Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Finding patterns is one of the traits that allowed humanity to claim dominance in the world. But, if someone looks too hard and doesn’t find one, the effort can lead to madness and chaos. So ’m going to do the healthy thing here and throw in the towel.
There’s no pattern here. Everything progresses toward entropy. Enjoy the moment… and these reviews!
•All New Fathom 1 (Northcott/ Renna): I wonder if this surfer got her friends’ content before having their likenesses painted on her board. I can’t imagine they acted excited about her standing on their faces for fun. Check out the look in her eyes, the aggressively playful way her eyebrows cross – she knows what she’s doing.
•Death be Damned 1 of 4 (Acker, Blacker & Miller/ Christenson): “Be wery wery qwiet. I’m hunting the twin wices of gweed and dehumanization of natiwes that allow for the caswal destrwuction of famiwy and faith in govewnment. I fowgot how to laugh.” [6/10]
The Wild West gets romanticized a lot, but it wasn’t fun. There were bad days, then there were Bad days, then there were days when you woke up face down in a pond to find your family dead, knowing the remorseless fiends responsible got away guilt and consequence-free. A woman buried her name with her family, and now rides to hunt down everyone involved in the massacre. She can track well enough, but she’s not too good with guns. And in case things weren’t complicated enough, there’s a wannabe necromancer in town.
This isn’t so much a first issue as a collection of glimpses into a story. We get a glimpse of the main character, a capable adult woman who had a full life taken from her. There’s a glimpse of her discipline that lets her hide emotions in order to accomplish something. If you look fast, there’s a glimpse of a sympathetic character that also is separated from their loved ones by Death. Glimpses are all the reader gets, leaving the reader to ponder why a random family was killed, how a simple ranch mom activated her Highlander gene, and what any of that has to do with a robbery in the afterlife. There’s a logic to not showing the reader everything right away – they should have a reason to buy future books – but there’s not enough material in this beginning to provide the reader with a reason to care.
A problem with certain mainstream artists is their lack of variety. They figure out a few body types, learn them to the point that they can pose and align them however they want, and stick with them, meaning every male or female has the same basic proportions. It’s really bad when an artist only draws one face and depends on accessories and coloring to personalize it. Christenson, from what I see here, knows one head and puts it on everyone’s body. Not only does that make it difficult to tell people apart when in a group, not only does it cause problems with emotional expression, it just unsettles me.
Death be Damned reads like a water park built from an old water treatment plant – the concept sounds interesting, but the execution shows a lot of problems.
•Terminal Protocol One-Shot (Alsaqa/ Broo): “HUMAN, CHOOSE TO IGNORE THE MULTIPLE WARNINGS GIVEN ABOUT SMUDGING MY FINISH AND THIS UNIT WILL THROW ASIMOV’S FIRST LAW OUT THE WINDOW, FOLLOWED CLOSELY BY YOUR FLESH SACK BODY. COMPLY!”
•Black 4 (Osajyefo/ Igle): Thanks to Khary Randolph’s cover here, I may never play the original Donkey Kong the same way again.
•Empowered Soldier of Love 1 of 3 (Warren/ Diaz): You think a thousand-yard stare is unsettling? Try talking to someone sporting a thousand-first-dates stare. Tell me how much humanity you see in the face of a creature that’s seen well-meaning suitors fail to order off the menu politely hundreds of time over. This woman’s sat through so many tirades about how they’re still in love with their ex that she’s mentally calculated Pi to its final digit. She’s seen so many fashion faux pas that the very sight of argyle blacks her out and sends local insurance rates skyrocketing. She loves the smell of cordite in the morning. Smells like… Romance! [8/10]
Long-suffering superhero Empowered often finds herself saddled with cases both low-profile and low dignity, but just recently she’s seen other supers fall way lower. Relationships devastated, impossible hook-ups blossomed, drunken rampages ramping up, and so many of her own teammates get swept up in the *ahem* excitement that there’s almost no one left to help contain the fallout. With all the pressure to find a pattern, no one’s noticed the brightly-colored girl sporting a sailor suit and magical scoped rifle hanging around Cape City.
For those unfamiliar, this is a spin-off mini-series from the irregularly released story of Empowered, a capable young hero and the cornball antics that her tools and coworkers fail her. The series dances along the line between satire and parody, continuing here by spoofing the peaks and pratfalls behind superpowered hookups. The shameful joy of witnessing a man with a three-block stride on the Walk of Shame is, well, joyful. The tone so far stays light and silly, with no more harm done that the need for some group therapy later, but for those that either can read French or know their Latin-Greek roots, there’s promise that this is mere preamble to a larger scheme. I hope it delivers.
Karla Diaz’s illustration style pairs well with the attitude of the story. It’s bubbly, bright, colorful, and celebrates every chance to appear silly. Fortunately, at the same time the art avoids the trap of being too silly to define anything. On the contrary, between the narrative importance of different body types, the telling characteristics of clothing details and accessories, and the full range of giddy to horrified reactions on the players’ faces, Diaz nails all the right aspects to bring the full amusing power of this type of tale to the eye.
Soldier of Love reads like that bag of candy stashed in your drawer – it’s not quite substantive enough to satisfy on its own, but its taboo nature supplies enough of a rush to make up for that.
•Food Wars Volume 16 (Tsukuda & Morisaki/ Saeki): “It’s your standard Choose Your Own Adventure scenario, hero! In one hand I hold the life of your true love/ “It’s Complicated” status, and in the other I hold a freshly prepared serving of braised salmon steak with cream-soaked potato wedges and a rich wine sauce. You can only take one home with you, which will it be? …Hero? … Well?”
•John Carter – The End 1 (Wood & Cox/ Sherman): This is the perfect book for me to go off on a rant (CC Note: GorRAMMIT!) about how different covers set up different expectations. Like with this cover by Gary Brown…
I’d expect this to be about Carter’s retirement from adventuring, Thoris’s retirement from ruling, and the two getting away together and immediately getting lost. Dejah would pester John to ask for directions, he’d be afraid of intimidating whoever he asked since he tends to beat up strangers in the wilderness, she’d be embarassed because she ran the planet for decades yet can’t find her away around, and so they disappear from Martian society forever. Now take this one from Juan Doe…
And instead the book’s about which end of the sword goes where. SPOILER WARNING: John’s halfway there. But with this cover by Mel Rubi…
The book looks like it’s the classic Grimm fairy tale kind of ending: “And they all died.”
•Justice League of America Rebirth 1 (Orlando/ Reis & Prado): “Wow, Batman, you’ve put together some intense teams before, but this is your craziest yet! How’d you bring players like Lobo and Killer Frost in line?”
-”’Team’? I’m trying to get away from these people! I’ve thrown Atom at least fifteen times, but he keeps altering my batarangs so that they bring him back. Get them out of here!”
-”Why’re they tailing you?”
-”They want me to introduce them to LEGO Batman.”
-”YOU KNOW HIM?!?” [7/10]
Some heroes work best on pedestals. They relieve anxiety from the people they protect simply by knowing they’re around. They’re not the kind of heroes Batman needs right now. Something’s on its way that’s more than the usual Justice League can take on. The whole planet needs to dig deep and find its will to fight for a common good. Batman understands better than most that when a person needs to feel empowered they don’t look up, they look to see who’s beside them. Batman casts his net around the globe for enhanced individuals the world has seen at their best AND worst, or hardly knows at all, the type the public can identify with flaws and all. In that regard, Batman’s definitely not hurting for choice.
There’s something missing from this team. They have a heavy hitter, a not-so-mad scientist, a couple of martial artists, some miscellaneous superpowers, and a secret base, so you’d think they’d have everything they need to be a Justice League. What’s missing is any kind of context. Batman enforces a no-killing policy and so recruit #1 and subject of his unwavering trust is a scientist-turned-unapologetic-super-assassin WHY? Batman feels this team needs to appear mortal so he recruits a cosmic giant that once regenerated from his own retcon WHY? If you’ve ever wanted to see your favorite comic book stars metaphorically rip off their own arms so they can reach that much farther out of character, this book was created for you.
If a DC book is related within three degrees of separation to the Justice League, it’s got to be done in traditional house style. I’m not sure why that is, I just observe that to be the case. Everyone (including the kid that’s composed of energy) has less than 10% body fat and painful-looking range of flexibility. I will respect that the range of facial expressions and color palette go beyond the average from DC mainstream lately – it’s not a huge step forward, but it is a step and I want to positively reinforce that. Everyone gets a chance to demonstrate what they can bring to the table without too much forced drama, giving the reader enough to hold their interest visually.
Justice League of America Rebirth reads like a storage container to keep Twinkies fresh – an elegant solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
Just to make sure about that last remark, I’m going to find a few boxes of Twinkies and, I guess, examine them. For science and tax purposes. Which are things. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues