Variant Coverage – March 15, 2017

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

There’s nothing like a break to remind you how much you’re needed. Coming back after time away to find a pile of stuff no one else wanted to touch that’s got to be taken care of right away is just the perfect way to remind you how your job works. Not only that, it’s a subtle way for your co-workers to show just how indispensable you are to the team. (CC Note: Another day and we’d have gotten those drinking birds in the right sequence to replace you. Our dream WILL live on!)

So I’m going to take a quick moment to cover something from last week before heading into the present moment. It turns out I have opinions.

Inhumans vs. X-Men 6 (Lemire & Soule/ Yu): Honestly, of the all the possible mental images to pull from a telepath that wears most of her clothing as a cape, defiantly refuses to accept the concept of body protection, and worked as a teacher, this is one of the more sedate ones. Don’t believe the face they put forward, teachers possess some of the most warped imaginations around. I say that as a selling point – they need every edge they can get when molding future leaders – I’m just saying be careful if you ever find yourself alone with one. [5/10]

The machinations of the past two years, pitting mutant and Inhuman interests against each other, culminates here. The fate of the Terrigen Cloud, and with it the fate of the two metahuman races, will be decided. Emma Frost’s plan reveals its full intentions and scope, and all the players will need to rethink their spot on the line.

Folks, I am so burnt out on crossover “game-changer” storylines. So much pomp and circumstance built up around extra content, all to shine the brightest light possible on events that don’t move the needle any more than a fairly significant regular book issue. Details aside, there isn’t anything that changes by the end of this story that wasn’t already changed similarly years ago.

Let’s look at the story threads we’ve seen already. Inhumans already fought – and lost – a war to secure the source of their power. They found a workaround eventually, which kind of brought the audience here. Emma Frost faced intense emotional pressure once before, and others suffered for it. Everyone around her knows this history, the critical need to keep psychics mentally healthy, so I personally believe the X-Men brought Emma’s distress on themselves for not making sure she was okay. If something different were to happen on top of these plotline reruns, I could accept their use as precedence, but nothing new happens.

This should be a wake-up call to the Big Two that their publishing houses need to aim more for deeper stories than those with supposedly huge scope. There are plenty of opportunities in this very story arc that would’ve made a more dramatic impact. Frost’s episodes mentioned above, the story could have explored the dangers a powerful mind in pain can bring to whole communities, instead she just smiles creepily. The Inhuman Royal Family might have taken one moment to reflect on how they’ve done everything they could to ignore or downplay the fact that their resurgence is directly at the expense of the mutant race, instead they brood.

The Inhumans vs. X-Men crossover has read like a blind date with a professional provocateur – expectations shouldn’t have been high to begin with, but the experience leaves you angry.

Vampirella 1 (Cornell/ Broxton): I’m glad J Scott Campbell got his cover published the way the community intended, because this is a subject we need to address. Vampirella, this is an intervention. We see you waste food by painting yourself and the walls with blood, robbing victims of life while not ingesting their humor vitae, and it’s clearly a cry for help. You’re not just hurting the people you kill, or the families wrecked by sudden loss, you’re hurting yourself. You’re clearly in pain, and all your friends here want to help you get past it.

Coady & the Creepies 1 (Prince/ Kirk): Kat Leyh’s cover clearly shows us a world where the zombie apocalypse will be televised just as soon as the band approves the sound board. Good audio only comes from great effort, patience, and having danced across the line between turbulent life and immutable death.

Bart Simpson Suckerpunch GN (Groening/ Ho, Rote, Kane): I’m picturing a modern fighting game starring the Simpsons and I’m way more amused than I have any right to be. For one thing, I’m betting that my lifelong problem with specific pad motions would persist, and prevent me from pulling off the “Cow-a-bu-ken” at the critical moment. Homer’s “Donut Crusher” would only cause real damage if the player invested way more meter than is worth it. There’s no move in the game that Lisa’s “Spinning Nerd Kick” couldn’t punish. Please stop me, because I could go on. Possibly forever.

Batwoman 1 (Bennett & Tynion IV/ Epting): I get that industrious heroes will find a way to incorporate extra tricks and tools into their capes. Some make them to become rigid, others work in pockets. Batwoman’s put a fraction of her rogues’ gallery, another member of the Bat family, and her home turf into her cape. That’s ambitious. [8/10]

A Batwoman’s work is never done. Not when her fellow traumatized billionaire vigilante cousin asks her to track down the last supplier of a monstrous superhuman serum. Not when her operations manager is a former spy, throws around an infinite amount of sass, and mixes drinks that make angels weep. And certainly not when the bitter memories of relationships past may create a weak point in Batwoman’s armor right when she needs it least. But then again, Batwoman loves her work.

Perhaps Bennett’s greatest strength is the way she cuts right to the heart of the characters she writes. Within five pages, the reader can find what drives Batwoman (Kate Kane) and her butler (Julia Pennyworth) to do what they do. Five pages, and there’s more revelation with less dialogue or captioning than others can do in five issues or even volumes. It’s not that the rest of the issue skimps on that front – the whole issue works to establish the people in Batwoman’s life to the point where it feels like a complete social media platform – but having a strong first impression helps. All that said, the plot takes its time shuffling into form. Considering how fast the characters come into focus, I found myself wondering if the series would be about anything other than them bantering off each other.

Steve Epting tends to upgrade anything he draws. The plain he turns beautiful, pretty turns to haunted, dated becomes historic, and so on. He brings that swell of visual quality to Batwoman, but it takes him longer to pull it off than usual. The beginning of the issue features elements that pop out, but otherwise fails to create an ambiance that distinguishes itself from house standard. There’s a moment about halfway through where the images begin looking crisper, bold sections of color or shading shift to gradient levels, and the elements simply come together more effectively.

Batwoman reads like skipping the alignment when tuning up your car – it’s not balanced well, but it will get you there in the end.

Marvel’s Women of Power Punch-Out Book (Various): I approve of more mainstream books recognizing the contribution and potential of their women characters. I think it’s a mixed message to market something that glorifies punching them out. Women readers, let me know what you think about this.

Great Lakes Avengers 6 (Gorman/ Robson): I get the nostalgia for covers with dialog on them. It’s a huge indicator that the cover shall relate directly to the content, and that’s a trait only getting rarer in comics. So seeing more dialog on the cover that what may be in the comic? Bold, Marvel. Bold.

I Hate Fairyland 11 (Skottie Young), Injection 11 (Ellis/ Shalvey), Head Lopper 5 (Andrew MacLean): They’re baaaaaaaaaack.

American Gods 1 (Gaiman & Russell/ Hampton): Is that… what? Rice with ketchup? Joints rolled in red paper? Point drug capsules? Or maybe it’s corn with white and red leaves seen from a great distance. Look, I promise to be in awe of the giant humanoid with the mountainous beast skull for a head AND fearful of whatever split the sun in the sky later, but this thing with the foreground sriracha krispies is bugging me. [6/10]

Haven’t gotten around to the book? Not subscribed to the TV show’s network? Pick up the comic book about Shadow, a man fated to be kicked in the soul at every opportunity. Finishing up a jail sentence for a crime he definitely committed, Shadow’s allowed to leave a few days early to attend a funeral. On the way “home”, he’s given a job offer by an elder man with a wicked facial scar and all of Shadow’s personal details at his disposal. Elsewhere, a different type of woman eats in bed.

I won’t comment on the plot, characters, or story, except to say they stay true to the source material, and that source material was pretty good. Anything more would be redundant. What wouldn’t be redundant is looking at the presentation, which needs to be different for this format. For such experienced comic book creators as these, this opening chapter comes out as clunky, and not in a flattering way. There’s primer text in the interior cover that spoils not just the main plot points of this issue, but a few issues to come. So if you don’t like spoilers, don’t read the thing that’s there to help you follow along. Shadow as a character gets introduced in the middle of his prison sentence, which by his own admission is completely lacking in drama. What traits it remembers to carry over get incorporated wonderfully, but there’s a gaping void where the rest should be.

The artwork depends on definitions and linework too much to consider it light, yet the colors and shading work too little to consider it intense. The texturing and place settings exhibit a lot of detail and proportion, indicating that a lot of effort went into producing those elements precisely, yet the panels rarely show any sense of a third dimension. The images look flat, emphasizing the surface features over a concept of depth, which disappoints me.

American Gods reads like a bowl of locally-grown cilantro – this isn’t for anyone that isn’t already a dedicated fan, and even they should think twice.

Highlander American Dream 2 (Ruckley/ Mutti): The cover by Wayne Nichols annoys me.

I don’t care if it’s Dick Tracy, or the Shadow, or the Spirit, we need a Highlander series crossing over with a 1930s noir detective property and we need it now more than ever. “Myah, see, I don’t know any mook named ‘Jendis Can’ or whatever, but whoever he was he wasn’t as bad a boss as me, see? Myah!” “McCloud! It can’t be, we laced you up in cement shoes and dropped you off at school with the fishes!” “You know, Connor, I don’t think I ever knew a man that could pull off pinstripes and a kilt so well as you.” NOW BEFORE THE HATE STARTS, answer me one question: Could that be worse than half off the mid-season pilots coming up? I bet Will Eisner would back me up on this.

Will Eisner Centennial Celebration HC (Eisner/ Various)

Will Eisner would find a way to prove me wrong from beyond the grave. I thought I was safe seeing as he’d never heard of me while he was alive, but I should know better. I’m never safe.

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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