Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Happy February 14th, whatever you’d like to call it! Chocolate’s cheap tomorrow, but comics are fresh today!
•Secret Loves of Geeks TP (Various): Oh no way, are you telling me there actually is a secret message hidden in cat gifs?!?!? I KNEW IT! What have the pop tarts been telling me? Are the laser pointers our friends or our enemies? What’s in the box? WHAT?!?
•Cold War 1 (Sebela/ Sherman): Finally, a book that’s ready to ask the hard questions about the dystopian techno-scape of John Connor and SkyNet: Did the terminators experience shrinkage? [6/10]
Freeze your body before you die and, in the future, science revives you in a new and wonderful era. Sounds great, right? Now imagine if the company in charge of freezing you had five centuries to get bought out, conglomerated, mortgaged against, or any of the hundreds of things that can happen to a business. Imagine somebody sold your second chance, along with the hundreds of others that opted for freezing, to someone needing warm bodies and no one to claim them. That’s how Tom Rook woke up half a millennium after his apparent death after a life dedicated to war. That how he got a gun, some cheap armor, and maybe a hundred fellow freezies without any training at all. This could be the best or last day of Tom Rook’s life.
I suggested that there’s a story behind the trading of human lives in this book, but don’t take it seriously. There are a few people who take to the chaotic surroundings all too well, some impressive factions to the war effort, but ultimately they don’t matter. This isn’t about exploring questions or probing the human condition, it’s about getting John Carpenter and James Cameron and Michael Bay together and printing their focus-grouped romance child. It’s about fitting one more explosion on the next page. It’s about fixing every ironic battlefield trope reachable onto the narrative and not caring if it sticks. It’s also about gearing up a pampered CEO, a millennial craftsman, and a grandmother with the same equipment and finding out who survives a firefight.
The visual theme’s sketchy, as far as both linework and subject matter go. Corners don’t always meet up smoothly, edges are rough, there can be too much detail in one panel and not enough in the next. It fits well with the narrative of a world full of questions and not enough people alive to find the answers, yet it’s not going to impress anyone. If Frank Miller today switched to thinner pens, it might look like this.
Cold War reads like a distant relative’s birthday present – they thought they’d heard that this was what you wanted, and figured this was close enough.
•Sideways 1 (DiDio & Jordan/ Rocafort): He can’t be a hero or villain, he’s too busy looking for the keys he dropped.
•Star Wars Thrawn 1 (Jouser/ Ross): I bet I’d look like a brilliant tactician too if I “took over” an Imperial base while everyone was asleep. Spend ten minutes in an officer’s bathroom, trim my hair, put on a jacket with the right number of pips, then I could start waking people up and explain I was the commanding officer – so long as I remembered to brew some fresh coffee, they’d believe me if I told them I was Pulpatine, the Emperor of Orange Juice. (CC Note: This is the ONE element from the old Expanded Universe to survive the transition, do you HAVE to ruin it?)
•Lovecraft The Myth of Cthulhu HC (Esteban Maroto): Just do yourself a favor. If you’ve seen any memes with this guy on them, or if you’ve heard of the elder gods, but you don’t know exactly what any of them mean, pick this up. Consider it a primer for a full 40% of reddit.
•No Gods No Dungeon Masters One-Shot (Dukes & Lo/ Warner): Imagine if instead of just one side of his body, Harvey Dent was burned with acid in 19 different ways across his body. Any decision would need a full chart to break down, he’d need to lug a box around to drop his totem into since it’d be too easy to fudge the numbers if he rolled it into his hand, and the Bat-Cave would need an entire cavern just for this one trophy. It’d almost be worth it!
•Dark Knights Rising – The Wild Hunt 1 (Various): I want to read one of these night-terror Batmen say “Be wery wery qwiet, I’m hunting Justice!”, but I won’t and the answer is obvious to anyone that’s been reading Batman’s many crossovers this year. He’s already met Elmer Fudd, he’s confronted that particular fear of his, and so it can’t come back to bite him as one of the Dark Knights. And even if that wasn’t the case, you know Bruce Wayne needed dental surgery at one point and spent a few hours trying to deliver his gravely Bat-Voice with a mouthful of gauze. “Hewwo, Jim.”
•Death of Love 1 of 5 (Jordan/ Delay): Somebody’s taking their disappointment about not getting a response from their Valentine to Lucy Lawless WWAAAAAAYYY too far. Dude, I don’t have time to get into all the ways it wasn’t going to work, but I’m going to need you to put the Bruce Campbell-brand chainsaw down and leave your little friends at the bar with a full hummingbird feeder. Let’s talk it out. [8/10]
Philo Harris just wants to be loved. Physically. By whatever woman is conveniently available, be it the quirky record store owner or the lone lady at the bar, Philo needs him some cuddles. His friend Bob sees this, and also sees the murky and toxic depths Philo’s willing to sink to for these cuddles, and Bob’s a true friend about it. He doesn’t scream or shame, he simply explains and demonstrates that double standards and traveling alpha-male workshops offend him (and rational society). Philo could listen to him or to the mysterious stranger handing out cute pills, and I think it’s obvious which choice sounds more fun. Whatever’s in those pills shows him the truth about a thing called Love: transdimensional cherubs engineer it between people to fuel their military industrial complex. Or they just think it’s fun, either way Philo’s wearing the wrong kind of target.
So the protagonist isn’t the most likable character around, but he’s also the person anybody can become. ANY body. Decide that what you want too important to bother with respecting other people, BAM, you’re Philo. Maybe don’t be Philo. Maybe instead, rejoice in your not being Philo while watching Philo reap all the misguided misery he sows. This isn’t your traditional love story, but it’s an active and deep well of refreshing schadenfreude. And hey, he may not be all bad, either, there’s the image that he’ll evolve into a shadowy savior to liberate society from the mad whims of Cupids.
The art gives me permission to be flippant. It gives you permission to be flippant, or inspired, or entertained, or whatever you want to feel. There’s emotional connection and spatial consistency on the page, which provides everything the reader needs to know to figure out what’s going on. There’re also visual gags and heavy cartooning and overly convenient sources of light – the art has fun. It gets the joke, it delivers with a wink and a nudge, and it doesn’t want to make you feel bad if that’s not your thing. Where the narrative and its main character are supposed to fail, the art helps them look great in the process.
Death of Love reads like that joke you heard at work – hilarious in the moment, but be mindful of who you tell about it.
•Giant Spider & Me Post-Apocalyptic Tale GN (Kikori Morinno): “AHHAHAHAHHH! There’s a puppy on the cabinet!!”
“Oh CRAP, it’s one of the spotted ones! Creeps me the hell out.”
“You kill it! What if it sheds on me? Or drools?”
“You’re the spider of the house, you take care of it!”
“First of all, speciesist. Second, it’s more scared of us than we are of it. They’re only dangerous if they -*”
•Shade the Changing Girl Wonder Woman Special 1 (Castellucci & Visaggio/ Andolfo & Liew): There was a much more controversial version of this cover, but the only differences were Diana wore bare feet instead of heels and wielded a hoagie rather than a vacuum cleaner.
•Xena 1 (Finch/ Cifuentes): She looks like she handed an artist her driver’s license photo with the instructions to put her in a cool pose with some wicked armor, and whoever she hired didn’t take nearly enough artistic license with her expression. Her worst case is that this catches the eye of some academic for a weird reason and it becomes one of those pictures that never goes too long without hanging in one gallery or another.
•Baby Badass 1 (Schrader & Horn/ Larsen): By default, babies come out covered in blood and assorted bodily goos. They shatter the air around them with their screams, and enslave people to feed it and clean it for years. The least-believable part of this cover is the helmet, and that’s only because most babies can’t remove them fast enough.
•Kick-Ass 1 (Millar/ Romita): Name recognition will only carry your spin-off franchise so far. This hero’ll get two, maybe three evil henchmen to come by, but the only way to sustain a business is to get off the bed, go out to your target audience, and engage. Walk right up to the client and directly introduce their butt to das boot! Just because they need your product doesn’t mean they want to go out of their way to get it! Sell sell sell! Utility belts are for closers!
•Bingo Love GN (Franklin/ St-Onge): Their bond lasts through ages undaunted by distance or boundaries. In fact, their love is so powerful it wins without a Free Space. [9/10]
Hazel and Mari met through a mutual boredom with school and their grandmothers’ ritual of weekly church bingo. They were instant friends, but getting them to admit to each other they wanted to be more took about four years. Society wasn’t tolerant of homosexuality in the 1960’s, and their families didn’t need more than a hint to shatter them apart. They spent about an hour as a couple, and the following four decades living prescribed lives on different sides of the country. The odds of them meeting again were about the same as two players winning the same bingo jackpot, which if I understand it right is just over 1 in a 1,000.
Bingo Love avoids the pitfalls of portraying passion that burns out fast and ruins lives, and carefully leaves that part to the many authority figures eager to impose their definition of acceptable romance on them. It even goes so far as to track the effectiveness of that tactic over the years: basically, the older you get, the fewer people that can dictate what you do with yourself. Most people miss the moment that number gets low enough that they can make the call themselves, and by the time they realize it, some have even forgotten what they wanted to do. Hazel and Mari remembered, and when a second chance came up they took it, and what this book does is showcase the heroism that kind of decision takes. It’s a different kind of bravery than is often found on the comic shelves, and yet it’s within anyone’s grasp to find, no radioactive animals or magic artifacts required.
The art style borrows a few tricks from manga, applies them to a western cartooning format, and results in a visual setup that’s cute and fluffy and fully capable of emotional complexity. There’s no shifting of inking or coloring between the time periods, which makes sense since it’s always part of the narrator’s lifetime. The designs of the clothes and accessories handle the task of cluing the reader in to when the pages take place. During the last act, it even gets to play around in sci-fi’s playbox by bringing out projected clocks and news crawls, and as odd as it may look to go from scarce landline phones to fingertip notifications, it never looks out of place.
Bingo Love reads like a hot towel over your face – what you didn’t know you needed until it was right in front of you.
See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues