Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Some enjoy the summer for its biking weather as an excuse to pull out the old two-wheeler and crunch a workout, a fashion display, traffic mishaps, and maybe some errands all into one activity. I read comics in air conditioning as much as I can. I like to think we can get along alright.
Whether you’ve already gotten comfy or are taking a breather, here’s some stuff you can read!
•Pigs Might Fly GN (Abadzis/ Dye): Alright, at what point does Peppa Pig start working on steampunk aeronautics? I thought it was all about accents and keeping things tidy, but I may need to catch up.
•Immortal 1 (Potchak/ Gieni): Whooooo-boy. You may be eternal, Red, but that look has been dead for centuries. There were crusades against baggy sleeves, babes, and your side got kicked out of the holy catwalk. And is that a CAPE??? Okay, we’ve hired you a grief counselor, hopefully she can get you out of this world’s largest toilet bowl of a spiral your life is.
•Spider-Men II 1 (Bendis/ Pichelli): Is this some slow build-up campaign so that five months from now (holiday shopping season!!) Marvel makes this huge deal about releasing Spider-Man playing cards. Not a card game, just your standard deck of 52. Thinking of all the costumes Spider-Man has had over the years, someone could print five different packs and never use the same suit twice. And if we’re bringing everyone from the Spider-Verse into this, they could release a deck every day for a month! (Marvel, call me.) [7/10]
Despite both of them being Spider-Man, Peter Parker and Miles Morales are very different people. Peter’s consistently let his life get out of his control, which often doesn’t work well for him, yet now he’s a wealthy industrialist. Miles may still be in high school, but he’s proving to be a young man of incredible focus, though that means he misses stuff off to the side. They both notice when an interdimensional vortex breaks open the New York skyline, but investigating it’s going to be no easy task.
This is a sequel, and sequels have challenges, I get that. They need to revisit old places with the same cast of characters and make it seem new. It’s tricky, plenty of times it doesn’t work, but it’s doable. When it’s done right, the result can offer new insight into the original or take the story in a brand new direction. Peter gets a simple task for once, and Miles discovers that high school doesn’t have to be where the action stops. There’s good stuff here, but the dialogue reads like a prison sentence served with remorseless complaint. Characters talk to themselves and each other about how trapped they are in their own tropes and how frustrating it is to be them, or lash out and challenge whether or not they should exist. When the reader wishes the Wall-Crawler to talk less, that’s a bad Spider-Man.
Pichelli’s helmed the art chores following Miles Morales for years now, and knows how to get the most out of New York’s features and inhabitants. She knows how to present something as background filler in one panel, the central image in the next, and never missing a detail in either case. Her goal is consistently to create a scene with depth, and she gets there. When characters are in masks, she emphasizes positions and poses to provide the excitement, so action sequences can get pretty crazy. Without masks, Pichelli enjoys playing with faces and seeing how many different expressions she can get on a page, and entirely different kind of image. This gives a balance between types of drama that doesn’t happen very often, and it’s refreshing to see someone taking full advantage.
Spider-Men II reads like a rogue song in a playlist – that feeling of finding the rhythm intended for “Upbeat Beats 5” only to lose it when Swedish death metal comes from nowhere.
•Howling 1 (Neilson/ Johnson): So I’m thinking this is the DVD collection cover/ Netflix thumbnail for “Real Housewives: Dire Pet Season”. This would be Fiona, who just moved with her husband Ned into the neighborhood, she’s got one kid that she walks to the bus stop every day, and she breeds werewolves. Her main rival is Samantha, a mother of three with her partner Lori, she runs an online craft store, and is reintroducing sabertooth tigers into the food chain. It’s Den Mother versus Cat Lady in the battle of the shedders! Whoever wins, allergy sufferers lose.
•Dark Days – The Casting 1 (Snyder & Tynion IV/ Kubert & Romita Jr.): AKA the meeting where WBs producers ran their short lists by their properties.
-Hal Jordan: “World’s Sexiest Man 2010! Score!”
-Batman: “The guy from Gigli?!? Are they going to get Will Hunting as Robin? Why don’t they just hire Bane as my costume designer and get it over with?”
-Joker: “So what if they gave me more tattoos than the entire 8th Navy Fleet, are you seeing the six-pack I’ve got? And have you the house he bought to hold his awards in? I’m going to have to shop hard to find a suit to attend the Oscars in. Does Armani work with purple?
-Mr. Terrific: “White boy, I don’t want to hear it.”
•Train 8 1 (Phillipson & Stephan/ Cormack): For those hip-deep in the zombie debate between shamblers and sprinters, there is finally a middle ground. The apocalypse is upon us, and it’s travelling green. Rivers will run red while revenants ride the rails. Even better, every car’s a dining car! (CC Note: Stopitstopitstopit!)
•After Eden 1 (Chitwood/ Thornton): The frog thought it’d been a fair god. It laid down rules, it had enforced them. The dragonfly thought it’d been a good servant, and for that expected good rewards, but instead received no better treatment than any other insect on the pond. If being good didn’t earn any attention, maybe what the Lord of the Lily Pad needed to see was what being bad look like. [6/10]
Anyone thinking that the book of Genesis was a bit too fast paced will appreciate this story of Adam and Eve immediately following their expulsion from paradise. If they could stop bickering for two seconds, they might notice that they still get a lot of divine attention. Two members of the Heavenly host assume duties to monitor God’s latest and see to it they have a chance at survival. A couple of demonic instigators enjoy the idea of continuing the humans’ fall from grace just to rub it in His Holiness’s smug face.
Talk about “back to basics”. With the exception of a few names, there’s nothing new about the story, its themes, its moral dichotomy, or available teachings. The slighted-yet-loyal angels want to see humans thrive outside of paradise, if for no better reason than to justify their continued existence. The prideful-yet-beaten demons can only find satisfaction by striking other creatures down. Anyone that grew up in a household with an Abrahamic religion (and I fall into that category) will instantly recognize everything, and just as likely wonder why they’re reading it again. The reason most obvious to me is that some find it comforting to believe that nothing they do or that’s done to them is really their responsibility, but the result of a proxy war between divine forces.
There are many demands placed on the art, among which are a wide variety of animals to draw, a cast of two to portray the entire human race without omitting racial diversity, races made out of burning purity and total corruption, and the need to make all of the above fit together. Thornton and the art team manage to get all this done competently, though not effectively. For beings of positive or negative energies, the divine appear needlessly attached to the humanoid form (at least when not possessing a beast of the world). The humans keep themselves pretty clean for people just introduced to dirt and toil, and their faces don’t move much except for when they’re trying to blame each other. The art fulfills the obligations put on it, but doesn’t go a step further.
After Eden read like a fresh dose of bad medicine – new designs and branding surround the same old product.
•Centipede 1 (Bemis/ Marron): “I have the experience of eons to draw from, human. I have claws that have rended stars asunder. My carapace deflects attacks that keep pace with light, while my eyes capture lonely photons. My body traces continents, and my legs count in the billions. I have eaten the hope of innumerable dead, fleshling. What possible excuse deludes you to stand against me?”
“Well, for one thing, I got boots. For another, my uncle ran the local arcade…”
•Last Song 1 (Interlandi/ Cantirino): This looks like the farewell album to any number of lead singers. You know, the type that retire, then do a tribute tour, then a follow-up tour, then post-retirement gigs, then release comeback albums, then a duet project to get their grandkids through college. Songs are like twitter checks – there’s never a “last”.
•Dread Gods 1 (Marz/ Sears): “Behold your doom! I am the four-armed god from your most terrible nightmares!”
Mahakali: “Hold my beers.”
•Skin & Earth 1 (Lights): Well, she’s showing more skin than usual, I suppose, but the comics threshold for revealing clothing’s noticeably beyond public society’s average. Perhaps where the really challenging spot’s going to be is the amount of earth we see. Like, dumptrucks of topsoil from out of nowhere corrupting the youth of a generation, mounds of raw dirt distracting otherwise faithful spouses, and crippling episodes with mud destroy families! Come to think of it, what IS up with our fixation on nudity? The only difference between that and earth is that earth has a better chance of doing all that destructive stuff I just mentioned.
•Calexit 1 (Pizzolo/ Nahuelpan): Maybe my Midwest bias is showing, but as far as I can tell this is a normal rush hour shot of LA traffic. Can you give us something interesting to look at, please? [9/10]
California’s gone and done it. They threw the switch, they hit the button, they opened the box: they have seceded from the United States of America. Problem: a sizable chunk of California wasn’t complicit in this plan. Sanctuary or “Sister” cities work tirelessly to establish a network of independence from the US in order to maintain the liberties of the least fortunate, such as the poor and those who immigrated here. One such soul, an adopted refugee named Zora, acts as the driving force of the resistance army being built to defend their claim to California, while those seeking readmittance to the Union invite the National Guard and their top inquisitor to get rid of the undesirables.
Some stories tease out their political message, hide it behind an alien curtain only to be found by those looking for it, while Calexit’s politics stride down a nudist beach. Anyone that’s read anything calling itself news will recognize the key despots controlling the faceless army and imposing their values on families that don’t share them. The revolutionaries and their collaborators may not borrow from anyone famous, but readers may recognize their plight at least. Zora commands great loyalty and inspires unassuming citizens into a well-organized militia, something that one character notes doesn’t quite fit. How a teenage girl became a guerilla hero will almost certainly be a focus in later issues.
Meanwhile, Issue 1 satisfies itself focusing on a street-level courier with his own super-intelligent fake bird trying to make ends meet in the middle of a modern civil war. Jamil, who acts as courier, pharmacist, and agent to cosplayers along with other roles, is the kind of guy that avoids judging people because he knows he wouldn’t hold up against judgment himself. He may not be a positive role model, but he’s also a man that’s authentic with everyone and completes the jobs people pay him for, making him a respectable character.
The art team thrives in urban settings. Maybe it comes from having real life references to pull from, maybe it’s their particular thing, but whatever it is makes Los Angeles come alive in a way film simply can’t replicate. The spectacles are all in place, but illustrated in a way that grounds them, lending an authenticity that stereotyping says shouldn’t exist there. Likewise, people possess attractive qualities without coming off as idealized. The point would seem to showcase a world where a wide variety of features coexist, even when they insist that they can’t.
Calexit reads like a time-travel episode of Star Trek – a story set in the future about a past that hasn’t happened, yet looks suspiciously like the present.
I am winded, gonna get my cool-down started. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues