Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
There’s a lot of new ideas and looks on the shelf this week along with new issues. You’ll definitely want to browse around and take a look, but I happen to have some suggestions.
•Brothers Dracul 1 (Bunn/ Colak): The boys look like they just got caught spray-painting a wall or tipping a cow. “Gosh, Mr. Ottoman, I know this must look bad, us digging into this graveyard at night at all, but we’ve got a good reason! See, my brother Vlad here really wants to win the local fair’s tomato competition this year, on account of Valeria of Macedon being Miss Wallachia this year, so we’re planting seeds in all the quiet spots we can find. We can’t use on own yard ‘cause our paw’s got the whole field seeded to feed your crusade this summer, and if we use the common plots that mean old Count McGillicutty’ll just ruin them the week before ‘cause he hates us, and I’m just now seeing your face and thinking you don’t care one lick about produce contests and could hang us by our toenails if you wanted so I’ll just be quiet now.”
•Crude 1 (Orlando/ Brown): Okay, drowning in a sea of Kool-Aid is bad, but if my only chance of survival is to be rescued by a guy who stains everything black that fast, I may just embrace the watery, sugary abyss, thank you. [6/10]
Piotr Petrovych doesn’t like talking about his work, mostly because he’d have to kill you as hard as he kills people for his work, so he fell into a habit of lying about it. The one he lied to the most was his own son Kiril, and that’s bad parenting. Flash forward about a decade and a half and Piotr’s son has a few secrets of his own, along with an idea of how to live with them. There’s a town called Blackstone way out in the middle of nowhere, and so long as you can work the oil rig there no one’ll care what kind of stuff you’re into. Kiril didn’t live long enough to spend his big paycheck, and so Piotr never got to know the man his son grew up to be. It’s not too late for him to learn, he’ll just have to go to the same mysterious frozen hellscape that killed his boy. He won’t mind talking about his old line of work up there.
This opening chapter comes with plenty of material to make a story. It’s got a troubled father-son relationship, a mysterious corporation running a work camp, assassinations, and government dictating who a person can love and how. The problem is that bringing these together turns out to be a slow and unsteady process. The story jumps as much as seventeen years with barely any indication, so trying to follow who grows into who feels like a game of darts with a random target. Piotr’s mission to learn about the son he never knew may lead him to a desolate setting known for chewing people up and spitting them out, but so far there’s nothing to suggest there’s any more linking them than that. By the end of the story, there’s plenty of potential for excitement later on, but there’s no promise or apparent logical reason for readers to expect any.
The artwork strives to tell as much as possible with as little as it can. That’s not to say there’s empty space on a page – the pages are quite full – simply that constructing faces uses a set number of lines and never more, colors and shading possess only two tones at any time, and backgrounds are established once and not referenced later. Piotr wears the same expression when teasing his young child, wiping a victim’s blood off his face, or eating toast, which only exacerbates the issue that this book fails to generate emotional involvement. Technically, the art’s impressive with how efficiently it renders difficult scenes, but beyond that there’s little to appreciate.
Crude reads like a strip of cheap beef jerky – it’s made with plenty of substance, but too dry for people to reach for unless it’s exactly what they want.
•Supermansion 1 of 2 (Hutchinson/ Elphick): I haven’t seen any of the show this book is based off of, so for now this is Kosher Bender from Futurama until proven otherwise. I can only assume Juan Cabal knew what he was doing in composing this cover, so if I’m completely wrong that’s on him. Oh, and if we actually see the mansion from the title and it’s not wearing a cape, I’m done.
•Exiles 1 (Ahmed/ Rodriguez): So as I mentioned before, there’re different philosophies to designing a comic book cover. Some keep it simple with profiles, others go for a one-panel story. This one features the team charging at the reader, which is one I’ve never quite understood. There’s no other industry that promotes themselves by chasing their audience down for cash with the promise that if you buy something, they’ll always be in your home chasing you. Most of the time when I give pursuers money (more like toss it over my shoulder when I’m sprinting), it’s because I want them to stop. Am I missing some context? Are they hunting me down because they’re here to massage my tense shoulders away?
•RoboCop Citizens Arrest 1 (Wood/ Coelho): Thanks to Nimit Malavia and his wonderful cover here, I now have the image of RoboCop drinking a cup of tea with his pinky up in my brain. It can never go away, nor do I want it to. This is a shame only because now if the book doesn’t have a scene where Robo arrests a guy for adding milk and sugar to Earl Grey, it will be a disappointing failure. [8/10]
Omni Consumer Products tried to build a new Detroit on top of the old one, and they thought they could buy law enforcement to help make that happen. They even developed a cyborg to soldier on while the regular blues had their protests and town halls. RoboCop was designed and programmed to be OCP’s iron fist, but before that, he was Officer Alex Murphy. Robo-Murphy burned the corruption out of the company. Someone else bought up the ashes and liquidated the police force so they could justify installing an app in everyone’s phone: R/COP. Snitch on your neighbor and, if they actually did something illegal, you get a payday. Sidewalk robots manage investigation and enforcement now, while the thing that used to be RoboCop and/ or Officer Murphy sits alone in a trashy house lamenting everything he can’t do anymore.
There’s very little of the cyborg civil servant in this issue, and most of him hides in a trenchcoat, which isn’t great. We want to see a giant steel man-machine shooting the law into faces, and that’s only done in vague flashbacks. A lot of people inside the story want to see that too, and so the hook is baited: RoboCop wants to fight crime, he just needs his cyber-leash removed. One of the key things this comic gets right is the corporate comparison – the original film worked because their OCP reflected what was going on in the world at the time: companies wanted to do any and everything, and thought they’d get away with it if they paid some attention to what their customers wanted. Sequels and remakes arguably haven’t done as well because OCP’s strategy didn’t change. In Citizens Arrest, OCP does what they want and has their media buddies tell everyone else that it’s what they want too, freshly reflecting current behaviors.
Visually, the city of Detroit carefully manages who sees what. So long as you can afford to work within the system, everything’s clean and polished and tall. If you’ve got the audacity to not appreciate OCP’s efforts, you live in rundown neighborhoods held together by chicken wire and frustration. Anatomy bases itself on realistic proportions, only simplified and dusted off a bit – they don’t want anything getting in the way of the story and you. Facial ranges swing pretty far, and they support the context of the scene well.
RoboCop Citizens Arrest reads like a YouTube dare video – it sets up a nightmare environment where things can’t get any crazier, and suddenly someone shouts “Hold my beer!”
•Dead Hand 1 (Higgins/ Mooney): There’s a joke involving birds and bushes in the title, but by the time I get it right it’ll be way too racy and I’m trying to keep this blog at least a little accessible to all ages. If the man doesn’t realize that a point blank gunshot will burst an eardrum whether or not the gun’s silenced, the woman should at least cover her ear instead of just folding it across her abs like that. Or maybe she’s got an earplug and we can’t see it because she’s wearing her hair down. Maybe this whole series will be a massively twisted notice about gun safety, which would be hilarious if it weren’t so topical and necessary.
•Season of the Snake 1 (Lehman/ Michaud): When that thing sheds, will it qualify as a natural disaster? Are there insurance clauses and seasonal response teams set up to manage yards of dried and discarded serpent skin? Or maybe that’s what the city’s made out of, and the creature’s just slithered up its own used-up scales like a teenager sleeping on their laundry. That would go pretty far to explain why the snake’s looking up at the night sky so intently. “Have you ever looked at the ssssstarssss? I mean, REALLY looked at them?”
•Avengers 688 (Waid, Ewing, Zub/ Jacinto, Casselli): Would Mark Brooks like to come to the front of the class and explain this, please? Because I’m pretty sure Quicksilver’s posing a mannequin resembling his sister wrong on purpose to get a reaction. Either that or the team is out to make their relationship even more convoluted that anyone’s tried to make canon before, and it has been very screwed up.
•Domino 1 (Simone/ Baldeon): So I figured out what we’re supposed to be seeing on this cover. Domino’s in an otherwise typical shooting range, loaded her pistol with some common ammunition, and with her luck powers she bullseyed a passing quark and thus tore open a breach in reality, which now glows with a sickly green energy, and she’s smirking at us to brag. Thanks for all the help you could’ve given us but didn’t, Greg Land. [9/10]
It’s Domino’s birthday, but don’t do anything about it because there’s absolutely no need. She’s got to work during the day with her two fellow mercenaries, the rarely-seen and rowdy (Crazy) Inez and the moral line-dancer Diamondback. That’s a paycheck, a full-body workout, and enough fireworks to blow a hole in a forest. Domino – Neena to her friends – would’ve gladly called it a day at that, except half the 616 crashed her apartment for a surprise party, including a bunch of her ex-boyfriends, because that always works out well. It takes her a while to warm up to some of her gifts, but she’s only set to return one: the bounty put on her head by an angry and jacked-up woman with a horrifying rep and a nurse’s degree. Now ask Neena how old she is and really make her night!
The book opens with Domino explaining that she has complicated feelings about her birthday, but stops before she could explain. Over the next 20 or so pages she raids a mafia lumber yard, attends a party planned by Deadpool, wears maybe four different outfits which’re bombarded with a dozen unwelcome substances, and trades blows with strangers, but in the process of all that the reader’ll understand a bit of how Dom came to get birthday anxiety. They’ll also learn that even though her powers brought her into the mercenary gig, it’s the friends and partners she’s found that’ve kept her there. This story plays out into one of those gems that shines no matter what position you look at it from.
Baldeon’s art style isn’t too far removed from the ultra-precise action-fest that is Tradd Moore. Like Moore, there’s much more emphasis on how a person’s feelings can best/ most wildly show on the face, or which stances would look most playful in a fight, with only enough attention to anatomy to identify people as humanoid. This plants the book’s tone firmly in the “fun and dangerous ride” category, an intention that could be lost in the moments of painful introspection and mass extermination. The colors work toward making this as vibrant a book as possible without betraying a scene’s aesthetic – forests look like forests while high rises look like high rises. I’ll call it “appropriately zany”, you can call it whatever you like, but you’ll see that it works.
Domino reads like that classic Maxell commercial – once it starts playing, it’ll keep you in your seat.
Let us know what you found, folks, and we’ll see you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues