Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
And so we enter August. Summer’s endgame. Game season. Ice cream’s hey day. The Mercury Workout. The-*
(CC Note: GET ON WITH IT!)
Alright, alright, here’s this week’s newsies…
•Lark’s Killer 1 (Willingham/ Dos Santos): A murder mystery set in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign? Clue, but with a fantasy fellowship? Somebody make this and take my money! No joke, it would be amazing to find secret passages in a castle, knowing that Queen Body’s murderer was in there with you, and ultimately deducing that it was Elven Mage Galeth in the Senechal’s Chambers with the Candleabra of Baran’Dur.
•Elsewhere 1 (Faerber/ Kesgin): Between the steampunk-looking lady, the cro-magnons riding some kind of griffin, and a portal to something that looks like the nihilist platform Thanos hangs around in the movies, I’m guessing this is the result of a tropes Mad Libs. This is how I see some Hollywood blockbuster movies come into existence. [7/10]
On an alien (to us) world, trapped in a dark age by a dark ruler, two prisoners attempt escape under the cover of night. Halfway through the forest, they happen upon another lost soul. This one, a woman in strange clothes and speaking strange words, arrived here on a strange device. She didn’t arrive alone, and believes her companion’s somewhere nearby. Comparing notes, the group decides staying together might let them live slightly longer than going their separate ways, given the circumstances. The lost soul – Amelia Earhart – sees a few things about the situation that’ll just have to change.
This “little lost girl” story doesn’t do anything small, which either misses the point or slams it home, depending on your tastes. Faerber’s Earhart presents as both natural aeronaut and capable performer. Most crucially, she knows when to wear specific masks and when she can take them off. This timing allows her to impress the characters she needs to impress, and also appear sympathetic and vulnerable to the reader. The story begins in media res, so most of the context-providing events have already taken place, and no one talks about them, which leaves the main characters with the responsibility of capturing the reader’s attention. Sadly, they come off as too flat to accomplish the task. The two prisoners come across as generic bickering cops more than anything, and Earhart fits in too well too fast to click with the rest of the world.
The art recreates Earhart’s face and attitude quite well – a woman dedicated to the air with an almost mischievous humor. The designs of the alien world and its natives doesn’t stray too far from what’s already been proven to work, and then only find their way to the page when they have to. Backgrounds are sparse when rendered, and if there’s an excuse not to render them then they’re not. By and large, it’s competent art without much setting it apart.
Elsewhere reads like a set of push-ups – very fine exercise, but not terribly exciting.
•Ghost Station Zero 1 (Johnston/ Chankhamma): “The blood from my neck matched the red of her dress and brought out the fire that I knew from experience never left her eyes. A single streak reached up to her face and drew a line across her cheek, the line I’d dreamt of passing my hand over in earlier days. As the world turned out of focus and the ground met my head, I finally understood what she’d wanted all along. Yesterday had been perfect – no international crises, no competing cadres of assassins, just me, her, and the countryside cabin in Denmark. I’d wanted that day to last forever, but nothing can. We both knew we’d never see each other again, but bleeding into the hardwood floor made it certain that, if she and I couldn’t stay together, she’d at least let me keep the house.”
•Adventure Time Regular Show 1 (McCreery/ Di Meo): Gorilla vs. vampire, rake vs. sword, bathtub bird battle royale! Behold: the Secret Crisis War Times Infinity of cartoons people tell me to watch but I haven’t gotten to yet I’m sorry!
•Dead of Winter 1 (Starks/ Gabo): That’s Krypto, right? Pale fur, red cape, the blood of his foes dripping from his paws, check, check, and check. Batman’s predicted for years that such a dog could destroy the world, but since this is clearly post-zombie-cataclysm, I say let the pooch have his day.
•Galaktikon 1 (Powell & Small/ Mannion & Moore): Is he a guy in a cloaked space suit? A constellation illustrated for a kids book? A hair stylist for the stars? Can I drink from a Galaktikon Galaktiki mug? How does he stand so confidently when it appears cosmic radiation’s reaching into his space groin? Too many questions!! [6/10]
Galaktikon once served as a universal champion. He single-handedly pushed back storms of oppression, saved civilizations, all while winning the heart of the most beautiful woman reporter in all the cosmos. Many said he’d earned the right to some privacy, to enjoy the more mundane things in life, and settle down. Turns out he was horrible at that, almost as bad as he was at handling alcohol, managing his affairs, listening to his lawyer, or addressing pictures of his junk. Now all anyone think’s he’s earned is everything bad that’s happening to him right now. As bad as that’s proving to be, there’s a blood-eating “prisoner” that’d like to see him suffer even more.
Who ordered the half-and-half space fantasy/ superhero combo served on satire? Whoever did, it’s fresh out of the kitchen. Galaktikon’s the classic example of the person that thought everything would sort itself out after a few adventures and parades, and once they found someone that’d say “yes”. Little did he know that even in the future, nothing works like that. In fact, the things that get him into the most trouble just happen to read a lot like some of the more scintillating reads from recent newspaper headlines. Galaktikon’s estranged spouse Lizrya proves to be a deeper character than he is, but gets three pages of page time to allow for more focus on the galaxy’s savior and his guitar-riffing robot buddy. Setting up so many things to accomplish create a narrow target for this issue to hit, and while it doesn’t miss, I can’t call it a hit.
Like Galakitkon’s browser history, the artwork focuses a glossy, idealized eye on a sloppy mess. Whether on Earth, another planet, or anywhere in the infinite void between them, everyone’s got their own idea of what looks good, so on any page there are five different styles competing for the reader’s attention. As far as character and setting design go, this demonstrates glorious attention to detail and exhaustive thought going into this book, but in practice it’s difficult to focus on any one thing. Instead of the shiny, bright lighting and color so many sci-fi worlds suggest, Galaktikon showcases everything through a filter of murky haze. It sells the tone of the book effectively, but it’s also dirty to look at.
Galaktikon reads like a kindergarten-level portrait – it’s made with affection, there’s definitely a connection, and yet it’s not what most would call “pretty”.
•Spiritus 1 (Daniel/ Kennedy): And apparently once the robots have finished conquering humanity, they keep a few around to humiliate them in the Olympics. The robots COULD just build a frame that runs faster than the human form or physical laws would allow, but from this cover it looks like they pit basic model ‘bots against clearly-shackled people and then copy them. If covers had audio tracks, we could likely hear “Dur dur, this is you” from the automaton. Future robot oppressors are jerks!
•All Time Comics Blind Justice 1 (Bayer, Trimpe, Marra): This heart-pulling tale of an action figure with eye-sculpts, but no paint to make them functional. It’s Toy Story meets Zatoichi!
•Phantom – President Lincoln’s Mission 1 (Goulart/ Molina): I normally don’t do this, but already the book has missed the mark. I get that the Phantom didn’t hit the public until the 1930s, but even then his lore explained that the title when back generations. Screw the WWI era Phantom taking down mobsters and retrieving America’s womens. Let’s see a Civil-War era story featuring the 16th President of the USA weary of having seen so many of his countrymen fall, taking a desperate gamble on an impossible mission and the impossible agent he found to complete it: the Ghost Who Walks. Hollywood, call me.
•Robotech 1 (Wood/ Turini): Hey, wait a minute, you can’t fool me twice and get away with it! Don’t fall for it, folks – if a Japanese singing sensation is pointing behind you, it’s not because that’s where the buffet is, it’s because she doesn’t want you to notice the giant man and his gianter robot stepping away from accidentally trashing your car. NEVER AGAIN, YOU HERE ME!
•Mech Cadet Yu 1 (Pak/ Miyazawa): “Oh wow, my very own giant robot! I’m looking very forward to the many adventures we’ll have that parallel the experience of growing up and making one’s own place in the world. How exactly will I be piloting you? Will your movements be controlled by a joystick and display panel, or will our brains synchronize to coordinate faster?”
“Meat capsule, your chattering fails to achieve sense.” *SQUISH* [8/10]
Yu’s spent his entire life watching as techno-magical giants descended from the heavens and partnered with teenagers just a few at a time. It’s his most treasured wish to be part of the planet’s defense against the plague of space monsters threatening to ravage the entire galaxy. Instead he works with his mother on the janitorial staff (which might be a violation of child labor laws?) while the elite’s elite chuck empty cans and slurs at him. On the other side of the atmosphere, after a journey of light-years, a blue specimen of docile-yet-dangerous titans hopes to establish an alliance with one of the tiny meat creatures whose cunning and savagery are the keys to unlocking their full potential. It survived unspeakable horrors in the vacuum of space, yet trips and smacks itself on the head during landing. If only these two dorks could find each other…
The balance of this inaugural issue is probably the most upsetting thing about the title. The first couple of pages are intense with exposition and lore, immediately followed by classism and repeated demonstrations of social systems that use new tools to do the same old crap. This genre of stories usually gets roped into ferrying cultural commentary along with mountain-scaled action sequences, and Mech Cadet Yu doesn’t waste time following the trend. Instead of examining war culture’s affect on youth, MCY shines its magnifying glass on an uncomfortable truth about a “land of opportunity”: if starting from the bottom and aiming for the top, it honestly takes nothing less than a helping hand from the stars themselves. Still, so long as they’re painting a world where aliens are friendly bleeping robots, no reason not to make them impartial judges of character too.
Miyazawa’s art style hasn’t lost a step. He brings a manga-inspired feel into conventional panel layout, creating accessibility and understanding to every element of the narrative. It’s a fun job when it’s about drawing battle mechs and war heroes giving the thumbs-up to new recruits, less so when parents try to help their children face painful truths in life, yet those and everything in between gets rendered with the same clarity. The coloring roots itself in the fundamentals, as in the basic colors feature prominently, enjoy adequate shading, and avoid standing out as the most remarkable thing on the page.
Mech Cadet Yu reads like Pacific Rim written by John Green – come for the spectacle, stay to get punched in the feels.
You’re not getting any more from me, poetry or otherwise. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues