Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Remember that bit from last week about how many comics there were? Oh, what a naive man-child I was. That wee bairn thought he knew things. That was but preamble, a light rehearsal. This, my friends, this is the time when clear shelf space holds more value than gold. Get ready to break your eyes reading!
•All New Guardians of the Galaxy 1 (Duggan/ Kuder), Mission Breakout 1 (Hastings/ Walker), Mother Entropy 1 (Starlin/ Davis): Yeesh, what’s up with all the GotG hype? You’d think there was a movie coming out or something.
•Catalyst Prime Noble 1 (Thomas/ Robinson): This is the least brand-mindful spin-off the Transformers line has come up with in a long time, but it still looks badass. [7/10]
What if, at the end of Armageddon, Bruce Willis showed up carrying the other shuttle one-handed? Or if the Man in the Iron Mask had more guns and less French people? David Powell went to South America to lay low after mysterious circumstances gave him telekinesis, so he started wearing a bright red hoodie and a helmet from Doctor Doom’s closet.
There are very basic questions that this first issue of a brand new comic book universe fails to answer. Questions like “Is there one source of superpowers, or several?”, “How long has anyone knows people could get superpowers?”, or “Does anyone know what to do with superpowers?” There’s an argument for building mystique, but this lack of knowledge goes beyond that. The reader has no idea why anyone is doing anything.
That said, what they do is laugh at petty things like gravity and momentum, turn the concept of overwhelming force on its head, and look amazing in the process. The art style uses a classic metahuman-action style and bulk quantities of Kirby-esque energy bubbles to create a world desperate to look like it has the situation under control.
Catalyst Prime Noble reads like a franchise thriller flick – if you’re experiencing it for anything more than the flashy visuals, you’ll walk away disappointed.
•Swordquest 1 (Bowers & Sims/ Kowalchuk): The quest for enchanted swords is perhaps the most frequent motivation for classical heroes in mythology, second only to pedigreed women. I hear the dissent to the objectification of women as prizes for such heroes, and it makes sense. Princesses, prophetesses, and other women of power are not trophies to be lofted and paraded before the masses as monuments of victory. Both act as drivers and catalysts for otherwise goalless characters to initiate change in their inferior lifestyles, but I never read about the princess that could shatter a mountain or change the direction of the wind with a single swing. I’m glad we’re getting to the point where the ladies get time on the playground.
•Tekken 1 (Scott/ Tong): “Boys, boys, stop fighting! You can’t fight now! You know the rules. You have to wait until both players have picked their chosen costumes for you AND vote on a location for you to fight in, THEN you can tear each other to pieces. I swear, we go through this every hardware generation.”
•Bane Conquest 1 (Dixon/ Nolan): Conquesting Bane’s been done. Batman did it. Catwoman did it. Paternal love did it. Hell, the argument could be made that Teddy Roosevelt did it, and he was dead years before Bane was conceived. With that kind of win-loss record, no wonder he wants to watch cities burn.
•Adam Wreck 1 (Michael S. Bracco): Adam didn’t have a learner’s permit so when he hit that planet, he just walked away and hoped everyone was like him and didn’t know how license plates worked.
•Project Superheroes Herokillers 1 (Browne/ Woods): Because who needs heroes, right? Let’s get some fresh faces with strong ideas to clear out the old fogies, not ask them any questions about what they stand for, and just look at what they come up with. What’s the worst that could happen, right?
•Damned 1 (Bunn/ Hurtt): I knew the listed of people in line to the multiple circles of eternal torment was… ehhh, colorful… but you know what, this pretty much fits. I’ll allow it.
•Croak 1 (Sousa/ Sienty): I get the defensive need to investigate strange noises, especially while you’re in the wilderness. I was in the Boy Scouts, I camped, I really do get it. But if I investigated every frog mating call that intently, people would tell me to register on federal lists. Just saying. [4/10]*
Kids, you do not have to accept every dare someone lays down at your feet. If someone dares you to eat a ghost pepper, think critically about how your body reacts to spicey food first. If someone dares you to embezzle money from your company, don’t do it. If someone dares you to make the Manos of horror comics, you’ve already lost because it’s already been done and it’s called Croak. Three college kids go camping without remembering a couple of optional amenities like a tent or real camping experience.
Don’t bother looking for your sympathy, you won’t need it. The characters constantly exchange roles including Group Jerk, Loudest Whiner, Ridiculous Overreactor, etc. The most profound moment is a scene where the evening shifts into telling ghost stories around the campfire and the characters go into detail about how terrible the story is.
The most basic problem to the art is that there’s no functional difference between the day and night scenes. None of the shading or coloring changes in any measurable way. It’s like they’re camping in Central Park Gotham.
Croak reads like an angry toddler with a jigsaw puzzle – watching it is bad enough, but actually trying to involve yourself’ll only make it worse.
*I am thrilled to see Alterna Comics explore the market for affordable and vulnerable comic books. Printing on material that ages makes preserving comics a dedicated pursuit again. Publishing a full story/ chapter at half price means more readers will try it out. This is the kind of risk-taking the industry needs more of, so if you see an Alterna Comic on the shelves (there are several this week), definitely check them out. Unless it’s Croak, that’s a bad idea.
•Underdog 1 (Lash/ Lash & Ropp): The whole “underdog” role suffers a tanker-truck’s worth of undercutting when the lead character can chuck a steel tank with claws into a massive boulder without a drop of sweat. Perhaps that’s a piece of advice that future users of the trope should keep in mind.
•Jean Grey 1 (Hopeless/ Ibanez): So this iteration of Jean Grey, the one pulled from the past before she was killed/ possessed by a cosmic destroyer, the one that’s sworn not to let herself fall into the traps of her previous self, is styling her psychic powers in the shape of the Phoenix? Please tell me why, I want to know. (CC Note: Oh man, a psychic’s psychological journey? That’s a story that should’ve been told for years and this is the perfect character for that story!) Thanks, that really make me feel stronger about my decision not to ask if she was in a competition with Iceman about who could be the more flaming original X-Man. (CC Note: Aaaaaaaand the pride is gone.)
•Amazing Age 1 (Smith/ Brunson & Massie): …This is a bold-faced lie. I can’t accept this. Teen age was many, MANY things – turbulent, defining, cost-intensive – but “amazing” is not a word I would use.
•Youngblood 1 (Bowers & Liefeld/ Towe): Pfft, yeah, you’ve got a guy with so many wrinkles and callouses that his face might as well have been assembled from a rock collection and you’re trying to marketing it as “young” blood. Even worse, that guy’s standing behind the group of fresh-faced uniformed fighters that couldn’t be more meat shields if they were sponsored by Tyson. What’s next, a jacket made out of barbed wire and steel wool called “Softskin”?
•Eternal Empire 1 (Vaughn & Luna/ Luna): No empire with such lax fire safety laws was ever eternal. The whole circle effect thing is neat, but also nothing I don’t see 500 times every July Fourth. [8/10]
This may blow your minds, alright? You should sit down, and if you’re already sitting down put your hands over your mind because I’m about to blow it. You ready? It turns out if someone comes to power by being horrible, they’re more likely to use power horribly. Should I give you a minute? “Snow Hair” doesn’t get a minute, her schedule’s booked solid between tireless labor in frozen fields pulling arctic root vegetables, mandated gratitude celebrations, and receiving unsolicited visions. Getting away from it all means risking horrific death from her captors, her environment, wild beasts, and pyrokinetic strangers.
There’s not a lot of motivation in this story. The protagonist doesn’t disrupt her status quo for any cause greater than the promise of a warmer place to suffer. It’s hard to tell if the despot she suffers under has stronger reasons behind their warmongering. The lore behind it all, which doesn’t enjoy much page time, promises to be thoroughly plotted and executed.
Like any other Luna project, the art style is rigidly refined and quite pretty. There’s little variety in the faces or even hair styles between people, but they at least maintain the capacity to express emotions like surprise or anguish effectively. It hasn’t changed over the years, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Eternal Empire reads like an artisanal hot dog – there’s only so much difference careful sourcing and preparation can make to a staple recipe, but it’s there.
•Injustice 2 #1 (Taylor/ Redondo & Albarran): You know, DC turned into a hardcore hentai publisher so gradually, I didn’t even notice.
•Black Bolt 1 (Ahmed/ Ward): Oh. My. God. OMG. Did a Livejournal account get compiled by Angelfire? Did Geocities archive it and the 8-bit remix to Linkin Park that played in the background? Quick, what other horrific secrets of Blackagar’s awkward teenage years got published? A high-stakes game of Embarrassment Bingo hinges on the answer!
•Secret Empire 1 (Spenser/ McNiven): Wooboy. Alright, we’ve had time to prepare for this. I know it hurts anyway, but we’re in a position that we can manage that pain. Captain America’s switch has been flipped to “Pseudo-Nazi”, and it’s going to be stuck there for a while. This doesn’t mean Cap as we want to know him is gone. This just means we need to dig deep in ourselves and take care of the true Cap in ourselves and each other. If we can do that, we can get through this, and if we can get through this, we might see the Cap that was always meant to be come back. It’s a lot to pin on hope, but hope can bear gigantic loads.
•Pestilence 1 (Tieri/ Okunev): This horseman of the apocalypse honestly dresses better than I expected. Way to be fashion-forward, harbinger of sorrow.
•Stained 1 (Baron/ Idris): Okay. Well, if you’re determined, you could use some club soda and a lot of elbow grease and probably scrub that stain out. However. Just hear me out. That’s a lovely image for a stain, and you might consider letting it stay. Consider it a happy accident and wear it proudly. Mikhail Gorbachov did it and look how well he turned out! [6/10]
If you like your dames full of moxie, your plots derivative, and your exposition served stadium-style, Stained was written for you! Emma’s a bounty hunter sporting a wicked haircut and a wholly prosthetic body. She gripes about taxes, she’s got a frenemy relationship with the warrant officer, and makes her money by being underestimated.
Who ordered the Ghost in the Shell homage with a Domino glaze? And I’ve got a side of Blade Runner here, this ticket didn’t write itself, who ordered it? …I think I’m done, actually, nothing more needs to be said. You’ve pretty much got it from here.
Idris’s artwork communicates enough to tell the basic story of the world, which is that artificial limbs have moved past the point of fully replacing natural body parts, but it hasn’t stopped some people from being massive balls of hate to each other. It stops just short of telling an interesting story. I think I saw one face wear two different expressions – wait I saw two, but one of those faces had been ripped in half.
Stained reads like a master prankster’s report card of straight Cs – it doesn’t fail, but it’s painfully obvious more could have been done.
•Lilith Dark 1 (Charles C. Dowd): Small child wearing a cape, wielding a sword, and riding a T-Rex? Really?!? *sigh* Here’s my money, you monsters, just take it.
Ohhhhhohohohoho but there is sooooo much more. And it’s free.
Free Comic Book Day is THIS Saturday! We’ve got to limit everyone to four issues each, but if you bring friends along you won’t have to choose! We’ll see you Saturday!!!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues