Dave's Comicbook Capsules for November 2020

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Dave Van Domelen

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Nov 28, 2020, 9:23:44 PM11/28/20
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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
Well, it's been a weird semester so far, hopefully it won't get weirder.

Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Love and
Capes: the Family Way

In this installment: Henchmen (DVD), New Mutants (Blu-Ray), The
Comicbook History of Animation #3, Adventure Finders Book 2 vol 1 Chapter 12,
Avatar the Last Airbender: the Search TPB, Love and Capes the Family War TPB,
Maestro #4 (of 5), The Rise of Ultraman #3 (of 5), Avengers: Marvels
Snapshots #1 (of 1), U.S.Agent #1 (of 5), Marvel Action Avengers (2020) #2,
Shang-Chi #3 (of 5), Big Girls #4, Bill and Ted are Doomed #3 (of 4), The
Orville #3, Norse Mythology #2, Sacred Six #4, Vampirella #15, Midnight Sky
#6, Kaijumax Season 5 #5 (of 6), Gladstone's School For World Conquerors
One-Shots (Ghost Girl/Mummy Girl, Skull Brothers/Martian Jones), My Little
Pony/Transformers #4 (of 4), My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #91,
Transformers #24.

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


"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.

Henchmen: Vertical Entertainment - So, this apparently hit theater in
2018. One theater. Opening box office something like $500, total theatrical
run take either $15K or $51K depending on where you look. It has actual
recognizable voice talent too, such as Rosario Dawson and Alfred Molina. My
guess is that this supervillain spoof was greenlit to try to cash in on the
Minions niche, but...they lost faith in it, and only had a limited theatrical
release for contractual reasons (they got funding from the Canadian
government) or perhaps to qualify for some technical award that year. And
then it moldered in the vault for two years before becoming a Walmart DVD.
And sadly, molder is the right term. This was...not very good. It wasn't
uniformly bad, and had some amusing bits here and there, but it was trying to
be a farce and that is dangerous. If you want a good treatment of people
working for a professional henching organization, check out Eric Alfred
Burns-White's Patreon for things like Being the Steve. Don't bother with
Henchmen, whose high point is Molina getting to chew virtual scenery. Even
the animation, which might have been pretty good for 2018, starts to feel
dated already.

New Mutants: Fox/Marvel - Speaking of moldering, this movie just
couldn't catch a break. First it gets caught in the whole transition of
assets deal, and then just as it's about to finally come out with major
reworking, theaters all closed. It finally limped onto streaming and disc
release in mid-November, a few weeks too late for the Halloween season given
that it was shooting for a horror movie motif. Given that it was very very
loosely adapting the Demon Bear Saga, a horror angle was certainly
appropriate, and they tweaked enough things about the background to make it
plausible (although, frankly, even the original comics' motivation for
assembling the New Mutants had untapped horror potential...the Brood Queen
growing in Professor X influenced him to do it so she'd have more mutant
hosts for her eggs). So, this wasn't an outright bad plan. It could have
been good. It just...wasn't quite. Leaving aside a pet peeve or two (and I
can almost guarantee that most viewers will find a peeve or two in here), the
biggest problem was structural. It was set up as a horror mystery, where no
one on screen knows why things are going so horror-tinged (other than, you
know, being set in a former insane asylum full of 1950s trappings). But
anyone even remotely familiar with the comics immediately knows why, and
there was no real attempt to obfuscate this...the only time the movie makes
the viewer wonder if a particular incident is due to (actual cause) or maybe
due to (red herring) is after everyone in the story has already figured out
the actual cause. Red herrings only work if introduced in a way that could
lead people on one or both sides of the screen to change their minds about
the plot device, and this one comes in during a harrowing chase scene where
no one stops to think that maybe it was never (actual cause) in the first
place. Otherwise, it did change some stuff around for good reasons (frankly,
changing Sunspot's powers helped with the horror aspects, and bringing in
Lockheed and Limbo without needing huge chunks of X-Men backstory made
sense), a few bits for the sake of twists, but it wasn't twisty enough to
save the fact it was trying to be a "closed mystery" in which the audience is
expected to not know the resolution until late in the game. It's not a total
write-off, but it falls into the common adaptation failing of trying to
retell a mystery while acting like the audience is in the dark. Mildly
recommended.


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.

The Comicbook History of Animation Part 3: Evil Twin Comics - Individual
issues continue to only be available to Kickstarter contributors. This
covers roughly the WWII years and a few years after, and just as animation
was dominated by Disney in that era, so too is this issue dominated by the
MausHaus. There's a few bits of "what else was going on" here and there,
including a decent chunk on UPA/Looney Toons. Suffice to say, when the Alan
Dean Foster news hit this month, I was utterly unsurprised by it, it's
totally on-brand for Disney. Definitely worth picking up the trade once it
becomes generally available.

Adventure Finders Book 2 vol 1 Chapter 12: Patreon.com - To the victor
go the spoils, but when the victory is not already spoiled it can be hard
deciding the disposition of the losing side. This chapter is devoted to
sorting out who among the invasion fleet needs to be tossed overboard (often
literally) and who's just decent people trying to do their jobs. Not a lot
of hard calls here, though, as the thorough drubbing of last chapter has
convinced all but the total nass-heads to mend their ways should any ways
need mending. Clari herself is off-screen all issue, we'll be finding out
what she was doing next issue, presumably. Lots and lots of non-battle crowd
scenes and detailed backgrounds, even for the sort of dialoguing scenes that
most artists would put in featureless expanses and tight closeups.
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.

Avatar the Last Airbender: The Search TPB: Dark Horse - This was the
first official continuation of the ATLA story, originally issued as a trio of
slim square-bound volumes as has become the style of Avatar comics. With the
individual parts becoming hard to find, they have now issued a new printing
of the collected edition...I got interested in reading it after watching the
entire ATLA series over the summer, but I decided to wait for this edition
rather than chase after the older versions online. Gene Luen Yang picks up
the story not too long after the end of the series, with Zuko deciding it's
time to figure out what happened to his mother Ursa. Of course, daddy dear
ain't likely to help, so it comes down to trusting Azula, who is actually
crazier than before. I mean, she was a sociopath with paranoid delusions by
the time Sozen's Comet arrived, but now she's hallucinating as well. Yang
sets this up as a possible redemption arc for her and since she was never
really mentioned or shown in Legend of Korra he's pretty free to run things
the way he wants. While technically this is a rather old story, I'd rather
not give away the ending. It's definitely worth the reading, even if you're
only vaguely familiar with the setting. Recommended. $24.99/$33.99Cn

Love and Capes: the Family Way: IDW - One of the weird consequences of
2020's effect on comics distribution was that IDW announced a bunch of series
that would start off as online in single issues and then only get paper
releases as collections. Some, like TF/MLP below, ended up with paper
floppies after all, but this one held off and only went hardcopy as a
completed collection. It jumps ahead a few years from the last story, and
now Crusader and Abby have both a young son and a baby daughter. But while
things are going pretty well for them, a lot of the supporting cast have had
their happy endings undone pretty severely, providing conflict and some
mystery. And a running gag involving Amazonia's tiara replacement
(abdicating at the end of the last series meant she wasn't allowed to wear
the old one anymore). Interestingly, the main resolution takes place in the
"fifth issue" with the last part being heavy on flashbacks to fill in some of
the missing time and denouement. Anyway, it's really well done and I
frequently found myself laughing aloud. (As an aside, if you subscribe to
Zahler's Patreon, you can see a new short piece on how their world deals with
COVID-19.) Strongly recommended. $19.99/$25.99Cn


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.)

Maestro #4 (of 5): Marvel - Hulk versus Hercules, which was pretty good,
but I could see the forced Avengers movie reference coming well in advance
and kinda winced when it happened. Mildly recommended. $3.99

The Rise of Ultraman #3 (of 5): Marvel - The basic rules of the Ultraman
shared body thing, including beta capsule, get laid out while it becomes
clear that the bad guys might be in charge of the good guy organization.
So...yeah, a darker take on the Ultraman concept than is usually seen,
although I'm nowhere near familiar enough with Ultra-stuff to say if it's an
outlier or just a bit unusual. Those who fight monsters become monsters,
etc. They also set up a "use the power too much and you die" Spawn trigger.
Interesting take, gonna stick with it. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Avengers: Marvels Snapshots #1: Marvel - Barbara Kesel tells the tale of
a couple of emergency responders caught in the middle of the Avengers' fight
with Red Ronin (I presume...he's never named on-panel and we only ever see a
hand and a partial shot of the back of the head), interspersed with them and
others trapped with them relating stories of living in disaster-prone New
York City. A decent read, although I didn't care for Staz Johnson's and Tom
Palmer's art. Mildly recommended. $4.99

U.S.Agent #1 (of 5): Marvel - John Walker comes into a Scout Comics town
and blows it up. Well, a little more than that, but after his last status
quo ended with all his supporting cast killed off, U.S.Agent is at loose ends
and ends up sent on a "check this thing out" mission in the wake of SHIELD
disbanding again. A redneck in redneck country, but not really fitting in
for all that. And he picks up a snarky old man named Morrie Watanabe
(confirmed with Priest to a joint homage to Irv Watanabe and Morrie Kuramoto
from the 80s Marvel offices) as a neither-wants-this sidekick. Lots of
setup, giving the feel of "superhero(ish) guy gets mixed up in spy games and
corporate crap" story...but is it really? USAgent comes across as more
reasonable than usual, but some of that could be the artist. (I can't really
speculate here, because I helped with some of the background brainstorming on
the series so, I mean, I probably know spoilers. Unless Priest changed the
whole plot around after the brainstorming, which is entirely possible.)
Recommended as long as you don't mind unlikeable protagonists. $3.99

Marvel Action Avengers (2020) #2: IDW/Marvel - Katie Cook's second
issue, originally planned for, um, February. But the 2019 series ran long,
delaying the start of this one until March, at which point it all fell apart.
Maybe Cook's final issue will come out in December? Anyway, this one has a
somewhat Flanderized Captain America visiting schoolchildren with the help of
Squirrel Girl, at which point a decidedly not-Earth-616 version of an old
supervillain decides to attack. Fun, decidedly in its own little world, but
it doesn't do Cap many favors. Recommended. $3.99

Shang-Chi #3 (of 5): Marvel - Very much a middle part, recovering and
training up and tracking down clues but ultimately not succeeding despite it
all, because this is a 5 part story and not three. A lot more sibling
squabbling going on that reaches a point I'd almost call tsundere except I
really doubt Yang is setting up a romantic relationship between half-
siblings. (Weird reading this right after The Search, especially since I got
the Phoenix variant color that makes Shang-Chi look like a firebender.)
Recommended, but if you haven't picked up any yet, maybe wait for the trade.
$3.99

Big Girls #4: Image - Maybe a 6 issue series? Almost no one says so in
the actual comic anymore, but the solicits for #6 look pretty final. In any
case, this is also very much a middle-of-the-arc story, with a lot more
flashbacks to set up why the antagonist is driving this particular plot,
while the protagonist learns some hard truths about her world, just in time
for the Big Damn Kaiju Fight to start. The story is cohering better than
last issue. Recommended. $3.99

Bill & Ted Are Doomed #3 (of 4): Dark Horse Comics - To be honest, this
series is sadly just sort of sliding off my brain. It feels like an attempt
to cross over with Metalocalypse but without really committing...which is
weird, since musical fandoms are kinda Evan Dorkin's thing, even moreso than
media fandoms. It's not even that there weren't some good bits in here, but
it just didn't cohere for me. Part of it is probably that there's a lot of
plot threads (comeback tour, the robots get brides, impending doom, setup for
Face the Music, the whole death metal economy going on) and it all feels like
slow burn for a 12 issue storyline rather than something that's over next
month. Mildly recommended, mostly for the parts rather than for the whole.
$3.99

The Orville #3: Dark Horse Comics - First half of the second "episode,"
Heroes. This focuses on Talla, the heavyworlder security chief, and starts
with a flashback to one of her early assignments, scouting out a world where
the natives were maybe 20th Century tech level and appeared to be related to
her own people, but with no cultural similarities and no trace of
heavyworlder adaptations. Cut to the present, and that beautiful world is
being exploited by a non-Union race who might go to war if the Orville forces
them to stop doing that. Fairly obvious plot setup for part two, but it'll
be interesting to see how it plays out anyway. Recommended. $3.99

Norse Mythology #2: Dark Horse - The entire issue is devoted to
finishing "The Treasures of the Gods," no short pieces to accompany it. A
good solid myth to hang an issue on, and one I fondly recall from childhood
(and would later wonder if Shakespeare was familiar with, since his solution
to the "pound of flesh" plot point was similarly legalistic to Loki's way of
keeping his head attached to his shoulders). Recommended. $3.99

Sacred Six #4: Dynamite - Jae Lee's not involved in this one, a
different artist does the "ancient flashback" sequence, and there's not quite
as jarring a transition to the main art. Things are starting together,
although Vampi has to do an awful lot of narration in the first half to make
that happen. Mildly recommended. $3.99

Vampirella #15: Dynamite - A done-in-one ghost story, although the scary
part of it is not the ghosts or astral plane whatever technobabble you use to
justify them, but rather the torn from the usually buried on page five
stories of police abuse of power that underlie the ghost story. (Granted,
recent events have driven home more and more that part of this story is
implausible, and I don't mean the ghosts.) Recommended. $3.99

Midnight Sky #6: Scout Comics - Infiltration of not-Disneyworld
continues apace, and with it the origin of the alien invasion. It gets a bit
weirder, perhaps even slightly mystical in nature, than the usual alien
invasion plots. Recommended. $3.99

Kaijumax Season Five #5 (of 6): Oni Press - This issue is dominated by
the life story of Pikadon, setting him up as a tragic figure and victim of a
corrupt system who decided to deal with the system by becoming the most
corrupt part of it. A rather touching tragedy, for all that it has its basis
in the rather low hanging fruit of "Pokemon is just a bunch of kids abusing
animals in pit fights." Dr. Matsumoto's arc gets a little time as well,
although it's doled out in such small bites that I'm still not sure what's
going on beyond a sort of general covering up police corruption thing.
Recommended. $3.99

Gladstone's School for World Conquerors One-Shots: Maneki Neko Books -
While we continue waiting for a fourth volume of the main Gladstone
storyline, this year's Kickstarter was for a pair of flip-book one-shots.
One book has Skull Brothers and Martian Jones as a flip-book, the other has
Ghost Girl and Mummy Girl. Kid V had a one-shot in the previous Kickstarter,
so this gives all the core cast their moments in the Sun. Or in the shadow,
as the case might be. (Secondary cast member Speed Spectre gets a one-shot
next year, though.) There's no unifying theme here, they're set along
various points in the timeline if all presumably prior to the
current-as-of-volume-three space journey storyline. The Skull Brothers are
making their audition video, Ghost Girl is getting in some family time before
the first day of school, Mummy Girl just has an unwanted adventure while
she's supposed to be working on her homework, and Martian Jones has to deal
with accidentally self-caused problems at school. Problems of a "Why do we
even HAVE that lever?" variety, frankly, but mad science can be like that.
One thing the stories do pretty well is establish a spectrum of villainy.
The Skull Brothers are dedicated to being evil, to the point that the can't
really fit into the kayfabe reality of their current era, while Ghost Girl is
clearly set up to be a hero down the line. Martian Jones is slightly
villainous, more of a villain because he can't be bothered to follow the law
when it gets in the way of SCIENCE! (the exclamation point is important
there), while Mummy Girl is basically a legacy, kinda neutral on the ethical
spectrum but willing to follow in the family business. She'd probably make
the best modern-style villain of the lot, as a result, because it's not
personal. She's doing the job, living up to her responsibilities, and
willing to take a dive if that's what the job calls for. Recommended. Not
marked for individual sale, but will probably be available online soonish
once all the Kickstarter backers get their copies.

My Little Pony/Transformers #4 (of 4): IDW - It's the Apple Clan versus
the Insecticons for the fate of Sweet Apple Acres (with more help from
Discord) and then a valiant attempt to pretend that this was all part of one
big story and cap it off with a huge cliche blast. While there's some cute
gags (Megatron gets an orange safety cap on his barrel, Spike shows up in
human-Spike's exosuit, etc), it ends up feeling like someone's first fanfic.
Very mildly recommended. $3.99

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #91: IDW - Well, it says "The
Musical" on the cover, but there's only one musical number near the end.
Mostly it's an alternate sextet getting back into the groove of solving
problems together like they did before Zecora fled for Equestria. It feels
kinda like Whitley decided to put part of a Tales of Equestria TTRPG
adventure into the story, although it resolved differently than in the
module. Recommended. $3.99

Transformers #24: IDW - Things were really rolling towards a Big Change
on Cybertron, which traditionally would mean that this issue and next issue
would be big slam-bang battles for the fate of the world. Nope. Time to go
off to the Winged Moon, cut loose a few months ago, and see how that's faring
for a couple of issues. I mean, it's not a bad story to tell, but Ruckley is
either deliberately bucking comics traditions or is utterly unaware of them.
Anyway, it's Engineers In Spaaaaace (well, on a moon), with worse in store
for them personally even if they do save the Winged Moon from a sun-dive.
It's mostly G1 regulars (Wheeljack, Huffer, Gears, plus Cosmos) and Lancer
(who gets a specialty and a few lines, but not much characterization beyond
"good at her job and knows it"). It also has if not the first serious
appearance by Enemy, the first serious appearance to give him much of a
personality. If you're expecting a traditional "#24-25 blowout" story,
you're not going to find it here, but it's decent on its own terms.
Recommended. $3.99


Dave Van Domelen, "What? Who calls themselves ENEMY? Oh, wait...you
didn't choose it, right? Someone ELSE came up with your name?" "No. I
chose it." "Wow. I mean, to each their own, but...wow. Issues much?" -
Lancer, Enemy, and Huffer, Transformers #24
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