Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
New comics came out this week which I’m going to write about, which I love to do. For health reasons I’m going to keep it brief this week, which I hate to do. Thank you for understanding. Or for your befuddlement, whichever one you’re in a mood to give. Now, getting on with it!
•We Are the Danger 1 (Fabian Lelay): Single person using third-person plural? You know what that means! Rock’n roll royalty, baby! I’m thinking blasting on the guitar so loud it sets off the seismic alarms in the gallery, or royal guardsmen continuously finding their uniform trousers torn strategically so they look tough, or eighty years later and she hasn’t changed at all but she’s got Queen Elizabeth’s pronunciation, like “If the Duke of Ellington attempts such nonsense again, the NHS will need to surgically remove our boot from his skull.” I am so on board with this.
•Man of Steel 1 (Bendis/ Prado): Kids, study this cover and learn from it. This is how NOT to make a good comic cover. A good comic cover features the main character or characters prominently. Now, SPOILER WARNING, but six sevenths of the people on this cover don’t appear in the book. So removing all other factors, readers immediately suffer 85.7% disappointment to the expectations they had just by looking at the cover. Way to fail. [8/10]
And lo, the Lord Bendis approached and did compose a manuscript to rise higher the Superest of men… is how this book’s been marketed. This first salvo includes everything a good Superman story should have: stopping madmen with guns, miraculous feats that thwart nature, saving people and tiny pets. It suffers for suggesting some major changes to the status quo without much in the way of verifying that it happened – it feels like the story’s gaslighting the reader. The art’s perfectly adept, and therefore nothing terribly challenging.
•Pestilence Story of Satan 1 (Tieri/ Okunev): Whether it’s a charging army or killer rabbit or sudden enforcement of the codes of chivalry, this is the picture of a knight facing what he understands shall be his gruesome end.
•Ms. Marvel 30 (Wilson/ Leon): This picture looks accurate and plausible enough that we can probably rule out “kindergarten teacher” as a future career for Kamala Khan. This lady gets tied in knots by two male peers, so you can imagine the non-euclidean shapes she’d get twisted in by 20 five-year-olds on Pixie Stick Day.
•Blackwood 1 (Dorkin/ Fish & Fish): Okay, you got them, it’s not just the wood that’s black. It’s the crows. It’s the robes. It’s the night sky, the iron, the pudding, the ink, the ops project, the list, the ball, just about everything here’s black. When they focus-tested the name for the place, people responded best to the wood, and so that’s what it’s named for.
•Mazscara 1 (Gary T. Becks): Is this a full-page ad for perfume, and if so did George Romero design the advertisement or the perfume or both? It’s too close to call, I genuinely cannot tell.
•Hack Slash Resurrection 7 (Howard/ Celor): If half-naked girls with bloody baseball bats can stop the destructive wave of sequels and reboots, I’m all in. I’ll like their Twitter posts, I contribute to their crowdfunding project, heck I’ll use my vote to write them in as governor.
•Last Siege 1 (Walker/ Greenwood): “Let me paint you a pretty little picture. Now I’m not one of those fancy painters that needs a ‘canvas’ or ‘store-bought paint’ to render a scene that captures the mind and illuminates the soul. My paintings are on the roads we all travel by, leaving no one without the chance to see them. As for my medium, chalk is popular, as are paints or even sand. But for me, what works best is to squeeze every last drop of blood from an an enemy castle, so that I can show my audience how they died even as they see the dead. I don’t get a lot of repeat business, but I still enjoy the work.” [7/10]
From the preamble text and some of the exposition, there’s a sense of a lush larger world, a world that’s shoved out of the way for a slice-of-life drama around cookie-cutter characters. If they didn’t fit so well into their places, I’d be more upset, but the worst I can claim is that they don’t show much nuance. The art style uses cartooning to emphasize that this is not a realistic setting, yet includes enough detail and energy to establish that actions and intentions will have brutal consequences. It’s hard to tell where the narrative’s going from here, but it’s working well enough so far.
•Judge Dredd Under Siege 1 (Russell/ Dunbar): As you can clearly see here, Judge Dredd can never be under siege. He’s the tower that makes or breaks sieges depending on what side the law’s on.
•Black Lightning Hong Kong Phooey Special (Hill & Parker/ Kolins): The racial stereotyping and harmful cultural appropriation in this image alone could start a series of global flame wars. Networks are bidding right as I type this on a series of news segments interviewing these two characters on how their complex backstories have been condensed, abridged, or otherwise packaged for mass consumption without any regard for wider understanding, and even worse they weren’t paid fair wages for the trouble.
•Flash Speed Buggy Special (Lobdell/ Booth & Rapmund): I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous here. Here’s Wally West who appears to be running to get off the track. Speed Buggy’s doing his best impression of a Liefeld character and I don’t know if it’s winning or losing but it’s spectacular either way. Alright, I’m decided: the most ridiculous thing about this cover is the idea that individuals could be identified so easily in the stands from this perspective. They’re set back away from the dozens of screaming vehicles going fast enough to turn a standing human into pancake batter For. A. Reason. You’re setting a horrible example there, “heroes”! (CC Note: And this is how you identify someone that’s grown up with the Indy 500.)
•Aquaman Jabberjaw Special (Abnett & Parker/ Kolins): “This isn’t all that special. I’m hanging out with ape-like mammals all the time. We’re in a band together.”
“Aye, it can be troublesome at times. They’re so picky about what they breathe. More to the point, I’ve met more than one talking sea creature myself.”
“No kidding? I bet they can’t belt out two drum solos a night for three months like me.”
“No, but the sound they make when I punch them so hard their internal organs collapse has its own melody.”
“…Seen any roadies around? I lost my trailer, anyone seen a roadie?”
(I’d have made an entry for the Supersons Dyno-Mutt Special too, except the cybernetic dog had a crossover last week and I have no intention of giving his or his bird sidekick a free ride.)
•2021 1 (Betbder/ Bervas): And you thought you knew the kid that left nothing but a mess in their wake. [7/10]
Some tried and true sci-fi tropes attached to a modern military chess game makes for an interesting frame work. There’s a deep sense of history to the story, most of it probably won’t get explored but it certainly helps to know it’s there. Sadly, in the massive amount of time and space this issue has, it never fully presents one character to care about or one reason to be concerned for anything that happens. The visuals illustrate some painful events beautifully, to the point that you don’t want to turn away from them. It’s a shame that it couldn’t cover for the gaps the narrative left gaping wide.
I’m off to take a thrilling nap! See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues