Dave's Capsules for May 2024


Items of Note (Strongly Recommended or otherwise worthy): Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 4.

In this installment: Aquaman the Lost Kingdom, X-Men 97, Please Don't Tell My Parents I Saved The World Again, Rising Tides (Capes book 1), Adventure Finders Book 3 Chapter 18, Delicious in Dungeon vol 1, Easygoing Territory Defense by the Optimistic Lord: Production Magic Turns a Nameless Village into the STRONGEST FORTIFIED CITY vol 2, Chainsaw Man vol 15, I'm In Love With The Villainess vol 6, Go Go Loser Ranger vol 10, Happy Kanako's Killer Life vol 7, Mr. Villain's Day Off vol 4, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 4, Fantastic Four #18-19, Vengeance of the Moon Knight #3-4, Gargoyles #12 (of 12), Vampirella/Dracula Rage #5 (of 6), Vampirella #667-668.

"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.

Aquaman the Lost Kingdom: DC/WB - Before I get into the problems with this movie, here's a good bit.  Orm (Ocean Master) really got done well by the writers this time.  I barely remembered he was IN the first movie, where he was just sort of a generic heavy.  Here we get a lot more character development for him, and for his relationship with the brother he dreaded one day having.  One running gag was that it'd look like he was about to be the butt of a joke, and then he ended up having a good time.  Okay, on to the problems.  The FX scream "FX workers need a union."  So much stuff that looked like it was done on the cheap with crunch time looming, and then given excessive glow effects in an attempt to distract from the quality issues.  The story had the usual DCCU problem of wanting the payoff without doing any setup.  It felt like we'd skipped an entire movie, skimming over a bunch of stuff in opening narration so they could get to the Big Event That Changes Everything.  There's a mysterious Lost Seventh Kingdom that got wiped from history, oooh.  Except we barely had it sketched out that Aquaman was running a coalition of six kingdoms.  They really needed an in-between movie in which Aquaman struggles with the crown, manages to get grudging respect from some of the factions while pissing off others (there's a barely-seen figure who we're told will take over executive power of Aquaman steps out of line, it'd be nice if they were more than Generic Political Interferer #24 from central casting).  Would pushing this back to third have made it necessarily better?  Maybe not, but skipping the middle certainly didn't HELP.  Very mildly recommended, mostly for the Orm scenes.  Price varies by format and store, also available on Max I believe.

This is basically the subplot.
X-Men 97: Marvel/Disney+ - They have ten episodes to adapt major storylines spanning about a decade of comics (mostly stuff that happened in comics after 1996, but they squeeze in a version of LifeDeath in which Storm's powers are taken away by the X-Cutioner at Magneto's trial in the Hague...yeah, it's all kinda blenderized like that).  This season relies a LOT on the assumption that viewers have read all the comics, and they can just sort of make reference to a storyline and that's enough to get all the emotional impact from it.  Where this hit hardest for me was when they got to stuff after I stopped paying much attention to X-overs, and my reaction was frequently, "Who is this, and why am I supposed to care?"  This is hypercompressed storytelling, much like the old joke about prisoners telling jokes by just listing the number of a known joke.  There's some cool visuals, and they do earn some of their story beats (especially regarding Rogue), but ultimately it was fan service (not that kind, mostly, although there is Magneto in a speedo).  I know a lot of people who really enjoyed this season, but for me it was mostly just okay, and that mostly because I had read most of the relevant comics and it was nice to see those stories animated, even if it was just a sort of highlight reel.  Season 2 is coming, and will likely cover a bunch more stuff that I never read.  So, a recommendation?  If you like 90s-style animation, it's a modern take on the style that works well.  If you read most of the X-Men comics from the late 80s through the 90s, you'll get some high energy visual takes on some of those stories.  But this is really by fans of the era and for fans of the era, and if you're just looking for something superhero-y, this might not be a good use of your time.  Streaming on Disney+.

Please Don't Tell My Parents I Saved the World Again: Crossroad Press - This is a direct sequel to Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm Queen of the Dead, starring Avery Special, but it also picks up a dangler from Please Don't Tell My Parents I Work For a Supervillain.  No Penny Akk this time around, although her dad's in a few scenes.  Avery's parents really don't want her using her inherited necromantic prowess, and with good reason: every known necromancer has gone evil at some point, sometimes very evil.  (Avery's grandmother's shade was a major secondary antagonist of QotD, for instance, while the main antagonist was also a necromancer.)  Much of this Richard Roberts novel is an exercise in taunting Murphy, with "what could go wrong?" always being answered pretty quickly.  Something about the setting means that the best of intentions have a distressing tendency to lead to supervillainy, if only because there's often not enough time to do things the legal way.  On the other hand, the authorities seem to be aware of this, and there's a LOT of latitude given to kids who end up doing the right thing in the wrong way...something Avery really depends on in this book.  In fact, it's increasingly apparent (thanks to the clutch of newbie middle school supers Avery ends up working with) that the new generation of superhumans are more about the rules of the superhuman community than the laws of the country they happen to live in.  Granted, some of this is the inevitable "the authorities won't listen to kids, so the kids have to go around the authorities" trope that pops up in YA adventure and mystery stories, but it definitely feels like the current crop of middle- and high-school supers are going to be changing the world one way or another.  The adults who seem most helpful are the ones who can straddle the line between hero and villain, between law and disorder.  The more polarized role-following adults do try to help the kids out (either out of altruism or cultivation of potential allies), but their helpfulness is suspect.  Oh, and along the way Avery gets to navigate the pitfalls of her throuple relationship, including a sort of romantic impostor syndrome.  Definitely readable as a first exposure to the PDTMP universe, but better if you at least read its two direct prequels first.  Recommended.  Price varies by format (I got the ebook). 

Rising Tides (Capes Book 1): Independently Published - With Astra's story kinda wrapped up over in the Wearing the Cape books, this picks up a new arc with a new protagonist.  There's a little overlap, as the story starts during the Attack on Chicago (Wearing the Cape book 8: Repercussions), but after the protagonist's first serious action as a superhuman it moves ahead ten months, putting the rest of the book after the end of the Wearing the Cape timeline.  Unlike the sort of benign neglect "Hope the supers sort things out amongst themselves" approach of the Please Don't Tell My Parents universe, the Capes setting has started going all Registration Act after years of sensible light touch governance, so our new protagonist comes into his powers just as it starts to look like revealing that fact could be a death sentence (the main antagonists are a militant arm of the Humanity First movement, and it's repeatedly brought up that anyone who goes on the registry will have their info leaked to the Firsters sooner or later).  It's a little tricky keeping track of the timeline, because Harmon doesn't datestamp the chapters (there's a wiki, but it's not a lot more than copying the appendices of the Wearing the Cape books, with an aggressively spoiler-free vague non-timeline).  There was one scene I thought was something out of a Wearing the Cape books from another viewpoint, but after a lot of searching around my ebooks figured out that it was just another attack on the same location by different people.  Anyway, having a more outsider protagonist (compared to "major member of a premier team who seems to be involved in everything" that Astra is) means that the slightly lighter expository touch about the world can be excused, because the point is that the characters here aren't supposed to know as much as a long-time reader does.  After some early fake-outs (as in, character seems to be someone from Astra's circle, but turns out not to be), the cast does gain a regular member from the earlier books, sort of.  But, again, the connection is left vague and if you hadn't read the relevant previous books you wouldn't know where in Astra's life they come from.  The point of all this rambling is that it feels like Harmon wanted a clean break but settled for a lot of gaps the reader is asked to ignore.  A decent read, but a step below the new Please Don't Tell My Parents book.  Price varies by format.

Okay, short essay time.  While I haven't been reviewing every installment here, I did do a compare and contrast of Richards's and Harmon's books back when I reviewed the first installment of each (http://www.thefifth.world/2019/12/capes-vs-goggles-book-report.html).  Now that I've got a bunch more read, I have some additional thoughts.

First, to address some of the points from the old essay: DTMP-verse still feels like it's more comfortable with romance and sexuality than the Cape-verse, although Rising Tides does finally start getting more willing to approach the topic.  Neither has really fallen prey to the hazards I worried about...the Cape-verse has definitely seen an escalation (lots of godlike entities, including Santa Claus), but Rising Tides has recognized this and performed a reset to focus on lower-power people dealing with living in that world.

As for tone...the Cape-verse started darker, and has continued to go in that direction, but DTMP has really felt more like, "The world is changing with this generation, but not necessarily for the worse OR the better...just different."  Harmon's world had no supers at all until relatively recently (the Event happened during Astra's childhood or maybe slightly before, IIRC), and while it caught a break in terms of not immediately suffering society collapse, they're now going through the whole Anti-Mutant Hysteria phase, with lots of Marvel-style registration acts, picketers, anti-hero terrorism, etc.  Meanwhile, Roberts's world has had a history of powered folks going back literally into prehistory, but a big event around a decade ago has resulted in a rapid upswing in powers, threatening to upset the carefully built equilibrium that had let society progress along lines similar to our world.  Back when supers were less common, it was relatively easy to keep kids out of things until they were older, and the unwritten rules were good enough...but all of the tweenaged and teenaged characters in the DTMP-verse are overwhelming the system.  These kids are important not necessarily because of their powers or even the ways they save (or threaten) the world, but because they are collectively going to set the tone for what it even means to be a superhero or supervillain.  In the Cape-verse, the struggle is against the restrictions imposed from without...in the DTMP-verse it's shaping up to be a purely internal debate, for these kids are immune to your consultations as they try to change the world.

Between the two, I definitely prefer the tone and arc of the Don't Tell My Parents books.  The (Wearing the) Cape(s) books are good reads, but I don't look forwards to them as much as I do the DTMP ones.  As an aside, the other single-creator superhero prose series I'm following, Blake Nelson's Signalverse, I'd rank about at the level of the Capes books in terms of craft, but the setting is more like DTMP in tone (being another "supers have been around a while and society is kinda used to it" setting that more explicitly maps onto the history of superhero comics than either of the other two novel series).  

Doom Patrol S4 is unlikely to get finished any time soon, with all the streaming stuff also eating into my viewing-while-paying-attention time.

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 18: Patreon.com - The big climactic fight continues, with a bit of a meet-cute going on along the way, plus a fair amount of angst as emotion-control spells wreak havoc among the good guys.  In some ways, the tide turns, and a lot of potential danglers get snipped off before they can really start to dangle, but the big dragon is still a Problem...it's just increasingly a problem for both sides.  What side is an ancient evil dragon on?  Its own.  Always.  Recommended.  $2/month or more on Patreon.

"What wine pairs well with
giant scorpion?"
Delicious in Dungeon vol 1
: Yen Press - AKA Dungeon Meshi.  So, this has been big on social media lately, but I'd heard enough to be concerned it was a bait and switch sort of story (I complained about those here last month).  I wanted to at least skim a copy before committing to buying, but none of the places locally that carry manga had it in stock.  However, the Amarillo Public Library just got an e-comics service added, so I renewed my library card and read this online.  Since I did put this in the Digital Comics section, I should briefly comment on Comics Pass.  I used the desktop browser version, which was generally okay, but sometimes would get hung up on loading a page (possibly I was trying at a busy time), and if I came back after a break it sometimes had to be reloaded to advance at all.  I prefer hardcopy when available, but this is acceptable when hardcopy is not available or I don't want to wait for shipping.  Anyway, if you've escaped hearing about this series, it's your basic fantasy dungeoncrawl setting where the dungeon is a mysterious cursed city (so anything that makes no physical sense can be explained as part of the curse) trapped underground, with that curse being the Chekov's Gun of the series.  But for now, it focuses on a party of adventurers who had a near wipe and now seek to go back in to recover the body of the party leader's sister before it's too badly digested to resurrect.  But they're broke and have no food, so the leader convinces them to try eating monsters.  They are fortunate to run into a dwarf named Senshi who's been eating monsters for ten years, so there's a lot of "book learning vs. trial and error experience" here, with the book learning sometimes proving useful.  The leader, Laios, is very spectrum-coded, and has a special interest in monsters...including how they taste.  The party mage Marcielle is the token "Ew, I will not eat green eggs and ham" character, while party thief Chilchuck is more of a "Eh, I guess" middle ground on the topic.  Each chapter culminates in a recipe (that cannot actually be made) with nutritional info, making this entire series start off as essentially one of those longwinded recipe blogs that takes forever to get to the actual food.  This volume really only sets up the core cast and premise, I know from fanworks and social media that there's a whole passel of secondary cast members waiting to show up, plus the whole curse thing and possible destruction of the world (I mean, you do not seal an entire city underground for a thousand years if there ISN'T massive danger involved somewhere, yes?).  I'll be picking up the rest of the series, although might limit myself to a few volumes a month rather than trying to binge all dozen or so right away.  Especially since volume 2 is out of print and a new printing is expected in June (I may just read it from the library before that, though).  Recommended.  Available though Comics Pass in Library Plus, check your local library.  The physical volume is $15, and a new printing of it seems to have just shipped (my local B&N did get it in briefly but it sold out very quickly).


Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.
Easygoing Territory Defense by the Optimistic Lord: Production Magic Turns a Nameless Village into the STRONGEST FORTIFIED CITY vol 2: Seven Seas Entertainment - This volume is all about getting the village ready for the next attack, which obligingly happens at the end of the volume and is not what they were expecting.  Lord Van doesn't really prove the value of Production Magic here, what he mostly proves is that a bottomless font of mana can make any magic effective.  There's hints at some things he could teach other Production Mages, thanks to his memories of the atomic model of matter and some stuff he probably read about nanomaterials, but for the moment he's the only Production Mage in town.  Oh, and for those who know Seven Seas' reputation for racier stuff (of which there's a lot in Villainess below), there is a bathing scene, but Lord Van manages to have enough self-control to insist he's too grown up to bathe with his hot maid and the hot mage lady, although there's some reader service in which he imagines it).  So, cake and eat it too, I guess.  Anyway, plot device level powers aside, he's mostly using his charisma and the unexpected value of "noble treating commoners well" when it comes to bringing people together.  Time will tell if his magic is ever more than just greasing the wheels, or if the story actually looks at raising the general repute of the gift.  Recommended.  $13.99/$17.99Cn Rated Teen 13+ for a bit of risque stuff.

Chainsaw Man vol 15: Viz Media/Shonen Jump - Pretty much a volume-long running fight with the Falling Devil, who despite her name and associated fear is really more of a chef.  Her goal is to feed one or both of the protagonists to another devil, but is willing to break a lot of eggs to make this omelet.  Denji continues to be stupid, while Asa/War's internal conflicts continue to be more dangerous to them than any external threat.  This is all pretty much sideshow to the main plot, which finally gets some motivation explanation (e.g. why is Famine doing whatever the heck she's been doing, what's her angle?).  Mainly ultraviolent fan service, though.  Mildly recommended.  $11.99/$15.99Cn/#8.99UK, rated Older Teen for all the death and gore.

I'm In Love With The Villainess vol 6: Seven Seas Entertainment - Time for a summer vacation down at the seaside community Rae's character is from.  There's an issue I've run into in computer games where they don't really have a proper model for middle-aged people, they just look like teenagers with maybe graying hair.  Rae's mom seems to be a deliberate use of that issue, in that she looks like a teenager (but to Rae's dismay, is much more endowed).  Her mom is also weirdly creepy and inappropriate in a friendly way, to the point that Rae's own unsettling behavior probably seems like it runs in the family.  In terms of plot-relevant stuff, Rae starts to see the storyline changing in more and more drastic ways, even getting caught by surprise a few times.  The game had always been a small slice of a larger world, and as she tries to drag it off its rails she's finding that someone or something is trying to lay new tracks to get to the same destination.  To get the romance ending she wants, she seems to be changing it from a romance sim to a geopolitical sim.  I do hope the shift is made fully, because as I noted in a previous review, a lot of the stuff Rae does to/with Claire would be outright unacceptable from a male protagonist with a female object of affection these days, and it's not exactly sustainable here either.  Mildly recommended.  $12.99/$16.99Cn Rated Teen 13+ for some Benny Hill level cheesecake antics.

Go Go Loser Ranger vol 10: Kodansha - I think the script wrote some checks that the art couldn't cash this time.  The story jumps around in time with lacunae and flashbacks and it's not really clear when any of it happens.  In a Western-style comic, they'd use panel borders or changes in coloration or something to help set this apart, but this is B&W and nothing really changes about the panels.  Some narrative captions might've helped, or maybe not.  The coherence doesn't even always hold up within a scene, making me wonder if there was also a translation problem?  Anyway, as unclear as many things are this volume, it IS clear that Fighter D's quest was a fool's errand to begin with.  Everything was more messed up than he thought, there's loads of history he totally missed out on being trapped in the sky fortress with no real knowledge of events on the ground below.  In short, he's been almost incidental to the actual plot, a background character who got uppity and did manage to make some minor alterations to the plotting of the real protagonists and antagonists but only now sees how little change he really had.  After wrestling with his place in things for most of the volume (mostly in the background, unnoticed, although he does get a few scenes where people actually care about his opinions), he finally comes to a philosophical position that will let him move forwards.  It's a STUPID position, but that's just what kinda guy Fighter D is.  Mildly recommended, mostly knocked down for the coherence issues.  $10.99/$14.99Cn Rated Teen 13+ for some B&W ultraviolence.

Happy Kanako's Killer Life vol 7: Seven Seas Entertainment - SO much Ugly Crying this volume.  Also, like Go Go Loser Ranger, some poor visual storytelling at some early key moments.  The "spurned ex" plot comes to a lethal resolution, I think?  The whole scene was muddled, if there hadn't been a "disposing of the body" scene later I wouldn't have known that after several "shot but not dead" panels someone had finally been killed.  The middle of the volume is about Kanako trying to get her groove back, she's finding job satisfaction and her ability to DO the job to be incompatible.  Mildly recommended.  $14.99/$18.99Cn Rated Teen 13+ for decidedly non-graphic murdering.

Mr. Villain's Day Off vol 4: Square Enix Manga - A bunch of vignettes as usual, but the bulk of them involve a new character in the form of a robotic cat who is secretly an agent of next season's villains.  To the extent this series looks to have an overarching plot (it really doesn't), the tone is leading towards a "heroes and villains come to terms and then team up to fight the next menace" sort of thing.  This is lampshaded by the opening piece, in which The General has an internal debate about what aspects of the human world must be preserved following the conquest, and it's starting to look like "all of them" will be the answer.  He's not just into pandas now, or even just cute animals.  Recommended.  $14.99/$19.99 Rated Teen (probably out of inertia, there really isn't anything worse than a panel or two of the General in monster form).

Went there, yes.
Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 4
: DC/Webtoon - This covers episodes 72-94, which leaves 95-116 to wrap up season 2 in volume 5 (season 2 ended back in December 2023 online).  As usual it's a mix of funny stories and touching character-driven stories with a small handful of more traditional superhero stuff along the way (generally the weakest links).  A few more non-Gotham characters get into the mix, such as Aquaman and Green Lantern, and as far as I can tell they continue to borrow elements from the regular comics without worrying too much about continuity otherwise.  (Yes, the Thrasher mech suit comes from the comics, silly as its use in this volume is.)  Starbite's line art continues to be the perfect complement to both the serious and the silly stories.  Strongly recommended.  $14.99/$19.99Cn

Expected next month: More Delicious in Dungeon (haven't decided how much more, but at least vol 2-4), Great Cleric vol 9, The Deep Dark (by Molly Ostertag), Kaiju no. 8 vol 10, Barda (DC), Magilumiere Magical Girls Inc. vol 2, maybe Cat + Gamer vol 5 depending on when it 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.)

Fantastic Four #18-19: Marvel - Two done-in-one issues with cosmic stuff going on.  #18 focuses on Franklin Richards and reminds readers that he's technically massively godlike and will survive past the end of the universe.  North does seem to really like using Salem's Seven as more of a "sneak around and cause problems because they know they can't win a straight fight" threat.  #19 is a noir detective story featuring Alicia Masters as the detective and Reed Richards as the missing person she needs to track down.  Both were decent reads, although neither grabbed me as much as they seem to be grabbing others I see online.  Mildly recommended.  $3.99 each.

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #3-4: Marvel - The therapy framing sequences continue (Soldier in #3 and Hunter's Moon in #4), with the new Moon Knight proving himself to be a danger to the area as his reckless and ruthless actions upset some delicate balances.  MacKay does a good job of ramping up the tension and dropping clues here and there to the true identity of the new Moon Knight.  Nor does he cheat even a little, he's got a track record of digging up obscure characters from Moon Knight's history and related stories...the guy under the mask even has a record of doing this sort of thing (well, not of being Moon Knight as far as I can recall, but the whole scourge of the underworld bit...not Scourge of the Underworld, though).  Recommended.  $4.99 each.

Gargoyles #12 (of 12): Dynamite - A lot of talking heads as the last dregs of the gang war plot wraps up.  And frankly, I'm not regretting my decision to stop getting Gargoyles comics again.  Yawn.  This isn't even a case of not measuring up to childhood nostalgia, I was an adult when the show aired (and already posting comics reviews online).  But just like the previous Gargoyles comics, it just didn't manage to capture any of the stuff I liked about the show.  Years of trying hasn't really improved Weisman's comics-writing chops.  Neutral.  $3.99

Vampirella/Dracula Rage #5 (of 6): Dynamite - More of the same as the last couple issues.  Psycho vengeance Vampi, murky art, Dracula being almost a parody of a Priest villain in terms of chatting calmly and infodumping while everyone assumes (correctly) that he's up to something shady despite his denials.  His big plan is revealed, and unless it's an elaborate form of suicide it strikes me as kinda stupid.  Maybe if it hadn't suffered so many delays and managed to finish before #666 it'd have worked a little better, but the long waits and muddy art really killed any momentum the Dracula mega-arc had going for it.  Neutral.  $3.99

Vampirella #667 and #668: Dynamite - We continue through the Groundhog Day experience, with Vampi slowly figuring out more and more about what's going on, and the repeated world changing in unpredictable ways each time through.  Having two issues at once to read definitely helped this time, this arc does feel like it'll work better as a trade.  Mildly recommended as individual issues, can't really judge the whole thing yet.  $4.99

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 didn't even bother hitting the store for FCBD.

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), gets to end the month with a cardiovascular stress test on a treadmill, is an occasional science advisor in fiction, and part of the development team for the upcoming City of Titans MMO.
"What did you people DO to that water?!" - Aquaman, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures vol 4


Dave's Capsules for May 2024 Dave's Capsules for May 2024 Reviewed by Dvandom on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 Rating: 5
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