Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
It’s getting close to spooky happy candy times! Are you ready for spooky happy candy times, because we’ve got a bunch of books that can get you ready for spooky happy candy times. Am I getting paid by the number of times I can work “spooky happy candy times” into this blog? Well, that’s just ridiculous.
Now don’t think about that and read these spooky happy candy times reviews!
•Black Crown Quarterly 1 (Various): Is this set on one of those weird Michael Bay worlds where everyone keeps their couches and televisions outside? You’d think that might dissuade couples from making out on said couches, but maybe you’d also think that smokers wouldn’t blow puffs into the faces of people with guns, be they toy alien or otherwise. Perhaps we can all agree this is a disturbing universe? [8/10]
My usual summary won’t work with this book, being an anthology series, but I can tell you that if you’ve read comics outside of the mainstream, are thinking of doing so, or wonder what some of the newer creative voices sound like in their own heads, this probably has something to interest you. It features previews, collages, interviews, self-made ads, even a pull-out poster.
Some anthologies follow a certain theme or devote themselves to a particular kind of voice, but as far as I can tell there’s no unifying trend besides everyone being involved in comics. Some are new creatives getting their first taste of national distribution, others have already found their style and audience and are lending their services. The big selling point here’s the variety: some of the pieces focus on already-released projects from popular imprints, while others could easily slip under most radars without this bit of attention. Samples of issues are broken up by creator interviews or commentaries to keep the reader on their toes, which also makes for excellent re-reading potential: in one sitting you may want to carefully absorb one writer’s Q&A session, in another you can breeze through a quick four-page adventure.
Of course, as with everything else, the art changes with the project. Some of it appeals more to me than others, but with each story the art successfully complemented the narrative. Even the text-heavy interviews incorporated enough visual stimulus to keep the eye from getting bored.
Black Crown Quarterly reads like good photo album – some are great, some hilarious, others may not be your thing, but there’s not a bad one in the bunch.
•Complete Strange Growths 1991-1997 (Jenny Zervarkis): This looks way better than the last volume of strange growths I read. It was in the hospital, I’d gotten into the patient files (as one does), and you probably don’t need the details. Just know that a calm meadow like this would’ve been much better for my dinner date.
•Night’s Dominion 3 (Ted Naifeh): “And up there’s where I lost my pants. Or my shirt. Which one am I missing again? Maybe my shoes know. Hey, has anyone seen my shoes? Check the bar, sometimes they like ladies to drink out of them. Men, too, come to think of it, they’re open-minded like that. My shoes are awesome, I don’t know why my shirt would leave them.”
•Ruff and Reddy 1 (Chaykin/ Rey): When dogs lie with cats in harmony, that’s when the world as we know it is prophesied to end. When they have to appear cordial to each other at work to keep anyone from filing another complaint with HR, meanwhile covertly sabotaging each other’s reports to the CEO because there’s one VP position opening up in eight months and each one’s convinced they’ve put in the most to this company and this is their time, not only are things just fine, but you’ve got a new primetime frenemy drama.
•Goosebumps Monsters at Midnight 1 (Lambert/ Fenoglio): It’s really sweet that so many creatures are coming out to check in on this sweet little girl when it’s so far past her bedtime. But with all the sickly green lights everywhere, I’m wondering if this part of the library is in the basement. If so, they better have advanced protection against water damage AND they probably need to check for Radon. Something’s warping the shelves already and I can hear contractors calculating estimates from here.
•Eternity 1 (Kindt/ Hairsine): You may feel like you’ve waited forever for your clothes to come out of the dryer, but until your sun’s burned itself down to a red dwarf, this guy doesn’t want to hear your story. [7/10]
When humanity shot its first people into space, they patted themselves on each other’s backs and toasted to Abram, Kasmir, and Myshka, the brave men and woman who sacrificed so much for the sake of technological achievement. When the pair came back with powers so terrific they could be called divine, some people crapped their pants in fear. Others rejoiced for the chance to connect with the universe, but most kept their heads down in the hopes that they wouldn’t make the cosmic super-couple upset. When the collective of all-seeing aliens that hooked these two up with the celestial upgrade hear that their oracle just died, they take a page from the history books and sacrifice something of Abram and Myshka’s.
Full disclosure: I have not been keeping up with the Divinity series, which basically asks the question from the first Star Trek movie of people instead of satellites: what if something we sent away came back as more than we were ready to handle? That said, it brings the reader up to speed without resorting to heavy exposition, so long as the reader’s willing to accept the most boring available answer (that the returning entities, finding godhood troublesome, satisfy themselves by playing house). It’s a thinker’s disappointment, but it’s followed by a different moral question. I’d say I’m intrigued, but if precedent’s going to serve as prediction, the end will probably disappoint too.
