Variant Coverage – June 28, 2017

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

It may be pertinent to your interests that we’re next door to a fireworks store. Don’t think of it as an explosive supplier next to a kindling repository, think of it as two purveyors of flash teaming up to put extra bang in your weekend. And next week being our Independence Day (we’ll be open until 4pm Tuesday), it wouldn’t hurt to know where you’re going to be when stuff starts blowing up.

Hey, you want to look at some comics? Because I LOVE looking at comics! Let’s look at some comics.

Transformers Lost Light 7 (Roberts/ Lawrence): Is Queen touring with Ultra Magnus filling in for Freddie Mercury now? I could get if he was the tour bus, but him as the headliner kind of screams “shock production” drama to me.

Batman Elmer Fudd Special 1 (King/ Vaughns): So I’m looking at this cover and I’m wondering how much of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery Fudd has gone. After dynamite-wielding ducks and heart-breaking rabbits, the only thing that’d give the hunter his classic rush could only be the most dangerous game of all. Killer Croc, Penguin, Man-Bat, Catman, all their heads must feature prominent on Fudd’s wall by now. That sick whack-job. [8/10]

Silver St. Cloud is dead, and the man who loved her most – one Elmer Fudd – needs revenge. He thought he would be content by shooting the triggerman, but the varmint dangles a carrot right in front of Fudd’s round face: the elitist playboy Bruce Wayne. Fudd may look like an affable softy, but he hides a dangerous core. Fudd’s a hunter, one that will not rest, will walk through gunfire and hammer blows and frosted pies, until he has put his prey down.

I don’t think I should be enjoying these crossovers as much as I am. I don’t think it’s a joy any of the original creators could’ve anticipated. Porky’s Bar acts as a refuge for the cast of colorful characters brought over from Chuck Jones’ side of the tracks, and the adaptation blends in so well with the seedy underbelly of Gotham City, one might be tempted to search through background shots from decades ago to find an earlier reference. Elmer’s trademarked accent holds on throughout the story, consistent through both dialog and narration, which can be tricky to read sometimes but ultimately gives the character most of his relatability. His meeting and eventual understanding with Batman almost beats out “Martha” for oddest BBF trigger, yet because it knows how crazy it is, comes off better than the screen version. And the cameos, holy tarnations those cameos; if there’s a danger to this issue, it’s that the cameos threaten to drown you.

Panels on an individual basis manage to pull the cartoon characters through a noir filter and plant them artfully into Gotham City. Elmer’s still a mis-proportioned doofus, but one that wouldn’t look out of place in a public bus terminal or GCPD lineup. If anything, the style seems to pull one trait from every character and exaggerate them as much as medical laws might allow. Bruce Wayne, for instance, probably keeps 5% of his body mass in his mighty jaw. It’s not the most attractive way to present these figures, perhaps, but it’s a great balance between art styles that conflict each other normally. Transitions between panels don’t work quite as smoothly, especially when the reader isn’t prepared for flashback scenes without identifying characteristics.

Batman Elmer Fudd reads like getting crushed by a giant cake dropped three stories up – a trauma concussive enough to make you see starts, but so sweet and harmless you might’ve actually volunteered for it.

Clue 1 (Allor/ Daniel): Is this where we finally get into the real mystery of the boardgame? Because for too long have I twisted myself into knots pondering who would be insane and malicious enough to build a mansion’s rooms cubicle-style. There is so much wrong with that I can hardly begin, it beats out Ivo Shandor’s designs as far as designing for evil.

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual 1 (Bowers & Sims/ Beyruth): I know that on Earth a giant head with tentacles appears dangerous and intrusive, but so many space movies feature creatures with those descriptors that it’s probably closer to galactic standard. Not only would the Guardians take on this kind of fight like it was nothing unusual, most alien audiences would take some convincing to believe the tentacle monster was the enemy in this scenario. A bunch of hairy bipeds biting, shooting and otherwise getting in the business of something that looks like their school teacher? Not cool.

Mass Effect Discovery 2 (Barlow & Dombrow/ Niemczyk): “Brghglallzzzrk -I th-thought being a b-b-being of energy wo-wo-wo-wouldn’t feel this excc-c-c-c-rusiantingly painful-larhghaghzzzz!”

Beautiful Canvas 1 (Lindsay/ Kivela): You know, I’ve been looking at this for a minute now, and I’m still not sure what the story inside might be about, but I think I have new appreciation for the phrase “pregnant pause”. [6/10]

Lon lives in a complicated world. For one thing, a sociopath named Milla owns most of it and likes to see fresh blood on the walls every now and then. Lon tells herself she can handle painting those walls just fine, and most of the time she’s right, but she’s not got the best record when kids become involved. So when one little boy, stuffed toy in hand, hugs her for shooting his mom, Lon needs a moment to process the scene. Meanwhile, at the abandoned amusement park (I’m not even kidding), one of Milla’s used chew toys decides it’s got at least one more play session in it, outside of Milla’s schedule. And whatever you do, don’t freak out when the team of human-animal hybrids show up, they’re kind of supposed to be there (I think).

For something written in my native language, this is difficult to read in places. For one thing, it includes a Scooby-Doo set and a literal menagerie of characters, along with other set pieces that come off as nearly farcical, and yet the presentation is delivered with a stoic intensity that gives the impression that it may be taking itself too seriously. It also violates the rule of thumb stating that a different world can support one grand difference from the audience’s reality, and that’s it. Remember how in Spider-Man 3, there was a guy that could spin webs AND a guy with green super juice AND a guy that fell into sand thus turning into sand AND a Gwen Stacy that lived all the way through AND an alien fashion putty, and how it’s comfortably considered the worst of the series? Same principle.

That being said, Lon takes no time to establish herself as a working woman with a lot going on, actively pulled in different directions and trying her hardest to go in the direction she feels is right. There’s a surreal quality that, though she may be the most vanilla member of the cast, lets her keep up with every other surreal quality in this book. Most of those qualities COUGH*killerrichperson*COUGH don’t engage the reader half as well, but at least there’s one that I actually liked.

The art style may remind you of Joelle Jones, artist of Supergirl: Being Super (#4 out this week). Strong and prominent linework constructs realistically-proportioned figures with just enough cartoonish idealism to let some of the more crazy stuff appear normal. The direct expressions and designs all embrace simplicity, perhaps as counterbalance to the dizzying complexity of the story. There are flashbacks peppered throughout the issue, but telling which moments are past versus present can be frustrating sometimes.

Beautiful Canvas reads like a poster about multitasking – trying to do a lot of things at once, not quite succeeding at any of them.

Star Wars Droids Unplugged 1 (Chris Eliopoulos): I don’t care if it’s a concert or stand-up comedy special, if this is the line-up I will buy ten tickets. I won’t take anyone else with me because I’ll need the room for all the cheering/ heckling I’m going to bring!

Bankshot 1 (De Campi/ Cross): “Man may’ve invented sliced bread, but it took a master swordmaker and five years’ training on a mountaintop for me to perfect it.”

Scrimshaw 1 (Borden/ Mims): Never before has a cast of such interesting and diverse characters stood so united against their own page border! Prepare to be amazed as they team up to fight the limits of a drawing’s page size! Marvel at their determination! Will they valiantly succeed and pan over to the next scene?? Find out somehow, but maybe not by turning the page, because that might render them unobserved and bring their whole quantum existence to a crumble!

Secret Weapons 1 (Heisserer/ Allen): Notice how this woman, like so many other representatives of secret societies, either wear form-fitting or perfectly tailored outfits. Here’s a hot tip from your pal: if you’ve got a secret, wear something baggy and less revealing, that way any observer won’t be able to tell what you’re hiding. Whoever she is, she feels comfortable in wetsuits and is up-to-date on her tetanus boosters. [8/10]

The Valiant-verse has been through some high drama lately. The chief mastermind of unlocking superhuman potential, international businessman Toyo Harada, got outed as a criminal mastermind and defeated, a finishing blow coming as the release of his identity and those of his connections to the world at large. Several of those connection, by his own admission, are dead ends – some of the awakened humans (psiots) developed abilities either too subtle or not powerful enough to be used industrially. By all rights, with their patron unable to hold them any more, they should be able to carve out new lives for themselves. Instead, someone’s hunting them down.

A thing that stand out to me with this book is how it finds unique ways to make the characters relatable. The main cast achieves a state of heroism just by managing their livelihoods. One’s homeless, another can’t hold a job, yet they all own themselves against a world that’s increasingly dangerous. They’re the next step in human evolution, and yet the world takes every chance it can to step on them. I went into this book knowing very little about the world, and that turned out to be a positive factor. In a very real way, this story’s set-up achieves the premise of books like X-Men and Doom Patrol with less backstory to lean on, which instantly made me want to know more. I’ll be picking up Issue 2 just to scratch my mental itch.

The artwork demonstrates plenty of competence, but little innovation. Anyone that’s read a superhero comic pretty much knows what to expect out of the visuals: figures that defy diets capable of feats Olympians wish they could pull off, and faces effectively match up with corresponding emojis. The designs reach higher, it’s pleasing to say, with outfits and haircuts ranging from meticulously bespoke to pulled from a laundry’s dumpster, and a lot of points in-between. Shading and colors separate and transition smoothly, and panel shifts guide the eye from one moment to the next. Readers won’t have much trouble absorbing the story.

Secret Weapons reads like a fresh-from-the-oven donut – settle for a stale version long enough, and it’s easy to forget what the experience is supposed to be like.

Before we go, just a quick reminder that the Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday this year, so on top of the schedule disruption, be aware that Comic Carnival will be open from 11am-4pm. This blog will have an update, but it will not include reviews. Take that news in whatever manner gives you the happiest feels. See you in some way, shape, or form next week!

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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