Variant Coverage – February 22, 2017

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Comic reviews are like drink ingredients, in that I want to mix things up a bit. Get ready hold out your hands, because this week’s going to feature a bit of comparison shopping! Trust me, it’ll be fun.

Bedtime Stories for Impressionable Children 1 (Shooter, Vaughn, Nelms/ Nelms & James): That light drawing all the children to the windows better be that glowing pest from the Zelda games, because if it’s actually the time teleporter from Terminator… I’m just saying there are nudity laws for a reason and the title blows away any legal excuse for them not knowing WHY there are nudity laws. That’s it, piece spoken.

Back to the Future 17 (Gale & Barber/ Vieceli): Are we seriously not saying anything about this? George McFly is open-mouth chewing on his future son’s face in some mashup of camp science and cannibal horror and no one says a word? This cannot be the new normal!!

To get your kicks about ageless warriors with centuries of angst, you could go with something like…
Highlander 1 (Ruckley/ Mutti): Living through historic Scotland in noble’s battle dress with a claymore, to a downtown New York shopkeeper grabbed in business sport suits and a centuries-old katana, from there to suspenders and stained shirt while wielding a fire poker. Immortality aside, that fall from Fashion Grace had to hurt like a beeeeeeetch.

…but you should probably read this instead:
The Old Guard 1 (Rucka, Fernandez): Army boots, combat fatigues, rifle slung across the back, and a light custom battle ax as the main weapon. So is this a comic about a genre-mashed LARP? Does tech go dead at random intervals so that magic can run rampant? That can work in places, or this may be something as simple as a veteran that swore they’d never skimp on can openers ever again, who knows? [8/10]

Andy, Nicky, Booker, and Joe chose each other as family. They found each other on a battlefield, where they discovered Death would have nothing to do with them, so they stuck together. Centuries later and they’re still hopping onto battlefields – be they of war or love – looking for a thrill or a cause. They don’t take on repeat clients on principle so no one notices how old they’re not getting, but another principle compels them. Little do they know, as much as they need to keep anyone from getting close, their family’s about to grow.

On the surface, this would appear to be the story of THE military dream team: soldiers with centuries of experience in all imaginable theaters of war, experts in hand-to-hand and weapons tactics, absolute unit cohesion, and complete disinterest in accolades. As much as they enjoy the toys of today, they’re painfully aware that with everyone on Earth carrying a network-accessible camera, they’re more vulnerable now than ever, and that’s where the majority of the danger comes from for the main characters. If the reader knows Rucka’s other works, they’ll recognize his anchor points right away, and see this as a team-oriented version of his other book Lazarus. That truth makes this one of those unfortunate moments when the reader feels punished for having read more.

The art ended up carrying most of the high points for me. Fernandez works in familiar territory, having illustrated gory action scenes for much of his professional career. This history gives him the confidence to play with shot angles, shading, postures, and other little methods which allow him to construct a scene that’s visceral, terrifying to imagine, and not quite extreme enough to wind up in the adult section. For cheekiness alone, I want to applaud.

The Old Guard reads like fried rice – almost flawless so long as no one recognizes that it’s made out of leftovers.

Skydoll Decade GN: The precise posture and the cheerful salute were enough indicators that she was happy to see us. Taking the gun out of her pocket in the same motion answers a question I was going to ask earlier, but also sends mixed signals.

If you’re in the mood to read about alternate lifestyle teens and the impossible forces opposed to them, you could read…
Champions 1.MU (Whitley/ Brandt & Stein): “So I’ve been getting these sharp shooting pains in my mouth recently and I’m afraid it’s a cavity or something. Can you take a look?”
-”Well, Leeroy Who Scrapes His Feets with Skyscrapers, I’m going to start by telling you I know you’re not flossing…”

…but you could probably scratch that itch better by picking up this:
Quantum Teens are Go 1 (Visaggio & Donovan): If these teens are the title characters, then they can’t be going anywhere. That would mean we’d know their velocity, but quantum physics tells us that we can’t know that AND their location. Since we can see them right on the cover, and they’re quantum teens, that’s all we can know. If we open the book and discover that they’re actually going somewhere, will we stop knowing where they are? Isn’t that important? They’ve armed themselves, so they’re at least taking this seriously! [9/10]

Every generation finds its own way to rebel against an old system by fashioning a new system. This was the case with Mod culture, as it was with Punk culture, and so it is with “Exxie” culture, as in exo-science (probably). Nat and Sumesh would rather cannonball into the Exxie scene than dip their toes in, explaining their raids on not-as-abandoned-as-they-should-be tech factories and warehouses for parts. There’s an entire industry around installing bleeding edge technology onto unassuming frames just to create an effect no one’s seen before, and getting in’s dangerous business. But what’s life and the space-time continuum without risk, right?

Like any good engineer, this story takes odd components and uses them effectively. Nat embodies the nigh-universal concepts of being stuck in transition (herself shifting between genders) and desperate to find a space to feel not just safe but appreciated. Sumesh has his own situation he wants to escape from, and between his relationship with Nat and the outlet of super-science he’s found the means not just to get away, but create something in the process. The determination they exhibit and the joys that come with the process are delightful, but between fights with security robots, arguments with competing teams, sleep deprivation, and actively violating the laws of physics, the story shows no ambitions to be a melodrama.

Some artwork pushes itself at every point to fit every possible detail in at the precise angle to communicate an image, fooling the eye into believing it’s looking at a photograph instead of a drawing. Not this artwork. This artwork wants to have fun. The blaster rays look like over-designed megaphones and are deployed in tandem with baseball bats. Character designs are yanked from every corner of Western culture reachable. If there’s room on a car to fit something that came out of Star Trek’s prop shop, then it’s only there to show that someone’s about to install such a thing. It’s the kind of artwork that entertains a reader’s mind so much that it may not notice a new idea until it’s already made its way inside.

Quantum Teens are Go reads like The OC set two centuries from now – all things teenagers deal with are life-shattering, and there’s enough new tools around to turn that spectacularly literal.

Darkness Visible 1 (Carey & David/ Cahill): The title sounds weird, but this cover actually presents a solid case for its function. Think back to the time when you were a kid and needed the door open a crack so the hallway’s light could come through, or the horror of being in a room when the bulb burned out. The common excuse is called “being afraid of the dark”, but that was never the case. The dark was empty, quiet, and perfectly visible, itself nothing to be afraid of. Men with guns, demons, fellow schoolchildren ready to blow that grading curve you needed so you wouldn’t fail the last test, miniature boats using your bedroom as a drug smuggling route and never giving you your cut? Those can all hide in the darkness, and knowing they could be there working unseen was what kept me up at night.

Power of the Dark Crystal 1 (Spurrier/ Matthews & Matthews): I always knew those determined but delicate little humanoids were going to let power go to their heads as soon as they “liberated” their celestial overlords. Look at them, holding court over their former masters, ready to move countries and punish armies at the slightest gesture. Dammit I’m jealous. (CC Note: Did you just say ‘jealous’?) … No?

Want to know what it’d be like to see dangerous people outside their element? This item over here meets your criteria…
Sun Bakery 1 (Corey Lewis): “WELCOME TO SUN BAKERY WHERE FLAVOR RISES IN THE EAST MAY I BRING YOU A SLICE OF OUR SPECIAL GINSU-BERRY PIE HONORABLE PATRON?” Excitement for one’s wares is good, but when your exuberance renders customers catatonic with fright and Gordon Ramsey’s afraid to breath much less say anything, it might be time to speak with a professional marketing consultant.

…or you could check out this more popular option:
Elektra 1 (Owens/ Cabal): The cover should always allow the focus to present its strongest attributes, and Elizabeth Torque accomplishes that here highlighting the character’s physical allure and damage potential. The cover must also invite the reader to pick up the book, but this one looks like it’ll slice open your hand as soon as you reach out. So the question you need to ask yourself is: Do you feel lucky? [8/10]

The city of Las Vegas is the largest single-purpose machine ever constructed. Through colorful and liberal use of property and rental contracts, the place and all of its component parts distract the mind so that it can be drained. Most of the time it drains people of their bank accounts and dreams, where most go there hoping to be drained of their problems. Elektra, professional assassin and pro-bono anti-hero, definitely wants the machine to take her aimlessness away, and funny enough it does – she meets a sympathetic bartender that trusts the wrong people sometimes. The wrong people attract Elektra’s attention, just as she attracts the attention of even worse people.

A tortured soul that’s trained her body to physical perfection and kills monsters in human form for a living should be an easy sell, but notoriously Elektra can’t hold a series up for long. What makes her such a compelling character in the first place is her struggle for balance on the tipping point, her dance along the line of being a hero or killer. As soon as she makes a decision, that aspect dissolves and there’s less to work with, but unless she chooses for herself there’s no character development and she just… persists. The set up here that allows Elektra to be hero and killer at the same time, with the promise that she won’t get to choose for a while, fits the oddly shaped definition of a story that’ll work well for her, but again it can only last so long.

If anything, the art style employed works too hard at precision. The anatomy and architecture are all refined lines and curves, casting the whole city and the stabby assassin specifically as cleaner than their natures should allow. Little effort finds its way to provide shading or scale, so while the proportions supply enough to indicate depth, elements in a panel appear flat. Despite these flaws, postures and facial expressions engage the reader enough so that, by the end, things work out.

Elektra reads like the general public’s idea of a decent comic book – it’s entertaining if unrealistic, meets expectations, and showcases none of what practiced readers know the medium can really do.

Justice League of America 1 (Orlando/ Reis & Prado): Batman keeps a Justice League in his utility belt now?
That IS his utility belt, right? Right?!?

That’s it. I’m out.

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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