Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Wow. It’s been two whole weeks but I’m finally back. Everything looks so clear, so fresh and new. I just hope I can remember how to do this. Let’s see, here…
•Xerxes Fall of the House of Darius 1 of 5 (Frank Miller): “Oh look who’s back: the mockery of a mocker. By chance did you find some cleverness on your journey?” Shut up, Xerxes, you’re just jealous because you’d never get through a security checkpoint with half a hardware store on your face!
That one got away from me, let’s try again…
•Punisher 223 (Rosenburg/ Vilanova): “Capacitors overcharged. Reactor going critical. Safety systems ripped out to make room for bitchin’ stereo equipment. Why… didn’t I… use… the included ADAPTERRRrrRrrr?!?”
BOOM! I’m back, baby!
•Analog 1 (Duggan/ O’Sullivan): This guy’s clearly desperate and scared, but ultimately he has no one to blame for himself. He’s the one that got blood all over the suitcase. He most likely took this little meeting outside into the cold when he could’ve stayed inside at what must’ve been a decent gathering judging by the way they’re all dressed. Perhaps most damning of all, though, is that he ignored the obvious and most sacred of warnings: “Do Not Step on the Grass.” [8/10]
Jack McGinnis doesn’t enjoy violence or trickery, but they’re essential to his line of work: document courier. Some lunatic decided to permanently shut down all online security measures, bringing the Dark Web into the light and airing out all the world’s dirty laundry, from phone nudes to oligarchal conspiracies. These days, if you’ve got a secret and a plan to use it and a need to keep it, the only trusted recording method is good old pen and paper, and the only trusted delivery method is as a courier. Jack’s good at it. He used to work for the NSA, so they trained him up nice. And there was this one time an internet oligarch wanted to hire him to take over all online security. Want to guess how that turned out?
The book starts out as a pretty standard thriller story, including a noirish winter setting and some backstabbing skullduggery. Once the scene pans out to reveal a cyber-themed dystopia is when things start to pick up. Putting a secret peddler into a world where all senses of anonymity have been wiped out raises a few questions, and from the look of things Jack’s thinking about them a lot. That makes him interesting. What makes him likable is his strong sense of accountability, and the way he holds himself and others to that standard. He doesn’t what a person does, so long as they accept the consequences. So when he meets a guy who allowed major information hijacking to happen, a guy who never got asked a question by the cops, and learns he wants to hijack a lot more information, Watching Jack plan the guy’s downfall just makes you feel happy inside.
O’Sullivan’s art style shares several qualities with Darwyn Cooke’s, particularly from his adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker series. His overall format favors cartoonish proportions and animated motions, with a set of fundamental structures and backgrounds to build up the backdrop for his world. Men have blocky jaws and faces made of hard lines, while women’s heads are heart-shaped (though there aren’t many to find). The shading and coloring shift their tones depending on where the story goes, so while a highway or grungy city black may look dirty and washed out due to smog and other factors, mountain getaways and secluded old neighborhoods appear bright and clean. It’s this more than anything that sells the world of Analog as one with layers of people and lifestyles.
Analog reads like a friend’s excited face – you don’t need to hear anything to know it’s got a great story, it’s just been waiting for a good audience.
•Welcome to Paradise 1 (Medina/ Sawyer): “Alright boss, new shocks are calibrated and the engine’s purring like a litter of kittens in a catnip field. Soon as Poor-Man’s Statler or Waldorf here jumps off the rails, we can be out of here before anyone knows we were even published.” Blow it out your tailpipes, you Talladega Nights rejects!
Dangit, slipped up again. Calm down, I can save this…
•Demi-God 1 (Marz/ Smith): I’m not saying this guy’s got some kind of misplaced obsession with bodybuilding, I’m just saying Leg Day called: it wouldn’t mind if he skipped it. I’m not saying he made bad fashion choices by going with a body suit, but I’ll note that his first choice was a Big & Tall shop and they directed him to a paint store. (CC Note: You get one more. One!) The last time I saw anyone that pleased with themselves, it was a three-year-old that sniped his dad online just by sitting on the controller.
•Helm 1 (Hasan/ Reyes): The most horrible thing about this image is that the henchmen clearly aren’t aiming for her. They’re shooting flaming arrows to add some light to what could be a free show she’s giving them, depending on what she’s wearing under that robe. For her sake, I hope this is set in an age where pants have been invented.
•Isola 1 (Fletcher & Kerschl/ Kerschl & Msassyk): “By the honor of my family, by my love for queen and country, by the souls of my neighbors and the value of their lessons, I swear by all these and every ounce of strength in my body, I WILL chop this boring tapestry in half and look cool doing it! And there’s totally a hidden passage or collectible behind it, there always is.” [7/10]
Once upon a time, or about a week ago, a soldier named Rook had a pretty bad day. Sworn to the Queen Olwyn, they had to flee the kingdom of Marr when Olwyn got transformed into a giant black and green tiger. How’d this happen? That’s probably a story, as well as how Rook came to be the only retainer that’s remained loyal. What concerns the pair most right now, and thus what the reader witnesses, is their misadventures through the wilderness while trying to evade the various natural predators and other factions in order to make it to a village that won’t kill them on sight. Rook’s plan is to find the fabled city of Isola, which serves home to the power to all manner of mystical and social problems, include Sudden Onset Kitty Syndrome. There’s one old man in the woods that may be able to teach them what they need to know to make their way to the legendary city, or he may be high on the local peyote, flip a coin to decide.
For an introductory first issue, Isola doesn’t seem to supply much information. It does a fine job of demonstrating Rook’s devotion to Olwyn, as well as Rook’s shaky grasp on discipline and lack of experience. Without language, Olwyn only has her glares and tackles to communicate, and she’s used to making herself understood without question. Thus, both main characters kind of hate their jobs, but even though they’ve only got a rumor to go on, they’re trusting each other. It’s noble, sometimes heartwarming, but without a single hint of how they found themselves here or why they’re moving this way, there’re few solid qualities to invest in where the narrative’s concerned.
In contrast, the visuals bring enough meat to start a block party. Anyone that’s read Gotham Academy will remember Kerschl as a Western-Amine fusion type of artist that didn’t mind slightly distorted proportions so long as it gave him room to include the details to faces and costumes he deems essential. Rook’s armor and loadout reveal someone trying to prepare for anything and expecting to be able to bear the weight the whole way. (It also obscures Rook’s gender, but before devoting much time to puzzling it out, take a moment to ask if it really matters right now.) In fact, most characters (including the feline queen) enjoy their own unique traits that must be oppressive to keep track of, yet they way they reward the reader for catching them should give Kerschl a sense of accomplishment.
Isola reads like planning a vacation – the maps and fliers kindle an excitement for what’s to come, but the real experience is yet to come.
•Portal Bound 1 (Roslan & Carrasco/ Arizmendi): Most swords are made out of forged metal, and they work great. A few are made from fallen meteors or dying stars, and while experts debate on their effectiveness, their reputations are wonderful. Students learn on swords made of wood or foam, which generally works out best for whoever’s in the room with them. But have you ever gone up against someone with blades made out of faces? “Turning the other cheek”’s going to be a threat if this keeps up.
•Swashbucklers Saga Continues 1 (Guggenheim/ Mutti): I must have missed the saga starting, but whatever. Action junkies be damned, I would actually read a book about space pirates convalescing on some island hospice or a popular bar/ pub inbetween pillages. The story of them actually doing something usually pales in comparison to the stories they make up three pints in on the twelfth day off while their arm or whatever heals. “Yargh, did I ever tell ye about the time I shot down five Imperial fighters with a damaged rifle’n me own severed arm?” “Yesterday it was three fighters and your broken arm.” “Yesterday it was yer dad’s gangplank I walked on so shut the suns up, Carla!”
•Tinseltown 1 (Lucarelli/ Ponciano): Oh crap! Deep inside I always knew this day would come. Listen, I know wearing stripes with bars is wrong, it was a stupid mistake and I’m a changed person! I’d never do that again, please don’t send me to fashion prison! Someone help me!
(CC Note: Help you? We reported you.)
Oh yeah? Imma beat this rap and when I do, you’ll be sorry! SoOooOoo sorry! But you, reader, you’re cool. I missed you. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues