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Dave's Comicbook Capsules Et CeteraIntermittent 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 Halfway through summer class and no one's gotten COVID. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Nothing this month. In this installment: Adventure Finders Book 2 Chapter 16, Adventure Finders Book 3 Chapter 1, QUEERZ Chapter 1, My Last Summer with Cass, Avatar the Last Airbender: Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy, The Girl from the Sea, Naturalist: a Graphic Adaptation, Shang-Chi #2, RWBY/Justice League #2-3 (of 7), Sacred Six #10, Vampirella #20-21, The Blue Flame #2, Giga #4, Norse Mythology II #1 (of 6), The Orville Digressions #2 (of 2), Midnight Sky #8, Save Yourself! #1, Kaijumax Season 6 #2 (of 6), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #98, My Little Pony/Transformers II #3 (of 4), Transformers Beast Wars #5, Transformers Escape #4 (of 5), Transformers Annual 2021, Transformers #31. 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. I finally got a TV that can show Disney+, so I have been watching Loki. However, I decided to review it after the season ends. (If you do get D+, watch the Marvel 616 documentary on Japanese Spider-Man.) 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 2 Chapter 16: Patreon.com - Technically came out in May, but after I posted that month's column. One more issue of our heroes being basically untouchable and setting up the next actual challenge...like, whenever someone tells the protagonists to never ever go to a really dangerous location, you know they'll end up there pretty soon. How much time is devoted to the Arokian power structure struggle first is uncertain, but it IS clear that the heroes are going to find that Arao's followers do count some actual potent threats. (Perhaps they'll end up on the run and going into the Don't Go There place to hide.) Anyway, nice cityscapes and scenery, but the story's still in slow progression mode. Recommended. $1/month on Patreon. (Note, it has "Book 2 Volume 1 Chapter 16" on it, but the Volume 1 is actually a persistent cut and paste error...everything so far is volume 1 anyway.) Adventure Finders Book 3 Chapter 1: Patreon.com - So, it starts innocently enough with a stroll across town. Yeah, like thats going to be simple with the city split between the more or less secular authorities and the Arokian fanatics, and they don't even make it halfway to their destination without getting into a couple of fights. Along the way, it is established (if not with 100% reliability due to the character doing the establishing) that Arao is not a "real" god in a world where there are indeed real gods. Real gods, of course, can do inconvenient things like contradict the claims of their followers and make demands of them. That might explain how Arao-worship got so successful, since it's unfettered by any sort of divine accountability that might slow the roll of a religion based on an actual interventionist god. Sure, they don't get to draw on divine power for magic, but there's certainly ways to cheat around that. Recommended. $1/month on Patreon. QUEERZ Chapter 1: Son of Oak Game Studio - This is a tie-in to a TTRPG whose Kickstarter is coming soon, pointed out to me by Tony Pi (who has been converting our Academy of Super-Heroes characters into the City of Mist gaming engine that QUEERZ uses). This issue is available for free to anyone who signs up to be alerted to the Kickstarter at https://cityofmist.co/pages/queerz-ttrpg and is a Sentai team book by Isago Fukuda (style is vaguely reminiscent of the BONES anime team, especially on the "Pink Ranger" character). The storytelling is a bit rough, only some of which can be explained by language issues. As far as the plot goes, it's sort of a "before the opening credits roll" teaser with only hints of what's going on, and the only person who even does a sentai transformation is the antagonist. It looks like they're shooting for a really blunt "fighting the evil cishet hegemony" conflict, though...while the game itself might be interesting, the manga no so much. Neutral, but it's "free" for the cost of getting on a mailing list. But if you want a sentai or magical girl style action book with LGBTQ+ protagonists, Save Yourself! (see below) is a much better choice. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. My Last Summer With Cass: Little, Brown and Company - I missed this coming out earlier in the year, because it's not sold with the usual Mark Crilley books. It's a coming of age story told in three acts, the middle one being the biggest. So, perhaps more of a prologue, the main story, and an epilogue, although the real emotional plot resolution is mostly in that epilogue. Crilley's style is rather different than in even his more recent works like Brody's Ghost, and he's working aggressively with color. Not naturalistic colors, for the most part, but more of an emotional use of color. For instance, almost no one's skin is actually any human skin tone most of the time, instead being shades of blue or red or green depending on the mood (when it DOES resemble normal skin tone, it feels kinda odd). The story is strongly manga-influenced in the sense of being more about the visuals, with very low word density most of the time. The pages usually have standard white gutters, but every so often there's a full bleed splash to establish a location or a mood. The story itself follows a young artist and her friend as they grow up together and then grow apart, each taking different lessons from their family dynamics (one's father ran out on the family, the other is controlling and expects the girl to take over the family business). But one is too loose and the other is too tight and when a crisis hits, their bond is broken. Neither respected the other's side enough to allow for any other resolution at the time...even if either had seen a possible compromise. Underlying the two characters is a metaphorical struggle between representational art and art as expression (the wild one isn't abstract, although some of her artsy city friends are...she's more of an expressionist of some flavor). Recommended. $17.99/$22.99Cn Avatar the Last Airbender: Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy: Dark Horse - Another one that came out earlier in the year, I just don't remember to check that shelf at B&N regularly (and until recently, I didn't even review these books). This is a one-shot as opposed to part one of three, and is more or less a Day In The Life (well, maybe two or three days). The core theme is that success can be boring, and it's easy to lose track of why you wanted to succeed in the first place. Toph is bored, and the hippy singers from Book 1 are now big stars whose tour brings them to town. Of course, their music isn't really to Toph's taste (or Sokka's, but Suki is a BIG fan and drags them all to the concert), but wackiness ensues anyway. On top of the whole bored thing, Toph also learns that she's considered part of The Man now, which REALLY bugs her...foreshadowing (postshadowing?) her post-teaching career, I guess. An amusing light read, and enough of everyone's background is brought up that a new reader can probably follow it all, but I'm not sure it's the sort of thing that will get someone into Avatar if they're not already interested. Mildly recommended. $12.99/$17.50Cn The Girl from the Sea: Graphix - Molly Ostertag moves from the urban fantasy of the Witch Boy series to the...rural fantasy? Well, it's still "magic exists in a modern setting" thing, but rather than overt magic-using protagonists it's a twist on the Selkie myth, combined with the common YA "be sure" sword of Damocles. The protagonist wants to come out of the closet, but only after she's left her tiny coastal town behind. She has plans. Big plans. Plans which naturally do not survive contact with the selkie who she met as a little girl (and later decided was just a dream) and is now falling for. So, lots of "fish out of water" (pun intended) comedy as the humanform Selkie interacts with the protagonist's friends and community, making it really hard to stay in the closet. But there's more than just the personal aspect, there's a looming environmental crisis that has the Selkie on a ticking clock. Morgan has to make a decision...several of them, in fact...and she might not get to change her mind about it for years. Artistically, since I've been talking about gutter use, Ostertag puts white gutters around daytime panels and black around nighttime panels. Underwater gets shades of blue and an increase in full bleed and borderless panels. Just looking at the edge of the book shows how the story shifts from mostly daytime to mostly nighttime, following the mood of impending doom. Recommended. $14.99/$19.99Cn Naturalist: A Graphic Adaptation: Island Press - Okay, now I think I'm caught up on Ottaviani's science comics. This is an adaptation of E.O. Wilson's 1994 autobiography, and while there's always the changes in emphasis and "what gets left out" aspects of any adaptation, it's a pretty straight autobiography rather than the "autobiographical voice" biographies of some of Ottaviani's other works. On a personal note, prior to reading this most of what I knew about Wilson came from his Consilience idea, the "jumping together" of disciplines. Consilience is not mentioned at all in Naturalist...because it was a 1998 book. It's not even really hinted at much. Anyway, it's mostly linear through his life, although near the end it starts jumping ahead along topical threads before returning to where he left off the narrative. Mostly drawn in standard white gutter panels, but when the story goes into untamed nature the art goes full bleed. Woods just outside of town are guttered, gotta be in Borneo or the Florida Keys or some other nearly untouched location for the full bleed to kick in. Very effective storytelling device. (I suppose a way to accomplish it in a live action version would be to slightly desaturate all the colors proportionally to how civilized the setting is.) While he admits to some personal flaws and missteps, he's definitely the hero of his own story. Recommended. There's no pricetag on the book itself, but Amazon charged me $20.81 for it (list price $28). 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.) Shang-Chi #2: Marvel - Yang continues the "What Agents of Atlas could have been, but wasn't" storyline as Shang discovers that unquestioning obedience isn't more of a theory than a practice. I'm not sure the plot device everyone's fighting over actually works like that, it might have been better to have made up an entirely new plot device that would do what the plot required instead of having to be tweaked like this, but that's relatively unimportant in the short term. By interacting with lots of major players in the criminal underworld, it is made much clearer that despite his genial personality, Shang's brother is genuinely a criminal and part of that world...it's not enough to lead an organization from its head, you need to understand its heart as well, and Shang has not yet gotten to that point. Recommended. $3.99 RWBY/Justice League #2-3 (of 7): DC/Rooster Teeth - Paper compilations of the online-first installments 3-6 (two online issues makes one paper issue). While Margeruite Bennet writes all the stories, each issue has a different artist, but at least they keep the same artist for both of the installments collected in an issue. #2 starts with another "done in one" story with Weiss meeting this world's version of Bruce Wayne (who is, of course, a bat Faunus), then spends the second part on establishing the overall arc. #3 goes back to somewhat disconnected stories as the heroes split up to find more JL analogues (Flash and Cyborg), slightly advancing the main plot but again mostly being focused on the "meet/conflict/team up" cycle. Amusingly they worked some of the Six Million Dollar Man's origin into Cyborg. There's still a few JL'ers to go before the book can hopefully settle down on the main plot, but for now it's mostly "here's the character I'll be playing" sort of intros. Mildly recommended. $3.99 each. Sacred Six #10: Dynamite - Lots of backstory flashbacks, both Nyx's continuing origin story and the mysterious caretaker's backstory. The present-time stuff is mostly characters arguing about what to do, if anything...and it really feels like it's all building towards an anticlimax. Everyone looks much scruffier than in most of the series to date, and in few cases seem a little off-model. Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Vampirella #20-21: Dynamite - #20 is roughly equal parts establishing some aspects of the alternate Earth that Drakulon orbits, and Vampi trying to rescue her mother from both the state and from Lilith's own followers. I guess the ocean levels on Arcadia got out of hand, or Mount Rushmore is more coastal there. #21 cuts to eight months later as everyone is trying to get back to Drakulon or maybe Earth, and if fleshes out more of the setting and backstory. Mostly interesting for the worldbuilding, at the low end of recommended. $3.99 each. The Blue Flame #2: Vault - Okay, the "third setting" from #1 was just other characters in the low-tech hero world...something that feels like writing for the trade. It really should have done something to make that clearer in #1. I do like that the two worlds are internally consistent and interact in a way that has yet to make it clear which one is real...and it's possible that both are real, just separated by time (cosmic Blue Flame has yet to really be defined as "present day but with sci fi elements" and could be more of a Buck Rogers deal than a Green Lantern riff). Recommended. $3.99 Giga #4: Vault - Seriously, Vault needs to work on getting editors or beta readers or something. It feels like this should all make sense when taken together, but read as individual issues and lacking a lot of the standard visual storytelling cues that comics have developed...I keep feeling like I missed an issue. Anyway, things are coming to a head, as Aiko (the protagonist's childhood friend who went rogue) tells what happened to her since she last saw Evan and unveils at least part of her Master Plan. The storytelling continues to be vague in places (why the heck does Evan sharpen a screwdriver and cut himself with it in the flashback?), but it does seem to be coming together after a fashion. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Norse Mythology II #1 (of 6): Dark Horse Comics - Logo fail. The "H" in MYTHOLOGY is very subtly a II, but if I didn't know they'd rebooted numbering I'd have mistaken this for an alternate cover of the first issue of the first series. This issue starts off the origin of Bragi, but he's not actually in it yet, as a lot of blood has to be spilled (and drunk) before he gets his turn on the stage. We start with the birth of Kvasir, the wisest of the gods. Then his betrayal by dwarves (because wisdom doesn't always mean savvy, I guess, but it could also have been his intent all along), followed by Odin setting out to Deal With Matters in his typically Odinish way. Which is to say, he's a jerk. But hey, the story warns at the beginning that no one comes out of this looking particularly noble. Recommended. $3.99 The Orville Digressions #2 (of 2): Dark Horse Comics - The missing pieces of Season 2's finale get laid out, with Kelly's actions being somewhere between "too little, too late" and "just enough, just in time." It's hard to do much dramatically when the ending has already aired and there's not enough room to introduce any side characters whose fate is up in the air, but as an exercise in connecting the dots it's a decent enough piece. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Midnight Sky #8: Scout Comics - End of the first arc...not sure if we'll get a #9 or a Book 2 #1, but it's not cancelled. The Invasion Leader explains his background and his plan to Alejandro while the rest of the human and hybrid cast saddles up for an assault on invasion HQ to rescue Alejandro (and also blow up as much stuff as they can manage). Much stuff is blown up, plans thwarted at least temporarily, and there's a bit of a shuffle to set up the next arc. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Save Yourself! #1: Boom Box! - This month's "What the heck, give it a try" book. It's sort of an inside out Magical Girls book...the protagonist lives in a world where magical girls from space have come to save the world from monsters, and have become a huge pop cultural phenomenon. She's also part of the local LGBTQ social scene, but in a bit of withdrawal socially since her brother died. On the day her friends conspire to get her to stop moping in her bedroom, she runs into a magical girl fight and finds out that things are not what they seem. It's not a "Dark Magical Girls" take, though, so much as a "appearances are deceiving" deal. It also feels like a sourcebook for the Thirsty Sword Lesbians TTRPG. Actually...no, unless there's pseudonyms in play, no one in the Thirsty Sword Lesbians credits is involved with this book. Also, cute space axolotls. Recommended. $4.99 Kaijumax Season 6 #2 (of 6): Oni Press - While this is the final season (although I wouldn't put it past them to put out an oversized "movie" issue to complete the "six seasons and a movie" gag), it's still setting up a lot of different threads. On top of the smokejumpers, heist movie, and Whoofy's inner demons, Cannon also sets up an attempt at reconciliation between kaiju and townspeople, plus some fallout from Season 5 continues to be addressed, and the K-pop magma hero guy from a few seasons back has returned. Still, it's probably Electrogor's plot that gets the most significant advancement, which is only appropriate since he was the main kaiju of Season 1. A lot of threads coming together, and yet a few new threads being brought up too. Pretty good kaiju drama. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony #98: IDW - A done in one story about the princesses as fillies...given that there's only four more issues before cancellation, I guess they really wanted to do a non-arc story. The main purpose of this, I guess, is to show how Celestia has "human" foibles now that she's no longer in God Princess Mode all the time. It's cute, which is a common attribute of MLP stories, but does feel a little like writing down to the kiddies. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony/Transformers II #3 (of 4): IDW - The first story has the Student Six and TaviScratch trapped under a collapsed tower with Soundwave (who they are instructed to not taunt). Naturally, the solution is music. Soundwave is played partway between G1 and IDW1 in that he doesn't seem to be a bad guy on his own, he's just a little too loyal to Megatron. The second story starts with a decent premise: Ratchet and Rarity dealing with "cosmetic surgeon" Knockout. Ratchet doesn't understand why Knockout lacks anything like a duty to help (whatever passes for a Hippocratic Oath on Cybertron), while Rarity sympathizes with the drive to make everyone beautiful. Unfortunately, Tramontano can't draw vehicles (or is trying too hard to "Ponify" the style), and at one point Ratchet looks like a rectangular box with wheels. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Beast Wars #5: IDW - In beast mode, Megatron looks more like an organic version of RiD15 Grimlock, with a protruding chin that belongs nowhere near a T.rex. Yeah, stuff happens in the issue, but the art really distracted me, even more than usual. Can we please have a different artist for the next arc? Very mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Escape #4 (of 5): IDW - The art continues to be pretty sketchy but not as bad as Beast Wars, as the Titanfall happens here amidst attempts to evacuate civilians from Cybertron. Of course, there's a much more immediate problem in the Insecticon swarms, and Dai Atlas would sure be a big help if he could overcome his passivism/pacificism. This is your basic "The first solution never works" story, on multiple levels. Assuming that there is to be any escaping, there's not much time for second or third tries. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Annual 2021: IDW - Meanwhile, there were two Titans not involved in Titanfall. Vigilem, who was used to kick off the catastrophes that gave Megatron cover for his takeover, and the mostly noncombatant Lodestar who was sent after Vigilem. They catch up to Vigilem on Thunderwing's remote outpost, so any readers with familiarity with previous continuities will know that Vigilem isn't going to be the only problem they find. There's an obvious Chekov's Gun toted about by the Technobots (who, being a non-combining combiner team, represent another Chekov's Gun), and the middle part is mostly finding out just how bad Thunderwing's operation is before breaking free of those complications to deal with Vigilem and (waves hands in general direction of everything). A good side story for an Annual. Recommended. $5.99 Transformers #31: IDW - While there's bits of various plots advanced along the way this issue, it's mostly about Jumpstream trying out an experimental power booster that goes wrong (and for once it's not Wheeljack's fault). She teleports around Cybertron to tie together the various bits and pieces before ending up in an entirely different timeline (drawn by an entirely different artist, appropriately). Hopefully her arc gets resolved before jumping back to the main timeline, but given how Ruckley wrote for the trade on the winged moon arc, I kinda doubt it. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Okay, now that I say it out loud, I see that this was a dumb plan." - Morgan's mom, The Girl from the Sea