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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 Been playing a lot of FFXIV lately, you might be able to tell. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Nothing this month. Sorry about that. In this installment: Loki Season 1, Dreadstar Guidebook, Dreadstar Returns, The Other History of the DC Universe #5 (of 5), Shang-Chi #3, Trials of Ultraman #5 (of 5), Moon Knight #1, RWBY/Justice League #4 (of 7), Sacred Six #11 (of 12), The Blue Flame #3, Wrong Earth Day & Night #5 (of 6), Norse Mythology II #2 (of 6), The Lunar Ladies #1 (of 3), Save Yourself! #2, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #99-100, My Little Pony/Transformers II #4 (of 4), Transformers Beast Wars #6, Transformers Escape #5 (of 5), Transformers #32. 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. Loki Season 1: Disney+ - Okay, since the season is over by the time I write this, only people on the fence (or stuck waiting for disc release) haven't already seen it, I guess. So, without spoilers, let me say that you should NOT binge this series. Space it out, at least go with one episode a night. The pacing is definitely driven by the cliffhanger, and if you don't let it marinate in your brain for a while before hitting the next episode, a lot of the impact will be lost. Maybe go back and rewatch an episode with a lot of slo-mo or pausing to search for easter eggs before moving on to the next one. Knowledge of the comicbook versions of various characters and organizations is neither helpful nor harmful on balance, there's a fair number of red herrings that rely on expectations. It should be noted that the final episode got heavily rewritten during the COVID-enforced downtime, but as far as I can tell it was more pacing and less "change our minds about what's going on" in nature (they don't pull a Monarch, to use a DC example). Oh, another pacing note, while the end of this season sets up a bunch of Phase 4 plot points, this won't be Mandatory Viewing, I expect that the important plot points will be summarized fairly early on in the affected works. All that structural stuff aside, I enjoyed the season quite a bit. While it has a fair number of action and effects scenes, it's mostly about personal development storylines. Loki himself gets a bit of a jumpstart (this is the version from the "failed to get the Tesseract" scene in Endgame, rather than the one who redeemed himself in Ragnarok, so they cheat a bit to get him into a similar headspace early on), everyone else gets to breathe more naturally. I was worried as the season went along that whoever was Behind It All would have trouble ever being used again after being dealt with outside of a movie, but I think they finessed it nicely. 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. I did get the digital copies of some Kickstarted comics (Tuki vol 1, Good Boy #1-2) but I'll wait until I have the physical books to review them. Adventure Finders was delayed a bit by personal life stuff. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Dreadstar Guidebook: Ominous Press - Speaking of Kickstarters, the physical books from the Dreadstar Returns KS came in this month. I read this after reading the new story, but I needn't have worried about spoilers...the Guidebook covers up through #40 of the First Comics run and then stops. Even the timeline assumes that "now" is the end of #40, despite the back cover claiming that it covers the "entire saga." This caused me some problems in reading Dreadstar Returns, because I did skim the timeline first and it led me to believe for the first chunk of DR that it was set "now" and was ignoring the Peter David run (which is about the only original Dreadstar that survived my purge in 2000, even though I'd put a lot of work in the 90s into filling as many gaps as I could in my Starlin issues). Anyway, this is a pretty standard OHOTMU-inspired guide, with more or less alphabetical entires for all the major and most minor characters (sometimes by last name, sometimes by codename even when the last name was known), with the occasional confusing errors (like mixing up Infra Red and Ultra Violet in at least one place). It also has a bunch of "alternate covers" done for the KS, and the full art (but no lettering) from an earlier abortive attempt at relaunching Dreadstar. Decent resource, but could stand to be clearer about its limitations. Maybe call itself Volume 1 on the cover. (Starlin is working on getting the PAD issues reprinted, but I guess there's some more tangled rights involved there.) Mildly recommended. $29.95 (hardcover) Dreadstar Returns: Ominous Press - Set 20 years after Dreadstar #40, most of the characters have been treading water since the end of the PAD run. Vanth is back to doing wetwork on the frontiers, Willow is still a disembodied hyperintelligence running a growing swath of the Empirical Galaxy, Teuton is still falling from great heights, etc. But a mysterious threat shows up on the capital world and Vanth is called back by Syzygy's ghost to help deal with it. Oh, and there's some political cartoon level stuff in the opening scene. There's occasional references to what happened in the intervening years, mostly at the level of artistic easter egg (and since Thanos shows up as one of those, things like Junior showing up are a bit less impactful since he never speaks or gets talked about), but the main plot feels like Starlin dealing with some regrets over how he wrapped up his original run. It heavily focuses on giving a better send-off to one of the freedom fighters, and also sets up a new threat for potential further stories. Structurally, I think it could have used some work, and the 20 year gap feels a bit weird...sure, a lot of the characters are functionally immortal, but the mortal supporting cast show no signs of having aged. Five or ten years probably would have allowed for settling down in the wake of the PAD run without making everyone seem ageless. (20 years might have been picked in an attempt to tuck the Malibu book into the gap, but it seems like just writing that off as a future that never came to pass would be a better idea, especially given that no one really wants to deal with Malibu legal stuff right now as far as I know.) Mildly recommended, but really aimed at old-time readers. $29.95 (also hardcover) The Other History of the DC Universe #5 (of 5): DC Black Label - It started with Jefferson Pierce, it ends with Anissa Pierce. Anissa and Jennifer are something of a weird situation, having been retconned in as the daughters Jeff had but never mentioned in the 90s series (there was also a niece retconned in as well, I vaguely recall Tony Isabella commenting about how no one at DC seemed to be paying attention to what he'd written about Black Lightning or cared to ask). The thing to keep in mind is that this Anissa "Thunder" Pierce is only lightly connected to the character on the CW show. I mean, a tweet-summary of her abilities and personality would be about the same, but Anissa suffered through a LOT of messed up stuff and retcons beyond just the retcons that brought her into existence. She was at the center of a whole lot of bad ideas at DC, and if this retelling makes her family relationship look more fraught than it was shown to be at the time...well, this is a more likely version of events. It makes for a good bookend to the series, because Thunder didn't start her superheroic career until after the end of the events described in #1, so a lot of this is seeing how from Anissa's point of view her father didn't get an better as a person despite the epiphanies he had in #1. (There's no real connection to #2 or #4, but Tatsu shows up in a few key scenes and Ridley sticks with his "the sword isn't really magic" premise.) One particularly effective bit was a shared scene, with the same art and layout in both #1 and #5, but different perspectives, revealing more about Jeff than he could admit to himself. Recommended. $6.99 I got Scales & Scoundrels vol 1-2 from TKO late in the month, but didn't get them read in time for this month's column, they'll show up in the next. 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 #3: Marvel - The guest star this issue is Wolverine, who splits the difference between the Spider-Man teamup in #1 and the outright opposition of Captain America in #2. Also, unlike the previous two issues, Shang isn't up to anything shady...so the conflict is more between him and his siblings, who are all about doing the shady. It does feel like Yang is piling way too many Chekov's Guns up on the mantlepiece, though. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The Trials of Ultraman #4 (of 5): Marvel - Mostly human-scale drama, family stuff and politics and the politics around family stuff, followed by Ultraman refusing to come out to play unless there's a kaiju to fight. Fortunately, in the last few pages a kaiju (well, mecha-Jiras) shows up and the fighting ensues. Basically, it's the sort of penultimate issue you get when you're pretty sure there will be another miniseries and want to focus on the longer term ramifications of stuff instead of just getting down to the fight scenes. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Moon Knight #1: Marvel - Moon Knight's an interesting character who suffers from having too MANY concepts over the years. I mean, other than the oldest stories and the 90s "What if Batman leaned into the high tech armor stuff?" series, it's mostly been some variation of "What if Batman was insane?" while trying desperately to avoid looking like an obvious Batman knockoff. He's focused on actual supernatural threats, on science threats that faked being supernatural, he's been a holy warrior, he's been a puppet of his god (on multiple occasions), he's been mentally ill in mundane ways, he's been driven insane by supernatural horror, he's been damaged by multiple cases of divine possession...it seems like every writer wants to veer him off into an entirely new direction. Now it's Jed McKay's turn, and to his credit he seems intent on finding a coherent through-line with all of Moon Knight's incarnations. With a framing structure of talking to his therapist, we see Moon Knight dealing with various aspects of his current status quo. McKay leaves out a few pieces of that past, but he hits enough of them to do the job. At the end, Moon Knight has two new(?) antagonists, one of whom thinks his faith is too strong and needs destroying, the other thinks his faith is too weak. Promising start. Recommended. $4.99 RWBY/Justice League #4 (of 7): DC/Rooster Teeth - The first story finishes gathering the Remnant-based team, with the shark faunus Aquaman getting shirty about the protagonists and humanity in general, followed by the mystery monsters showing up. The artist finally starts making it clear who's controlling everything, and by the end of the issue it's obvious to anyone knowledgeable about JLA lore who the series villain is, but the Big Reveal (for those who don't know already) is put off for next issue. They also seem to be breaking the "it's all JL equivalents" rule in the final story, bringing in someone not from Remnant as the last JL person. It does feel kinda like the creative team bit off more than they could chew and is having to strain to make deadlines at this point, though. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Sacred Six #11 (of 12): Dynamite - Almost done, it feels like this series has had more artists than issues, and it definitely suffered from occasional publication hiccups (issues coming out before or after where they were supposed to in relation to Vampirella). The Nyx origin story wraps up, something resembling a final battle seems to be gearing up, Vampi is back from the Secret Wars...er, from Drakulon. It's hard to tell if Priest's general plan was flawed to begin with, or just couldn't survive editorial mishandling. At least I was able to get a variant cover that isn't massive cheesecake this time. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The Blue Flame #3: Vault - The focus is more strongly on the "regular joe in Milwaukee" side of things, and the narration slips and makes it fairly clear that this is the real world and the cosmic stuff is just fantasy, but there's still a sliver of doubt...maybe both are equally real but the regular joe is getting influenced by the tech used by the cosmic one. Still interesting enough to follow, but the wallowing in "life sucks" is getting a bit thick. Mildly recommended. $3.99 The Wrong Earth Night & Day #5 (of 6): Ahoy Comics - The world-swapping has generally served to show that the black and white morality of the 60s camp superheroes is kinda sinister (something you could actually pick up from Batman's 60s TV show), and that the 90s grim and gritty heroes are still trying to do the right thing even if they're more honest about how badly they break the law in the process. Earth-Zeta, though, doesn't yet feel like it fits neatly into any major superhero trend. Oh, it has obvious visual cues from things like Marvel 2099 or Spider-Man's stealth suit, but it feels more like a condemnation of corporate ownership than anything else. Exploiting properties, not caring overmuch about the damage done to the legacies being polluted, etc. While the Number One of Earth-Zeta was established as a puppet of someone else last issue, this issue clearly reveals the true villain of the piece (no, not Disney). This is one of those times where the next issue will ultimately determine how good this issue was, because it sets up something that could pay off very very poorly if Peyer decides to be ham-fisted with it. For now, mildly recommended. $3.99 Norse Mythology II #2 (of 6): Dark Horse Comics - Okay, I was wrong about it being the origin of Bragi, it stopped short of his entry to the tale. This is Odin's adventure, in any case, and more of a young Odin who tricks and seduces his way through obstacles, which is not how most people are used to seeing him. This is less All-Father and more Deadbeat Dad, I guess. Recommended. $3.99 The Lunar Ladies #1 (of 3): Scout Comics - This was an impulse buy during a slow week, although I forgot when grabbing it that a lot of Scout #1's are actually Graphic Novel previews. On the plus side, this wasn't. On the minus side...I didn't find it to be worth buying the remaining two issues. The high concept is 50s style raypunk but with women in the action roles. It has the usual cheap plot twists and scenery-chewing villains, but they felt like forced camp...and that rarely works. Artistically, the linework is more modern in style, if competent. The "retro 50s" look fell almost entirely to the colorist, who used a palette that evokes yellowing and faded pages. So, points for trying? If you really like raypunk and are okay with some teeth-on-edge cliches and twists, you might want to give this a look. As for me, I won't be giving it any further looks. Neutral. $3.99 Save Yourself! #2: Boom Box! - Infodump time! The Actual Good Guys lay it all on the line for the protagonist and her brother in law, and that dominates the issue. There's a little Disaster Lesbian flirting in the middle, and some protagonist reacting to having been a fan of the Actual Bad Guys at the end, but this is definitely a "writing for the trade" issue. Mildly recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony #99: IDW - One more side story before they shift to wrapping up the season arc. Marble Pie has been accepted to an exclusive school that is deliberately inaccessible, and Pinkie Pie is too sad about her going away to properly plan the going away party, so she calls in an outside expert, making three of the Season 10 issues be the Pinkie and Cheese Show. Their relationship moves forwards a little more, but either the writers plan to squeeze a little more Cheese-Pie into #102, or save it for Generations (the book that IDW will publish later this year after MLPFiM ends at #102). Nice enough tale of life's changes, in any case. Recommended. $3.99 My Little Pony #100: IDW - Oversized issue that marks the big 100, but doesn't actually wrap up the Season 10 story...that's for the remaining two issues. It's the last of the Trees, and the first place the emissaries have gone where the rulers know about the Trees. In fact, the birds of Ornithia know more about the Trees than Twilight Sparkle does, by quite a bit. Most of the issue falls into the pattern of the previous Tree arcs...introduce the emissaries, problems arise, mysterious forces try to get the emissaries out of the way, big climax with the six elements joining to face the threat (with a little wink-and-nod femmeshipping going on in the process), big boom. But now the Ascians...er, the shadowy figures from the ominous epilogues of the other Tree arcs have shown themselves and are about to take Drastic Steps, cue cliffhanger ending. There's a little padding out in the form of one-page strips, cover galleries, and other art. Recommended. $7.99 My Little Pony/Transformers II #4 (of 4): IDW - The first story is a nice followup to the Spike/Grimlock story from the first series, and ties reasonably well into the overall story. And then...oops. The bookend final part clearly expected a bunch of stuff to be set up (like transforming mech suits for all the ponies) in other stories that was NOT, so the story if full of ass-pull. If they do a third series, they should just abandon all pretense of a storyline and just make it an anthology of intentionally disconnected stories, rather than a pile of stories that are supposed to be connected but aren't. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Beast Wars #6: IDW - The first arc comes to a close and the sides are drawn, plus the stakes for later are established. I was amused that they found an in-story way to apply the "after first appearance powerdown" to one character. I really hope the next issue cover preview also indicates a new interior artist, though, I'm really tired of Burcham. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Escape #5 (of 5): IDW - I wonder how often McGuire-Smith cursed Ruckley when drawing all the crowd and swarm scenes in this issue, because she sure didn't have time to do them well. It's not as bad as Burcham's art, but a lot of panels look like half-finished breakdowns. As for the story, it's a lot of crowd and swarm scenes, followed by lots of unnamed characters dying and things generally feeling more doomed for everyone who survives. Meh. This series started out strong with a good premise, but ended up literally raining corpses for shock value. If you're waiting for the trade, just skip the story entirely. Neutral. $3.99 Transformers #32: IDW - Jumpstream spends a lot of time in a Days of Future Past sort of death-fest before finally coming home. Lots of "reader now knows important points that the characters are totally ignorant of" stuff that feels like a Final Fantasy XIV "Meanwhile in the Garlean Capital" cutscene. Interesting idea, annoying execution. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Dave Van Domelen, "Now, this is normally where a mental health professional might be SKEPTICAL." - Moon Knight's therapist, barely at the start of the crazy, Moon Knight #1