Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
It’s insidious. It’ll stop you in your tracks and kill any momentum. It can walk up beside you and smile and never give any sign before hitting you with the force of a speeding locomotive. No matter our race, color, gender, or creed, we are all vulnerable to the unstoppable power of the random thought.
They interrupt everything, from a critical job interview to the last episode of your favorite tv series to your kid’s big line in the school play to those three minutes before you go to sleep. They don’t need a trigger, but they’ll happily use one if it’s available. This week’s comics lay down all kinds of tripwires to set off ideas that might not come together right away, but hours later will attack like a kitten to a new pair of jeans. Brace yourselves…
•Batman Lost 1 (Loads of People): Well if he’s ankle deep in bright red (water?), of course he’s going to lose something. He’s probably got that batarang out to stop anyone from accidentally stepping on it.
I got another one! *ahem*
Batman lost more than one. That’s kinda what made him Batman.
•The Harcourt Legacy 1 (Cahill/ Federhenn): Just about everyone goes through a phase where they reject everything they perceive as normal. They’ll dress in dark clothing, yell at anyone daring to question them, even toy with the idea of idolizing the dead. This isn’t a trend going back decades, it’s gone back centuries. Vlad, son of Vlad got caught up in some skirmishes during his, acted out, and now everyone’s convinced he was a man-eating psychotic. I just wonder who would be more shocked by this: scared parents at the idea that their goth kid’s just a different kind of normal, or goth kids at the idea that their following on of the most entrenched trends ever. [9/10]
There’s very little that one would call “magic” in this book. It’s mostly about things like the actual value of family, inheritance, failure’s relationship to success, and medicinal marijuana. Lots of real-life liberal vs. conservative conversations at once, only they’re so flavored in family turmoil that it’s never directly political. The only moment it stops being about family is when a potential buyer/ multigeneration celebrity makes a cameo, but a few pages later it’s revealed that so many members of the family like him that he might as well count as one too. What impresses me so much is that while there’re so many threads moving along, it doesn’t feel dense or overwhelming. The narrative paces itself gracefully without pandering or condescending – it leaves that to the moody characters, whose bickering amuses me.
The art style may look simple Western-anime style with big eyes and just-slightly-skinny figures, but a little studying reveals a great deal of polish. Everyone’s faces demonstrates a capacity to emote with individual range, a feat rarely seen outside a Disney animator’s portfolio. Character’s eyes line up with their target, and when the target’s another character they actually link up, something that sounds basic but in practice is notoriously difficult. The designs and clothing styles of the various families tell stories of how far their paths have strayed from each other – this communicates a level of information to the reader without taking up dialogue space, leaving room for other conversations, and shows a degree of trust between writer and artist you just don’t see often. There’re no characters in this book that aren’t white, which could be excused if the only people involved were family, but add in a medical staff and rock band pictures and the excuses wither fast.
Harcourt Legacy reads like a meditation on modern America – we could be delightfully insightful if we could just get past our habit of screaming at things.
•Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast 1 (Leon & Edginton/ West): “I. Feel. PRETTYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!”
•Eugenic 2 (Tynion IV/ Donovan): You know what I see when I look at this? (CC Note: Please don’t tell us.) I see (CC Note: DAMMIT!) the next stage of human evolution will be WAY more vulnerable to spicy food. If they’re stronger, smarter, and faster than us, then we’ve got to arrange the fight for supremacy to a caspaicin contest. Maybe their tongues can take to heat, but chemically their eyes cannot, and that’s how we beat them!
•Coyotes 1 (Lewis/ Yarsky): You’d think someone that put so much time applying make-up so precisely and arranging flowers in their hair like that would be less apathetic about getting their dress stained. But you do have to admit that red’s a power color on her. [8/10]
There’s a City for Lost Girls, but it might have another name. There’re packs of giant, wild animals (guess which breed!) that attack anyone they can get to at night, but they may be men empowered by enchanted pelts, or it could all just be a metaphor for misogyny. There’s a cop that’s been punished for doing his job, but maybe the job he wanted isn’t the one he signed up for, and maybe doesn’t exist, and maybe none of that matters because he lost his family for it. Like the Lost City of Gold, the reader can’t take three steps without tripping over some compelling gem or shiny thing they want to look at forever, but the focus keeps shifting from one thing to another before they get a chance to appreciate it. In making a case against shallow behavior from organizations or male privilege, the narrative avoids going too deep.
Just in case that wasn’t enough irony for you, in a story about childhood and innocence getting torn to bleeding shreds, the art indulges itself in play at every turn. Matriarch of a sisterhood of monster slayers dresses like a 18th century Southern debutante. The local cantina is a collage of drinks, food, laughter, and escape. Among the scenes are a training montage, a chase sequence, a splash page of blood spatter, and every now and then a breakout of pustules. Visually, this book is a wonderfully-choreographed routine with all the elements necessary to get Olympic attention.
Coyotes reads like a really strong argument – it’s passionate and honest, but it needs more to make its case.
•Wonderful World of Tank Girl 1 (Martin/ Parson): Let me tell you what you need, reader: you need to find someone that looks at you the way the girl on the right looks at explosives.
I hope I look at someone the way she looks at explosives. It’d be nice if they didn’t run in terror as a reaction, but I won’t pretend I don’t get it.
•Michael Cray 2 (Hill/ Harris & Vines): “May my aim be true, my cause just, and my reflexes fast. My left and right hands are equal in burden, purpose, and strength as You decreed. May my bullets find their targets, may my chamber never jam, and may I always have one more clip. I have studied your truth, John Woo, and as I walk on your path I shall not know fear!”
•Deuce of Hearts 1 (Mo/ Gregori): This may prove to be THE image that captures the essence of the 2010’s. Trapped between ravenous aliens, excited doggies, angry husbands, bulky debt collectors, adoring fans, angels and demons? About to be torn into so many pieces only a team of highly trained CSI nanobots will find evidence you ever lived? Well, the most important thing to do in those situations is take a selfie! [6/10]
It turns out Love is just a game, and Patrick plays in the top-tier ranks. Thanks to his gaming of the system of the popular app, he can trade and leverage the affections of everyone he’s ever known and cash them in for prizes like superpowers or winning lotto tickets. Like any other professional game player, Patrick’s entire life is dictated by this game, and no one ever won by playing sentimentally. The game’s not just a few lines of code wrapped in a marketing plan: it’s a junction point for technology, emotion, extra-dimensional powers, finances, lost socks probably. Perhaps the idea of bombarding the reader with so many components out of the gate was to showcase just how twisty the app’s functionality is and how rare a person needs to be in order to navigate it successfully. The whole apparatus just gets up to speed when the ending twist comes along and it’s about as cheesy as anything you could imagine.
Gregori’s art style lends itself to having fun with things to the point of mockery. Nothing is drawn with the intent to appear ideal or even appealing, but everyone should find some character or element that they can enjoy studying. There’s not so much an emotional range as there is a group of settings, but there are more than three for each to keep the eye from getting bored. The drawing style relies on rough sketches and a cartoony nature to give the action room to work without worrying about looking plausible, and the color scheme has no issue with brightness: it wants you to see everything.
Deuce of Hearts reads like a terrible joke at the teller’s expense – it’s funny until you realize it might just be a cry for help.
•Best Wishes GN (Richardson & Chadwick): This cover has convinced me that Hallmark makes a card for “Sorry I missed your polyamory wedding by I was caught in a tragic fountain accident and nearly died”. Now where’s my sparkly unicorn envelope for it???
•1985 Black Hole Repo 1 (Sherwood & Moreci/ Bivens): Do you know what’s in space wiper fluid? As in the wiper fluid so strong it gets corpses and their EVA suits off spaceworthy solar windshields? No, and you don’t want to. You REALLY don’t want to.
•Port of Earth 1 (Kaplan/ Mutti): Elite soldiers from an part of the world dress and arm themselves so that they appear to have deployed right from your worst nightmares, and it looks like R’lyeh’s army is no exception. It’s one thing to face down a monster that scoffs at bilateral symmetry and sees euclidian geometry as baby stuff for babies, but have we stopped to consider that most of the time we imagine these horrors naked? They may be the soul-eaters, but if they’ve studied our fiction at all they must think we’re perverts. [7/10]
In an event so tremendous they probably reset all the calendars to Year Zero, aliens made first contact with humanity. They arrived and reached out not to conquer, not to welcome us into a collective of races seeking universal truth, but to arrange for us to become a galactic rest stop. Corporate exploitation comes before exploration according to this story, and it provides more than enough points of reference to make its point. By the last page, the plot shifts from quest to police procedural the same way an ad promises a homemade dinner but delivers a box of ingredients and instructions. There’s plenty to enjoy about it, but the bait-and-switch hits with concussive force.
If the Earth has to be denied a honeymoon after their close encounter with the third kind, at least the view’s interesting. The technology and architecture may be nothing new on the galactic front, but it’s something hooman people can be proud of. The rest stop – actually a refinery/ power plant/ living quarters for all forms of life/ spaceport – resembles a giant snowflake from a distance, perhaps just because it’s an elegant design or perhaps a comment on the word’s topical slang meaning. The drawing style is fairly standard mainstream as far as figures and backgrounds go, but the finishing strays far from the beaten path. While there is color, everything’s faded as if from age, and there’s a grainy texture lowering the detail, as if each panel were pulled from an archive of photos taken decades earlier. It lends a gravity and authenticity that almost forces the reader to accept what they’re seeing whether they want to or not.
Port of Earth reads like a catchy documentary on the human eyebrow – fascinating, maybe insightful, but might also make you want to not have eyebrows.
Take comfort in knowing we can’t be arrested for what we think. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues