Variant Coverage – September 27, 2017

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

We got comics, yes we do!
I got reviews, how ‘bout you?

(CC Note: You did NOT just channel a cheerleader.)

Graveland 1 (Rosi/ Nunez): Mayor of Graceland – “Tourism income’s down all over the place. We need to attract more young people! Throw ideas at me. We’re just brainstorming, no bad ideas, no wrong answers, I wanna hear it all.”
Lackey – “We could give the whole city a grim and gritty reboot. They’re really popular with kids these days. And seasonal, what with Halloween coming up.”
MoG – “You’re fired. If you’re still on the premises by lunch I’ll have you arrested.”
L – “But you said there were no bad ideas!”
MoG – “That was before I heard the worst idea ever conceived of by mortal man.”
L – “Fine! I’ll take my idea somewhere else, and they’ll like it so much they’ll sell it in stores across the nation!”
MoG – “If that ever happens, I’ll eat the King’s jumpsuit!”

Captain Kronos 1 (Abnett/ Mandrake): Registering your ship in Transylvania may sound like a good idea – instant brand recognition, no inspections – but if you miss one quarterly tax payment they will literally peel it out of your hide. [7/10]

Who likes vampires, because we’ve got vampires all over the place! We’ve got vampires that drink blood, vampires that feed on raw life energy, vampires that shapeshift, we’ve even got vampires that can work retail hours during the day to sell you books on how many different vampires there are. Without a Van Helsing handy, Captain “Who needs a first name” Kronos takes up the mantle of premiere vampire hunter, and his business is booming. With his wise mentor Grost and corset-sporting Carla (here serving as both hunter-in-training and narrator), there are few undead hordes that can hold against Cpt. Kronos for long. Their next stop asks the team to look into a local infestation that’s already claimed the city’s undesirable district, hopefully before anyone in the richer districts is taken or inconvenienced.

There’s a tongue-in-cheek way to tell stories, where the presentation emphasizes the common or mockable elements as a way of throwing a knowing wink to the audience. Captain Kronos tells its story with tongue, full steak dinner, and family of chipmunks in its cheek. There’s no insult without a witty retort, no fight without five extra kegs of blood, and no innuendo unpunished. It’s clearly overwritten, but in an almost comforting way. It follows the beats so steadily and on cue you could set a watch to it. There’s little characterization beyond “badass good guy”, “badass bad guy”, and “non-combatant please don’t hit me”, marking perhaps the only place where the book only goes as far as it has to – everything else is over the top.

Mandrake’s art style reminds me of Joe Kubert or Chris Mooneyham – angular detailing over precise curves to create a sharp image with either motion or tension. The setting’s clothing options might have come out of an excited costume designer’s sketchbook, with heavy leather cloaks and billowing fabric and accessories made for a steampunk game. The protagonist team is so good at what they do that they never look worried or scared, and at worst surprised that someone else stole their kill. Nothing in the illustrations will shock you, but at the same time it will not disappoint.

Captain Kronos reads like an old blanket – parts are so overused they may just not work anymore, but just holding it trigger a feeling of contentment.

Ducktales 1 (Caramagna/ Usai & Florio): Carl Barks didn’t just set the bar when it came to Disney comics creation, he raised it so often he inspired Green Arrow’s Salmon Ladder. The man put anthropomorphic ducks together with accurate military technology and historical sites in such a distinctive way that readers knew when he’d taken a break even though comics back then didn’t mention the creative teams. Pan over to something like this, where a man takes his kids and a flaming torch to check out what could be a gas leak? I’m not mad, Disney, I’m just disappointed.

Fu Jitsu 1 (Nitz/ St. Claire): Holy crap, everyone, check this out! He found Carmen Sandiego! HE FOUND CARMEN SANDIEGO!

Bastard’s Waltz GN (Bertolini/ Giovanni): It’s pretty much the same as a normal waltz, just less certification (and perhaps more beatings).

Hellblazer 14 (Seeley/ Marino): I wonder who’s going to be more offended by this cover: John Constantine, who’s finally starting to comprehend how much people mean it when they call him a worm, or the worm that was going to enjoy its twilight years in a tequila bottle before some uppity Brit in a dirty trench coat swiped its spot.

Detective Comics 965 (Tynion IV/ Barrows): “Tim, we were all so broken up when it looked like you died, and now that you’re back, well. It’s not much, but we all got together and had a new costume made for you. We hope this shows just how much you mean to us and that nothing will ever take the place of the role you fill here.”
“That’s funny, because I’d hope one of you would’ve remembered I’m an XL.” [7/10]

Tim Drake stood unique among the Robins. While Batman chose Dick Grayson for their shared pain, Jason Todd for his aggressive skills, and Damian because he’s his freakin’ kid, Tim chose Batman. (It’s because this is New 52 territory that I’m not including Stephanie Brown.) Tim puzzled out Batman’s home address, broke in, pulled out a carton of leftovers, sat himself down, and explained to everyone there that he was Robin now. Now he’s explaining all this to the spooky space wizard, Mr. Oz, that has him caged in a salvaged Kryptonian ship, with other anonymous prisoners. Mr. Oz clearly has a lot to learn about Robin, or he’d know never to trust any cage to hold any Bat-trained Boy Wonder. Tim doesn’t waste time turning his momentary escape into a full-on jail break, which is about when Tim regrets not getting to know his neighbors.

This may claim to be the beginning of Tim Drake’s reintroduction into active service, but more than anything it’s a Powerpoint presentation on why audiences should like him, and at that it’s highly effective. It presents key moments that survived the multiple universe shifts to become a rather creepy “This is Your Life” episode hosted by Space Gandalf (who buys his robes from a Green Lantern fan shop). What the book fails to do is satisfy its audience’s questions to why Tim was abducted and his death staged in the first place. In fact, so many new elements are added it just poses more possible scenarios instead of narrowing them down. By the end, you’d be perfectly justified in feeling frustrated.

Barrows’ art reliably presents all the visual elements in a standard house style: loads of pretty people with model-level physiques, elaborately designed scenery, all rendered with proportion-accurate detail and a flair for the Hollywood blockbuster. The heavy and rough inking serves as the only indication that the characters are on a prison ship (by use if not by design), or that they’ve been there for a long while now. It wouldn’t have taken much effort to add some facial hair and really sell how certain characters suffer under their conditions more than others. Despite these relatively standard errors, the pages are easy to look at and comprehend.

Detective Comics reads like a neat comic about a detective – not everything has to be a convoluted comparison.

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again 5 (Bunn/ Talajic): When readers complain that death doesn’t mean anything in comics anymore, they’re talking about this! It doesn’t matter that Deadpool killed the Marvel Universe already because now he has to do it again. The next series needs to focus on Mistress Death alone in a bar, ashen tears falling into one of five empty bottles, wondering if she’ll ever be relevant again.

Batman the Murder Machine 1 (Tieri/ Federici): Superman – “Explain, Bruce. We ALL want to hear this one.”
Batman – “It’ll only make you mad.”
Justice League – “WE’RE ALREADY THERE!”
Batman – “I’d heard Ra’s al Ghul was developing a weapon that’d create instant clones of people cities at a time. National populations could double in a matter of hours. He wanted to accelerate the countdown to a global hunger epidemic.”
Flash – “What does that have to do with a ohmygod I think I see where this is going.
Batman – “I needed a way to contain the situation until the mass cloning device could be stopped and shut down Ra’s’ plan, so I invented something that would remove clones. It needs a firmware patch is all.”
Wonder Woman – “This may be the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and I watched a man serve a king his own son for dinner.”

Dishonored – Peeress and the Price 1 (Moreci/ Olimpieri): You can testify that they’ve abandoned their leaders, forsaken their country, doomed their people, broken their oaths, or blasphemed against their gods, but by all we hold as true they have clearly shown only the highest honor to the world of fashion.

Marvel Legacy 1 (Aaron/ just about everyone?): So everyone on this cover’s been considered dead at one point. They were either left for dead, declared dead by a certified coroner, had their death faked, or lost enough memory that the person they were could be thought of as dead. Knowing that, could we consider this cover the Western adaptation of Corpse Party? (CC Note: No. By all that is sacred, no. Just no.) [7/10]

In classic soap opera fashion, this follows multiple small groups of characters on different adventures that – so far – barely relate to each other at all. Maybe ten thousand years ago, a team that might qualify as the first Avengers take on a mentally unwell Celestial. Yesterday, Robbie Reyes fell asleep behind the wheel of his hell-powered muscle car and wound up on the other side of the planet. SHIELD is shutting down all operations, a certain parties (upset they’re not having a closing sale) want to help themselves to a few items before they get shoved into a storage locker to collect dust.

From a first glance, there’s a lot going on in this book. The cast is robust, everyone’s hitting hard, and there’s no shortage of targets. Parts of the story go back millennia while others reach out beyond the stars. It’s breaking out all the premium set pieces and sparing no expense on the special effects. Plenty of guest cameos to get the old school crowd riled up. But when it comes time to read the thing and gain the experience, there’s very little to work with. Most of the story threads start in media res, with no flashbacks to useful information or narration boxes to provide context. There are teases and clues, but none of them are delivered in a way that can be trusted – it’s always either off to the side where no one else can see, or punctuated with a question mark. The story clearly wants to set up something big, but by the end it has about as much substance as a cocktail napkin sketch.

Now if Marvel was selling this as an artist anthology book, I’d have worn my fingers out writing its praises by now. Most of the top-tier illustrators active in the Bullpen contribute something, most of them delivering material they’re either already known for or are so comfortable with they might as well have creator status. What’s particularly striking is that the styles don’t change or shift like in your typical “all-hands-on-deck” collection, but they almost flow into one another. One style avoids black outlines and relies on pencil-like coloring for depth, the next uses black and works with a pastel-ish palette, the next uses so much black it might as well use negative space. The transitions are noticeable but not jarring, and by the end the reader feels like they saw three wings of an art museum.

Marvel Legacy reads like a studio’s portfolio – there’s obvious talent and they want to show off, they’re not working against each other, and yet there’s not a common goal at the moment.

See you next week! (CC Note: Take these.) (I don’t want your pom-poms.) (CC Note: Part of you clearly dooooooeeessss!)

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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