Trevor Hairsine’s no stranger to larger-than-life illustration. He came into the spotlight pitting manufactured superpeople against global political powers, and he’s gotten quite comfortable with the genre. Hairsine may not be able to draw an exactly “casual” person – they all tend toward 2% body fat and form-fitting fashion statements – but he can pose them in just about any fashion he wants authentically and energetically. His emotional range isn’t fantastic, but he actually has a range, which is more than many dyed-in-the-wool super-action-comic pencillers can say. He also gets a few chance to truly play with the visuals, and when he plays everyone else has fun.
Eternity reads like a college-level science paper – it wants to be ground-breaking, but limits itself to something barely academic.
•Jughead the Hunger 1 (Tieri/ Kennedy & Kennedy): “Congratulations, Jughead, I think this breaks your personal record: 54 consecutive minutes without eating! Seriously, I know I got mad at first when you wouldn’t stop complaining, but this last stretch you’ve been practically serene. What’s your secret, man?”
“Oh you know, a blend of discipline, reminding myself that a slight peckish feeling isn’t the end of the world, but mostly it was eating my own face off.”
•No Room for Magic 1 (Adrian Ramos): You’re telling me in all the cosmos – which is infinite as far as we as a species can tell – in all of space and perhaps time, we can’t find a little corner somewhere for Magic? Did Hogwarts fall behind on paying their storage facility? Did Grandpa Joe back there just drop it on the way to the barber’s? Maybe hoodie mini-Conan there wants the shelf space for his totes epic goblin cleaver, or the were-puppy’s chasing them out, or Mama and daughter need a place for their craft table. Sure, there’re light years of perfectly empty void in-between those two solar systems there, what if Great Aunt Beverly comes by and wants to hang her blood rituals up?
•Street Angel Superhero for a Day HC (Rugg & Maruca): From the look of things, yesterday might’ve been a better day for it, but it doesn’t look like she’s bitter. Good for her!
•Ghostbusters Answer the Call 1 (Thompson/ Howell): I enjoy the busy qualities of this cover and how they pile layers of meaning on the title. The Ghostbusters themselves don’t have a livelihood without answering phones (strange there’s no web order option for an exorcism yet, but maybe next movie), plus there’re the ghosts that cry for a response from the living, that’s cool. And for the haters, they get to see them falling from New York skyscrapers to what could be their deaths, though it’s more likely into a bouncy castle because come on they look so happy!
•Hack/ Slash Resurrection 1 (Howard/ Celor): You think she’s got that medieval bat on hand because she’s sick of getting issued uniforms two sizes too small? If I couldn’t get ready for work without bracing myself for wedgies and difficulty breathing, I’d equip something that can deal blunt and stabbing damage, too. [7/10]
Cassie Hack’s no stranger to loss. Her mother lost her mind and became a genuine horror-movie monster. Cassie put a full stop to that before it became a franchise, then devoted herself to stopping ever horror villain she could track down, losing her mother and innocence in own blur. She lost Vlad, the friend she always wanted in a monster’s body, and then lost her motivation. She’s kept her reflexes and hunting skills sharp through competitive video gaming, and trusted the world to forget about her. Instead, there’s a friend of her mother’s with Cassie’s cell phone number, and a rogue doctor roughly halfway to curing death sending her his test subjects, so once again the world disappoints her.
Full disclosure: I haven’t followed the Hack/ Slash series that closely, either. I know the basics, which boil down to horror-movie tropes vs. other horror-movie tropes. In that sense, this issue flows right with the trend. Cassie’s seen too much for her age, is trying to reclaim a childhood she never had, and despite a diet of ramen and misanthropy has a figure of skin and sinew. Her painful desire to just sulk and lick her emotional wounds are clear enough, or as clear as the circumstances bringing her back into the action are hackneyed. Reading this story, you get the feeling that every contributing character got started, stopped, checked their role in the manual, tried to think an extra step ahead, and went back to it. It’s dizzying, but in the way that’ll make you get back in line to ride again.
To match the narrative’s self-awareness, the art shamelessly embraces the conventions of this kind of tale: gore, spatter, and cheesecake at every available opportunity. You’d think this would be an easy thing to keep consistent (especially with one person on art chores), but you’d be sadly wrong. Things start smoothly enough, but stumble into over-inked objects and painful distortions about two-thirds of the way through. The female lead always looks a bit too well-cut for her own good in these kinds of stories, but by the end of the issue the reader can expect to reactively cringe whenever the phrase “thigh gap” pops into their head. I never thought they’d play against the norm going into this book, but from the look of this issue the artist almost wants to punish the reader for enjoying anything about the genre.
Hack/ Slash Resurrection reads like a joke you didn’t hear until after you laughed – fun at first, but thinking about it makes you just a bit uncomfortable.
See you next spooky happy candy times week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues