Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Strap yourselves in, readers. This week features a bunch of intense and worthwhile reads, but they also get a bit weird. Hope you survive the experience!
•Batman 24 2nd Printing (King/ Mann) better get ready for a lawsuit for stealing another book’s title.
•Marry Me 6 (Crosby/ Mokhtar) just got jacked by DC. Why I oughta sort these next to each other so Keenspot can get at least some of Batman’s attention! (CC Note: You won’t.)
•Crosswind 1 (Simone/ Staggs): Is that the term for when two people fart in the same corner? (CC Note: A fart joke? Do you have ANY shame?!?) But look at these two, they’re both very pointed looking away and focusing intently. I claim plausibility! (CC Note: …) [9/10]
Cason’s a mob hitman/ cleaner. He’s high up on the list because he’s dependable and doesn’t let quibbles like childhood friendships get in the way of a job. Juniper’s a trophy housewife that once had dreams of adventurous independence, but now seeks the calm eye in a storm of aggressive behaviors from all fronts. They both have some heavy stuff to deal with at the moment, but nothing they don’t know how to handle. Could they handle each other’s heavy stuff? At least one inquiring and dangerous mind really wants to know!
The premise on its own might appear to fit more comfortably in an 80’s movie or special television episode. Like so many magical plot tropes, its main chance for survival rests on the shoulders of the characters it involves, and thankfully these characters start fierce. Cason may be a hired killer, but he’s one with a code, and he makes it a point to show compassion when he’s allowed the chance. Juniper suffers as the convenient target for other people’s anger, yet she spends most of her reactions puzzling out how they got to be in such a pained state. The twist leaves little time for them to realize their predicament, but what time there is gets spent ghastly. And for some context that’ll stuff a chilling void in your stomach, read the afterward “Trespass”.
Staggs’s art style focuses on realistic proportions and tight inking. Panels look almost like collages of photos positioned to create slightly different stories. Figures aren’t exaggerated, and everyone has their own set of expressions, helping to differentiate characters that didn’t need much help to begin with, but it’s a great touch. The blocky coloring adds a chaotic quality to the page, keeping the reader from getting too comfortable with what they’re seeing. There are a few moments when panels don’t quite follow each other and the flow hiccups, but this isn’t often. The combined effect makes for a world that’s familiar, but just off enough to be unsettling, which is a perfect fit for the narrative.
Crosswind reads like a lost jungle tribe – by the time you know what you’re looking at, you can’t escape it.
•Lobo/ Road Runner 1 (Bill Morrison): I knew ACME had deep pockets, but I didn’t know they were space-bounty deep. Was Lobo’s contract a prize for Wile E Coyote being the Best Customer of the decade? (CC Note: And for that matter, where does Wile get all the money for that?) Oh that’s easy: Wile’s an oil baron. He lives in a desert, he has bottomless resources, and manages to keep any and all local and federal authorities out of his business despite flagrantly disregarding environmental, shipping, weapon, and physical laws.
•The Chair 1 (Simeti/ Christensen & Simeti): Chained to a wall without hope of rescue, redemption, or hygiene, the title must refer to this poor sap’s last plausible dream. Nothing fancy like an office chair with wheels, that’d look ostentatious, but something with lumbar support would be nice.
•Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man 1 (Zdarsky/ Kubert): Now Spider-Man’s taking over Superman’s schtick?? I realize there are no phone booths anymore, but come on! [8/10]
CEO of a multinational technology firm, financier of an Avengers team, scientific celebrity – any one of those would be a full-time job, but Peter Parker somehow works all three along with his role as the Spectacular Spider-Man. It leaves almost no time for casual friend time, but Johnny Storm tries anyway. Seems the winning strategy is to lure Spider-Man to socialize, seeing as Peter Parker owns a well-earned reputation for standing people up. Anti-social as Parker is, Spidey meets all kinds of people, such as benevolent super-tech repairman, eye-catching comedians, and evil Stark impersonators. Maybe Peter should take a cue from Batman and let Spidey be his true persona.
The idea of 616 Peter Parker taking the foot off his own petal sounds ludicrous, but in execution is already paying off. After evil clones and goblin hierarchies and corporate takeovers, it’s refreshing to see that the Friendly Neighborhood Goofball isn’t dead and gone. No matter what you call him, he spends the entire issue getting taken by surprise, proving decades of continuity are no reason new things can’t happen. Some of these surprises could play out to be amazing, others that’s not as likely.
Andy Kubert’s had his bona fides for a long time, and graciously he hasn’t rested on them. His style of cartoony angles and playful linework carry a sense of energy even when a figure’s not doing much. If something isn’t in motion, Kubert endows it with the potential to affect rapid change. That doesn’t sound impressive, yet it’s something few artists can pull off with a drawing, and Andy Kubert’s one of those few.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man reads like a good Seinfeld episode – without going out of its way to do anything, a crazy series of events unfold.
•September Mourning 1 (McCourt & Lazar/ Kesgin): “But it’s so pretty!”
-”We’ve told you, young lady, you don’t like pretty things, you are an alabaster meat being that follows the path of nihilism. Life is but a step off the path to truth, filled with nonsense and distractions. Now leave the butterfly alone and get back to marching toward the void with the rest of us.”
-”Ughghgh, I hate you! I wish I was never torn from the fabric of oblivion!!”
•Weapons of Mutant Destruction 1 (Pak/ Asrar): So, if they want to destroy mutants, why aren’t they cloning things that have actually proven detrimental to the mutant population? Wanda Maximoff may be the record holder if you measure by percentage of mutants destroyed. Or if you just need some fresh ideas, how about cloning the guy that invented Sentinels – he didn’t survive too long after they took off, maybe he wasn’t a one-hit wonder. But if it’s not enough just to take away their powers or kill them, if the idea is to wipe out their ideology to the point where everyone pretends they don’t exist, then the people they absolutely need to clone are Brett Ratner and Gavin Hood.
•Shirtless Bear Fighter 1 (LeHeup & Girner/ Vendrell): I love the imagery here, but deep down it’s hard to get behind a character whose motivation is just to punch all the things. Guy kicking a puppy, I could see a punch solving that problem. Corrupt official misappropriating funds? That person definitely needs to stand trial, but a punch or two on the way would feel good. Grocery store out of your brand of milk, or your comics got bent on the way home? There’s no punching your way out of that, but this is the type of dude that’d try. [√-1/a block of cheese]
WYSIWYG. There’s your summary right there.
One of the things I respect most is the sense of poetry in this. “Shirtless” could refer to the bears or the burly man that fights them, but it actually works both ways. That’s TWO levels of meaning, people. We’re dealing with literature here! (CC Note: Actually, you left out the hyphen, it should read Shirtless Bear-Fighter.) Why can’t I have nice things???!!!!!????
I should warn that besides the vulgar amount of bear beatings (beatings both given and received by bears) and the rhythmic pounding of the phrase “Bear Punch” throughout the book, there’s also a massive load of full frontal nudity whipped out by the title character. For the sake of preventing the reader’s mind from breaking, all the turgid parts are pixeled out. Perhaps even harder to wrap around is the girth of the man’s perma-beard and the tightness with which he grits his teeth. On the whole, it’s a lot to take in, and the experience could leave you breathless in a number of ways. (CC Note: Are you done?) I’m all out of innuendo.
Shirtless Bear-Fighter reads like a five-ton pillow – impossibly cuddly from one angle, bone-crushing from even a slightly different one.
•Swordquest 1 (Kowalchuck & Sims/ Ghostwriter X): I’m getting flashbacks to blowing into cartridges and screwing the adapter prongs into the TV just right. A whole lot of mechanical effort to watch colored pixels aggressively move about the screen at 10 frames-per-second. Those were dark and dusty days, but at least we knew better than to face a minotaur armed with a letter opener and a bedsheet.
•Aquaman 25 (Abnett/ Sejic): This cover set-up worked for Batman pretty well, and Batman never got this glossy a treatment. The Dark Knight’s got so much else to work with right now, I’m willing to bet he’s cool with Arthur macking this pose. [9/10]
The superhero king is dead, long live the fascist, xenophobic, power-hungry king! Arthur Curry has been pronounced deceased, and his successor keeps the lights on through martial law and the reactivation of Atlantis’s magical artifacts, including a city-wide force field and a supply of death rays. Some don’t like the regime change, others seem oddly jubilant about it. But while that’s all going on, there’s something new in the slums of Atlantis, something that hunts the criminal elements from the shadows, something that reminds those who see it of a not-so-long dead king.
I never throw a “disgraced-yet-noble ruler climbs back into power one step at a time” story out of my pile. This one impresses me by highlighting the things Arthur learned while on the surface with his cape-wearing buddies to effectively work as a vigilante (though I’m disappointed he didn’t call himself “Bat-Mackerel”). Abnett also works wonders at showing many different levels of Atlantean life, letting those who haven’t been reading lately get a thorough look at the world under sea level. There’s a rather gaping plot hole that remains unexplained throughout the issue, but may go unnoticed and shouldn’t get in the way of the story much.
Anyone that’s seen Stjepan Sejic’s art work (Witchblade, Death Vigil) knows how busy and refined his style is. His wide shots and backgrounds run so deep and maintain such a level of detail that your jaw will drop, meanwhile his facial expressions include a sense of animation that allows the characters to appear arrogant, confused, or laughable depending on Sejic’s whims. It’s that rare instance where incredible talent doesn’t take itself too seriously, and should be treasured.
Aquaman reads like a sudden revelation – you probably shouldn’t change your life around this, but it’s definitely time to rethink some long-held opinions.
For instance, I’m of the opinion that we’ll see you next week. Is that worth holding onto? What even is a week?
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues