Variant Coverage – April 3, 2015

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Who here watches TV? WHOA, okay, yeah, should’ve seen that coming. Calm down, now, calm down. We all love television. I’ll share something with you: I am terrible at watching it. Just terrible. There are maybe three shows I watch regularly, and even them I’m usually a day or three behind. Some of the most popular shows, shows I really love, I’m half a season behind on. My friends hate me for that. And for other things too, but the TV thing is relevant.

I didn’t realise it as I was grabbing books, but every book this week reminds me of one TV show or another. Is the psychic assault of people demanding I catch up on TV finally cracking the shell of my persona? (CC Note: pleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyes) Read on and find out!

No Mercy 1 (de Campi/ McNeil): With a title like this, you might think this is about fighting game finishers or a war story, but it’s not. That is not the only bait-and-switch move the book will pull on you, so you might as well get used to it now. If you like watching characters with surface traits that you don’t like suffer horribly, well then I think we may have your next favorite book! [9/10]
International field trips excite and amaze, especially when the ones taking them are teenagers that’ve never left their home state. There are so many things that look new, little habits that aren’t familiar, these and more make the biggest trip the one out of a comfort zone. A busload of Princeton pre-freshmen are getting that opportunity by going to Mataguey in South America to build their portfolios, life experience, and a few schools. Angst, aloofness, and atypical relationship somehow fit into the bus without snapping the spit and bailing wire holding it together. They are not going to have the experience they expected.

Let’s get the cynical views out of the way first. The premise is pretty much “a busfull of high school students go to South America on a field trip and end up driving to the plot of Lost.” It still hurts, dammit.

The set-up and telling in this case are both actually simpler. There’s no flashbacking to interrupt a plot point or development of character. Changes in the situation happen because of something happening in the moment, not because of something that happened to someone ten years ago. This should allow the story to go in more directions without losing sight of where everyone’s coming from or where they’re going.

I came in afraid I’d be too biased because I want to like this book. Alex di Campi is one of those people that’s so prolific that I hope absorbing her work will somehow transmit some of that work ethic to me. Carla Speed McNeil I found through Finder, an aboriginal Sci-fi book (I’m not sure what that means) that I enjoy immensely. Fanboy-gushing aside, I didn’t think this was particularly mind-blowing either writing or art-wise, but it’s all very solid. Seeds are sown here that don’t pay off by the end of the issue, but there’re other events that grabbed me immediately.

No Mercy flies far away from what the standard comic reads like, and I think people are going to love it more for that. Give it a look.

Convergence 0 (Jurgens & King/ Van Sciver): The wait is (almost) over and the DC mega-crossover event is (almost) here! What sinister consciousness is behind this scheme, and do our heroes have any chance of stopping them? NOT REALLY SPOILERS: Brainiac, who we’ve met already, and considering that was months ago, no reason to suspect they didn’t already win. [6/10]
Convergence 0 cements the gap between the upcoming Issue 1, which presumably will get the New 52 Universe involved properly, and Doomed, the recent event in which Superman was infected with a virus that threatened to turn him into a new Doomsday. You may recall that ended with infected-Superman throwing himself and Brainiac (an alien Dr. Mengele) into a black hole that cured-Superman flew out of. When asked what happened in the black hole, Superman wasn’t sure. Convergence 0 is what happened.

Short version: Brainiac is a multiversal consciousness exploring for something and bringing back souvenir cities, but he’s missing and the facet of himself he left behind to mind the store’s decided one of his cities is to blame and needs to get out. Brainiac must watch Dragon Ball, because his problem-solving method is a grand tournament.

This whole issue disappointed me storywise. Superman is supposed to be a clever, thinking character, and Brainiac five times as much, yet the entire time Superman just punches things and Brainiac repeats himself despite clearly noticing that his conversation partner’s not getting the point. It casts a pall on Convergence proper that the series hasn’t started yet and two of the smartest characters in the DC-verse are already reduced to screaming and punching.

Van Sciver’s style is carrying this book. He’s known for consistency and stiffness that somehow also carries action. His art looks fine, but there’s very little for him to play with, and so it’s also monotonous.

Convergence 0 completes the mission it was assigned. Beyond that, it really doesn’t do anything.

UFOlogy 1 (Tynion IV & Yuenkel/ Fox): With the return of X-Files teased, promised, even hyped, a lot of people are getting more and more excited. Through that excitement are some concerns, and some of have merit. Will the new series be fresh enough to capture what made the original such a hit? Are the actors able to convince an audience that they’re field ready? And then there are the more out-there concerns, like Why can’t they be teenagers in high school? If ANY of these questions have popped in your brain, UFOlogy should set it at ease. [8/10]
Becky Finch aspires to never move out of Mukawgee. Her dad’s the local sheriff, her mom’s relentless in pushing her to excel, and her little sister is Becky’s favorite person in the world. Malcolm stares up at the sky every night looking for something unidentified to fly past. His dad runs a radio talk-show devoted to that stuff too. Something flies into an abandoned house one night, and the two characters arrive separately. They leave with a secret that could set their town on government-mandated fire.

On the surface, seeing a shadowy conspiracy hitting small-town America and a male-female duo alone to stop it, this is pretty much X-File High School. There are plenty of differences in enough places to keep this from being derivative, though. For one thing, readers can presume that the story begins and ends in Mukawgee. That’ll allow for a secondary cast of characters, settings for the reader to get involved with. Speaking of, the conspiracy looks to be singular, so there’s going to be more time devoted to flushing out what’s going on. These two variations really affect how the story reads, and along with the other factors in the book, it works pretty well.

The art I like more for the faces and characters than anything else. The color palette is subdued, which is becoming the standard for small-town and/or conspiracy stories. The backgrounds and settings look standard as well. The visual effects type things, like energy blasts or morphing skin or things on fire, don’t quite link up with everything else on the page. The characters, however, work very nicely. Expressions express, subtle differences seem confusing at first, but seeing them in different contexts throughout the book drive the confusion away. It’s not even art, but it communicates enough.

UFOlogy is an oddball of a book, but it speaks well to the oddball in all of us. Look this one over.

Rick & Morty 1 (Gorman/ Cannon): Another comic based off a popular cartoon show. I see a lot of these in the All-Ages section of the store, but believe me when I tell you this is NOT for all ages. This one’s more Back to the Future if it crashed into Bob’s Burgers. Fun and whimsical art style mix with dysfunctional family roles in a way that’ll make you laugh while checking to make sure it’s distant enough from reality. [8/10]
Rick’s an elderly mad scientist with addictions and needs someone tell him how great he is while keeping him from going too far. Morty’s his grandson desperate for a role-model while possessing a (mostly) functional moral compass. Together they take interstellar trips and piss sentient creatures off. Rick’s latest plan requires Morty to collect vasts sums of wealth as a stock market genius, and that’s the easy part. They’re going against someone who, if they look familiar to you, it’ll probably feel painful.

The look of the book has a deeply symbiotic relationship with the story and the dialog. The writing goes out of its way sometimes to find the most sinister or uncomfortable method to solve a problem. People talk to each other in ways that would take years of therapy to resolve. The art counterbalances that with simple figures, a bright color scheme, and cute expressions or silly objects. It’s like if Kurt Vonnegut worked for Hannah Barbara.

Normally when anything tries to do so much, it does neither well. In something like this in particular, with two different mentalities coming together, the thinking is that they’d annihilate each other and the product would amount to nothing. That doesn’t happen in this case, and the result is something that stimulates multiple reading tastes. It’s far from the most amazing piece of subversive humor I’ve read, but it’s good.

Fans of the show should get a kick out of Rick & Morty the comic, but people that haven’t seen the show will enjoy this also. Assuming they also enjoy schadenfreude in all-you-can-eat portions.

So am I going mad or are comics and TV getting even more enmeshed in each other as time goes on? I think the answer to that question is clearly Purple Kitty Pancakes. See you next week!

Looking for older Variant Coverage Blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival?  They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues

Variant Coverage Review Blog by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival

Variant Coverage Review Blog by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival

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