Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
We had a few… adventures… with shipping this week, and not the fun kind. This means two things: that JK Rowling still won’t return my letters about making my fanfic canon, and that Comic Carnival got their books pretty late this week. Only two full reviews this week, but I made them extra good because I like ya.
•Barbarella 1 (Carey/ Yarar): Ken Rocafort’s cover features a loose collaboration for a scene a century from now. The rough design comes from Yellow Submarine, Barbarella’s costume design’s by Conglomerated Latex, and Stephen Hawking only because he couldn’t object fast enough.
•Klaus and the Crisis in Xmasville (Morrison/ Mora): Santa’s funny when he’s an old fat guy in a crisp red suit wearing the most inoffensive face ever and holding a baby that’s clearly terrified. If harmless Father Christmas scares infants, what’re Game of Thrones Nick of House Klaus and Kringle the Impaler here going to do? Will we bear witness as an entire daycare class develop thousand-yard stares? Will they lose all passion during a round of Peek-a-boo? It’s going to be a rough holiday season, people.
•Jupiter Jet 1 (Inman & Robinson/ Matsuya): Should we be concerned that she looks like she’s in the air and yet there’s no propellant coming out her jetpack? Maybe she can fly all on her own and she wears the pack just to throw off enemies. That would make her clever as hell and may do more to sell me on this book than anything.
•Paradiso 1 (V./ Pramanik): I sleep with a surge protector under my bed, and I’ve laid awake horrified that the next morning will be the one I electrocute myself. Then the next morning comes and I paw at this thing for the energy it’ll take to get me out of bed. The point is healthy sleep habits are as important as proper electrical grounding. [7/10]
Humanity reached a technological utopia, mastering gravity and clean energy and living in cities that would put our modern ones to shame. But then The Midnight came, a cataclysmic event that didn’t just send humanity back to the Stone Age, it punished them for having gotten as far as they did Tower of Babel-style. Years later, a man who is so tired of being called “Running Jack” wants into the last functional city on Earth: Paradiso. No one that’s not already in there even wants to get close, that’s how aggressively Paradiso guards its borders. He wants to go there anyway, and he’s willing to trade his knowledge of technology to make the trip, and the ones he’s trading with think they’re cheating him. They couldn’t imagine what he’s holding back.
This issue takes its sweet time figuring out what the story’s going to be. Just about any post-apocalypse tale is a redemption story for the world – it needs to prove itself worthy to survive. Most of the time the characters span the spectrum of possible answers: the abusive villains advocating that the world doesn’t deserve anything, the heroes arguing that the world needs their aid. That analysis gets more exposure here than usual. There’s no clear antagonist exploiting the chaos, just a mass of different parties looking for their favorite shade of grey and the one guy striving to turn the lights back on. How he got there isn’t compelling so much as it’s expected – the protagonist always needs some complex & tragic backstory, so this guy gets one. Everyone has a good story to tell, but few play out where readers can see them.
The art style by Pramanik looks somewhere in between Sean Murphy (Batman White Knight) and Ryan Ottley (Invincible), and rather than taking the best from both it uses the two as anchor points to hang off of. There’s the design and layout of Murphy without the intense linework and natural tension, and there’s the curves and flexibility of Ottley without the natural flow. It communicates what it needs to well enough, and the scenery’s pretty, but nothing stands out as innovative. The visuals are fine, but they’re not rewarding.
Paradiso reads like going home for the holidays – not necessarily comfortable, but welcoming and familiar.
•Faith’s Winter Wonderland Special (Sauvage/ Portela & Kim): I’m very angry at this cover by Paulina Ganucheau, and when I explain why I believe most of you will hope on board the rage train with me. Who here’s ever been drafted to put the star on the tree, or the most critical decoration in the most precarious place in the home? Who got burdened with this responsibility and found themselves taking it so seriously that, when they fell, scrambled not to defend themselves but the decoration? Of those, who found themselves pulled up to their feet and pushed right back up to try again? And then here floats Faith making it look sOOOooOOoOo easy. I am NOT in the holiday spirit right now.
•The Consultant 1 (Sterr/ Maine): Please tell me cover artist Simon Fraser watched Project Runway. Please tell me this is going to be a taut drama about artistic journey with a cabal of established personalities tearing down superhero costume designs. That’s all I want. I want to play audience to a group of overconfident snobs talking down to metahumans for dressing like 1930’s circus performers. Thinking about it, I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted anything else.
•Mighty Crusaders 1 (Flynn/ Shannon): The What-vengers? The Who League? I don’t know where these people got the idea that this kind of team thing would catch on.
•Witchblade 1 (Kittredge/ Ingranata): “HellOHH my god, what’s wrong with your eyes? They’re bleeding!”
“Pfft, I knew you weren’t with it. This is Plague-core, it’s a look that’s going viral all over Milan right now. I’m not surprised you never heard of it.”
“So that’s on purpose? I mean, that’s make-up?”
“Oh don’t worry, nothing I wear was tested on animals. Everything’s all natural and locally sourced.”
“…Are you the one stealing blood from clinics?”
“…Are you a cop?”
•Sleepless 1 (Vaughn/ Del Duca): I can almost understand where animal worship comes from, but I don’t know where PET worship comes from. Pets can be amazing, emotionally supportive, even family, but like family they can also be destructive, hurtful, and disgusting. And unlike deities, pets expect you to clean up after them. They suck up all your time and attention and resources and I’m arguing against my original point so I’m bailing on this rant right now. [8/10]
Here’s the tricky thing about medieval kingdoms: they need a living ruler to function. They need one so bad that they don’t always check what killed the last ruler. As the kingdom of Harbeny crowns Surno, brother of the previous king, everyone is carefully not talking about how Surno got the job. Not just for the usual reasons, but also for the sake of the dead king’s bastard daughter Pyppenia, herself beautiful and courteous and quite capable of ruling. She may not have a spot in the line of succession, but she’s got Cyrenic, a sworn and sleepless knight to protect her. That’s not a mark of his devotion (though he’s plenty devoted and capable), the guy has not slept in years, and he won’t sleep. He’s got enough to worry about.
This isn’t a Game of Thrones style of fantasy (though the naming style’s straight outta Tolkien), instead leaning toward the court politics and scheming of a Shakespeare play. Pyppenia (or Poppy to her friends) demonstrates her character as much by the circumstances around her as by what she says and does. Her dad’s dead, her future’s in danger, and she can deal with that. Cyrenic lacks that definition, which’ll have to change before the series ends. In a way, the court of Harbeny enjoys more attention than the rest of the cast – careful readers will pick up clues and tropes to understand the state of the kingdom and most everyone’s place in it, but beyond that everyone’s window dressing for a story that’s half murder mystery, half starcrossed romance.
Leila Del Duca draws a lot of pretty pictures, and more importantly can put them together into a lovely comic. With her playful intensity toward facial expressions and precisely arranged body language, she communicates more about the people in the story than any amount of dialogue could accomplish. The setting designs stick to the basics, but costumes and coats of arms pop out and sing on the page. The coloring knows when to shine bright and when to fade to black, selling the tone of each scene with a perfect pitch.
Sleepless reads like jazz – it may not be for everyone, but there’s a lot to appreciate.
See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues