Variant Coverage – September 6, 2017

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

You like comics? We got a lot of new comics this week.

Let’s look at some comics!

4 Kids Walk into a Bank 5 (Rosenburg/ Boss): Is Alfred Hitchcock going to get involved? Because it’s either that or we’re referencing the Walkers, and I didn’t even know they existed before this, so therefore it makes no sense for the creators to use that as a reference. Unless… the entire comic book industry is built upon a massive conspiracy to jumpstart a Walkers revival! Those clever bastards!

Alien Predator Red Xenomorph Figure: Man, everything’s coming out with a sriracha option these days!

Kingsman The Red Diamond 1 (Williams/ Fraser): I’m seeing the car of James Bond, the driving gloves of The Transporter, the faux-future design styles from Austin Powers, the subdued fashion of Xzibit with a bedazzling gun, and the cinematographer of old school Inspector Gadget. Am I missing anything? I wish I were missing more, but before I wipe parts of my brain have I missed anything?

Star Wars Captain Phasma 1 (Thompson/ Checchetto): And speaking of crossovers, how long have Star Wars and Mad Max been cooking this thing up? (CC Note: I regret this already, but what are you talking about?) I mean just look at her: a tall warrior woman of high rank, armor crafted and polished so carefully you can almost see a reflection. Who did you think the War Boys were talking about, “all shiny and chrome”? [8/10]

Remember when Han Solo threw Cap Phasma into a trash compactor? Good times. Just like Solo, Phasma was out of that thing in minutes, but that’s about where their paths diverge. Once she’s free, Phasma sets herself to making sure no one can blame her for lowering the shields and effectively dooming Starkiller Base. It should be a matter as simple as deleting her activity log and reaching minimum safe distance, but simple doesn’t sell. If Phasma’s going to get away with this and rejoin the First Order’s privileged ranks, she needs to make sure no one else can tell a different story.

The benefit of a diverse cast of developed characters in a story is that spin-offs don’t have to feel cheap. On the contrary, this story comes across as absolutely genuine. Of course Phasma has skills, or else she wouldn’t be leading them or wear customized armor, so of course she’d find some way to survive the ending of Episode VII, and that ending being what it was, of course it would be a tale worth telling. What I didn’t expect to find was a story of an unapologetic villain. Boba Fett’s the story of a clone doing the only thing anyone ever taught him to do, and Vader’s the story of a powerful urchin that cracked under the weight of everyone’s expectations – both sympathetic in a way. With Phasma, there’s no backstory but also no turmoil, it’s just a lot of cold, hard badass.

Checchetto’s worked in the Marvel Star Wars franchise enough by now that he can call it home. He comfortable with the layouts, the scenery, the style, just about any technical aspect of the visual world. It’s a bit weird, even though he’s proven he has a fine range of emotional expressions, that there’s essentially just one face for him to worry about, and even that doesn’t take up much space at all. Every other character just has faceplates and helmets. They’re pretty, they’re iconic, but they get boring after a while.

Captain Phasma reads like an action hero’s diary – “I lost my favorite 15-round clip and didn’t think the day could get any worse, but then it did!”

The Black Sable 1 (Brusha/ Derenick): Screw the Jedi and the Sith, it’s these Force-wielding Corsairs that I want to join up with! They’ve got no problem using clumsy & random blasters, and no problem wearing colors other than black or beige. They’re lightsabers allow for curves in the blade. And perhaps most important of all, they’re moons are actually moons!

Evil Within 1 (O’Sullivan/ Kudranski & Worm): I am all for addressing the evil within, I want to start off with that established. Peering inward, making peace with thoughts and actions, living your best life, all that is aces in my book. But this guy, knee-deep and soaking in what looks like fresh blood from multiple sacrificial offerings? I humbly suggest he consider putting his attention to the evil without. I won’t define everything evil, but I think the flowing humors of otherwise innocent creatures, and also the heedless dismissal of all the effort the dry-cleaners will put into getting those stains out (or throwing out the fabric), can easily clear the bar there.

Astro City 47 (Busiek/ Norton): Do NOT look directly into the cute! Do NOT look directly into the cute!

Dastardly & Muttley 1 (Ennis/ Mauricet): “Let me get this straight, you SABOTAGED Falcon’s ejector seat?!?”
“I swapped out – heh heh heh – the explosive b-bolts – hah hah haaa – with whipping cream cartridges! AH hah hah hah!”
“His entire wing got sent into enemy airspace. You may’ve just gotten him killed!”
“The look on his face! Heee hah haw! It’s going to have whipped cream all over it! Priceless! Ahh hah haaaah!”

Lazaretto 1 (Chapman/ Levang): I knew reboots tend to bank on success based on how edgy and radical their changes are presented, but this version Peanuts featuring Charlie Brown and Franklin busting onto crime scenes doesn’t waste any time, does it? [8/10]

College is supposed to be a magically time in a person’s life. Not under their parents’ supervision, not wholly independent, college students can run full-bore into their exploring their passions, or at least that’s the idea. Charles fears placing one toe out of the carefully laid-out path his parents have prescribed for him, and Tamara would be anxious enough with just her sheltered upbringing but she’s mourning her mother on top of that. Of everyone they’ve met so far, Charlie and Tamara’ve decided they’re the least horrible. While they’re trying to navigate freshmen life, they’re also trying to skirt around catching this trendy new virus going around. Who knows why they’re bothering, everyone else is getting it.

Thinking about it, it’s hard to wonder why more epidemic stories don’t take place on campuses like this. Young people from all over the world, sharing everything available, living in buildings caked with decades’ worth of secretions and eating questionable food – it’s a miracle we’re not all dead. That being said, the featured disease gives the contagion from Outbreak a run for its money. That’s not the standout feature to this story, that medal goes to the way social anxiety’s presented. Normally in fiction, it’s a character quirk others must work around, or an obstacle for the subject to overcome. In Lazaretto, social anxiety ends up saving the two mains from contracting the disease (for now). There’s just enough content regarding the characters, setting, and immediate history for readers to feel introduced properly, but there are plenty of directions this story could go, and I’m intrigued enough to follow it.

The art style plays it loose and just a bit wild, which syncs up with the atmosphere of a new year at college perfectly. Figures are drawn in a fairly cartoony style in that facial features get exaggerated and there’s little heed paid to shading or direct perspective, but basic proportions are exercised. The panel layouts occasionally step into the surreal, which can emphasize or confuse depending on which story thread you tend to follow.

Lazaretto reads like an amazing lecture series – not without its flaws, yet possibly enlightening.

Made Men 1 (Tobin/ Susuni & Duarte): There’s a lot of horribly graphic and visceral imagery going on here, but I have to tip the hat I wish I could wear to its accuracy. Among all the horrible elements present, I can identify snips, snails, and puppy dogs’ tails. If men are being made, this looks legit.

Rocket Girl 9 (Montclaire/ Reeder): If she’s under 18 (CC Note: Watch it!!!!!!), does that mean Batman can’t charge her royalties for observing/ brooding on top of a building’s gargoyle fixture? (CC Note:… Alright.)

Bombshells United 1 (Bennett/ Sauvage): I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more of the Bombshells that’re uniting supposedly, and I’m not just saying that because I like the pin-up art.

Fruit Ninja 1 (Cosby/ Coleman): Well, the next time you get into an argument with a nihilist, prepare to face this cover as an example of why humanity deserves oblivion and nothing more.

Predator Hunters 5 (Warner/ Velasco): You know, yes I claim that YOU KNOW, that when proud Yautja warriors collect the war masks of their fallen brethren, AND they have secured sufficient privacy, said warriors do proceed to push those masks together and make kissy noises. “Mmmm, Roktar, your faceplate is so smoooooooth.” That is FACT, regardless of my having found no evidence to support that idea.

Scales & Scoundrels 1 (Girner/ Galaad): This looks like a shampoo commercial set in a fantasy universe, and in all honesty given the popularity of Game of Thrones, it’s about freakin’ time! I’m not impressed by anything that can give a model’s hair good manageability even in heavy wind or intense green screen exposure anymore. Find me a shampoo that can give flowing locks to the mane of a mythical creature that nests in the clouds and breathes fire hot enough to turn stone towers into glass, though, and I won’t just buy the product, I’ll become a shareholder! Who wouldn’t be interested in things like toothpaste that’ll appease Toothless, or silverware polish that Smaug trusts? Dragon sponsorship is the wave of the future! [8/10]

Luvander’s a skilled fighter, a cunning strategist, a fast runner, a mighty jumper, and she may or may not be a dragon. She wants to sleep on a mountain of precious metals every night, so you’d think nothing could stop her from doing that, but there are just a few little details in the way. First, she avoids killing people, either out of compassion or simple logistics (if she killed everyone weaker than her, they’re be a lot of corpses stinking the place up). Second, she’s incredibly lazy. Why work all day for a wage when you can win it from someone else with just two hands of cards? Sounds ineffectual and harmless, yet the lady can’t go anywhere without getting the attention of one armed militia or another.

The world doesn’t depart from the standard fantasy setting. If anything, it pokes fun at tropes like bounty boards and games within games. Likewise, the plot isn’t anything readers haven’t seen before – troublesome loner making their way in a world built on team-ups – but it’s the kind of story that usually entertains. Luvander as a character presents more questions than answers, but so far it’s mirthfully hilarious to watch her at work.

Galaad’s illustrations and designs attract and direct the eyes all the way through without weighing them down. Aside from light colors and rare use of hard lines, all the figures are drawn in a cartoony style similar to Lumberjanes. This drives up the capacity for expression and action (hammy action, but action), and cares less about precision. In particular, Luvander’s design is worth paying attention to. Most characters go for whole-body styles and colors or themes, but Luv looks like she grabbed her clothes from an unguarded theater wardrobe, tore them apart, and put an outfit together from pieces. The motley look fits with her personality wonderfully, and at the same time weakens her appearance. Just one more question about her backstory.

Scales & Scoundrels reads like a tall tale – so completely unbelievable that you need more.

I like comics, which you could probably tell after me writing what, three years of this blog? Not exactly being subtle, am I?

See you next week!

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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