Dave's Capsules for January 2024

 

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Cursed Princess Club vol 3, My Little Pony Classics Reimagined: the Unicorn of Odd #4 (of 4)

In this installment: What If? Season 2, Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander The Dungeon vol 1, Go Go Loser Ranger vol 8, Kaiju No. 8 vol 9, The Great Cleric vol 7, Cursed Princess Club vol 3, Spider-Man Quantum Quest, Fantastic Four #15, Moon Knight #30, Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1, Superman Lost #9 (of 10), Gargoyles #11, My Little Pony Classics Reimagined: the Unicorn of Odd #4 (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.

What If? Season 2: Disney+ - Okay, there was something of an arc, and annoyingly it seemed to be largely about shooting a redemption arc square in the head.  Granted, at least What If? has a long history of "this is the story outcome we all agree sucks," in the comics.  Still, leaving aside the absolute clunker of a season finale, it was pretty good, with some deep cuts (like the Tales of Suspense issue that turned Happy Hogan into a pseudo-Hulk, they dug up that point and put it in an alternate MCU).  They also managed to do the entire 1632 series in 22 minutes with room for the season arc.  Worth a watch, although you might prefer to skip the finale if you prefer not to undo part of the season 1 finale.

I've owned Harley & Ivy S3 for a while, but didn't manage to get around to watching it during the holidays, ah well.  The Justice League Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 1 (half a dozen movies into the new continuity and Crisis already, sigh) came out at the end of the month, I'll cover it in next month's column.


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.

Nothing this month.  I did get the PDF versions of some books I backed on Kickstarter, but I'll wait to review the hardcopies as usual.


Trades:

Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.
 
Serving soft drinks, water,
and cheesecake.
Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon vol 1
: Yen Press - Okay, this one kept its full Light Novel title.  As suggested by that, it's another isekai, and a particularly weird one.  The premise is that a major vending machine fan is killed trying to stop a vending machine from toppling over (it falls on him but as he dies he sees it wasn't hurt)...and he's reborn as a vending machine in a fantasy world.  One thing that makes this premise a little harder for U.S. audiences to get is that the vending machine ecology here is pretty sparse.  Mostly soda and snacks, occasional other stuff at travel centers and the like.  But due in part to the rather hard to break into vertical distribution monopolies, a vending machine can be the easiest way for a new company to get their product to customers.  So you'll get vending machines that can serve heated food, clothing, toys (the capsule type that tends to get sold just on the shelf here), etc.  So, "Boxxo" has access to magical versions of a lot of potential products and services (e.g. he can summon a hot water accessory magically and then dismiss it in order to be easier to carry), and he's in a fantasy world where food items provide immediate health benefits and stat boosts.  However, he has a lot of limitations, such as only being able to speak using a limited number of pre-programmed marketing phrases (yeah, Japanese vending machines are a lot more likely to be talky).  Fortunately for this not being a 32 page one-shot ending in his demise, one of the first beings he encounters is a hunter who is conveniently strong enough to carry him around (adventurers all have some sort of magical boon) and intuitive enough to figure out how to communicate with him.  And yet, for comedic purposes, still something of an airhead.  His only combat-related ability is a force field, which drains his life force (replentished via money).  He can't eject product in any way a properly functioning vending machine can't, so he's basically a dedicated support character strapped to a tank-role.  Interesting enough I'll get the next one.  Recommended.  For Older Teens (violence, mostly).  $13.00/$17.00Cn

Go Go Loser Ranger vol 8: Kodansha - The second half of the Mysterious Time Loop High School, with Fighter D running into an enemy he may be unable to overcome: NUANCE.  Created as an interchangeable mook and spending most of his life in captivity of one form or another, I suppose he's to be credited with coming up with anything like an ethical code, but while fighting the Snake Boss and his lieutenants, D is starting to wonder about a lot of things.  He's already been given ample reason to ditch his loyalty to the old bosses, but now he starts to see hints of why someone might want to follow them after all.  On top of that, revelations about the Green Keeper make him wonder if he has to kill ALL of the Dragon Keepers...and if he's tied himself to an even more dangerous monster than the Bosses.  Sure, most of the pagecount is hyperkinetic combat and Strange Power mind-mangling weirdness, but the ethical development of this idiot is proving to be quite interesting.  Recommended.  For Teen 13+.  $10.99/$14.99Cn.

Kaiju No. 8 vol 9: Viz/Shonen Jump - Kafka does actually get some spotlight in this volume, mostly an emotional realization bit where he gets past his angst and feelings of self-loathing, but most of the volume involves No. 9 setting off his big push and forcing the Kaiju Defense Force to deploy several Number suits that may not entirely be ready or safe or willing to shut the heck up.  What had been a series about the title character and his supporting cast has become more of an ensemble book.  Time will tell if this works better, or if Matsumoto has trouble holding focus and succumbs to plot bloat.  Still, going okay for now, and several character progress scenes.  Recommended.  Rated Teen (for slicing and dicing kaiju).  $11.99/$15.99Cn

The Great Cleric vol 7: Kodansha - A transitional volume.  He's done with the Labyrinth, and has a mission to travel the countryside serving those who need healing, but he has a year and a half to prepare for it...and boy does he have a lot to prepare.  The last (probably) mysteries of Substance X are revealed and Luciel comes to grip with it along with his new duties and all the hazards that come with trying to reform the church.  And yet, still basically light comedy for the most part.  There's one new character who has the potential to be Problematic, but so far just skirts the edge as near as I can tell (they get a bit handsy with Luciel, but it's mostly treated as "talented crafters have their quirks" despite Luciel's mortification).  According to the end notes, this has entered adaptation of the third original novel, and it strikes me that I have no idea how the ratio of manga to light novel even works normally...but this seems like a lot of content at about three manga volumes per novel.  That aside, a solid volume, although not as good as previous volumes.  Recommended.  Rated Teen 16+ (some violence, a fair amount of innuendo).  $12.99/$16.99Cn
PINK DEMON!!!!

Cursed Princess Club vol 3 (of 4): Webtoons - As the final volume reaches its climax in weekly updates, it's weird to look back at this volume and see that it's almost entirely "light adventure" with only occasional hints of the Big Deal Plot of the endgame.  A few more characters are introduced, including another potential romantic interest for Gwen (an artist who can see her inner beauty), but her brother does not Ship It and some of the best silly humor of the volume involves Jamie trying to drive off the new suitor.  Several of the other Cursed Princess arcs carry the volume, plus the upcoming Gala providing challenges and crises for various characters.  Mostly light, frequently funny, sometimes quite touching.  A very good read.  Strongly recommended.  $18.99/$24.99Cn

Spider-Man Quantum Quest: Marvel/Abrams Books - The sequel to Mike Maihack's Spider-Man kid-GN from last year, and like that its main plot is basically "Spider-Man trying to find the missing," although it's more people than pets this time.  The "it's Marvel, but played for laughs" aspect of the setting increases here, it's not quite Not Brand Ecch or What The?!, but Maihack is definitely aiming to tickle the funny bones of his younger audience.  There's also an extended sequence where you need to turn the book around because reality has gone awry, at least until She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall to help Spidey get his bearings.  Light fluff, not for people who aren't willing to see serious characters treated in a somewhat silly manner, but worth picking up otherwise.  Recommended.  $12.99/$16.99Cn/#9.99UK


Floppies:

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.)

Some irregular titles didn't come out during the period covered by my most recent shipment, and Vampirella/Dracula Rage was shorted by Diamond so hopefully I'll have it for next month.

Fantastic Four #15: Marvel - "We made an AI, but will it save humanity or enslave it?" is a premise Marvel has been using literally since the beginning (original Human Torch), and it has cropped up pretty often since then.  Even the idea of an "unkillable" distributed AI without an actual body has come up rather a lot from Marvel.  I suppose the means of interaction North comes up with for this AI is a little different, but the main difference between this and the usual Marvel AI plot is that neither Hank Pym nor Tony Stark is anywhere near it.  (Just an Elon Musk riff with better hair.)  Also, the dilemma is less "how do we stop it?" and more a combination of "how do we stop it without hurting it?" and "should we be stopping it in the first place?"  A decent examination of the ethics of true AI, although a few points off for the Ominous Ending that made me remember Hickman's "everything becomes Technarchy eventually" thing.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99

Moon Knight #30: Marvel - For a climactic fight, there's not a lot of fighting.  The true mastermind behind the arc does some monologuing and gets a flashback scene before leaving Marc to die inside Madbomb 2.0 (and boo to the mastermind for not recognizing that he was repeating someone else's plot, MacKay mines enough obscure continuity that he has to have known about the Madbomb).  Taken on its own, the big "gotta save everyone even if I die for good since Khonshu can't resurrect me again" scene works very well.  But it's not on its own, and less than a month later we get the comic right below this one.  It's like when Ms. Marvel "died" and came back within a few weeks...when they can't even pretend for more than a few months that the character might not return, it tends to cut the legs out from under dramatic self-sacrifice.  Also, the last page sets up a new status quo where all the people Moon Knight inspired join together to continue his mission...it'd have been nice to at least pretend they'd get a chance to do so, eh?  Mildly recommended.  $4.99

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1: Marvel - Okay, so is Marc back?  This issue definitely raises the question (not even a spoiler, he's on the cover), in particular "How is he back, and is he still the same person?"  Clearly answering these questions will be the focus of the first arc.  The focus will not really be on the new Midnight Mission team doing anything else, we get a couple pages of that in MK#30 and a little bit of it in this issue in short vignettes, but it's as if MacKay was told he had to get the title character back on stage immediately and was not allowed to actually do anything with the team that he'd spent months building up as a viable replacement.  Again, I fully expected Marc to return, somehow.  But it'd have been nice if we got at least one full story where there were just hints and rumors and never actually see someone claiming to be him.  Disappointment over not getting the teased story kinda dampens my enthusiasm for the one we actually got.  Mildly recommended.  $5.99

Superman Lost #9 (of 10): DC - This is a bit of a confusing issue as well, but not because of timeline shifts as in previous issues, but because so much of it is "here is what (character) is imagining could happen" counterfactual scenarios that aren't clearly set off as such until you get to the end of the scene and it clearly didn't happen that way.  Immediate re-reading of the issue is rewarded, though, now that you know what to expect and can try to figure out whether a given scene is Superman's "I would like to but I won't" imagining or Luthor's "Here's what I'd do if I were Superman" cynicism.  Okay, it's not THAT uncertain who's seeing it, but it does take a careful read to be sure of some of them, because Superman spends a lot of the issue in a Mood.  Recommended, but you do need to work for it.  $4.99

Probably the variant cover I'd
have gotten if I'd had a choice.
Gargoyles #11: Dynamite - Coming in on the wrap-up (pretty sure #12 is the last one), since Dynamite is allergic to ongoing titles and there will be a new #1 coming along shortly.  I won't be there for the new #1, though.  I'd kinda hoped that Weisman's comics would have improved since the old Gargoyles comics (which I dropped after a while), but not really.  The reason behind the whole dull trial is revealed, and if this had been an animated arc supported by good voice acting and music and so forth it would have been a decent payoff.  Instead, it just sort of thuds.  There's a lot of ways the stated goal could have been achieved without the extended captivity and trial bit, and I think Weisman just wanted a courtroom drama and didn't care too much how well it would work.  Neutral.  $3.99


My Little Pony Classics Reimagined: the Unicorn of Odd #4 (of 4)
: IDW - Whew.  After a lot of disappointment and confusion, ending on a strong note.  The Unicorn of Odd gets her chance to shine and complain about the plot, we get the classic Balloon oops scene that made it into the movie, but then a bunch of stuff from the book that got cut out in favor of a quick Witch ex Machina in the movie.  Applejack is definitely not a Wayward Girl candidate here, she's happy enough to have all this nonsense behind her.  The tone of fourth wall breaking, in-jokes, and strong knowledge of the source material carries on all the way to the end.  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), playing a dirge on the slide windbreaker for Peter Schickele, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
 
"AAAHH!  PINK DEMON!!!!" - Prince Leopold, Cursed Princess Club vol 3

Dave's Capsules for January 2024 Dave's Capsules for January 2024 Reviewed by Dvandom on Tuesday, January 30, 2024 Rating: 5
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