Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Happy Labor Day, everyone! As you can imagine, with the holiday, our shipping schedule’s a bit late. And since the shipping is late, I don’t have anything I can review. The normal thing would be to postpone the blog until there’s something for me to actually read. (CC Note: That’s fine, perfectly reasonable, we can just-) But normal’s boring (CC Note:… did I seriously just fall for that?), and the list this week is interesting.
Oh, there’s the beginning of two major crossover events from the big publishers, a bunch of mini-series, not to mention everyone is starting to think of fall, but that’s not what catches my eye. There is a major number of variant covers out this week. Be it by design or coincidence, close to half the new books this week are offering a choice as to which readers can buy. Choices are great, but this is comics…
…Fights sell better. This week, Variant Coverage brings you the Serial Smackdown, the Rolloff Rumble, the Comic Countdown! Your favorite artists bring it all into the ring and do battle for your love! Welcome to
Whose Cover Will You Buy, Anyway?
In this corner, (CC Note: What corner???) weighing in at 52 stone, DC Comics! Each and every issue this week has a 3-D variant to kick off their Forever Evil storyline, including the Forever Evil comic. Anyone reading DC to watch their favorite heroes succeed where mere mortals fail is out of luck, because the bad guys have taken over!
And in THIS corner… the rest of the comic publishing industry put together. Look, the only way to make this thing work is for the rest of the industry to band together and meet DC head-on. Bear with me.
The DC League
While a few covers in their lineup are genuine variants, most are simply the same cover with material that changes perspective from where you look at it. Trading cards have used this a lot, but this is the first time I can remember entire covers going this way, certainly never on this scale. For a refresher on how they work, this video can help, especially this part.
Batman: Black & White 1 /6
The standard cover features the Dark Knight paying respects to his parents, with a somewhat morbid shot of them looking down from above. The variant is a mug shot of Batman. Both would seem to be by Marc Silvestri.
Winner: You should buy the Marc Silvestri one.
Batman And Robin: Two-Face 23.1
Harvey Dent once chained Batman to a giant coin in an attempt to kill him. This hearkens back to that while dividing the crucial elements. There’s still a chained-up Batman, there’s still a coin, only they’re separated by the split-personality prosecutor. Harvey’s flipping the coin at the reader while Batman struggles in the background. It’d look great in real 3-D, but in shifted perspective it just looks blurry.
Winner: Regular cover.
Batman: Dark Knight: Ventriloquist 23.1
An emaciated woman who never grew out of dolls waves about her collection for the camera. There’s plenty of different perspectives playing around here, but it’s not crucial to the content of the cover. The details do little but support the larger picture of the cover, itself a large picture.
Winner: 3-D cover.
Batman: Joker 23.1
Remember back in the day, when Joker had a face? It seems like just yesterday, doesn’t it? Him and his face are back, and he’s brought a few explosives and his arch-nemesis with him. There’s motion combined with a third dimension to this cover that I honestly wouldn’t have caught if it weren’t for internet and someone making a .gif out of it already.
Winner: 3-D, but on appeal. This used a property of the forced-perspective material that other 3-D types couldn’t do. Points for that.
DC Vs. Masters Of Universe 1\6
This is a wraparound cover in which the Masters of the Universe and the DC Universe are both attacking and defending with equal success. The MOTU have somehow gained a foothold on the front cover space, while the DC heroes are off the chain on the back cover.
The same cover, mirrored, with the DC characters up front.
Winner: The American People. Rejoice!
Detective Comics: Poison Ivy 23.1
Poison Ivy’s always been a man-eater, but on this cover she chooses to outsource to some of her more aggressive creations. Okay, so this is the third comic where Batman is bound in the background. You know, it wasn’t THAT long ago when a different character spent most covers like that and it was called blatant anti-feminism. Seems the men are getting some of their own back.
Winner: Regular cover. If the cover’s going to be sexist, let’s at least see the sexism clearly.
Earth 2: Desaad 15.1
The mystical lieutenant of Darkseid is enthralling Power Girl and Huntress with fire. So why am I bored? Desaad is striking a prima dona pose, the heroines look inconvenienced, and meanwhile I’m trying to decide if I’m concerned about anything here.
Winner: 3-D. If I’m going to be indifferent, I might as well be indifferent about special stuff.
Flash: Grodd 23.1
The psychic gorilla has trapped our hero in a muddy bog, and he’s not the first to fall victim to the banana-loving bane of speedsters. (CC Note: Shameful.) The skulls in front are the biggest attraction for the 3-D cover, the way they move into/ out of frame is nicely done.
Winner: Regular cover. I said the 3-D was a nice touch, but it wasn’t enough.
Forever Evil 1 /7
The standard cover by Finch is an aggressive roster of who the current bad guys are in the DC universe, and for that it’s valuable. We don’t see villains like the Joker or Darkseid on the cover presumably because they’re so heinous they can’t even work with their peers. These are the ne’er-do-wells that at least understand the occasional value of teamwork.
Villain variant A
Ultraman of the Injustice League is setting a skull on fire. While living enemies are unconscious right behind him. Great for imagery, but not much for instilling a sense that he is an overlord that knows who to point the death ray at.
Villain variants B & C
Full disclosure: I don’t know what they look like. Kudos for rarity, but it knocked them out of the running.
Winner: Regular cover. Forever Evil is supposed to tie all the bad guys together, and with so many to cover, we just can’t afford to juke back and forth to see them all. We need the regular cover just to tell who we should pay attention to, even if it’s everyone.
Green Arrow: Count Vertigo 23.1
The man with the questionable royal title standing in front of the Emerald Archer. Against a green background with a swirly pattern. A bit on the nose, isn’t it?
Winner: 3-D. If you’re going to have a cliched background, you might as well go all out.
Green Lantern: Relic 23.1
If you’ve been hankering for a character that just wants to beat the crap out of other people’s toys AND shares your love of Ghostbusters, then Relic is the one you’ve been waiting for.
Winner: 3-D. I know nothing about Relic. Nothing. So I might as well get treated to some broken power rings floating through space while wallowing in my ignorance.
Justice League Dark: Creeper 23.1
Now Creeper I do know a bit about. Pre-52, he was a reporter that got the same treatment the man who became Joker got, only he could shift back and forth. He wasn’t a bad guy per se, just a bit misguided. Apparently post-52, he went from a chemically-enhanced Stephen Colbert to a demonically possessed tormentor of souls. One could argue like Stephen Colbert.
Winner: Regular cover. There’s a bit too much going on that gets lost in the 3-D version.
Justice League Of America: Deadshot 23.1
Another villain that would prefer to spend ammo on the reader or some random piece of scenery instead of the actual threats in the background. Deadshot would appear to be sporting some specialty armor here, putting a bit of thought into defense while he focuses on offense.
Winner: 3-D. Those bullets are wicked.
Justice League: Darkseid 23.1
Darkseid’s Omega Beams can do the impossible – they’re light that can pull off tight cornering. Fine. We get that. Still don’t understand why they’d go anywhere but to a viable target.
Winner: Regular cover. All the 3-D does is hammer the point home that the beams aren’t trying to hit anything, which weakens Darkseid.
Superman: Bizarro 23.1
For newbies, this is apparently a zombie Superman that just cold-clocked the original. (CC Note: You should be put away for that one.) For people in the know, this is something of a coup. Bizarro may be the mental opposite of Superman, but his powers had always worked the same way as his doppleganger’s before now. This would have us believe that the cold comes out of his eyes while Superman shoots heat from his. Opens some new possibilities.
Winner: Regular cover. The 3-D gets in the way of the stuff that actually set this apart from the status quo.
And now for…
The Everyone Else (E2) League
All New X-Men 16
The Art Adams cover is a tribute to 80’s teen angst movies, with a bunch of hanging ten on a tricked out Senti-board that’s having itself an uncool wipeout, bra. Explosions and nostalgia are a nice combination here.
The Immonen cover gets bonus point for having the home field – Immonen handles the interiors as well – but loses points for having no real idea what kind of picture it wants to be. You’ve got a battle shot of Wolverine and a woman version of Xorn (extra points lost for one of the worst drug trips Grant Morrison ever turned into profit), a charging shot of what looks like Hope Summers, an ice troll, and some kind of half-man, half-demon, and lastly an interactive shot with a red-hooded assassin targeting the reader. Too busy, accomplishing little.
The Granov cover focuses on interaction with a suggestive twist: Cyclops is giving Marvel Girl a gentle belly rub, and she’s got her hand out to the reader, implying that she’ll give you one, too.
Marvel Girl’s a tease, always has been. Winner: Art Adams.
Army Of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash 2 /6
The Caselli cover excels at communicating who the characters are right away. Cassie Hack is a young woman who’s taken on more responsibility than most armies, and proves herself capable every time. In contrast, Ash Williams gets thrown into dangerous situations and, through testing his limits of sanity and physical prowess, finds the time to feel up women at inopportune moments.
The Seeley cover is a silhouette of the two main characters presumably walking toward the big bad. Calm, resolute, armed. Not as exciting as the Caselli, but completely different in tone. This is about equals going against a common foe, where the other stars Ash and his improvised, sexually vulnerable sidekick.
There’s a rare Ben templesmith cover on the market as well which, while striking, disqualifies itself for only featuring Ash and an average corpse.
Winner: Seeley. Caselli’s would make a great pin-up or poster, but as a cover doesn’t quite work.
Danger Girl: The Chase 1 /4
Danger Girl’s always been something of an homage title to franchises like James Bond and Charlie’s Angels, capitalizing on high-speed chases and hot women. This has both of those covered, and further emphasizes the throwback tone with a coloring style we haven’t seen since computer coloring took over the industry. While betraying nothing of what the book may be about, the cover clearly tells you that this is a femme fatale thriller.
Photographic covers catch the eye right away simply because there are so few of them, and I completely understand why. Absolutely anything can happen in comics, and in comics that usually defies a couple physical laws. It’s why comics are so fun to read, or part of why anyway. Photos are the polar opposite of the spectrum, capturing a single moment that has happened in complete deference to Isaac Newton. This kind of photo really flies in the face of what the comics medium is about, being a posed shot of a woman sitting down. About the only thing this cover showcases is the company’s success at finding someone with Abbey Chase’s features that would agree to do a photo shoot.
Winner: Panosian, for actually drawing a cover!
God Is Dead 1 /6
The standard cover is a white lotus flower on a purple background. Comic covers are not a place for minimalism.
End of Days cover
A pale man in white robes blasting lightning out of his body and blasting something above him with eye beams? It’s just like the Bible says it is!
For a dead guy, Thor looks pretty cut. And not dead.
The Hindu pantheon graces us with its presence on this cover. Meanwhile, no death.
So while all the covers fail to convey any sense of foreboding to any deity, I’m going to give this one to the only cover where something could be happening.
Winner: End of Days
Hit 1 /4
From the look of this cover, it would appear this is a book about people that’ve been hit in the face. It looks like that’s easier to do when the person being hit is handcuffed to a car. Maybe this is an educational comic, so you know, take notes.
THIS, on the other hand, looks like an old-time noir story featuring a hard-boiled cop, a damsel in distress, a poor sap with lead poisoning, and a tag line. And what do you know, that’s what the book is.
Infinity 2 /6
Andy Kubert takes charge of the regular cover by featuring Captain America leading an army of space ships into battle. I didn’t know he could breath in outer space, but maybe he didn’t know it wasn’t possible, and accomplishes it through sheer patriotism. The red and black palette is potent, but it doesn’t jump out to me.
Cheung’s sketchbook variant puts concept sketches of the hunter from Issue 1 forward, indicating that this is the version that’ll have other behind-the-scenes material. It won’t, but it’s a nice thought.
Six characters that’ll be in the book, all heavy-weights, in space, in four-color glory.
Lords Of Mars 2 /6
A couple of lords peek through holes in the background while the iconic Dejah Thoris poses in the foreground. While comics have depended on scantily clad women to carry their covers, Burroughs-based ones especially, this one would benefit from a little meat on her bones, which are visible. Painfully. Do they not have sandwiches there?
This cover has the most action to it, which is a bit surprising given Ross’s photo-realistic style. John Carter super-jumping with the princess in his arms (suck it, Mario!), a ghostly vision of the towering Green Man haunting them from the valley below, both reaching for the reader as if desperate to get off the shelf and onto your reading pile.
Do you like your semi-nudes with or without color?
Winner: Alex Ross. It’s like putting the Super Bowl champs against your high school junior varsity team – the outcome is not in doubt.
Love Stories To Die For 1
Roman warriors with bright steel messing up vampires with a child sacrifice in the background. Are they trying to stop it or hurry it up? I don’t know. I don’t necessarily care, either, it’s cool. I am not liking the white space background, though. That tells me the artist couldn’t be bothered filling out the page, and if that’s the attitude he takes toward the cover, it doesn’t bode well for the interiors.
Classic shot of a space ship outrunning an explosion, complete with shots of the crew screaming for their lives.
Winner: Gieni, though I’ll concede this could be personal preference versus pure talent.
Mocking Dead 1 /4
There aren’t a lot of iconic zombie signs, since any sizable zombie story kills whatever characters would create one. A bloody biohazard sign is a decent compromise, and would yet be boring if it weren’t for the montage of interior art subtlely in the background.
That’s either a zombie doing its best Joker impression, or the New 52 Joker is dialing it back a bit. Either way, everyone else in that elevator deserves whatever happens when the door closes. I’ve gotten dirty looks for bringing a greasy bag of take-out into an elevator, but the upright corpse with flesh waving in the breeze gets a pass? Screw them all.
Winner: Caution cover. Understated, and it doesn’t force bile into my throat.
Owl 3 /4
Ross shows up again with an image that leaps right out you, this time a solo image of the title character making his way over the city. A classic shot, nothing wrong with that, but the cape gives me pause. Notice how the thing juts out just at his sides, then flows back behind him? (CC Note: Well, I do NOW.) It’s like the Owl is giving someone a piggy-back ride and they’re sticking their legs out. It’s a pretty cover, but it’s distracting in the wrong ways.
Syaf goes for a simpler approach, with Owl kicking a guy into a fire while his buddy runs away into the foreground. At least, I assume that’s a fire, I don’t have any indicator otherwise, and I think that’s the smart play. The Owl looks like a Batman clone in most media, but here’s he’s doing something Batman sure wouldn’t. He’s setting himself apart, and he’s not letting anyone ride him like a pony to do it.
Sonic The Hedgehog 252
The standard cover features a hand-drawn picture of Sonic getting ready to go so fast his feet are blurry and he hasn’t even moved.
A computer-generated picture of Sonic getting ready to go so fast his feet are blurry and he hasn’t even moved.
Winner: Regular cover, only because the interiors are hand-drawn too.
Superior Spider-Man 17
Ryan Stegman, the man responsible for the interior art, heads the main cover. On a gargoyle sits the Spider-Man from 2099, looking down on a city he doesn’t recognize, one he never made, but he’s making it better. And lurking under that same gargoyle is Otto Octavius’s prosthetic wall-crawler. A great image to be sure, but if Batman finds out these guys are squatting on his territory, things are going to get real fast.
A shot of 2099 jumping at the reader from a plain white background. Coipel’s playing to his weaknesses, no face when his faces are distinctive, no background when he can pull those off well. I respect an artist that challenges himself, but not on my dime.
A bust shot of 2099 pledging for the X-Men, obviously wearing a shirt underneath the uniform that reads “Scott Summers was Right”. If anyone is going to give the Superior Spider-Man grief, it might as well be someone with a genuine technological edge and some genuine humanity under the cowl.
Winner: Jones. New readers aren’t going to understand any of these covers, but of all of them, the Jones one gives regular readers what they want: someone to stop the madness.
The main cover features the human battleship Sieglinde laying waste to an entire platoon in close combat. It’s upfront about what’s inside, I’ll give it that, but I wouldn’t want to be the one that pitched it. “Hey, do you want to read a book where this femme Nazi is just beating the crap out of the Allied forces in WWII, like blowing their heads apart with her mind?!? What? No? Your grandfather was a veteran? Really?? Huh, honestly did not have a back-up plan. Thought it sold itself.”
Propaganda poster cover
This cover presents an opposing concept, something the series has been lacking so far. The British are in a position to retaliate, and an iron cross isn’t going to slow them down. Now, if the German’s had invested in metallurgy, maybe they’d have something stronger, but the superhuman concept seems to be working well, so we’ll see how it plays out.
You’ve got your uber-woman. You’ve got your Allied opposition force. You’ve got the Eiffel about to come down.
Winner: Wrap Cover. It just has it all.
X-Men: Battle Of The Atom 1 /2
Art Adams double-dips this month to bring us a double-group shot. Above you’ve got a collection of people we’ve never seen before with a fleet of Sentinels at their back. Below wait two teams of X-Men, ready to face all contenders. Not much insight into what it’s all about, but al least you’ve got the faces of the key players right there.
Cho Wrap cover
Cho tries some art nouveau on us with an arrangement of shots of cast members with strategically-placed words and line drawings. In the foreground are Cyclops and Marvel Girl, presumably because whatever this event is about, so they’re the ones that’re at the center of it. Some clues, less overall knowledge, but check out the poses of the awkward couple. Once again, Scott has a hand on Jean’s tiny torso, but this time she’s not as thrilled. Her arms are up as if trying to clear some personal space, and if you look closely at her eyes, you can see they’re unusually wide, as if asking “Did anyone else feel that?!?”
Winner: Cho, for combining possible content and comedy value.
In case no one can tell, this blog entry’s gone on a bit long. A large bit, but just because next week everything’s back on schedule doesn’t mean I’m letting this go. By next week, I’m going to have this list narrowed down to eight from each league, and the week after I’ll announce a champion.
In the meantime, I want everyone reading this to send a response, either a vote for which among the winners so far you want to see advance, or a vicious complaint about why the losers lost. We’re just getting started!!!
Looking for older Variant Coverage Blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues