Variant Coverage – August 8, 2017

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Are you ready? Get ready, this is important. Alright?

You’ve got a bit of homework this week: find the common thread in all three books I reviewed. Ready? Go!

Behaving Madly HC (Various): This new model of Stepford wife just wants to show how many man hours went into its engineering. I’m just not sure if it synchs up with the broader mission if it’s a bunch of men operating a woman. (CC Note: Watch or read just about anything from the 1950’s and you’ll find that would’ve been called a feature.) And are those tiny men in an average-size woman or average-size men in a 50-foot woman? (CC Note: Both are plausible!)

Transformers ‘Til All Are One 12 (Scott/ Pitre-Durocher): What IS it with Cybertronians and face-stealing? Near as I can tell, the closest human-civilization comparison might be cutting off a samurai’s top-knot. Top-knots continue to show up on the street here and there (see man-bun), and while I don’t claim membership to the camp saying “you shouldn’t have a top-knot unless you’re a genuine samurai”, I do get mail there. So maybe Starscream’s just been caught in some culture-appropriation and Windblade’s gently suggesting he reconsider his fashion statements?

Mister Miracle 1 (King/ Gerads): “I need a volunteer from the audience… to scratch my nose. Anyone in the house, please. There’s a piece of feather boa I think that landed in just the wrong place and it’s driving me crazy. It’s making me nostalgic for Apokalips, that’s how torturous this is, somebody save me!” [8/10]

To say Scott Free’s upbringing was complicated is like saying the Atlantic Ocean contains moisture. Raised on a hell planet by an emotionally-manipulative sadist and forced to learn the art of escaping death traps before puberty, the man that would be Mister Miracle cannot be contained or shut out of anything. When he’s chained down with two tons of metal links held together by a 1,000 pin lock on a platform that’ll drown in molten lava, that’s an amazing skill to have, less so when he’s facing survivor’s guilt and dissociation. Life or Death: where does a person go when they can’t tell which one’s the trap?

Mister Miracle and his partner Big Barda built a legacy around impossible odds and how to beat them in inspiring ways. This is no such story. If anything, this is about every tragedy Scott’s ever avoided catching up with him at once. What stays consistent is that he keeps the audience guessing right through the end – is this the tragedy it looks like, or just a set-up to a larger trick? Little threads litter the story without interfering, and where in other situations this could minimize the stakes, here it potentially doubles them. One way or another, parts of Mister Miracle’s world are coming apart, and maybe not enough parts to satisfy him. The reader’ll start this book wondering how much to believe, and by the end they won’t have answers, but perhaps enough new questions to pick up issue #2.

The artwork shifts away from the Kirby-esque larger-that-life style Miracle’s usually associated with and heads more in a photo-based, grainy, down-to-Earth approach. Even when gods walk on beaches and bright costumes stand before portals to other worlds, there’s a weight that anchors things from appearing light or clean. It’s how the initial jolt from the first page carries on to the last. It’s not the prettiest art you’ll find this week, but it fits the subject and characters perfectly, and without disrespect.

Mister Miracle reads like a celebrity’s unabridged biography – if all you know is the glamour and effects, this’ll be a big (and uncomfortable) learning experience.

Quake Champions 1 (Ram V/ Quah): I get investing in soldiers, armor, and weapons when planning an arena for various death matches. You want your contestants trained, your outfits intimidating, and your weapons functional. It all makes sense. I just wonder how much more it would have cost to install a complete floor. Did you even put the job up for bid?

Night’s Dominion II 1 (Ted Naifeh): Life tip, kids: do NOT rip entries out of the card catalog at the library. Librarians are wonderfully helpful, many are friendly, but not one of them puts up with that nonsense.

Ghost Money 1 (Smolderen/ Bertail): Did this lady buy her ultra-futuristic limo with ghost money? Does she think her future’s so bright she has to wear shades? Because someone I knew bought pretty much all of his stuff with ghost money, and he’s in jail now. He argued that his money was dead and all of his stuff wasn’t alive and he didn’t see the problem, but I guess the judge wasn’t a believer.

Gotham Academy 12 (Fletcher, Cloonan, Kerschl/ Archer, Hope, Msassyk): It’s sweet to see friends hugging. There aren’t many situations where that isn’t appropriate either. One could argue sitting in a white-hot fire would be one of those situations and they should be stopping, dropping, and rolling instead, but that one should stop hating.

The Shadow 1 (Spurrier/ HDB): Lamont Cranston’s always known what evil lurks in the hearts of men, but now (as Michael William Kaluta’s cover reveals) he knows where that evil lurks. This particular weed of crime – the one that just happens to look like a brick apartment building – will require him to reload the old weed-wackers on his hip a few times, but he’s determined to get it done. [7/10]

There’s a man that knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and played host to it during many of his formative years. Once it was burnt out of him, the man set to rip it out of the rest of the world. He dedicated his life to that cause, perhaps not realizing just how long he would live. He’s seen the world at war, the rise and fall of the Iron Curtain, all the way to the tragedy of school shootings. In the present day, all anyone has to do is watch the news for five minutes to see how invasive and resilient the weed of crime has gotten. Even someone about to swear the Hippocratic Oath recognizes the need for someone willing to reach in and cut out the tumor poisoning the body. 

An amnesia story that’ll probably lead to a heroic rebirth (even polite enough to include restoration by fire), this story threatens to fall into cliché but instead dips its foot in enough to splash. Mary the soon-to-be doctor plays narrator throughout the entire issue, and there’s more narration than most first issues would dare use. Flashback images help keep the eye interested, and her perspective isn’t omniscient, two factors which keep such a story from coming across as hokey or tired. There’s an element of humor and vulnerability that hits Cranston below the belt and that most writers have avoided, but Spurrier seems eager to jump in. That more than anything should gives readers hope to be excited.

The art style’s fairly standard Dynamite format: hyper-idealized figures and exaggerated poses, impossible garments, and set facial expressions asked to do just a bit too much. Mary alone stands as a typical example – despite a steady diet of long hours stuffed with intense physical and mental labor, little time for self-care, and less sleep, she possesses a lean body with curves and tightness strategically placed such that they shouldn’t be possible with heavy tailoring and workout regimens. There wouldn’t be much to look at without her (unless you like your heroes extra crispy), and it’ll be up to the reader to decide if it’s clever visual teasing or cheap objectification.

The Shadow reads like a series of clever highway signs – a bit of witty mixed with intrigue make an otherwise dry subject worth the effort of following.

Grant Morrison’s 18 Days 25 (Morrison & Chadda/ Biagini): “I’ve just had a giant idea!”
-“S-surely the result of your sharp wit, King Damocles. Yes, ahem, I’ll just be going now…”

First Strike 1 (Scott & Rodriguez/ Dunbar): It took me a few looks at Freddie Williams III’s cover before I pinned down what creeped me out about it. Notice how a couple of faces sort of bleed into the torsos of other characters? It’s like Scarlett and Roadblock are wearing other characters’ faces. Where did they get them? Anyone want to confess? Looking in your direction, Cybertron!

Redlands 1 (Bellaire & Del Ray): White vinegar’s good for the blood stains – a day’s soaking before it sets and you’ll never see it again. Now the snakes, that’s going to cost you. I’ll have to import something from Ireland to get to work on that. It’ll be a couple of weeks, just try not to disturb the nest until then.

Generations Phoenix & Jean Grey 1 (Aaron A/ Silva): I’m not going to pretend I know what’s involved in getting a perm, but Stephanie Hans would have us believe that some people’s hair is so thick that it takes splitting the atom to avoid split ends. (CC Note: You’re horrible and you know what you did.)

Star Wars Rogue One Cassian & K-2SO 1 (Swierczynski/ Blanco): Please be advised that this book contains more than 100% of the AMA’s suggested daily amount of robot sass. Readers on a sass-free or light sass diet are advised to read an alternative Star Wars book. The contained robot sass is from DMU sources (Disney Modified Universe). Readers that suffer from a sass-related outbreak should seek medical attention for the rod up their butts. By reading this, you absolve Comic Carnival of all legal responsibility for painful robot sass episodes. [8/10]

Captain Cassian Andor can handle armies, explosions, and most any vehicle ever made. He cannot handle conversational silence, and seeing as he’s escorting two intel operatives of a species that communicated by pheromones, he’s not off to his best start. There’s a downed Star Destroyer the Empire lost track of, and if they can get to it first, it’s a treasure trove of Imperial data and security protocols. They just need to keep one step ahead of the full deployment of Stormtroopers and support droids, which didn’t lose as much track of the thing as may’ve been advertised.

This is the story of how the Rebel superspy picked up his uncanny and unflappable robot partner. The movie never went into the nuts and bolts of how that happened, and while they never implied it was an easy meeting, I didn’t expect such a morbid comedy of errors. The fate of the Rebel Alliance hangs in the balance, and there’s also time for toilet humor. What I found particularly refreshing was how little of K-2SO’s personality came from his mental refurbishing into a Rebel asset – he’s just a smug asshole down to his ones and zeroes. It either demonstrates a capacity for self-awareness rarely seen from the Empire, or serves as an excuse for an abusive comedy couple. It doesn’t matter which.

While not as glamorous as some other artists in the Star Wars stable, Blanco takes care to give each figure enough distinctive characteristics to show up on the page (except for the faceless, cloned-by-the-thousands Stormtroopers, of course). The two intel operatives, who at first glance look like purple alien copies of each other, quickly and consistently feature variations. Cassian and all the KX units appear just about as they did in Rogue One. Essentially, the story looks like fully-processed storyboards from any of the Star Wars films, set on a world with a slightly redder sun than usual.

Cassian & K-2SO reads like the end of Casablanca – the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Figure out what Star Wars, The Shadow, and Mister Miracle all have in common? Highlight the space between this line and the Comic Carnival picture to find out if you were right. See you next week!

They all work best as a set!
-Mister Miracle with Big Barda,
-Cassian with K-2SO,
-The Shadow with reasons to hide his face.

I’ll see myself out.

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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