Dave's Capsules for April, 2024

Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Nothing this month

In this installment: Adventure Finders Book 3 Chapter 17, Easygoing Territory Defense by the Optimistic Lord: Production Magic Turns a Nameless Village into the STRONGEST FORTIFIED CITY vol 1 (whew), Robotics; Notes vol 1-3, Dinosaur Sanctuary vol 4, Cat + Gamer vol 1-4, The Mighty Onion vol 1, Thorn, Spectreman Heroes.  (No floppies due to shipping mishap, they'll be in next month's.)

"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.

X-Men 97 is still ongoing, ten episode season so I'll cover it in May.  I got Aquaman II and Doom Patrol S4 at the end of the month, those won't get watched in time for this month's column, although I almost watched Aquaman over the weekend.  Also, the latest Please Don't Tell My Parents superhero universe book from Richard Roberts dropped this month, but I won't be finished before the end of the month, and the latest book from the Wearing the Cape universe (new series in that world) dropped but it's after PDTMP in my reading queue.

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 Chapter 17: Patreon.com - This is explicitly an extended homage to Avengers: Endgame, as all the friends and allies Clari and her crew have made along the way join the fight.  Not a whole lot of fighting this issue (more along the lines of showing off), but it's made clear that despite all the boosts and allies and so forth, it's hardly going to be an easy battle or even a likely win (other than, you know, dramatic necessity...but the fourth wall is quite solid here and the protagonists do not know this).  Recommended.  $2/month or more on Rod Espinosa's Patreon.

Speaking of Patreon, if you subscribe to Linda Sejic's Patreon, the story pages for Punderworld vol 2 are complete, but the finished collection and printed copy have yet to be announced.


Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.
Short pants, long title.
Easygoing Territory Defense by the Optimistic Lord: Production Magic Turns a Nameless Village into the STRONGEST FORTIFIED CITY vol 1
: Seven Seas Entertainment - This has a BAD case of Light Novel Title.  I'm just going to call it Easygoing Territory Defense from now on, and even that's a mouthful.  Anyway, this is another "salaryman reincarnates in a fantasy world" isekai, and he basically just angsts himself to death before reincarnating.  Unlike the typical "reincarnated as a hot teenager" isekai, our protagonist reincarnates as a 2 year old, so he barely even gets to his Nameless Village by the end of volume 1.  Very extended setup, following him through his youth as a "prodigy" (since he already knows how to read and do math at age 2), and then the huge familial let-down when his magical talent turns out to be "production magic."  Basically Fullmetal Alchemist-style transmutation alchemy in terms of its effects, but never strong enough to be considered magical talent worth having (like, a typical skilled Production Mage might exhaust themself making a sword, then be too tired to use it).  As we see in the flashforward first few pages, the protagonist is very much a prodigy and can whip up a manor with presumably little effort.  So...lots of setup.  The real story starts next volume, in which he tries to turn his Shameful Exile (for having "unworthy" magic) into, well, the STRONGEST FORTIFIED CITY.  He also has the fairly standard isekai protagonist superpower of not being an asshole to the little people, which is one of those ur-fairytale tropes (the person who is nice to those seemingly beneath them is rewarded).  While I don't yet read a lot of isekai, it does seem that pretty much any "modern world person reincarnated as a noble or other high-status person" character gets a lot of mileage out of just being halfway decent to the commoners.  (Rei Taylor of I'm In Love With The Villainess is reincarnated as a commoner and is creepy to those of high status, which I suppose is an inversion.)  Recommended.  $13.99/$17.99Cn, Rated Teen 13+ (probably for some ribaldy early on and the combat scenes near the end).

Robotics; Notes vol 1-3: Udon - This is a 2012 manga based on an Augmented Reality Game, but it only recently got a U.S. translation as a Barnes & Noble exclusive.  Diamond has the first volume available about now, though.  The premise starts off interestingly enough...a near-future (2019) slightly alternate reality features robotics competitions that are significantly more advanced than real world Battlebots.  A couple of kids are trying to get their high school robotics club back on its feet, and while there's a few bits of initial weirdness in the setting, it's otherwise pretty much a Club Activities manga in a world similar to ours but some higher tech and all the serial numbers filed off (e.g. one inspiration for the club is the "Gunbam" series...every brand name is changed, but you can generally tell what they're supposed to be).  The weirdness of the world gets greater and greater as conspiracies and secrets get uncovered, but then the pacing goes straight to hell in the third omnibus.  I don't know if they got orders to cut it short, were getting bored, or just thought this would work (it didn't), but it feels like they left out a volume or two in the middle of the third omnibus.  There's several sequel series, but I don't think I'll be bothering with them if they get translated.  Some interesting bits, and it works pretty well for the first two omnibuses, but it really fails to stick the landing (even though the first scenes of volume 1 were a flash-forwards to the Big Fight, so it's not like they didn't know where it had to end up).  Very mildly recommended.  $24.99 per volume.

Dinosaur Sanctuary vol 4: Seven Seas - The pacing of this collection is a bit off, I suppose it's a case of definitely NOT writing for the trade (or tankobon).  The flashback origin of one of the supervisors finishes up this volume (complete with a flashback within the flashback), then there's a complete story about tracking down an escaped black market Velociraptor, and then the first half of another arc involving a rather uptight supervisor.  Basically, once Itaru Kinoshita got past the setup in the first two volumes, I think he started stretching his legs storytelling-wise but stretched outside the boundaries of collection size.  It's telling that if you look at the back of the book summary, it's purely about the Velociraptor story, they don't even mention the two half-stories.  At least the first-half story ending this volume can be considered something of a cliffhanger, whether or not intentionally.  Recommended, I did spend rather a lot of time on what's really a minor pacing quibble, don't take it as a huge problem.  $13.99/$17.99, rated Teen 13+ (for dino violence).

The cutest griefer.
Cat + Gamer vol 1-4
: Dark Horse Manga - No, this is not about a cat who takes care of a gamer, that's "The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today."  This is about a hardcore gamer whose life of nothing but work in the office and gaming at home is disrupted when she decides (for reasons that escape her) to take in a stray cat that was found in her workplace parking lot.  Musubi is a totally normal tuxedo cat, and Riko is such a gamer nerd that she can't help but think of everything in terms of online gaming tropes and rules.  For instance, when she realizes Musubi has fleas, she jumps to the conclusion that this is a negative status effect and Musubi could very well die of it if not helped immediately!  She's capable of behaving like a normal person at work, but it's as if when the business clothing gets swapped out for sweats, she leaves her ability to interact with the real world in the closet with the outfit.  Musubi is basically just a normal cat, though.  Each chapter is fairly short, and is followed by a brief "how the chapter looked to Musubi" epilogue that anthropomorphizes the cat a little (he has thought bubbles and about as much reasoning as you'd expect from a kitten), but it doesn't cross the line into "Garfield, but replace a nerdy guy with a nerdy lady."  I suppose just as Way of the Househusband is "how to run a household, disguised as entertainment," this is an educational book on owning a cat.  Or two.  Volume 4 has a her get a second cat, because that can only be good, right?  (The anthropomorphic aspects ramp up at this point as well, now that there's two cats who can communicate with each other, and the dialogue between them gets more like people-talk.)  Recommended.  $11.99/$15.99Cn

The Mighty Onion vol 1: Little Brown Young Readers/Hatchette Book Group - This is a sort of spiritual sequel to The Drawing Lesson and The Comics Lesson, but focused more on the problems arising from collaboration.  This is somewhat ironic, since the vast majority of Crilley's work has been writer/artist stuff, while the core conflict here is between a writer who can't draw well and an artist who can't write well.  The story is told through a mix of passed notes, diary entries (mostly the writer's, so bad art), and the occasional finished story pages.  We never actually see the "reality" layer except for the cover and title page, and I did find it a bit distracting at times...I'm not really into the "kid's diary" style of comics.  With the focus less on "how to create" and more on "how to manage your ego and work together," it got rather preachy at times.  I suppose this is one of those places where a book aimed at middle school kids doesn't work as well for an adult reader, because while artists never really outgrow impostor syndrome (and thus can benefit form things like The Drawing Lesson), I just wanted to tell the protagonist to get the heck over himself.  Mildly recommended.  $14.99/$19.99Cn

The rat creatures were already stupid, but not
as endearingly so.
: Cartoon Books - This is a kickstarted collection of the Thorn strip that ran in the Ohio State student paper in the 1980s and was a precursor to Bone.  (By the time I was at Ohio State, the quality of strips in the paper had declined precipitously.)  As Smith points out in the preface, this was more of a variety show, that included some of the fantasy story elements that got turned into Bone, but also 4th-wall breaking sketches, crossovers, etc.  Even the main storyline has a pretty permeable fourth wall, but you can definitely see the (pun intended) bare bones of what became the comic.  A lot of stuff got dropped (like the Falwell parody) or changed significantly (returning a baby bear to his mother got changed to Bartleby the baby Rat Creature), but a lot of the personality stuff was already there.  Recommended.  $30.00 and very heavy.

Spectreman Heroes: Antarctic Press/Phase 6 - Okay, shortly before the "get out of my store or I'll kick your ass" incident, I was trying to get the individual issues of this series.  My new store wouldn't order AP books because, well, their ability to hit shipping dates went to hell a few years back when they hitched their wagon to Trump fans and started shedding clients and creators (I hear they've even been evicted from their long-held offices recently and are operating out of a private residence).  So, I basically gave up on ever seeing the rest of this attempt to reboot some fairly obscure early 1970s tokusatsu characters from the likewise obscure P Productions.  (Near as I can tell, P Productions put out stuff that was comparable to Ultraman and Kamen Rider in quality, they just never hit the zeitgeist the same way outside of Japan.)  This volume collects five issues using various P Productions properties, including one that according to Wikipedia (Hyoman) was merely an unaired pilot.  I have never seen any of the shows, so I can't really tell if any of these comics directly adapt episodes, but most of the stories do shoot for an early 70s retro feel in both art and writing (which, um, means the writing is kinda bad on purpose at times).  Prior to finding this collection at an artist's booth at Yellow City Comicon (Roberto Rivera Padro was one of the colorists, and had one copy mixed in with his own books), I'd only read a B&W "special edition" version of the first issue, Electroid Zaborger.  To be honest, the retro-manga style of the artist on that story (and two others in this set) works better in B&W than in modern-style color with gradients and stuff.  Old school Marvel artist Dell Barras draws one story (Tiger-7, which looks a little rushed in the inking and backgrounds), while Matt Frank of modern kaiju art fame does framing sequences for the first four stories and then the fifth story, all with Spectreman himself.  Some of the stories are clearly "episode 1" material (Zaborger and Lionmaru are explicit origin stories, Hyoman starts after the title character's career has gotten going, but sets up his interaction with a supporting cast member and therefore feels kinda episode 1 as well).  Tiger-7 takes a different tack, focusing on a couple of cops who get involved in one of Tiger-7's cases, which may or may not be based on an actual episode of the show.  Specterman is the only outright sequel story, starting with several splash pages in which Spectreman summarizes the original show, before the story jumps ahead to the present day of that world (like ours except for, you know, all the kaiju fights in the early 70s, plus the new villain's plans starting to unfold).  Lionmaru is set in Old Timey Japan (vaguely feudal-mythic age), the rest definitely feel like they're set in the early 1970s.  The framing sequence indicates that all of these stories share a world, making them part of the Spectreman backstory.  Anyway, it's an interesting if somewhat uneven look at a bit of tokusatsu history that I expect many toku fans are unaware or only vaguely aware of.  So far no further books have been solicited, there might be some licensing hitches, plus the whole "Antarctic Press is circling the drain" issue, but Matt Frank is probably still working on getting this back off the ground.  Mildly recommended.  $24.99

Expected next month: Happy Kanako's Killer Life vol 7 and Easygoing Territory Defense vol 2 are due April 30, so they'll be on next month's column.  Expected in May early enough to be in the May reviews are also Chainsaw Man vol 15, Mr. Villain's Day Off vol 4, I'm In Love With The Villainess vol 6, Go Go Loser Ranger vol 10, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 4.  The Great Cleric vol 8 may or may not arrive in actual May, that one will not hit shelves locally (B&N seems disinclined to carry anything past volume 1 in store, and later volumes are hit or miss even ordering online from them) so it's up to when Amazon ships.


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.)

Unfortunately, there was a screwup somewhere with my monthly shipment, and I will not have it until May.  Here's the books that were already confirmed to be in the shipment, as opposed to things they haven't gotten from distributors at all yet.

Fantastic Four #18-19: Marvel - 

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #3-4: Marvel - 

Gargoyles #12 (of 12): Dynamite - 

Vampirella/Dracula Rage #5 (of 6): Dynamite - 

Vampirella #667: Dynamite - 

As you may notice, Marvel had some publishing hiccups that put some books out more or less than a month apart.  As series end or get cancelled I'm less likely these days to add more, since what had been my local shop does not allow people to even open the cover to look inside before buying (Comics Are A Collectible), so I really have no incentive to try out anything that doesn't grab me from just the Previews solicitation.  No browsing = no impulse buying.  I don't have high hopes for FCBD either.

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), is starting to wonder if floppies are worth the bother anymore, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"Uh, I'm literally two.  What is he doing to me?" - Lord Van, questioning his tutor's (nearly college-level) curriculum plans, Easygoing Territory Defense vol 1


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