Dave's Comics Capsules for August 2021

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Dave Van Domelen

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Aug 26, 2021, 5:38:03 PMAug 26
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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
Didn't even make it one week without a student needing a COVID test.

Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Punderworld
vol 1.

In this installment: Adventure Finders Book 3 Chaper 2, I Am NOT
Starfire!, Scales & Scoundrels Book 1 and 2, Artemisia, Punderworld vol 1,
FCBD (Beast Boy Loves Raven, School for Extraterrestrial Girls, Avatar, White
Ash), Trials of Ultraman #5 (of 5), Moon Knight #2, RWBY/Justice League #5
(of 7), The Heroes Union Binge Book #1, Vampirella #22-23, Sacred Six #12 (of
12), The Blue Flame #4, Norse Mythology II #3 (of 6), Save Yourself! #3 (of
4), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #101, Transformers: King Grimlock #1
(of 5), Transformers: Shattered Glass #1 (of 5), Transformers Beast Wars #7,
Transformers #33.

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.

Nothing this month, I'm going to wait for What If? to finish the season
before I review it.


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 2: Patreon - A simple walk across town,
yes? Well, except the town is on the verge of civil war between secular
authorities and religious extremists, which accidentally turned out to be
very timely. And, of course, the existing trouble descending on the party
isn't enough, they find some more trouble inside the prison tower that is
their destination...when your backup needs backup, you may have overextended
your resources. Recommended. $1/month on Patreon.com.


Trades:

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

I Am NOT Starfire!: DC - Another YA graphic novel involving the Titans,
but it's not obviously in the same universe as the Raven and Beast Boy books
(for one thing, it takes place long enough after the founding of the Titans
that the main character was born after Starfire had been active a while).
So, the premise is that Starfire's teenaged daughter Mandy (the father is
never revealed, and Mandy herself doesn't know) is very much not her mother,
as pointed out in the title. She's short, dumpy, goth-ish...and has no
powers at all. And, as it comes out, in this continuity Starfire never had
any contact with Tamaran or her family after coming to Earth, Mandy was
raised pretty much as a human in human society, albeit with the Titans as
frequent house guests and a weirder-than-average mom. The first half of the
book is basic "Teenaged angst, not living up to expectations, alienation
feelings, and having to deal with being assigned your crush as a lab partner"
kind of story, with the superhero stuff being almost interchangeable with any
"mom is a celeb" hook. Then Mandy gets caught up in the superhero stuff, and
suddenly her lack of powers is a lot more than just a source of feeling she's
not living up to expectations. There's a fair amount of assumed
worldbuilding in the background here, like not addressing why Mandy never
seems to have been kidnapped (at least, she never mentions it, even when it
would have been appropriate to recall it having happened). Either there's
"unwritten rules" about kids of heroes, or perhaps the first time it was
tried Mandy was too young to realize it and Starfire's reaction ensured that
no one would ever try again. Anyway, decent standalone coming of age/origin
story. There's also a preview of the upcoming Beast Boy Loves Raven book in
the back. Recommended. $16.99/$22.99Cn

Scales & Scoundrels Book 1 and 2: TKO - Note: this series was published
previously through Image, but the collected editions through Image were split
into more than two volumes. The story starts with a rogue named Luvander run
out of town (again) and running into a prince's adventuring party who she
saves and then joins. Fairly standard dungeon crawl premise, but with some
twists. For one, Lu herself may or may not be a dragon (a question answered
by the end of the book, but the "maybe?" drives a fair amount of the plot up
to that point). Plenty of conflict within the party, as Lu isn't keen on the
dragon-slaying plan, the prince's bodyguard is rightly suspicious of Lu, and
the dwarven guide isn't great at the whole "dark caves" idea. But there's
also some significant external conflict on top of the obvious Whatever's In
The Dungeons, as the prince has dragged some palace intrigue behind him and
Lu is followed by a powerful bounty hunter for...pick something, she probably
did it.
So, strong setup for a dungeon crawl story, and that story takes up
about two thirds of this volume. In terms of pacing, this is really a three
volume story told across two books (as Image did it), but the middle book is
made up of shorter stories and can be split up easily enough. The short
stories that follow the main dungeon crawl open up a bit more of the world,
and end on a view of the powers behind the scenes.
Volume 1 raised a lot of questions, and most of Volume 2 is devoted to
the search for answers, although first there's a short story focused on the
dwarven guide from the adventuring party (who otherwise does not show up in
the main story). It's an interesting parallel, a short story in which a
secondary character breaks free of her family's expectations without
alienating them, and finding her own life...something Lu is desperately
trying to do. Of course, Lu's family makes the degree of difficulty a bit
higher.
The second story has Lu seeking answers and coming into more conflict
with the bounty hunter, but the only answer she gets is a hint that sends her
into the main story of the volume. (As I noted in the volume 1 review, it's
really three volumes split across two books, with a big story on either end
and a bunch of short stuff in the middle.) Does Lu find something like
closure? After a fashion, although she doesn't get the neat and tidy ending
of her former traveling companion in the opening of the volume.
Artistically, it's dynamic but a bit cartoonish, mostly in the form of
everyone having weird noses (oval, upside down T, dot, etc). The artist is
French, and my exposure to French comics is pretty limited, so I can't really
say if it's part of an existing house style or not, but it had some touches
that reminded me of a more detailed "CalArts" style. At least in the first
volume, everyone's easy to tell apart, in part because the main characters
and important secondary characters come from a broad swath of the world's
races and cultures. It becomes a significant issue in the second volume,
where we see the homelands of several of the volume 1 characters and the
cultural homogeneity leads to confusion in some cases.
While the series has some rough patches, I'm definitely going to get the
third volume once it comes out. Recommended. $14.99 each.

Artemisia: Beehive Books - This is a translation of a French graphic
novel, done via Kickstarter. While I didn't have trouble with the art style,
the lettering gave me significant pause. It appears to be a font based on
the hand lettering of the original creators, and the lines are just a bit too
thin and the space around them in most speech bubbles too large. I did
eventually get the hang of it, but it was a barrier to entry. The story is
mostly as told to Prudenzia (Artemisia's daughter) by the family maid Marta,
with occasional "present day" scenes as the three women are traveling between
cities. A secondary structural problem with the book is that while the
flashbacks generally start with place and year captions, they can flow
seamlessly into the present day scenes, sometimes blending across a panel in
the middle of a page in a way that can look like it's just later in the same
day rather than decades later. Basically, I found I needed to go back and
re-read the first few dozen pages once I'd figured out both the lettering and
the time-jumping cues. (The story appears to be getting told in 1638, but
that's never mentioned in the actual comic, the closest is a reference to
Orazio dying the following year, which the notes following the comic point
out was 1639.) The flashbacks mostly cover Artemisia Gentilischi's later
childhood, training and rape by Agostino Tassi, and then a few years of her
doomed marriage. Anyway, while I think it was a worthwhile project, it feels
like it just didn't translate well in terms of the visual language of
American comics. (Also, CW rape, some sketchy nudity.) Mildly recommended.
$25.00 cover price.

Punderworld vol 1: Image/Top Cow - One recurring storytelling theme on
social media (along with Humans Are Space Australians/Orcs) is "Hades and
Persephone but as a healthy relationship without all the rape and captivity."
I've seen bits and pieces of Linda Sejic's contributions to this
sub-sub-genre popping up online for a while, but now it's all put together in
one place. Well...not really. Instead of merely compiling the short pieces,
it looks like she's setting out to get things going from scratch with a full
length story about how Hades and Persephone finally got past the 200 year old
awkward sorta-flirting stage, thanks to a really stupid plan of Zeus's. The
basic elements of the myth are there (the chariot was Zeus's, though) but the
motivations are totally different. And the backup pieces explain about the
short comics and how they evolved from "something fun to get through
blockages on the REAL project" into a real project of its own. This entire
volume is also serialized on webtoons.com, but so far nothing yet from volume
2 (volume 1 just wrapped in May). There's also a Patreon, which mixes
Sejic's various projects. Strongly recommended. $16.99


Free Comic Book Day 2021:

First time I've missed out on the Tick offering in a while, my store
underestimated interest and they were gone by the time I showed up an hour
after opening. Ah well.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven: DC - This is a few more pages than
the excerpt at the back of I Am NOT Starfire. The extra pages don't really
grab me any more, though, but the amount of excerpt we do get summarizes last
year's Beast Boy and Raven solo GNs fairly well. It didn't sell me on
getting into the older books or the new one, though.

Papercutz Free Comic Book Day vol 1 #18: School for Extraterrestrial
Girls: Papercutz - This is another GN excerpt, this time for the second book
in the School for Extraterrestrial Girls series. As with the Teen Titans
excerpt, the pages given summarize the previous volume and do tend to give
away a few of the plot points, so if you're intrigued by the concept of this
series maybe don't read the FCBD book. Most of this excerpt takes place on a
train journey to a new school location, taking a few pages on each of the
main cast to explain their backgrounds and give context for the new
conflicts. While the premise is moderately interesting and writer Jeremy
Whitley has done some good stuff, I'm overall not won over by this preview.

The Unfinished Corner: Wonderbound - And a third GN excerpt. Well,
multiple excerpts. The cover story involves a concept out of Judaic
mysticism involving the "unfinished corners of the world." It kicks off with
a group of students who end up on "What if Magic School Bus were driven by an
actual Be Not Afraid angel?" sort of trip. The next is a short look at
Wrassle Castle, written by Paul Tobin (Prepare to Die) and Colleen Coover,
with art by Galaad (Scales & Scoundrels), which spends two pages introducing
what I presume is the protagonist and three on the antagonists. The tonal
shift is significant, with the protagonist living in a rather over the top
"martial arts moves get captions and power stats" setting, while the
antagonist is a bit more subdued. Finally, five pages from early in Verse,
but apparently not the first five pages, since it sort of picks up after the
first major event. Verse seems to be a low fantasy with a bit of portal
fantasy tossed in. Ultimately, none of the three really grabbed me, although
I might give Unfinished Corner a look when it comes out, if I see it on the
shelves.

Free Comic Book Day 2021: All Ages: Dark Horse Comics - The title listed
is in the indicia, the cover logo is The Legends of Korra. This is two short
done-in-one stories, one in each of the main Avatar eras. The cover story
has Tenzen telling his children a story from his own youth, while the backup
has spirits trying to set up Uncle Iroh on a date. Nice standalone stories,
although it seems to exist mostly to remind people that Dark Horse didn't
lose ALL their licenses. It's not really plugging any specific upcoming
Avatar book, and I do tend to buy those more on the strength of the writer or
the specific pitch.

White Ash Free Comic Book Day Issue 2021: Scout Comics - Or v.2 #0 to go
by the cover numbering. Set between the end of v.1 and the main start of
v.2, it's a "day in the life" sort of story that sets up the current status
quo and ongoing family conflicts while hinting at the main plot for the next
season. The Game promo explains the basic premise of the book and the
reader-participation gimmick (an app game, basically), but I'm not sure I got
any real feel for the tone of the actual book from it (something the White
Ash preview did a good job of). The last preview is for Stake Presents:
Jessamy, which appears to be about a vampire-hunting vampire in Colonial
America, cleaning up the messes of the rowdy overseas cousins on behalf of
the Ministry of Vampires. It's done in black and white with some spot colors
for light sources and a few other things like blood. Not really my thing,
though.


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 Trials of Ultraman #5 (of 5): Marvel - I wonder if this whole
"series of miniseries" deal is because Marvel has to renew the license on a
regular basis and aren't sure that it WILL be renewed, so they try to pretend
it's being done in standalone ready-for-TPB chunks? Because this is really
just #10 of an ongoing series in terms of storytelling, and only barely feels
like a plot milestone. Yeah, Jiras is defeated, but the most significant
plot point in this issue is setup for the next miniseries. The Jiras fight
frankly feels anticlimactic, and the family troubles subplot advances but is
far from resolved. There haven't even been serious trials for Ultraman in
this arc. Very mildly recommended. $3.99

Moon Knight #2: Marvel - So, one of the two antagonists from last issue
has sent someone to test Moon Knight's mettle...it's not revealed which one,
although it's probably the shadowy one who isn't a follower of Khonshu.
Well, probably isn't a follower of Khonshu. Anyway, in something of a
callback to classic science-based horror villains of MK's like Morpheus, the
hired gun does things on a psychic plane, which allows MacKay the chance to
show what he meant last issue by Marc being more than conventionally mentally
ill. I've seen a good explanation of "Lovecraftian horror" as being not that
something is so unnatural it breaks you, but that you have your perception of
the world vastly expanded by your experience, and then get shoved back in
Plato's cave. You are driven mad because you simply are not equipped to
understand your own memories and experiences anymore. Marc has come to at
least provisional terms with his own cosmic horror induced madness, but
madness it still is. Recommended. $3.99

RWBY/Justice League #5 (of 7): DC/Rooster Teeth - The first half is
Green Lantern laying out all the exposition, the second half is "the night
before battle" stuff that might have more impact as character development if
there was going to be a series past #7. Maybe planting seeds for a possible
sequel series if this does well enough? Mildly recommended. $3.99

The Heroes Union Binge Book #1: Sitcomics - Roger Stern, Ron Frenz, and
Sal Buscema come together to create...something. Near as I can tell, they're
trying for a "Jack and Stan in modern times" comic, but it's just not very
good. It exists in an awkward space between playing it straight and outright
camp, and it would have taken very little to file off the excesses and get a
solid retro-superhero story, but they couldn't resist occasionally arching an
eyebrow and pointing out where they're being campy. It's similar to how I
find it when Peter David sets out to be funny, and just pushes too many jokes
too far into unfunny. Neutral. $4.99

Vampirella #22: Dynamite - Red Mass part 1. This takes place after
Secret Six, but not by a lot. Well, other than the various flashbacks which
take place years ago, but that's not unusual for this title. Or this writer.
The main conflict involves following crazy astronaut Shane and trying to keep
him from killing this world's version of his family, although the Red Mass
(of which this is the first part) seems related more to the flashbacks than
to Shane. Rather a lot of recaps and explaining things to people this issue,
I guess it's intended as a Jumping On Point. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Vampirella #23: Dynamite - Red Mass part 2. At least now we know what
the mass is about and how the flashbacks of #22 connect up to things. More
or less. Half the issue is a flashback to twenty years ago, with a different
(and frankly not-very-good 90s-Image-style imitator) artist. One problem
with multiple artists is that they need to agree on how everyone looks, and
while time travel can cover a multitude of changes, the present day part has
a photo of one of the characters from the past, and the one in the flashback
looks very little like the one in the photo. Yeah, I'm nagging on a small
detail in the art, but small details can be important, especially when the
story is bouncing around the timeline. It's a good story, but the art has
trouble supporting it. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Sacred Six #12 (of 12): Dynamite - So, that's over. There's a
resolution, of sorts, and a new status quo for most of the surviving
characters (for loose values of "surviving" in this case). I get the feeling
that this was intended to accomplish more, but things didn't go the way
Priest or editorial wanted, and they settled for tying off most of the loose
ends at least temporarily. At least one moderately confusing plot point
regarding one of the characters got spelled out clearly. Mildly recommended.
$3.99

The Blue Flame #4: Vault - One of the core hooks of this book is the
question, "Are these two Blue Flames the same man, and if so, which is the
reality and which is the fantasy?" The paralyzed wreck clearly knew about
the cosmic trial as of #3, suggesting that maybe the cosmic version is an
elaborate fantasy he has constructed to help him cope with his life. But.
But this issue throws just a tiny bit of doubt on that interpretation. Maybe
the cosmic Blue Flame is the future, what he does after recovering from his
physical and emotional crippling. Maybe it's the FAR future, the memories of
a 21st Century man revived in a 25th (or whatever) Century body, or suspended
like Buck Rogers and cured by future science. Maybe the trial is happening
in the present, but all of the cosmic stuff we've seen is happening on some
sort of psychic plane, symbolically representing the Blue Flame himself and
the galactic civilization without the need for physical space travel.
Oh...it's probably all in his head in a totally mundane way, but Cantwell is
leaving just enough plausible doubt. All we've seen of the world is in the
four issues so far, we have no outside way to determine whether the more
fantastical elements are even possible. And that's keeping me
interested...but hopefully they don't string this along too far.
Recommended. $3.99

Norse Mythology II #3 (of 6): Dark Horse Comics - This issue starts the
adaptation of the story of Utgardsloki, which was the first myth I ever read,
when I was about 6 years old. (I didn't yet get that myths were divided up
by cultures, so in my search for more like it I ended up reading a lot of
Greek myth before finding Norse myth again.) This issue is merely the
journey to Utgard, starting with Thalfi's house and the eating of the goats
and ending at the gates of Utgard. It also shows that Odin hasn't got a
monopoly on being a jerk. :) Recommended. $3.99

Save Yourself! #3 (of 4): Boom Box! - I just realized that the three
fake magical girls each have a cards suit in their costume. Club, diamond,
spade. Their missing sister is therefore heart, a nice subtle point that
they don't actually bring up in dialogue (yet, anyway). So, points to the
artist there. But take away some of the points because so many panels have
just a color gradient as background. Anyway, this is the "clever plan to
save the kidnapped human and maybe also expose the magical girls as alien
predators" issue, and it is indeed a reasonably clever plan. It does depend
on the predators being kinda stupid, but that's not a horrible assumption in
this case. Obviously things go wrong, since this isn't the final issue, but
the cliffhanger-ness is a bit muted by a bit of exposition earlier in the
issue. Recommended. $3.99

My Little Pony #101: IDW - The Knights of Harmony arrive in Canterlot,
and they're generally Celtic in naming, and hybrid animals for the most part
(Danu is pony in front and lion in back, Taranis a bull on top and a snake on
bottom, etc). Most of the issue is a fight scene in which the Knights
overwhelm the defenders of Equestria after outlining their mission to destroy
the Elements of Harmony...and anyone directly touched by them. With only one
issue to go, it's likely to get a little plot-devicey up in these parts.
Mildly recommended. $3.99

Transformers: King Grimlock #1 (of 5): IDW - Basically inspired by the
G1 season 3 episode "Madman's Paradise" but without any Witwickies. It does
keep some of the really bad designs, though. There's no explicit credit
given to the writers of that episode, which aired when the writer (Steve
Orland) of this comic was about one year old. It opens in a "more or less G1
post-movie but not quite" version of Cybertron that feels like what you might
get if you tried to describe G1 season 3 Cybertron from memory after having
not seen the episodes in decades, but definitely wanted Daniel out of it.
Padilla's art is very sketchy and scratchy, like it was almost all drawn
directly to the ink stage using a single pen width and then the colorist
added some deeper blacks here and there. All in all, not a very promising
start. I think it would have been a lot better to ditch the Madman's
Paradise stuff entirely and isekai Grimlock into a fantasy setting without
all the dubious connections to the cartoon. Neutral. $3.99

Transformers: Shattered Glass #1 (of 5): IDW - The Shattered Glass
concept has been around for a while, having started as a way for the fan club
to get more use out of redecos and minor retools without having to make them
fit other trademarks...it's just Evil Mirror Universe Optimus Prime or Good
Mirror Universe Megatron, that sort of thing. The theme is not quite as
simple as a morality flip, as several characters also got inverted
characterization that wasn't moral in nature. Anyway, this miniseries is
picking up on the idea, but having never read the (serious) SG stories I
can't really say how well it fits with the old stuff, but a quick skim of the
TFWiki entry suggests it's not meant to be the same universe as the fan club
stories. Cover A of this issue, featuring Blurr (whose toy shipped while I
was working on the comics reviews for the month), homages Transformers
Generation 2 #1's cover, but with SG Blurr instead of Optimus Prime in
closeup, with bullets (including their casings) sticking out of the side of
his head and a smoking gun barrel in the lower right. (Unlike King
Grimlock's uncredited homage, at least Milne has "After Yanigher" under his
signature.) Guido Guidi does the interior art, and these days it's rare for
one of the old-continuity IDW artists to work on a book (I wonder if IDW just
decided to ditch all the older talent and get cheaper artists). It is
definitely nice to be back with an artist whose Transformers I can recognize
easily despite changed colors, though. The story focuses on Blurr, who went
from being a courier to being a bounty hunter...the packages simply got
darker, as he put it. He goes after Starscream (whose issue comes later) and
is naturally quite arrogant and decides to play with his prey...which is why
Starscream gets to have an issue later on. As for the writer, I hadn't heard
of Danny Lore before, but if they're the same one who popped up in a quick
googling, they have a few comics under their belt, just nothing in
Transformers. A decent start, and if it's a bit wordy, that's Blurr for you.
Recommended. $3.99

Transformers Beast Wars #7: IDW - Well, the book got a new artist. Not
great, but definitely an improvement. With the opening storyline concluded,
both sides seem content to settle in for a siege, one that Scorponok points
out will inevitably be won by the Predacons because it is "not in the
Maximals' nature" to ever be the first to attack. On the Axalon, Dinobot
tells his new allies what he knows of the old, which isn't a whole lot (down
side to being antisocial). Meanwhile, this is Blackarachnia's debut,
apparently keeping to the "Tarantulas corrupted a stasis pod" origin without
being obvious about it on-panel. And because Idiot Plot is switched on, she
easily infiltrates the Axalon. Sigh. I think Burnham was trying to cleverly
foreshadow things, but it ends up feeling like the Maximals are just idiots
who don't know how to run a security system. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Transformers #33: IDW - Meanwhile, for the majority of Cybertron, life
goes on despite things being so bad that several entire Arks have fled the
planet. There's money to be made and deals to be wheeled, and Swindle's not
going to let a little thing like who enforces the laws slow him down when he
breaks or bends those laws. And Bumblebee works for Swindle now, which is
only slightly preferable to being used as reactor shielding by the
Decepticons. As the title, "Lords of Misrule: Swindle's 11" would indicate,
this is a heist plot, more or less. It helps Bumblebee deal with a few bits
of personal business, while in the meanwhiles Skywarp is making his way
around Cybertron and making problems on purpose. Ruckley's tendency towards
meandering storytelling is still a problem, but I think the new setting has
finally hit a sort of critical mass that lets him get away with it, the webs
of connections he slowly laid down over the last few years are starting to
catch flies. Mildly recommended. $3.99


Dave Van Domelen, "And...there's a possibility that I might actually be
Count Dracula." (silent panel) "Get out of my office." - FBI Agent Ecsed and
Doc Chary, Vampirella #23
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