Variant Coverage – February 28, 2018

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

I’m back and have ground to make up! This week’s cahmiks!!

KISS Army of Darkness 1 (Bowers & Sims/ Coleman): Anyone that’s thought computer coding was beyond them can benefit from this cover, because it provides an instantly relatable example of what a logic fault looks like. Behold Ash Williams, bane of the Deadites and all things demonic, in a room with the Knights in Satan’s Service. KISS rocks, so Ash likes them, but they’re demonic, so he must kill them, but Ash doesn’t want to kill what he likes but he’s not the kind of guy that just decides he’ll give certain hellspawn a pass what does he do who does he kill now he remembers that third word it was Nikto but wait what were the first two words again BLERGHGHGHEELGHGH!??!!!!!

The Terrifics 1 (Lemire/ Reis): And OH MY GOD DC releases their own KISS cover band! They’ve all got black and white in their uniforms, each has a different gimmick going on, one’s even got his mouth open way too wide for medical safety! You can’t say you don’t see it now and congratulations you’ll never unsee it mwa ha ha! [5/10]

Perpetual corporate villain Simon Stagg got himself in trouble, and the world would normally just watch him twist in the wind except Stagg’s trouble started with tech he “acquired” from Mr. Terrific, the smartest man on Earth. Remember how a universe made out of nightmares tried to eat Earth? Simon wanted to mine it, so he opened a portal and sent his cleverest asset and human puzzle piece Metamorpho there, but now Metamorpho’s made of Nth metal and holding the portal open. Mr. Terrific doesn’t have a setting on his widgets that can help, but he brought Plastic Man (in convenient egg shape) for assistance. When that utterly fails, they find themselves in the Dark Universe on a colossal rotting corpse that’s been home to an intangible young lady for longer than she’d like, whose only companions since finding herself there are the still-active antibodies of the space husk and the monotonous droning of the creature’s last call, which went straight to voice mail.

One way to look at this issue is that it builds off of what’s already worked and succeeds in working them together. Terrific’s the smartest guy in the room, Metamorpho’s well-intentioned but too trusting, and good ol’ Plastic Man never misses a chance to be snarky. Stagg accidentally bringing them together doesn’t feel forced, and spinning right off of the Dark Knights story helps it ease into the larger DCU. Another way to look at it is a premise that leans on outdated tropes like a crutch. Simon Stagg’s extorted, stole, and violated regulations since the 60’s and he acts like they’ve never come back to bite him. Metamorpho continues to make terrible decisions if they have anything to do with Stagg’s daughter.

And wow are the ladies punished in this. Sapphire Stagg’s consistently defined by here relationships with men, be they family or genetic experiments, but even then has shown the capacity for independent strength. In Terrifics, she gets two lines that might as well have been written for Generic Sorority Girl #4 and is shouted down for speaking up. The only other woman, the Dark Universe castaway Linnya Wazzo, is the new Phantom Girl and treated like an idiot. That may sound harsh, but she finished explaining that she couldn’t interact with anything physically, shows them a device she hasn’t operated before, and immediately Mr. Terrific explains that it’s probably because she doesn’t understand how. She. Could not. Even. Try. This book goes out of its way to minimize its female cast.

The artwork redeems some of the offenses committed. Ivan Reis doesn’t take any detours away from DC’s house style, which includes rippling muscles on the dudes, sleek curves on the chicks, and form-fitting clothes for both. Perhaps his strongest quality is the way he incorporates decent business attire, swol figures, mind-boggling technical artifacts, and a shapeshifter with the entire Looney Tunes library at his disposal in a way that the reader sees them coexist.

Terrifics reads like a remastered 1950’s action movie – glossy visuals with established subjects told in a way that doesn’t work for current audiences.

Bodie Troll GN (Jay Fosgitt): Don’t be fooled by the bright colors or cartoonish style, this is a total propaganda piece funded by the Farm Lobby. They’re the ones that want you to live under bridges and hover around young and energetic journalists, all so that your both distracted while they move their legions of billy goats over all kinds of borders. Wake up the sheeple! The revolution is now an Little Bo Peep may miss it because she’s trying to get caught up on social media!

Rick Vietch The One 1 (Rick Vietch): FINALLY The One is back on shelves and I can finish my laundry! I don’t want to spend more money for eye bleach, but I always seem to need it, so maybe I should just bite the bullet and pick it up in the same trip.

Doctor Star & Kingdom Lost Tomorrows 1 (Lemire/ Fiumara): I get that artists borrow elements of each other’s work. Sometimes it’s just a pose or a shading trick and they don’t mention it, other times they lift most of the elements and will use signature space to nod to where they got it. There’s no such nod that I can see, and considering that I’ve read James Robinson’s Starman, I think Tony Harris is getting screwed here.

Alisik Fall 1 (Rufledt/ Vogt): For anyone waiting on the edge of their crypt for Hello Kitty to reach her goth phase, your dark apathetic wait is over! [8/10]

Just about every graveyard plays host to a crew of especially colorful stories, be they of famous people buried there or practically unknown people that died in exciting ways. This little cemetery just got a new resident – a round-faced girl whose mortician clearly was on a mission to doll her up. Her name is Alisik, and she’s comfortable right where she is in the denial phase of mourning her life. During the night, she and the other post-mortem beings can move and talk and compose elaborate musical interludes as welcoming ceremonies. They can leave the cemetery if they like, but it’s not the best idea if they want to avoid trouble, but when the sun comes up they burn away to nothing, only to reappear the next night right back in their gravesite. Since they’re dead, the scorching of their spirits doesn’t hurt, but that doesn’t mean nothing can feel good.

The format stands out in particular. Part comic book, part illustrated fairy tale, Alisik’s introduction to non-life begins with a quick peek of her in a state of balance, and is then broken into chapters that describe the steps it takes her to accept that she is in fact cadaverific. Her companions in the wayward afterlife are at once friendly and unreliable, craving new experiences yet slow to imagine different viewpoints. This leaves Alisik lonely in a crowd and required to feel her way through the rules of her world. This creates an atmosphere of optimistic despair, as if the worst has already happened so all that’s left to do is lay back and enjoy the show. A twist struts in at the very end to throw a potential wrench into things, as will happen, and as cliché as the event feels there’s comfort in knowing there’s something working to move things along.

Vogt’s art style holds the story together and serves as the factor that furnishes the title’s unique status. In a world of typical teenager trappings and Dia de los Muertos memorabilia, Alisik pops up as an over-adorable, chibi-like gloom cookie. The other dead characters all feature some traits from how they lived and died, which adds a bit of mystery to the main character as there’s no indication of her cause of death or lifestyle (unless it was as a toy). Everything from character design to architecture to random firings of dead neurons fit into the citified-necromatic style, which fans of Nightmare Before Christmas should easily appreciate.

Alisik Fall reads like a puppy in pitched battle with a knotted-up sock – it’s full of sound and fury and visual antidepressants.

Sparks GN (Boothby/ Matsumoto): So dogs are just made of cats? Dogs. Made of cats. This explains so much! (CC Note: This explains nothing!) But it does if you think about it! (CC Note: Think about what?) See how clever and insidious this is? It’s such a silly idea that you’d never think of it, and that’s how it works so well. They’ve got you thinking in circles! (CC Note: Your line of thinking is a dot.)

Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race (Breach/ Holgate): Why is always the human that’s driving while the robot… wait, wow this is offensive. Check this out, the human thinks so little of their robot companion they won’t even let it ride shotgun. It’s got to ride in back like an infant. This little snowflake’s so mad he could melt right now! (CC Note: Ooorrr this is a remake of
Driving Miss Daisy with a dash of Wacky Races, and the robot’s actually the higher-class one of the two?) I like that. I REALLY like that!

Lockjaw 1 (Kibblesmith/ Villa): Talk about instincts at war! There’s a happy ball of fuzzy wuv coming toward you and you just want to catch it and cuddle it and sneak it food under the table, but this particular ball is about the size of a horse and if you actually try to catch him he will crush your bones and not even realize it. I can only imagine how many Inhumans required extended hospital stays after their first visit to Attilan and their depth perception failed to warn them that the puppy was closer than it appeared.

The Beef 1 of 5 (Starkings & Shainline/ Kane): This is either a major push towards commercialized cannibalism or an elevator pitch to a politically-charged sequel to They Live. We may not have Rowdy Roddy to provide his encouragement, guidance, or kilt-capable legs, but it’s heartening to know his spirit lives on. [7/10]

Chuck Carter’s entire life has revolved around farmed meat. His dad worked at an industrial cattle ranch, lost a hand there, and then worked double shifts. He and his friends hung out next to that plant. The bullies that beat them all up were raised by the owner of that plant. Chuck himself works at that plant now, where he also gets his most of his food and is harassed by the same pampered bullies. So long as he has his meat, he doesn’t complain, but when he witnesses his bullies sexually harass one of the produce farmers, he gets upset. As it happens, when you soak a person’s physiology with growth hormones and additives for their entire life, and add a bit of original recipe adrenaline, things turn nasty.

Everything you need to know about this introductory issue is conveniently presented on the first page, where a kid’s jumping his bicycle with exaggerated consequences. The antagonists are over-the-top evil, going so far as to demonstrate that there’s a toxic cycle of upbringing key to the family’s success which just so happens to include the suffering of everyone around them. There’s a device in what we’d like to believe a natural product that’s just realistic enough to horrify, yet too subtle to register as a threat. Last is the protagonist, who misses the ball more than Charlie Brown but without the charm. At his best, Chuck is a neutral party; at his most pathetic, he’s a pitiful victim; at his best/ worst, he’s a monster more concerned with his own pain than the plight of those around him. It’s easy to feel sorry for Chuck, but next to impossible to root for him.

The visual style of this book immediately throws the reader into a cautious state. From the first image of a YouTube fail in action to the last of a man bursting out of his own skin, every panel challenges the appeal of beauty. Even the golden-haired princess of the strawberry fields fails to find the most flattering light, only the most gratuitous. If you ever wondered what Mike Allred’s art would look like if the joy was removed, this book would be your answer.

The Beef reads like the edit room floor of a behind-the-scenes documentary – everything too sensational about a real concern in a neat little package.

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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