Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Some would say the world has gone crazy. If you believe this, comics may not be the best anchor for you, seeing as “gone crazy” pretty much describes comics’ entire history, present, and a good chunk of its future (probably). But they’re a very different kind of crazy, and could help with the creepies a lot if you give them a chance. This week, there are enough new titles to fill a nuthouse, and below are just a few that might scratch whatever itch you’ve got.
But first, let’s all just take a moment and appreciate that, no matter what else is going on in the world right now, these are things that exist.
•Booster Gold Flintstones Special (Russell, Conner, Palmiotti/ Leonardi/ Hanna)
•Green Lantern Space Ghost Special (Tynion IV, Sebela, Chaykin/ Chaykin)
•Suicide Squad Banana Splits Special (Bedard, Russell/ Caldwell, Eaglesham)
We live in strange and wonderful times.
•Space Rider Galaxy of Brutality 1 (Rangel/ Ziritt): Space monkey, space pirate, and space fem-bot? Shut up and take my space money! [10/ WHAT]
There’s space and a bunch of motorcycles only technically anything “-cylce” involves wheels and there are no roads and so no wheels and that has nothing to do with the plot. Skulls don’t just hold your brains over your neck, they’re also a central component to interstellar travel, which means skulls are space wheels. The sentient baboon man looks for religion somewhere but it may have found him, or it could be hot sauce, the point is if the eternal void starts looking like a vulva, common sense says run away (or I guess that would be blast away because again, no roads).
This isn’t so much a story as a meditation in between Heavy Metal magazine and 1970’s culture tropes. The dialogue runs minimally and mostly to communicate what roles the different characters play. There’s a threat of multiple planetary annihilations in the background while pirate raids crash into metaphysics in the foreground. Mentally, the reader can dip their toes in but shouldn’t expect any reward for plunging deeper.
The art is what everything in this book hinges on. The style and design all come from underground 70s Crumb-esque illustrations – not mainstream pretty, but evocative and explicit in what things are. The color palette comes right out of the popular basement for teenagers that didn’t worry about when grown-ups would come home. I’d be interested to see if the pages show anything under blacklight, actually.
Space Riders reads like a mythological cocktail – a sharp and citrusy cocktail that strikes like a cinder block.
•Sweet Lullaby GN (Scherkenbach/ Allison): Doesn’t everyone remember playing out scenes in the mirror as a kid? Having cute little conversations with yourself?
-”Drop the gun, creep!”
-”You drop the gun!”
-”You got no chance, we found the body! Everyone’s already seen what you did!”
-”It wasn’t me! You’ve been trying to frame me since the very beginning!”
-”Listen to yourself, you’re crazy! Drop the gun!”
-”Is that what you told your partner? He’s dead I heard. What happened? He find out who your real boss is?”
-”You just shut your whore mouth, you don’t know anything!”
-”I know about the motel rooms you two booked off I-40. What I don’t know is why our mother cries herself to sleep at night, but I bet you do.”
-”You dirty little shit!!”
Fun times, fun times.
•Batgirl Annual 1 (Larson/ Miranda): Hold all of the freaking phones. Did Bengal draw an action turducken? Did Supergirl just throw a Batgirl through a wall, as Batgirl is throwing a Batarang at something else? This is a blatant one-upsmanship of Marvel’s Fastball Special and I endorse it completely.
•Inhumans Prime 1 (Ewing/ Sook & Allen) and X-Men Prime 1 (Guggenheim, Pak, Bunn/ Lashley, Kirk, Roberson, Ortego)
I’m so glad that the animosity between the two populations is over and done with, and the main superhuman races have made peace. Now they can go back to their completely separate corners and act like the other group doesn’t exist at all, just like every other warring faction in all of history. Slap it with me, everyone… *facepalm* [7/10 each]
In this corner, weighing in at a population in the hundreds, the dynasty-spanning, multinational dealing, tired of hidden moon base living, the one, the many, the Inhumans! Having just come away from a struggle resolved by superpower-castrating themselves, the Kree-altered metahumans need a plan to finish off their race’s last remaining years in a way that’s honorable and memorable. Marvel Boy – a Kree/ human/ cockroach hybrid from an alternate timeline – wonders if they’re burying their legacy prematurely.
And in THIS corner, weighing in at around one hundred, hated, feared, time-cross-crossed, mysteriously funded, the few, the proud, the X-Men! Storm worries that her leadership led the few remaining mutants into the spotlight with their worse side facing out, and wishes a fresh-from-space Kitty Pryde to take over. Kitty’s not sure she wants the job yet, but a quick tour tells her that individually, mutants are mostly content hanging out in Limbo and doing their own thing. It’d be great if someone wasn’t capturing mutantkind’s sharpest and deadliest, but since Kitty doesn’t know that, she doesn’t think about it.
So instead of one superhuman race surviving at the cost of another, after IvX both races now look down the road to slow extinction. The differences between how they deal with that tell a lot about why they are not interchangeable, despite what producers would have us believe. The Inhumans react to the situation by looking inward: they account for all their members, rearrange government so everyone may contribute, and otherwise start putting their affairs in order. They isolate themselves, organize, and prepare to go out with quiet dignity. By contrast, the X-Men cast their gaze outward. They have the option to spend what time they have out of everyone’s way, the way some among them and most of the planet advocated for years, but ultimately reject the idea. It doesn’t matter if they’re humanity’s inevitable next phase of evolution or next up for extinction, they want to be involved in the affairs of the rest of the world. They’re the ones that see the suffering of others and make it their own. I really hope to see more of these divergent paths play out.
I could focus on the differences in art styles as well, but the effect boils down to the same thing: brooding introspection poses with occasional power blasts and explosions. Readers may notice the plethora of artistic credits in each book, and while teamwork does increase productivity, it tends to eliminate personal strengths.
The Marvel Primes read like a federally approved textbook – committees worked to produce something just about anyone can agree with, and few will find engaging.
•Doc Savage Ring of Fire 1 (Avallone/ Acosta) Brent Schoonover must have had fun mocking Doc Savage on the cover of his own book. (CC Note: I regret asking already, but what do you mean?) Well for one thing we’re supposed to believe that a fully-grown man with Ph.Ds, a globe-trotting career, and sculpted muscles can keep his pants crisp and clean but can’t maintain a shirt at all? And there’s no way this is a ploy to get women’s attention, because there’s one right there not only refusing to look in his direction, but clearly feels threatened enough to get out a pistol. Not looking good there, Doc.
•All-New X-Men 19 (Hopeless/ Diaz): I don’t care how many stained glass window designs they come up with, neither I or anyone else featured in Mark Bagley’s cover will allow a Church of Jean Grey to be built on this Earth. It’s not that she she doesn’t meet a bunch of messiah criteria – she’s come back from the dead, she plays with fire without getting burned, she can literally feel your pain, and she saves people all the time – but we all know about the way she sucks on bites of fruit that sounds like a whale dying, and how she ruins every book someone’s trying to read “without realizing” they didn’t already know things. Perhaps most damning of all, Jean Grey “just doesn’t get” cat gifs. You read it here first.
•Jughead the Hunger (Tieri/ Walsh (no relation)): Considering how his appetite’s consistently been three of Jughead’s top four identifying traits, cannibalism under any circumstances was inevitable. [8/10]
A killer stalks the streets of Riverdale. Average citizens focus intently on maintaining their composure in the face of an unknown threat. To some it means putting their head down and working their hearts out, but for Jughead Jones it means putting the new all-you-can-eat restaurant to the test. Jughead’s particularly stressed because he’s experienced a few blackout episodes – whole evenings just disappear around the same nights that his neighbors get killed. It’s only when Jughead finds pieces of a classmate under his blanket one morning that he can begin to accept the horrible truth: he’s the latest in a long line of werewolves, and the werewolf is the Riverdale Ripper.
Anyone familiar with the goofy-turned-gallows humor of the Afterlife with Archie series will get the gist of this one-shot right away. For the readers hungry for a bit more meat to their whimsy, there’s more than a portion here, too. Werewolf lore focuses on the desperation of loneliness and the terror set free when a composed person loses their composure, both of which fit Jughead like a knitted crown. The story doesn’t so much end as stop, leaving too much to the reader’s imagination, which may be a selling point if the reader likes constructing slasher fiction. (CC Note: You’re monstrous.)
The art carries over the surreal qualities from Afterlife with Archie. The whole color palette might as well have been swiped from a Halloween catalog, proportion and perspective pick their moments to go from rational to impossible, and the inking places just a little too much weight on what would normally be expected from a book about teenage hijinks. It all comes together to create an atmosphere of a world that once knew nothing but lightheartedness, and suffered horrific growing pains recently.
Jughead the Hunger reads like a Stephen King story read by a Mouseketeer – there’s something very wrong with this picture and it makes everyone that sees it want to look that much closer.
And with that, I vanish into the night. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues