Variant Coverage – March 4, 2016

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Hello, everyone! I get questions every now and then about how I put this blog together. Readers are curious about the nuts and bolts, what comes first, those kind of things. So I thought I’d indulge you by posting this week’s entry piecemeal. Grant a bit of insight into the process. A nice little Friday treat!

(CC Note: You’re running late. Just say it.)
(CC Note: You’re behind. You’ve got too many things going on and aren’t done with this week’s entry yet. It happens. Just admit it, nothing bad will happen.)
(…Well, I AM travelling, and I had a draft I wasn’t able to work on while flying, so that-)
(CC Note: FAILURE! Cast this nothing into Hel’s foul pit, that he may know Asgardian torments!)
(…So you’re sending me to spend time with a red-headed goddess that’s into action scenes and has a dark sense of humor? Sweet!)
(CC Note: Ye- wait, no. This was supposed to be punishme-  DAMMIT!)

He’s what’s ready now. I’ll have more later, but thank you for your patience! [EDIT: Later is NOW! Full reviews are toward the end of this entry, after Avengers: Standoff!]

Vampirella Volume 3 1 (Leth/ Casallos): Vampirella’s worn many hats during her career as a globetrotting monster/ pin-up: avatar of fear, ambassador, thrillseeker, poster-woman for latex, detective, monster hunter, and the list goes on. This latest incarnation looks as though the good lady Vamp’s been reading recent DC comics – Batgirl in particular – and thought to herself “I can absolutely pull that off!” When Batgirl changed looks, she changed from a hyper-tech armor look to an urban casual style, a transition created a widely different feel than Vampirella’s, which started at the opposite end of the fashion spectrum.

Another Castle 1 (Wheeler/ Ganucheau): The style and colors of this remind me of the He-Man/ She-Ra cartoons, idyllic fantasy settings and picture perfect people everywhere. The gender roles look to tap a similar audience as Princeless, a very good comic to imitate if that’s the case. It’s a combo that slightly intrigues, but that title must trigger flashes of recurring disappointment in any reader that played early video games. That’s just cruel, man.

Tomboy 4 (Mia Goodwin): A young girl? With a hockey stick? Covered in blood? Wearing a mask? Talking to ghosts? It’s like someone looked at the horror-movie girl tropes and started adding traits to penetrate more viewers’ memories. Fanny Hagdahl’s cover wants the reader to recognize someone they’ve seen before through its arrangement of posture and accessories and it’s working. There are at least three people I know that I may never look at without twitching now. Jerks.

Deadpool 8 (Duggan/ Lolli): Sabertooth hasn’t had an easy life ever, but since sandbagged with a conscience things have been especially rocky. On top of atoning for all of his past atrocities, he also needs to decide what he’s doing with himself now. Moonlighting in Magneto’s X-Men team only fills some of the time, and not many would let a man like Victor Creed visit the same way Logan seemed to get invited everywhere. Deadpool’s never been one to shun, but he also likes to audition his guests. Good thing for Victor that he’s got a killer Nicholas Cage impression.
Deadpool 8

Avengers Standoff 1 (Spencer/ Saiz): The real reason the Avengers stand united in this shot, after so many relationships were broken up on bitter terms, is that the crowd their standing against want them to do another crossover event. In the name of Justice, in the name of Freedom, that cannot happen. The last crossover took way too long and too much shelf space, Marvel hasn’t had the time to recover yet and the Avengers know that. The line must be drawn HERE!

Black Widow 1 (Waid/ Samnee): To see a character like Natasha Romanov, who’s fought armies and gods to maintain the principles SHIELD represents, turns and shoot that symbol should be intense and harrowing. Ultimately, I just think to myself how Black Widow could shoot anything from a motorcycle and make it look awesome. If Agents of SHIELD squeezed in just a half-minute segment of Scarlett Johansson shooting her gun at things, even if it was just empty bottles, womprats, or cheese, their ratings would double instantly. ABC, you’re welcome. [9/10]
Normally SHIELD loves it when Black Widow swipes something. It means SHIELD learns something about their enemies beyond security weaknesses. SHIELD isn’t so happy this time, because SHIELD’s the one Black Widow stole from. Not the other Black Widow, or a new one coming out of the Soviet Union, the genuine Natasha Romanov. She’s not 100% sure what she stole, only that its theft instantly turned everyone there, many of whom she worked with and who admired her, against her. Messy business, that.

Perhaps an overdone example of Show-Don’t-Tell, this entire issue is one long chase scene from a helicarrier to a secluded cliffside outside New York. It’s Avengers meets a backwards The Raid. It’s minimal dialogue, zero context, pure movement. It’s intense stuff, and it works much better than it should. I’d normally have problems with the main character (especially a female main) not saying more than two words in the opening issue, but Black Widow’s actions speak loudly enough to more than make up for her silence. I demand to know what this is about, so I will definitely be buying issue 2.

Samnee’s art carries over directly from his and Waid’s run on Daredevil. The somewhat blocky but truly functional anatomy, effective balance of poses and positions to convey the idea of motion, not a huge range of color but just enough to know what’s what. Samnee carries most of the narrative weight to this book, and he absolutely nails every challenge before him.

Black Widow reads like hardwood furniture – maybe not the most convenient in all situations, but so solid and capable that it’s too good to pass up.

Predator Life and Death 1 (Abnett/ Thies): In only the densest jungles, with exotic plant life and mysterious craft, across hundreds of square miles of untamed peaks, valleys, streams, and wildlife, there stalks a hunter like no other. It can track an insect through a storm, go without food or sleep for days, never stopping for anything but the boundless joy that comes after catching its prey. And this time, this hunter finds itself pushed to its limits when its target is Janice from Accounting contact lens. She was with you when she had it last, Predator, she has the keys to your ship, and she is not leaving until you find it. [5/10]
Weyland-Yutani’s calling in the big guns to quiet some pirates raiding a remote planet. These pirates are probably being funded by a competitor, so if they can prove that it’ll cement W-Y’s dominance in the future. Funny story: the planet being raided shows evidence that it’s seen a future that has nothing to do with either company. Alien ships and strange scorch marks on crashed boats indicate a lot more than piracy going on. While the Marines worry about all these complications, a couple of other visitors to the planet are ready to keep things very simple – kill them all.

There’s zero meat on this story. It’s the first Predator’s setting and plot, swap in generic Aliens-era marines for Ahnald’s team, and add a second Predator for literally recycled banter. I wanted to see what Dan Abnett could do with the franchise, and the answer is “Disappoint”.

Thies’s art similarly phones in all the pieces and players. This might’ve been fine if it was to a decent place where they use fresh ingredients or a full kitchen, but everything is bland, shipped in, and heated but not cooked. The most design work done is for the masks of the Predators, but it’s all strictly ornamental. All the other visuals are hastily pulled from superior sources and assembled on site. Finding a bug somewhere in here might be the only chance of getting local flavor into this, but I don’t like the odds of that.

Predator – Life and Death reads like cover band you’ve maybe heard of caught lip-synching – it wasn’t what you came to see, it’s not even bad enough to ruin the night, but it’s obvious you could have spent your time better.

Batgirl 49 (Stewart & Fletcher/ Many artists): I was afraid this day would come. It’s the same with any artform, really. It starts simple, it grows and finds the things it can do nothing else can, then it finds the things other art forms can do to see if it can adapt them. I admire it, but sometimes it goes farther than I can follow and that’s sad. Take comic covers. Obviously I enjoy them and get excited about breaking them down, but with this cover I lack the advanced degrees in fractal mathematics and non-Euclidian philosophies to properly understand it. Maybe I should go back to board books for babies. [8/10]
Batgirl 49
The Fugue won. Barbara Gordon’s perfect memory isn’t just fading, it’s corrupted so much that her friends can’t be sure what parts of her mind are hers and which are implanted. They do have one way to tell, perhaps even to bring her back to perfect, but it means recompiling the original scan Barbara took of her brain, which quickly grew into an AI that nearly torched the entire city of Burnside. Which may be what the Fugue wants to do himself, they don’t even know! No one good knows anything, and the bad guys know too much!

As upbeat and energetic as this run of Batgirl has tried to be, this comes off reading like an Asian horror film in the sense that the scariest threat is to her very mind and soul. Her memories change from lonely to content, from content to horrifying, her enemies become her best friends and her best friends become unwelcome acquaintances. All for ultimately petty reasons. The mechanics and details are out there and not the best, but the overall effect draws the reader in and holds them down tight. And it does all this while maintaining the revamped feeling of the book, which is that of recovery and triumph.

Usually the presence of so many artists raises a red flag – too many different styles, not all of them telling the same story, can kill a book. This is not one of those cases. Each artist gets their own part of Barbara Gordon’s head to bring to life, with the regular artists handling the IRL sequences. Each gets to interpret the corruption to her memories in their own way, but each gets a bit of introduction so the reader’s prepared for the jump. This kind of storytelling is an editorial nightmare to get right, but when it pays off the effect rewards everyone in the game.

Batgirl reads like a classic Twilight Zone episode – almost comically basic tools give the viewer a mind-boggling experience that entertains.

It is NEVER too late for comics, isn’t that right?

Looking for earlier 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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