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Dave's Comicbook Capsules for May 2021 [message #408516] Sat, 29 May 2021 00:22
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Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et Cetera
Intermittent Picks and Pans of Comics and Related Media

Standard Disclaimers: Please set appropriate followups. Recommendation does
not factor in price. Not all books will have arrived in your area this month.
An archive can be found on my homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants
Rained on outdoor graduation, but then we got a double rainbow.

Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Justice Wing:
Plan, Prototype, Produce, Perfect; The Way of the Househusband vol 5.

In this installment: Justice Society World War II, Justice Wing: Plan,
Prototype, Produce, Perfect, Disreputable Persons, The Way of the
Househusband vol 5, Hawking, The Other History of the DC Universe #4 (of 6),
The Blue Flame #1, Maestro War and PAX #5 (of 5), The Trials of Ultraman #3
(of 5),Shang-Chi #1, DC Festival of Heroes. The Wrong Earth Night & Day #4
(of 6), Sacred Six #9, Vampirella #19, The Orville Digressions #1 (of 2),
Kaijumax Season 6 #1 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Annual 2021,
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #97, My Little Pony/Transformers II #2 (of
4), Transformers Beast Wars #4, Transformers Escape #3 (of 6), Transformers
#29-30.

Current Wait List (books either Diamond didn't ship or my store failed
to order): Nothing this month.


"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.

Justice Society World War II: DC/WB - This is part of the new animated
continuity that started with Superman: Man of Tomorrow. Barry Allen happens
across a fight between Superman and Brainiac, and due to plot device finds
himself in the middle of WWII with a team he'd never heard of, the Justice
Society. Not only does he need to find a way home, during the trip he got a
cryptic message indicating that he had to do something before leaving, and
that sets up the plot. They do a fairly good job of slowly unveiling the big
plot twist, and there's even a little easter egg for LSH fans. The climax is
a bit of a dueling deus ex machina thing, but that's okay, as it's
practically a denounment to the real climax. The Kamandi short sort of ties
into the main plot, and is...okay. It feels like they were going for a sort
of Thundarr feeling or perhaps even the partially-animated Kirby Marvel
cartoons, but were unwilling to commit fully to the deliberately bad
animation or rough designs. Recommended. Price varies by store and format.


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.

I suppose both of these are technically Other Media in that they're
novels, but I got ebook versions and didn't have any other stuff for this
category this month.

Justice Wing: Plan, Prototype, Produce, Perfect: Superfluous Press -
Okay, so Eric A. Burns-White has been writing superhero fiction for decades,
starting with the Superguy universe on Usenet, and then building his Justice
Wing setting on his blog and later his Patreon. The Justice Wing setting is
largely and obviously a deliberate DC homage with what look like a few Marvel
homages here and there, but it's also very strongly a Superguy homage...but
you don't need to know that in order to follow what's going on. Importantly,
the main character of this novel is not a Superguy transplant in any
meaningful way, he's Oliver Queen. Sort of. As pointed out in the end
notes, one goal of the story was to create a sort of alternative to Longbow
Hunters, making an unpowered archer into a serious hero without also making
him a mass-murderer. Broadhead is that archer, complete with weird facial
hair (muttonchops in this case), an inherited fortune of questionable
origins, and the whole "a hero who is an asshole" personality. The story
jumps around in time, with the main framing being set on what looks to be the
last day of his career (and maybe his life), with various interjections about
his origins, his impact, and his eventual alienation of just about everyone.
As the guy who was always there even if he had no powers and did have an
annoying personality, Broadhead's life is the framework upon which the author
sketches out the eras of his world. Anyone who had been reading his online
work to date (all of which have either bought the book by now, I suspect) can
see where various stories fit onto this scaffold (like seeing the other side
of Leather's fight against Broadhead here), but again it's not necessary.
This is about a single man determined to get things right even though the
world is Wrong. There are dark and bright mirrors aplenty through the
flashbacks, from friends who have lost all hope but still fight, to enemies
who should have been allies, and most of all the protege he was determined to
protect from himself. Strongly recommended. $6.99 Kindle edition, $16.95
paperback.

Disreputable Persons: Signal Comics (that's what's on the cover, no
publisher is listed on the Amazon page) - The fourth book in the
"Signalverse" series that kicked off with Miracle Girl & Jack. A few
characters from the larger universe do show up or get mentioned, but this is
mostly about a separate cast. Specifically, a group of paroled
ex-supervillains (who were generally never that villainous) and the one
minor-league superhero who keeps her eye on them. It's your basic "not very
bad badguys stumble onto some serious villainy and have to stop it themselves
because the heroes don't believe them" story, plus a romantic subplot that
requires the protagonist be pretty oblivious. A decent read the fleshes out
Blake Michael Nelson's universe. Recommended. $2.99 Kindle, $9.99 print.


Trades:

Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever.
If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here.

The Way of the Househusband vol 5: Viz - After a slump last volume, the
quality is back up to par. A good variety of situations and characters,
playing up some of the humor in the non-mob cast once in a while helps keep
it from falling into a rut. Strongly recommended. $12.99/$17.99Cn/#9.99UK

Hawking: :01 First Second - Ottaviani bounces around publishers with
various projects, and like his Feynman project this one from :01 First Second
has the same "trade dress" and general style of having an autobiographical
voice even though it's not a straight adaptation of an autobiography. Oh,
there's plenty of primary source material, and Ottaviani worked with Hawking
on the script, but this is assembled from a bunch of sources, much like
Primates was. (The Naturalist, which I'll cover next month, is more of a
straightforwards adaptation of an existing autobiography.) I admit to having
a different perspective on this than most, since I actually studied general
relativity a bit in college and astrophysics in grad school...I might be the
only person who read this and at some point thought, "Oh, he's foreshadowing
the Kerr metric!" As such, I may not be the best person to determine if the
explanations are clear enough for a typical reader, but they seemed
reasonable. And as for the non-science stuff, it doesn't shy away from some
of Hawking's personal failings (although the narration tends to speak of them
almost at a distance..."Oh, and this relatively unimportant thing happened,
and the work continued with adjustments," sort of thing when talking about
divorces and remarriages). Recommended. $29.99/$34.50Cn (hardcover)

The Other History of the DC Universe #4 (of 6): DC - This one breaks
away from the 70s/80s stuff and focuses on Renee Montoya from 92 to 2007.
Given that most of what I know about her is the BTAS version and her scenes
in the 52 maxiseries, there's a lot of places where I'm not going to know if
Ridley's contradicting canon in the way he did with Katana. Note that
starting with 1992 implicitly includes her BTAS appearances as part of her
life story, if grafted into something like the main DCU. And as near as I
can tell (given how I avoided a lot of the Batovers starting in 2001), she
gives a fair summary of events, if necessarily biased. As happened in #1,
the narrative voice evolves along with the character, so it feels like she
was keeping a diary that got turned into the comic. While the "other" aspect
of #1-3 was mainly racial, Montoya's race only impacts things occasionally,
with her sexuality being the main source of alienation, the main thing she
had to hide in order to Pass. (She repeatedly emphasizes that being anything
but a cishet white guy was a Problem on the force, but as long as she kept
the sexuality thing hidden she could metaphorically mask up and be accepted.)
And, of course, because she took up the mantle of the Question, there's a
page or so tracking how he stopped being a Randroid. Recommended. $6.99


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.)

The Blue Flame #1: Vault - This month's "Oh what the heck, I'll give it
a shot," book. The high concept here is that the title hero is both a silver
age cosmic hero and a "DIY" Milwaukee hero on a team like the Mysterymen
(Flaming Carrot), and maybe a third person (there's a short scene that seems
disconnected from the other two). One or more of these might be delusions.
Maybe the brewtown hero is hallucinating the cosmic stuff. Maybe the cosmic
hero is being subjected to alternate lives as part of his cosmic adventures.
Maybe the walls between realities are blurring together. The first issue
sets up a lot of possibilities but doesn't make it clear which one is "real"
or if any of them are. I'm curious enough to follow up and see where this
goes. Recommended. $3.99

Maestro War and PAX #5 (of 5): Marvel - Eh, a few good bits, but mostly
Maestro jobbing Doctor Doom. On the fence regarding whether I even want to
pick up the third miniseries (World War M). Very mildly recommended. $3.99

The Trials of Ultraman #3 (of 5): Marvel - After disposing of the
robo-kaiju, most of the issue involves trying to figure out who made it,
which runs through a plausible series of deductions while introducing some
more worldbuilding. There's a short "oh, and there's real kaiju to deal
with" scene that mainly seems to be there for the "Dad isn't a fan" subplot.
I am amused by the cliffhanger reveal of another robo-kaiju, given the
real-world origins of the kaiju in question. Yeah, dancing around a spoiler
there. Recommended. $3.99

Shang-Chi #1: Marvel - An ongoing series by Yang, building on the recent
miniseries. This is the sort of thing Agents of Atlas was setting up for,
but then...didn't really. Heroic heir to a criminal empire, trying to bend
it towards good while still stuck with the fact that it's a criminal empire.
AoA made the transition to Good Guy Group With Some Shady Bits with unseemly
haste, Yang appears determined to play out the moral quandaries more directly
here. Recommended. $3.99

DC Festival of Heroes: DC - Well, this was a worthy high concept, an
anthology spotlighting DC's Asian heroes, done as a fancy square-bound 100
page giant with a $10 price tag. Unfortunately, most of the story quality is
more appropriate for a $5 newsprint 100 page giant of the sort Walmart used
to carry. (FWIW, I picked it up because of Yang's Monkey Prince story, I've
been a Sun Wukong fanboy off and on since I was a kid.) Very mildly
recommended. $9.99

The Wrong Earth Night & Day #4 (of 6): Ahoy Comics - A big chunk of this
issue involves the Alpha and Omega versions in a role-reversal, with
Stinger-Alpha believing each one is the other. Interesting character
dynamics, and it's not entirely clear whether either has truly been changed
by their time in the other's boots. There's still some slightly cringey bits
where Peyer shoots for Batman 66 tone meets modern sensibilities and misses,
though. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Sacred Six #9: Dynamite - (Looking at Previews, the series appears to
end at #12, but it's not technically solicited as a maxiseries.) A somewhat
scattered issue, mostly involving Nyx in some way, but with a lot of
flashbacks and side stuff. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Vampirella #19: Dynamite - Meanwhile, in another reality after or before
Sacred Six it's not really that clear, Vampi runs around Drakulon (well,
under it) while trying to explain it to Doc Chary and generally not getting
anywhere on either front. The former because she's still mostly trying to
figure out what web of intrigue she's been dropped in, and is still gathering
enough information to even tell which direction "getting anywhere" might be.
The latter because what Vampi does understand is not something Chary is
willing to buy...Drakulon is in another dimension rather than another star
system. (How, if at all, this interfaces with the Dark Powers series, I
dunno. Not entirely sure Dynamite is even trying to have an actual coherent
universe, I don't read enough of it to tell...or care.) This is an issue
that will probably work better re-read after the arc wraps up, though.
Mildly recommended. $3.99

The Orville Digressions #1 (of 2): Dark Horse Comics - This story fills
in some of the gaps between when time-displaced Kelly Grayson was sent back
without her memories properly wiped, and the dark alternate timeline jump in
the final arc of season 2. Basically, showing how Ed ended up in a dead-end
position and no one was available to stop the Kaylon invasion. It also
brushes on a few of the smaller scale issues, like how without Ed as captain
of the Orville, a lot of personal-level things didn't work out as well as in
the proper universe. Recommended. $3.99

Kaijumax Season 6 #1 (of 6): Oni Press - The final season begins with an
alliance of alien invaders launching a coordinated assault on Earth, and the
planet's salvation is in the hands of...not the Kaijumax prisoners. However,
they're being recruited to help in a purely support role behind the lines,
however meaningful that distinction is when the enemy flies and teleports.
The main metaphor here is how prisoners in real life "volunteer" for forest
firefighting even though their criminal record means they'll be unable to get
jobs as firefighters once they finish their sentences. Within this framework
lie at least two major subplots...Electrogor hoping to reach some kind of
rapprochement with his daughter, and one of the prison gangs deciding this
duty would be perfect cover to pull off a heist. There's a few other threads
getting page space, including one that seems minor but grabs the "next issue"
splash page so I guess it'll blossom into a third major subplot. Will Cannon
manage to catch up with everyone and give them proper resolutions? Maybe,
although for some it'll probably be heroic (or not so heroic) death. But the
series started with Electrogor, and he's definitely getting some sort of
ending. Recommended. $3.99

My Little Pony Annual 2021: IDW - Squeezing an extra two issues out of
the Season 10 year by making the Diamond Dogs visit an Annual. I have to
wonder if it was supposed to be two regular issues but due to scheduling
issues they put in some one-shot fillers and had to move this to being an
annual? At 30 pages it wouldn't have quite made it to two full issues anyway
(there's some reprinted short pieces and covers to flesh this out to 48
total). Anyway, the more refined Diamond Dogs of this settlement have no
particular link to...anyone, really. They just invited a delegation from
Equestria in the interest of establishing diplomatic relations. Rarity's
experience with the uncivilized DDs is as close as anyone gets. As a result,
this one isn't as impactful as the other two (which fleshed out Zecora's
mysterious background, and at least gave some more background to Capper).
Not having to carry significant external narrative load makes it feel a
little lighter in turn, and the main plot complication comes down to OSHA
violations. Or would, if OSHA existed in this world. (This world really
really really needs an OSHA.) Mildly recommended. $5.99

My Little Pony #97: IDW - Wrapping up the Abyssinia story, and now only
one Tree of Harmony remains to be rediscovered. In terms of actual sense of
threat, that only exists until Discord gets his magic unblocked, at which
point the story's just about over. The tree bit is almost perfunctory at
this point, with Pinkie and Fluttershy pretty much chivvying every cat onto
their proper spaces. Along the way, though, there's some decent character
development bits. Recommended. $3.99

My Little Pony/Transformers II #2 (of 4): IDW - The first story sticks
pretty close to the original concept, with just G1 Transformers and G4
ponies, as the Wonderbolts help Starscream and the Seekers round up a bunch
of Sombra-controlled Cybertronians and ponies. The second story has
Applejack and Wildwheel in a standoff plus G1 Skids and Beast Wars
Quickstrike, in a piece set in the Rust Sea (maybe) with no real connection
to anything. AJ has simply found herself on Cybertron and runs across
Wildwheel (Cyberverse). Random fanfic stuff. Looks like the extra time to
consider things has not led to anything like a coherent storyline or setting,
just a licensed version of grabbing random toys and playing with them...which
I can do without paying $4 an issue. Neutral. $3.99.

Transformers Beast Wars #4: IDW - This is mostly Nyx trying to make her
way back to the Axalon, getting some unexpected (to her...readers knew this
was coming) help from Dinobot, and then Dinobot making his expected offer to
join the Maximals. The actual plot is pretty much obvious even for the
hypothetical reader who didn't watch the cartoon, of whom I suppose there
must be SOME. The only potentially important and interesting bit requires
that Burcham's art accurately reflects the intent of the script, because a
decidedly non-Terran critter shows up. Vok import? Clue that this isn't
actually prehistoric Earth after all? As long as it's not an art foulup, it
presents an actual mystery, if not a huge one. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Transformers Escape #3 (of 6): IDW - This happens more or less during
this month's issues of Transformers. The Insecticon ambush is fought off,
but it was never really their main goal, just an attack of opportunity. A
bit of a three-sided conflict is set up this issue, with some obscure
European-origin Decepticons being sent by Shockwave to deal with the
disobedient Insecticons. It's very much a breather in the middle of the
story, so not a great read on its own. The art is also a bit uneven, as if
McGuire-Smith were having trouble with deadlines...it gets sketchy in places,
and backgrounds almost entirely go away in some scenes. Mildly recommended.
$3.99

Transformers #29-30: IDW - They must've had an issue with their printer,
because both of these issues (and Escape #3) came out the same week (although
ComiXology spaced them out). Weirdly, Dai Atlas is on the cover of #29,
despite having nothing to do with the story inside. #29 chronicles the fall
of the remaining Titans (generating some stubs for TFWiki in the process) and
another dark secret of Autobot rule. #30 involves a "neither side really
expected it to work" parley between Megatron and Optimus Prime, but mostly
focuses on Pyra Magna's background and why Cyclonus wants her dead. Both
work reasonably well, Ruckley finally seems to be getting the point that each
issue needs to be at least somewhat readable on its own, rather than
incrementally advancing every plot very slowly. #29 is mildly recommended,
#30 is recommended. $3.99 each.


Dave Van Domelen, "What? What's wrong with MY modes, Blitzwing?"
"They're not very good." - Apeface and Blitzwing, Transformers #29
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