Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Sometimes you just have to accept what’s in front of you and move on. I can come up with a theme for this week’s update, but by the time I built up something to connect my reviews this week I could’ve written three more weekly updates, and that’s not what we’re in this for, now is it? We gots comics, let’s get to the comics!
•Phoenix Resurrection 3 (Rosenberg/ Bennett): Hell, from this cover alone, all my qualms about elder Jean Grey subconsciously torturing people while she comes back from the dead are put to rest. I’m fully sympathetic with her side of this, and honestly I don’t think she’s acting out enough. I mean, if I realized that my friends and family buried me in a grave not big enough for my shoulders, I’d be angry too.
•Satellite Falling TP (Horton/ Morazzo & Janowsky): Word of the Ginger Menace reaches all corners of the universe….
•Stabbity Bunny 1 (Rivera/ Biddix): Well, Watchmen’s popular right now, so why wouldn’t you want to do something with the bloody smiley face if you could get away with it? What’s worse is that I started mentally saying the title for this book in Porky Pig’s voice and it’s been twenty minutes and it’s still going and it’s hilarious! (CC Note: I wouldn’t go into your head even if there was an open bar!) (Harsh.) [6/10]
Once upon a time there was a girl named Grace that was so sweet she didn’t mind when people forgot to capitalize her name. She and her class visited the zoo, and before Grace was done looking at the pandas, a big nasty man grabbed her and her best friend/ stuffed bunny Stabbity, threw them in his van, and sped away from the scene. Things would go back to being as perfect as they’d always been if only Mommy would pay a hefty ransom. Something something blood something the end?
If you ask the narrator of this book, this is a fairy tale. Grace would agree but argue about what kind of tale. Mommy would call this a thriller in the style of Taken, and someone’s calling this an occult story. It never settles the question of what it is, aside from being a messed-up version of something else. I don’t see any sign of narrative ambition here besides creating a bedtime story as much Chucky as Charlotte’s Web, and while that’s not for me, I can respect that they did what they wanted. If you’re looking for something on the corner of Sesame and Elm Street, you could probably do worse than Stabbity Bunny.
The art expresses the same attitude as the text for story conventions – it doesn’t care what works, it’s going to do what it wants. There’s a sense of delight in the detail and design pumped into the characters, some of which are supposed to be monstrous, but none of them exactly pretty. Grace, for instance, fits the main criteria for an adorable moppet, but her smile reaches just that much further than it needs to, leaving the reader to wonder if there’s a sinister reason behind it. Somebody loves this kind of look, but that somebody isn’t me.
Stabbity Bunny wins my Cabinet of Curiosities Award – it’s strange, it may or may not make sense, but there’s a chance it’s just the thing you want to see.
•Atlas & Axis 1 (Pau): Should I expect giant frogs or pocket sized dogs in my nightmares? I don’t have a big enough subconscious for both.
•Supergirl 17 (Orlando & Houser/ Rocha & Henriques): There’re all gonna laugh at you, Kara!
•Cowboy Ninja Viking TP (Lieberman/ Rossmo): Pirate Monk Chef! Bard Chef Samurai! See, I can throw flash cards with RPG classes up in the air and pick up a random set of three, too!
•Witchblade 2 (Kittredge/ Ingranata): Snowflakes keep falling on my head
But that doesn’t mean the streets will stop their bleeding red
Mercy’s not for me
The bad guys screaming means civvies can go on living
My murder spree
Magic knives fly from me! [7/10]
Alex Underwood’s faced death a few times, but she hasn’t dealt it before today. Her first victim killed her first, if that matters. The guy was a dirty cop beating his wife into not leaving him, and just because that wasn’t evil enough, he had a pentagram tattoo on his wrist. No one thinks she did it because they can’t identify the weapon used to kill him, but that’s because there’s no police file on the Witchblade. It’s a semi-sentient artifact that attaches itself to women in critical positions to war against darkness in all its forms. Instead of forensic documentation, all this thing has is a strange & scarred man named Ash, a sort of curator for the Witchblade. His advice to Alex sums up quickly: accept and work with the Witchblade or die.
REBOOT ON DECK, PEOPLE! This isn’t an AU or a spin-off, this is a full-on start from concept restart of the franchise. New rules, different characters, more abstract designs; check your lore at the door. Alex as investigator/ recovering kidnapping victim provides loads of motivation to chase action and protect people, which is handy, but she never gets a moment for the reader to point and say “I like her, I want to know what happens to her”. Aside from her job (as sleuth and now as cosmic enforcer of balance), there’s not much to her. The issue includes types from all over the map, but rarely penetrates deeper than what their current career requires. The narrative in this issue gives the reader plenty of material to figure out the broad strokes of what’s going on, and in so doing doesn’t bother to show anyone really using the wild powers they supposedly have.
Model-magazine aesthetics still determine how people look in Witchblade, so there’s that nugget of consistency, though the execution is a bit different. Michael Turner’s original designs married Giger biomechanics with Gothic architecture. Ingranata appears satisfied with focusing on the ethereal nature of the fight and its tools, never presenting anything more supernatural than a moving corpse and some shaped energy. The text would have us believe more definitive displays are just over the horizon, but that’s the problem with a visual medium: seeing is believing, and we haven’t seen much yet.
Witchblade wins my Keyhole Award – a wondrous treasure may be in here, or it may just be light reflecting off a mechanism, it’s really hard to tell.
•BSG vs BSG 1 (David/ Desjardins): I know this is supposed to be an intimidating, one man against an army type of cover, but all I can see is one of those chain-link things made of out aluminum can tabs. It kinda kills the tension when you’re trying to tell which ones are from Cokes versus Pespi or one of those wide mouth beer cans.
•Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl 28 (North/ Henderson): Okay, forget the fight and the title character and the crossover and everything else because they don’t matter. All I want from this comic is to watch Loki’s wordplay repeatedly and embarrassingly fail to penetrate Drax’s demeanor. Comic Drax isn’t hyper-literal like movie Drax, but he’s still direct and is fiercely economical with his speech patterns. No matter the medium, Loki’s first love is his own voice, in particular when he can turn phrases around and twist meanings. Ten minutes together and I’m betting Loki starts longing for the days when his face was continuously burned with acid from that giant snake.
•Avengers 675 (Waid, Ewing, & Zub/ Larraz): “Screw your planet, I’m blowing it up! Don’t wanna get blown up, fine, you go into orbit and watch your planet blow up. What’s that, you don’t want the other people to blow up while you watch? Make up your mind! Way I see it, all the things I don’t like about current continuity have Earth in common, therefore it’s got to blow up. If you actually thought about it, you’d see where I’m coming from but now, you just want to issue your decrees about the way things should be from on top of your high horses. Well guess what, I blew them up!” [7/10]
It was supposed to be an average day. A little cat rescuing here, some undercover car thief busting there. Instead, the sky changed color. Starting in one end of the world and spreading all the way to the other, storms raged and the earth trembled, communications breaking down and basic infrastructure either overburdened or failing completely. Once the planet was completely covered, it and the moon just… vanished. Captain Marvel, Alpha Flight, and every other space-bound human could only stare into the endless void and wonder. Wherever Earth is, it wasn’t enough to just move the thing, something’s also changed most of the world’s metahumans into sculptures, effectively taking them out of the fight. What’s left of the Avengers (past and present) isn’t exactly inspiring, but there’s hope. Don’t know who or what it is, but it’s there.
This is the first of a weekly, sixteen-part event that might as well be Phase 1 of Marvel’s New Year’s resolution to be a leaner, more adventurous company, so long as that phase says “Wreck all your stuff.” While the cast includes just about everyone, including long-forgotten names, most only get enough page-time for the reader to understand they’re having a shit day. Cities are ruined, lives nearly destroyed, people are angry or mourning or both – any way you look at it, Marvel is vulnerable and desperate for whatever relief happens to come along. New readers may be curious to know the history behind the 616’s savior, but long-time readers… could be justified in some healthy skepticism. As first impressions go, this is full of despair and snake oil.
On the plus side, the artwork is strikingly likable. Since the first three pages aren’t pulled from an apocalyptic playbook, we get to see someone’s playful and happy side before everyone is thrown into the angry-bitter-tearful-worried-tense bin – there is a range of expression, it just doesn’t get used much. The same could be said for coloring and shading, while most of the story calls for dark overcast and intense light sources these come from all directions, and the artists keep up with the chaos so that scenes play out crazy but not to the point that the eye gets lost.
Avengers No Surrender wins my Gilded Pizza Crust Award – a very pretty specimen of what most people won’t bother with.
And to all you pretty specimens out there, see you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues