Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Do you ever get deja vu? Did anything ever happen that looked really familiar but you couldn’t think of when you might’ve seen it? Glitches in the Matrix aside, was it from a dream, or something important from the past that you forgot, or could it be something from the future so important that its effects can be felt all the way back to the present? Or, are you just bored and trying to attach meaning to something to keep yourself interested?
I ask because I had that feeling a lot reading this week’s comics. Most of the time I figured out where that familiarity was coming from, but it’s always the kind you can’t pin down that bugs you! Hopefully reading comics will soothe more than anything. If you’re wondering what you should pick up this week, read on!
•Empire Uprising 1 (Waid/ Kitson): There’s something about a really well-written bad guy that just brightens my day. I’m talking about the kind of villain that’s more than just scheming and oppressing, but has developed goals with the intent of making the world closer to their ideal. Instead of existing just to give the protagonist someone to fight, they have nuances and continue to find ways to improve themselves. Empire made this work exquisitely upon its release in 2004, and now it’s back to bring more bad. [9/10]
The Earth is ruled by Golgoth, a Dr. Doom-style armor wearing dictator that promotes good hygiene, free education for all, and respect for the dead… all with lethal enforcement. When the book opens, the globe marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Golgoth’s only family, his daughter Delfi. While everyone observes three minutes of total(itarian) silence, a revolutionary group attacks his citadel with the intent of assassinating him. They’ve got one weapon, a grenade built by one of his arch-nemeses (before he killed them all) that might just do the job.
What made the first series sing to me was how brutally efficient Golgoth managed everything about his life, his government, his subordinates, everything. He learned, planned, and executed swiftly, ensuring that no one else hesitated in their duties. It proved difficult at times to maintain morale among his troops, each of whom qualify as a supervillain in their own right, but he pulled it off. In Uprising, the reader sees hesitation from Golgoth himself. He’s no less ruthless, but he takes longer to come to a decision. Worse, his people witness him taking the time to weigh his options. It’s a perceived weakness in Golgoth, who’s built a pool of sharks to swim in. It. Is. Tense.
Barry Kitson’s style could be described as audacious in its averageness. His people somehow look plain, even the ones in mystic uniforms or powered armor. When explosions and gunfights break out, they don’t strike one like a Hollywood blockbuster, but go more for a Justified-level of understated intensity. It’s a quiet kind of superhero action book, not trying to impress, confident that it will accomplish what it needs to. And it does. This isn’t the kind of book you show people looking for a Wow-Factor, it’s what you show to demonstrate that there are still clever super-action books being made.
Empire Uprising is my morning stretch comic of the week – it’s familiar and it hurts so good!
•Beyond Belief 1 (Acker & Blacker/ Hester): The Thrilling Adventure Hour strikes again! The last title I reviewed by them featured a small town sheriff with a complicated past and interplanetary troubles, Star Wars meets Silverado, more or less. This title keeps with the genre mashing, but goes in a very different direction. If you like your detectives fun like The Thin Man, but wish they weren’t ‘fraid of no ghosts either, Beyond Belief is the book for you. [8/10]
Frank and Sadie Doyle are mediums. Not in clothing sizes, good lord no, they both can see and interact with ghosts. They managed to build a comfortable lifestyle for themselves by using these gifts to solve problems for the socially interesting. One such curious personality just bought a house only to learn on moving day that the place is well and truly haunted. The Doyles arrive as soon as their blood-alcohol level will allow to check out the place and give the spooks the boot. The problem they have, being so good at their job, is that more “people” are interested in their services.
Thrilling Adventure Hour stories seem to be uniform in their unabashed joy to be telling a certain kind of story in a certain kind of style. In Beyond Belief’s case, it’s built around love of wordplay and cocktail humor with a dash of occult. It’s a storytelling style that’s not been widely popular for a while, but one made with a love that’s positively infectious. Between the witty banter and the frequent references to gin, I caught myself thinking that this book was pandering to me. And I’ve decided that I’m okay with that.
Phil Hester is the penciller, and while his usual inking partner Ande Parks IS involved, he’s not the primary inker. That honor goes to Eric Gapstur, and if you ever wanted to see the difference an inker can make, this is the book to pick up. Parks could be described as a mildly heavy, but he uses clean lines and adds definition. Gapstur’s lines are a lot fuzzier, either because he’s trying to evoke the graininess of the old-time serials these stories are inspired by, or he’s just not a clean inker. The coloring looks blocky, sometimes overriding the linework, and since serials weren’t broadcast in color back in their day, they can’t use that excuse.
Beyond Belief is my dry martini of the week – it draws a smirk on my face and makes me feel more cultured for having it.
•Kaptara 1 (Zdarsky/ McLeod): When I first heard of this title, I thought to myself “Did they make a comic book out of the movie that they made out of the book?”. Then I READ the title and realized that there weren’t any small children, but otherwise not the oddest adaptation I’ve ever read. Then I read it again and accepted that, no, it wasn’t an adaptation, it’s a wholly different property, it just had more quirks than anything else. [7/10]
Keith’s a bio-engineer headed to Mars with a bunch of other really smart and talented people that don’t matter because they’re all dead, or might as well be. See, they came across a weird wormhole-like anomaly on their way to Mars and thought, since it works all the time on Star Trek, they should have no problem going through it. Their ship crashed on a strange alien planet and everyone that didn’t die in the escape pods either died to the wildlife, went missing, or is named Keith. When Keith wakes up from his nightmare of a landing, he wakes up in a dream.
Chip Zdarsky co-creates Sex Criminals, a very quirky book that I enjoy. It’s fun to read and a lot of fun to talk about. With Kaptara, the fun-to-talk-about part is well intact. There are bits and pieces that I could take apart and play with in conversation like it was a party. I wish I could say it’s fun to read as well, or at least AS fun to read as it is to discuss. Keith is as endearing as a caustic nerd can be, as since he’s carrying the narrative, the reader’s kind of stuck with him. The plot starts challenging him, then removes those challenges. The reader doesn’t have much reason to stick with him.
The artwork by Kagan McLeod captures the high-stakes madcappery of the story. The style expresses enough to make everything seem real from the shock of sudden turbulence to the giant killer space moose. (Told you this was fun to talk about.) (CC Note: Truth.) It’s not realistic enough to fully connect with, instead it’s removed enough that the reader can enjoy it from a comfortable distance.
Katara is my half-remembered joke of the week – it didn’t have what it took to stick in my head, but I know it was funny.
•The Infinite Loop 1 (Colinet/ Charretier): Everyone with a regular job knows what an infinite loop is: get up, go somewhere and be told what to do and comply enough to do it, go away and rest for a while, repeat. (CC Note: No complaining, wage slave!) I think it’s a bit of inspired narrative that the creative team behind this book used that to connect the reader to a story about preventing and repairing paradoxes cause by time travel. Or maybe it’s just me. [8/10]
A group of temporal agents have dedicated their lives to cleaning up the paradoxes that come up from excessive time travel, isolating them and sending them back to wherever they came from. It’s not a bad gig, they get to dress however they want, work their own hours, and the monotony has ways of feeling different every time. Terry’s a young woman that’s been on the job for a few years and thinks she’s got it figured out – many cycles of tragedy come from acts of passion, trying to attain love or compensate for losing it, so the best way to avoid becoming a terror is to deny oneself passion. “Company policy” calls on its agents to not get emotionally invested in anything and Terry’s cool with that. At least she is until she sees her next assignment.
This issue is made of contradictions. It has ancient artifacts appearing fresh in modern times. It has a natural redhead being compliant with social boundaries (CC Note: Don’t be like that, we love redheads!). There’s a terrorist organization trying to break time apart, heedless of the fact that they need time too. So naturally, once they establish that love is the source of all mankind’s suffering, a love interest pops up. This series begins as a house designed and built to fall over so precisely that it stands on its own well.
Do you like Darwyn Cooke? Well, Elsa Charretier draws just like him. Like, a LOT like him. I really have nothing else to say about that.
The Infinite Loop is my dinner-I-hated-as-a-kid of the week – the base components are all things I don’t like, but I find this particular result oddly enjoyable.
Do you ever get deja vu? Not to be confused with Dejah Thoris, who also seems to appear under odd circumstances. I just feel like I’ve written review blogs like this before. Eh, I’m probably imagining it.
See you next – Whoa, there it is again!
Looking for older Variant Coverage Blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues