Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Comics are loose! They’re inside the walls! All hands on deck, we’ve got to lock down these new titles people! Grab your gear and watch your rear, we’re going straight in!
•Wonder Woman – Steve Trevor 1 (Seeley/ Duce): As a kid, Steve’s older relatives would tease him about having to beat ‘em off with a stick when he was older. He thought they meant women. They thought they meant women. Little did they know it would be bullets, or that the stick would be a statuesque, divine warrior from a forgotten civilization. Some of these old timey sayings get really abstract when you think about them.
•The Lost Fleet – Corsair 1 (Campbell/ Siregar): Oh little Space Pete, he’s lost his fleet, and can’t think where to find them. If only some craft engineer had thought to include rear-view mirrors or a camera, he’d have found them almost an hour ago. Instead everyone on the ships is laughing at him, waiting for the first one to ruin the joke and let him know where they are. A few have taken to narrating Pete’s inner monolog while he searches the wrong side of the void, and it’s not flattering. [8/10]
Cpt. Michael Geary has problems. For one thing, his legendary uncle John (nicknamed “Black Jack”), who supposedly died turning the tide of an interstellar war, is back from the dead and making waves. For another thing, Michael just sacrificed himself to allow the Alliance to score an impossible win in the war. And another thing, Michael didn’t actually sacrifice himself, instead he got captured and is being tortured for secrets. His opposite number, Syndicate Executive Destina Aragon, also has problems. She and her people were supposed to be rotated out after pushing back this latest offensive, but instead she’s learned the higher-ups want to feed them all into the defense of an outpost that’ll get them all killed. Gosh, what would happen if they winded up on the same ship and started planning something???
The narrative does a wonderful job of characterizing John “Black Jack” Geary, war hero that wouldn’t even allow Death to stop his fight for the people. Michael, the character with actual page time, doesn’t get to enjoy that kind of treatment. All of his statements, actions, and reactions bounce off the persona of his storied uncle, and so it’s impossible to tell what kind of person Michael is. Destina manages to make the time to define herself as someone dedicated to the people under her command, intolerant of a bureaucracy that would throw them aside like a twig into an engine, and willing to gamble that bloodlines might count for something. If anyone has read the novels this title spins off from, they’ll probably love it. If I read issue 2, it’ll be because of Destina and not the fabled Geary legacy.
The art looks and feels like most other adaptation sequential art. Human anatomy (there’s no other in this particular story) follows mainstream (read: maybe five ounces of body fat in the whole book). Space ship design and architecture blends Star Trek’s penchant for smooth lines and surfaces with Star Wars’ aesthetic towards busy, lived-in interiors. On top of all that they added a dash of Warhammer to give the battles character. The effect all these elements creates is one of safety more than innovation – no one will make a fuss over it, but it doesn’t inspire much either.
Lost Fleet reads like a night out with a friend and their really attractive relative – enjoyable, but probably not for any intended reason.
•All Time Comics – Atlas 1 (Bayer & Marra/ Marra): For eons he felt the burn as he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, now watch as he burns lives instead of calories! I’m actually not too worried, Atlas notoriously focused all his attention on weight training and ignored his cardio, so he’ll get tired after barely half a mile of reducing the world to glass.
•Mighty Mouse 1 (Fisch/ Lima): Alex Ross knows what the most benign horror to wake up to in the morning looks like. He also knows what the most terrifying horror to wake up to is, along with the most likely thing to wake up to, the fuzziest thing to wake up to, the best-dressed thing to wake up to, and the most active volcano to wake up to. His nights are weird, people, so much so when he opens his eyes to a new day and finds a ‘roided-up mouse about to sock him right in the peepers, it’s almost a soothing relief.
•Magnus 1 (Higgins & Wendig/ Fornes & Sarreseca): Alas, poor TS-427! I knew it, Horacio. A ‘bot of infinite subroutines, of most excellent efficiency. He hath borne me on his network a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my search history it is! My firewall rises at it. Here hung those menus that I have collapsed I know not how oft. –Where be your pop-ups now? Your banners? Your click-bait? Your flashes of gifs that were wont to set tumblr on a roar? Not one now to rate your own settings? Quite blue-screened? (CC Note: Get thee to a nunnery!)
•Iceman 1 (Grace/ Vitti): Ice? Check. Man? Check. I suppose they can put whatever else they want on the cover now. Could have been cupcakes, puppies, scenes from buddy-cop movies where they jump away from explosions. They want to add supervillains? Hey, you do you, mainstream comics industry. [7/10]
Bobby Drake’s put off growing up for as long as he could, happy to play the goof with Omega-level potential in the X-Men. That all came to a halt when his past self got pulled from the timeline, put in front of him, and that version came out of the closet. Elder Bobby’s now making an effort to explore the dating scene as a gay man, a perilous quest considering his tumultuous dating experiences back when he was convincing everyone he was hetero. Of course, just because he’s putting himself back on the market, none of the other aspects of his life – bigoted parents, mentoring the next generation of mutants, fighting terror groups for his right to exist – none of them ease up to give Bobby his space.
The overall message behind this title would seem to be that adulting is hard. Despite living as a founding member of a major metahuman group and counted as one of the most powerful among his peers, Bobby’s presentation feels very grounded. His powers quickly become window dressing while the real issues and problems are those most readers could relate to. Grace has accomplished what few have even attempted, and that is to make Bobby Drake something of a compelling character. But before I make it seem too pedestrian, take heart knowing there’s a Danger Room sparring scene and a hospital shoot-out. The action fans have not been forgotten.
The artwork appears blocky at first, which could almost be excused given ice as the subject matter. Figures look as though they were put together out of chunks of clay, and most have facial expressions to match. When the situation demands, sufficient expression and range comes into focus, but otherwise there’s a default for everyone. Also, whenever action amps up on the page, the panel continuity gets choppy. If you feel like you’ve lost track of how characters got to a particular place from the last panel or page, don’t feel like that’s a deficiency on your part.
Iceman reads like an edited-for-TV movie – it has everything you need to follow along, some stuff you’ll enjoy, but not everything that was available.
•Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook (Various/ Various): Take everything you know about your old toys, okay? Now add on all the imaginary adventures you had with them, your personal headcannons, alright? Now take all that, throw it in a fire, forget you ever knew it. Go to the nearest heavy metal concert with your most obnoxious friends, drink too much, and wake up someplace you’ve never been before. Now you’re ready to pick up the Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook and learn the new lore behind your childhood memories. SPOILERS: they played in each other’s toyboxes in ways your parents wouldn’t understand!
•Jazz Maynard 1 (Raule/ Roger Ugena): A sepia-toned shot of a downcast man with a suit and a gun? And they name him after a genre of music epitomized by its vivacity, color, and wild expression? Hoo boy.
•GWAR Orgasmageddon 1 of 4 (Maguire & Miner/ Sawyer): That concern you went to last night probably should’ve been a GWAR album. They don’t care about crappy things like schedules or paying bills or even discourse at a reasonable volume. They scream their order into drive-thrus, and their order’s always a billion milkshakes with fries, and when the fries aren’t in the milkshakes they set the drive-thru on fire! They build a giant cup out of the rubble, pour their fries and milkshake into the cup, worship it for precisely 378 seconds, then drive through it. All the time they’re screaming, because this is a GWAR concert and you’re senses aren’t leaving intact.
•Star Wars Darth Vader 1 (Soule/ Camuncoli): I’ve read things that felt like they were fighting me the whole way through. This may be the first book that’s tried to Force Choke me. I’m either going to hate it, or find I like it way more than I ever could’ve expected.
•Babyteeth 1 (Cates/ Brown): “It says one line is negative, two lines is positive. What do you see?”
“A circled pentagram, the ancient rune that unlocks terrific powers from realms common minds are too ignorant to fear.”
“… is it upside-down?”
“Then congratulations! Six lines means it’s triplets!” [8/10]
Sadie Ritter’s a mom, and she’s got pretty unique ways of displaying anxiety. When she was pregnant, she didn’t want anyone but her sister to know, so she wore layers, wore her backpack in front of her, and let everyone believe she was just letting herself go. When her contractions timed perfectly with a series of earthquakes and she started bleeding, her instinct was to go unconscious and find a mental happy place, but instead, she kept herself conscious as much as she could. When her baby looked up at her for the first time with eyes the color of the darkest recesses of the pit, and everyone commented on how her child was surrounded by omens of calamity, she just smiled and hugged it.
So many classic tales of prophecy – of a child born that will doom some king or some empire or whatever – typically start by giving the child in question all the motive they could ask for. Oedipus’ll kill his father? Hobble the kid’s legs and make sure he doesn’t know his father from any other angry jerk. This takes a similar set-up and puts a liberal twist on it: a newborn baby could well be bringer of the apocalypse, but Sadie’s going to love it anyway and see if that helps. It’s a fresh take and I’m invested in seeing where it leads. As a narrator, Sadie’s not the most compelling character, in fact she’s very comfortable letting everyone around her be more interesting. I want to see her narrative arc lead toward a more active role, but that’s going to be up to future issues to handle.
Brown’s artwork reminds me of a smoothed-over Sean Murphy. The designs are simple but effective, the first pass looks to emulate standard anatomy and structure with bold shapes and sharp focus, but where Murphy would use stiff lines to define everything, Brown’s willing to allow for a more contoured world. This allows for Sadie to seem matronly and compassionate while still relatable to her militant sister and military father. It gives the world around her a solid and established weight, so that when it bends and breaks around Sadie’s labor pains the reader believes something significant is coming. It’s almost too muddy, washing everything and leaving a film behind, but it doesn’t hurt the visuals.
Babyteeth reads like a strongly-sour lemonade – it’s sweet enough to drink, but it’s the tang that brings you to it.
Alright people, double-time back to the extraction zone. We’re done here. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues