Variant Coverage – November 22, 2017

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Some public service announcements:
-Comic Carnival will be CLOSED Thursday for Thanksgiving Day, but regular hours Friday and Saturday.
-The turkey is done when a meat thermometer measures the thigh at 180 F, and the breast at 165 F.
-If you find yourself in a social situation that’s awful, you can just remember pages from the last comic you read. For instance…

Doomsday Clock 1 (Johns/ Frank): No way. Are they ACTUALLY publishing the sequel to Watchmen as a choose-your-own-adventure series? I mean just look at the cover to another thrilling tale of the Man of Steel (some assembly required). DC, you crafty bunch of jerks! [7/10]

Adrien Viedt, the mentalist vigilante & CEO Ozymandias, did not get the storybook ending he tried to write for the world in Watchmen. Rorschach’s journal made it to publication, the stage play that killed New York revealed for the lie it was, and thus humanity began to truly destroy itself. A new Rorschach now walks the streets, inspiring hardened criminals to ruin their pants with a mere glance, with a mission all his own. The world’s done with heroes, the only thing that could save it is a full-on god. The good news is that they know one in Dr. Manhattan, the bad is that he’s moved on and left no forwarding address. A couple universes down, something’s knock-knock-knocking on Clark Kent’s subconscious.

Instead of following Ozymandias on his desperate dash for one last chance at redemption, the narrative stalks the new Rorschach navigating his path down sociopathic violence. It makes for more interesting visual storytelling, sure, and Rorschach plays recruiter for a new batch of anti-heroes (with some lovely banter moments), but of the bunch it’s Ozy with the most at stake. With as much development as his character had toward the end of Watchmen, it would have been nice to dig just a bit deeper into what he’s had to do to stay active and functional between then and now. Speaking of things that would’ve been nice, without spoiling anything, I can tell you that Jimmy Olson could’ve gotten coffee and a bagel, notice he’d been given a day-old instead of a fresh one, and that would’ve carried as much relevance as the printed segue from the Watchmen-verse to the DC universe.

If Dave Gibbons truly was unavailable, Gary Frank’s honestly about as suitable a successor as one could hope to find. Though he uses higher degrees of contrast and more complicated shading than Gibbons, Frank’s capable of the visceral simplicity that helped make Watchmen such an accessible read. The panel breakdowns stay basic, but this doesn’t work to downgrade the sequences at all.

Doomsday Clock reads like a decorative centerpiece – as pretty as it needs to be, but don’t go poking for substance.

The Villain 1 (Adams & Applegate/ Bergkvist): “Don’t worry, madam! I’ll protect your feminine virtue!”
“Well that’s a lovely gesture, but honestly I’m more interested in my life. Virtue doesn’t keep the heart pumping, you know.”

The Demon – Hell is Earth 1 (Constant/ Walker & Hennessey): So any time we see Etrigan stomp around it’s in some plane of existence where everything’s on fire, or primordial forces seek to rend reality apart. Yeah yeah, those’re classic visions of hell, but we’ve branched out so far since Dante in regards to our imaginations and methods of torture. Let’s watch Etrigan tell a vanquished foe they’ve got a bad case of the Mondays for what feels like the 10,000th time, or leave you to make small talk with that one uncle who thinks you’re just going through a phase. Then I’ll believe he’s an agent of hell.

Maxwell’s Demons 1 (Camp/ Astone): Or hang out with an isolated kid in a closet while everyone tells him he’s just like Harry Potter! Another prime example!

Void Trip 1 (O’Sullivan/ Klaus): Look, kids: it’s Jay and Silent Bob IIIIIIN SPAAAAAAAAAAAACE! [6/10]

Ana and Gabe could be the last two humans in the universe for all they know, but they don’t care. Their entire priority list consists of keeping their ride fueled up, getting high on froot (a type of edible plant with as many mind-altering effects as there are regional varieties), and staying alive long enough to worry about the other priorities. They don’t do much else, but like most people they can pretend they’re contributing to get away with most stuff. Supposedly they’re on their way to Euphoria, a location hosting every type of froot imaginable and capable of sustaining them the rest of their natural lives. The only thing in their way is a complete lack of direction and the remorseless knight in shining armor hunting them down.

The characters’ faithful adherence to the drugged-out duo tropes aside, there’s a wealth of pop culture nudges that range from the tucked-in to blatant – I’m thinking of the names & descriptions of a few froot varieties in particular. It’s cheesy but it’s also cute enough to ride with to the story’s main point…. Or it would if it ever came to one. A recurring theme in this issue is how important the journey is, important enough that it can make or break the destination, but their journey never amounts to more than “run vehicle into planet, shenanigans until able to get off planet, repeat”. And if you’re hoping the Ana and Gabe behave charismatically enough to carry the title, you may be disappointed. They’re entertaining from time to time, but not engaging enough for the reader to truly connect.

Klaus’s art style strikes the eye with the same anatomy and posture framework as Frank Quietly, without the aggressive inking and outlines. There’s no pressure applied to make anyone or anything particularly pretty, nor is there a true sense of ugly to be seen. Instead what’s found on the page is loads of variety. Between the different races, planets, and psychedelic effects, the scenery rarely looks the same from page to page. The colors remain light and subdued normally, but when someone’s deep into a froot binge they detonate and take over a panel. The effect as a whole keeps the reader on their toes and often delighted as the tale plays out.

Void Trip reads like glossy cotton pillow stuffing – pure fluff, but pretty.

Long Lost 1 (Erman/ Sterle): She was only lost because she was hiding up in the far north and couldn’t see where she was because she blended into the background so well. Now that she’s outside of the snowfield, it’s no problem!

Doctor Radar 1 (Simsolo/ Bezian): Behold, the sum totality of eight years in higher education. A man so brilliant he wears a mask to keep from blinding us simple folk. An adventurer to whom multinational espionage and poisonous monsters are but circus distractions. No one, not even the sultry woman at his side, knows his true weakness, but it is a secret so critical that I shall reveal it to you here, dear reader. Though he’s developed immunities to most poisons, he actively avoids bakeries and pastry shops for fear of their stockpiles of jellies and preserves. That’s right, Doctor Radar cannot stand being jammed. (CC Note: Go slip into a turkey coma, and don’t wake up.)

Imaginary Fiends 1 (Seeley/ Molnar): So this looks like the kind of fiend that surprise hugs you with way too much body coverage and, when told you don’t appreciate that much contact, tell you that you’re just imagining your discomfort. I’m glad that, as a society, we seem to have reached the point where we’re not putting up with it any more, and I hope this is about exiling the worst offenders into the woods for the monsters to snack on.

Doppelganger 1 (Hart/ Javier): There really should’ve been an opener to Alfred Hitchcock Presents where old Alfie struck up a macabre conversation with his own silhouette. Bonus points for an eating contest.

Apocalypse Girl 1 (Torres/ Borrallo): It’s one thing when your teenager girl complains so forcefully every little problem sounds like the end of the world. It’s completely different when your girl behaves so erratically that every problem actually becomes an extinction level event. And of course, it’s never their fault: it’s that new kid trying to make a name for themselves, or the archdemon from the Hell of the Melting Flesh, or Mrs. Fletcher from fifth period History, always something. [8/10]

Metis just needs to get out of the house sometimes. She’s a teenage girl, isolated most of the time, tired of eating the same things and having the same arguments with her mother, she just needs to stretch her real legs and mental ones every so often. One night she’s minding her own business when this total creep tries to assault her, and she meets a couple kids her age that totally aren’t creeps, and they hang out and eat snacks all night while listening to music and it’s a great time all around but she forgets to tell her mom where she is. Any child can expect an epic punishment for something like that, but Metis’s mother’s a 4,000-plus year old mummy, one of many plagues that’ve rendered the Earth into a hellscape. Mom’s had time to think up creative punishments.

Metis doesn’t need a bow or arrow to get her Katniss on – she’s quick, can read people well, and strong enough to parkour up buildings with about as much effort as a quicktime event. She behaves more empathetically than one might expect seeing as how the world is doomed and that her mom’s a monster. There’re a lot of monsters roaming around too, from giant aliens to unstable mutants to angelic hosts. The story just keeps throwing tools out of every box it can grab without any indication of what it’ll actually use. So far, the story hasn’t gone any farther than to show teenagers can be nice to each other no matter what’s going on in the world, and that’s great, but it needs to use the set pieces it’s collected or else it might as well be called “Wasted Potential: The Comic”.

As a post-apocalyptic setting, everything’s overcast with either clouds or cosmic tentacles draining light and hope from the world, you know how it is. In spite of that, the colors do their best to come through as much as possible. The odd panel makes an effort to show motion all at once with only some success, but the panel-to-panel momentum’s fairly strong. Borrallo’s figure style draws heavily from an animation influence, revealing facial scrunches and twists that don’t violate anatomy, but allow for more expression than a realistic face could normally achieve. The designs for the characters are where the art truly shines, gleefully taking from whatever tropes or artifacts it wants to form whatever might fill the scene best. The art wants to play, and rewards the reader for letting it do that.

Apocalypse Girl reads like a freshly-opened kit without instructions – everything’s out of the packaging, it’s all laid out in front of you, there’s just nothing to indicate what’s next.

Whatever your food of choice is this weekend, indulge until you’re sick and be grateful for being in a place you can enjoy it. And if you must go shopping, make sure to stop by our shop! 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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