastic - I think this'll be my last installment of this one too.  I'd mostly gotten interested in Animorphs through the Transformers crossover toys twenty some years ago, and figured I'd get the basics from these instead of doing the prose novels.  With the arrival of Axe this volume, the basic cast and most of their bits of business are in place, but I don't find the story (or at least its delivery) compelling enough to want to see more.  Especially since "more" is potentially Dragonball-length even if they only adapt the existing books.  Mildly recommended.  $12.99/$16.99Cn

I also picked up the new-ish Halo & Sprocket collection as a "get it up to free shipping" order.  Most if not all of the stories seem to be from the two collected volumes I already had, but those were black and white and this is color.  It's a good comic, and this is well-colored, but I'm not going to re-review it.


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 arc was probably written
specifically to get this image.
Fantastic Four #13
: Marvel - The Dino-world two-parter wraps up.  How does one defeat two Doctor Dooms (Doctors Doom?), especially when one is a T.rex?  Well, both regular and extra-large Thing know how, although most of the issue is spent showing that no one else does and getting beaten down thereby.  Also, the power of cussing is on display.  A fairly cliche resolution, to be sure, but it makes perfect sense for all the characters involved.  Recommended.  $3.99

Fantastic Four #14: Marvel - Splitting this off because it's not really connected to #13.  It's time for the Baxter Building to reappear, but there's a bit of a fly (or beetle) in the ointment, thanks to a techbro and his evil (well, self-serving) AI scheme.  Along the way, we get one explanation why Marvel didn't have COVID-19 happening on-screen (I assume it didn't, I don't read a lot of mainstream Marvel books anymore).  Of course, this is the Marvel Universe, so a selfish techbro isn't the worst person to be in control of an AI with global reach (just ask Hank Pym some time), and things gotta get blown up.  North has some interesting ideas in this, and "some interesting ideas" does kinda define his entire run, but the execution was a bit perfunctory this time around.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Moon Knight #29: Marvel - Man, the Ben Day dots are getting out of hand.  Some of the dire situations set up last issue are resolved, some are made more dire, the Black Spectre's identity is revealed, immediately disputed as implausible, and then revealed again on the very last page (no guarantee that this isn't ALSO a fake-out...we're in "final episode of the Prisoner" territory here).  Feels a bit padded out, like they wanted to get to #30 and really only had enough plot for two issues of Game of Death homage.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Superman Lost #8 (of 10): DC - I'm not in the credits here, and don't blame me for the technobabble, I didn't vet this one.  I'm not sure how well this works with what little can be considered "standard" DC cosmology, although points for trying to tie it into some of the work Priest did in the Black Adam series (this issue must be set before the final issue of that, since Teth-Adam and Black Adam are united again...unless that got REALLY speedily undone in a book I don't read).  Superman's characterization and dilemma compare really well to something else I'm reading, but since I'm reading it as pre-publication "beta reader" I can't discuss it yet, sigh.  Luthor is really being yandere about Superman, though.  Recommended.  $4.99

Transformers #2-3: Image/Skybound - Okay, the first issue left a bad taste in my mouth, but everyone else seems to absolutely love this series.  Will these two issues change my mind, or just leave me shaking my head sadly?  Well...the second one.  This is a series for people who are only vaguely aware of Transformers, but who like the sort of stuff Kirkman and his collaborators/assistants put out.  It continues to basically be "First few issues of the Marvel G1 comic, but with Seekers gleefully turning humans into paste at least once an issue, everything sucked even before the Decepticons came to town, and it all runs by what a teenaged edgelord thinks would make a cool set piece."  There's a few decent bits here and there, not even counting the stuff obviously (to people who'd read it) lifted from Marvel G1 and some IDW stories.  I don't care for the art, but I've put up with FAR worse art on Transformers comics.  The pacing is pretty good, I'll give them that much.  It's just the content that turns me all the way off.  Some of the forced G1 references are jarringly out of place, like this decaying PNW town having a police car that's a Datsun 280Z in Japanese highway police colors, ha ha Prowl but not really.  I'm dropping this from my pull, although the terms of my pull mean I'll probably get a couple more issues.  Dunno if I'll bother reviewing them, though.  Avoid.  $3.99 each.

Vampirella/Dracula Rage #3 (of 6): Dynamite - I feel like the art was supposed to make it clearer which scenes were present-day and which were flashbacks, so Priest left out his usual datestamp captions.  But it's all just sort of muddy murky mess at night and in the rain, making it difficult to tell when anything was supposed to be happening (and at one point, I think a character was supposed to have been clearly dragged along by Vampi but was NOT, making it seem like an entirely different character changed into them).  Normally I can follow Priest's jump-around storytelling, but I'm really having trouble with this series.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Mech Cadets #4 - Boom! Studios - The pacing is still pretty janky, with most of the issue not really advancing much farther than the end of #3, just fleshing out the "doing what they decided to do" bits, and then suddenly lurching into a few pages in which a lot happens.  I've been getting a Dynamo Joe vibe off this volume (giant robot fighting techno-organic horde which turns out...spoilers for a comic that ended over thirty years ago...to not be the actual baddies but instead are fleeing the actual baddies) and it only intensifies this issue.  The big splash page cliffhanger even feels like it was inspired by the big "Oh crap" moment near the end of Dynamo Joe.  But we shall see.  Recommended, if a bit bad on pacing.  $4.99

My Little Pony Classics Reimagined: the Unicorn of Odd #3 (of 4): IDW - This one REALLY leans into doing all the things from the book that the movie ignored, and glossing over the movie events on the grounds that everyone probably knows them.  And if it's kinda on fast forwards a lot of the time, Whitley knows when to slow down for maximum comedic impact.  Strongly recommended.  $3.99

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), didn't have to flunk anyone this semester, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"Goodness...that commoner really is unsettlingly creepy." - Miss Claire or one of her hangers-on (the panel is unclear), I'm In Love With The Villainess vol 1

Dave's Capsules for December 2023 Dave's Capsules for December 2023 Reviewed by Dvandom on Wednesday, December 27, 2023 Rating: 5
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