Variant Coverage – June 20, 2018

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Ca-ha-ha-haaaaamics! Coming at ya!

Barbarella 7 (Carey/ Yarar): You’d think of anyone in the future, Barbarella wouldn’t have a problem finding someone to play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Holograms with her. Maybe she just prefers playing it alone, and assigns names and backstories to each fighter like her own personal wrestling federation. Huh, anyone know off the top of their head how much a set of those costs?

Tony Stark Iron Man 1 (Slott/ Schiti): “Don’t think of armors don’t think of armors don’t think of the cost-benefit differences between solid plate versus flexible mesh sheets DAMMIT! Okay, don’t think about armors. Do not think about armors. Think about soda bottles. Glass, curvy, non-alcoholic soda bottle. Drinks taste better from bottles than cans. I’ve been called “Tin Can” before. When’s the last time I actually looked like a can, I wonder if they’re some way to use the classic design again without losing mobili-CRAP I DID IT AGAIN!” [8/10]

It’s only been 55 years in our time (or over 25 years comic time), but Tony Stark has finally learned the value of teamwork! He’s personally gathered a cabal of the greatest engineering minds on the planet, including an AI specialist he beat at a robo-soccer rally, to advance the limits of human technology. He’s got five floors worth of labs, unlimited budgets, and the daughter/ wife-to-be of Ultron in charge of keeping everything ethically above-board. Tony Stark’s armor protects him fine, but now he’s thinking of how to fit everyone else into that kind of security. Until then, he’ll keep constructing suits that can stand solo against the likes of Fin Fang Foom.

Dan Slott established a style on his runs with She-Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man, and he confirms that style with Iron Man: gather and nurture the lore of the main character, assemble a giant hammer that makes a honking noise, then bludgeon the audience with it. Diving into Iron Man at this point is like diving into a ball pit of Marvel trivia – it doesn’t require any previous experience, just a lot of elements and some ballistics.

It’s fun that so much found its way into the book, but for all that there was a lot missing. Things like the part of Tony Stark that recognized people’s autonomy, even when they were his employees. Instead, we observe a Stark that doesn’t show up to most of his meetings, and bombards potential talent without offering anything in the way of credit or compensation for their efforts. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready for a hero more interested in spreading the wealth than maintaining it.

If Tony himself had hired an agency to make him look the best he possibly could, it would’ve looked like this. It’s a bit cheesy, with smiles just a little too big and bright or techno-toys only a little too flashy to be believable, but it’s all 100% to enhance the sense of fun around the whole concept.

Tony Stark Iron Man reads like a story from your fun grandpa – it’s larger than life and too crazy to believe, but paying attention gets you out of chores so get comfy.

Mae Vol 2 1 (Gene Ha): When people say “epic mount”, this is the kind of creature they’re supposed to be talking about. It resembles two or three creatures but clearly isn’t any of them, so if one charges with the intent to crush you underneath its feet/ hooves/ paws, you’ll be too stunned wondering what questions to ask about it to think about diving out of the way.

A Strange & Beautiful Sound GN (Zep): Do NOT ask this guy what it is. He’ll just ask you to put your ear into the water, and once in position he’ll fart. He’s a jerk that way.

Runaways 10 (Rowell/ Anka): “You must eat one, little girl. Choose, and one of your companions will die! With so many options, surely you will go mad! Mwa ha ha aha ahahaha!!”
“Are any of these gluten free?”
“Mwahaha ha… what?”
“I don’t eat sugar, either. You did include at least a few health-conscious dishes, right?”
“…I spent three days setting all this up, and you’re not going to have any of it? How did *I* get cast as the bad guy!?”

Peter Parker Spider-Man Annual (Zdarsky/ Allred & Bachalo): Swiping a freshly prepared hot dog from a hard-working vendor? Encouraging passing school children to eat junk food? Clogging up traffic with tangles of webs? JJJ was right, he IS a menace!

Shanghai Red 1 (Sebela/ Hixton): “Why’d the humans go away? I thought we were going fishing together?”
“You should ask Gary.”
“Gary?! What did you do?!?”
“Nothing! All I did was look at them and smile.”
“Like a serial killer, Gary.”
“I never killed anyone. Cows are more likely to kill humans that we are.”
“Yeah, and there’re religions that consider cows sacred, and that’s because cows don’t go around creeping them out.” [8/10]

Once upon a time, in a land full of ports – a Port Land, if you will – a quick way to make some fast money was to kidnap capable folks from out of town looking for another chance and “contract” them out to ships as cheap labor. The woman named Molly, who arrived and worked in Portland only to be abducted under the name of Jack, turned into a soul called Red during their tour on such a boat. Molly was the sort of girl that could learn anything if it could help her family out. Jack was the sort of guy that liked to work with his hands and relax with coworkers so long as the work paid. Red’s the sort of person that’ll straight up slaughter a slaver given even half a chance, and as it happens, Red knows a place where plenty of chances await.

This story is Twelve Years a Slave meets Kill Bill. There’s nothing subtle behind this, and the set up takes a few giant steps around logic to get to the point where the real meat of the tale can begin to form. I do say without irony that I love the character of Red. She was raised with the idea that she could do anything anyone else could do, so long as she looked out for her family. It’s a sweet idea that gets twisted around into something more like “the work you do must be so that other people can prosper”, a concept that Red comes to violently reject. It puts the best and worst perspectives of a life of service right next to each other and challenges the reader to explain the difference. It’s also a great way to justify some gore-fueled revenge without feeling bad about it.

The artwork’s presented in full color technically, but uses about as much red as black. The rough, sketchy line style lets the reader know this is a “simpler” time not to be confused with the present day, but by no means are the character designs or environments simple. All the elements of the page come together in a concrete manner, allowing no illusions or misunderstanding about what’s going on. The visuals communicate plenty, just don’t expect much of it to be pretty.

Shanghai Red reads like constructive criticism – it’s a bit brutal and can hurt if you don’t know how to handle it, but ultimately it’s a good thing to have.

Son of Hitler HC (Del Col & Moore/ McComsey): It looks like that’s Hitler getting choked, but it could be Hitler Jr wearing some hand-me-downs. The titular son could be either choking or being choked, but can we be sure? I’m all for enigmatic covers and teasing the audience, but this is the kind of thing I feel your readers would need to know to determine if they want the book. They don’t need to put the whole story on the cover, just give us enough so we don’t accidentally root for the genocide advocate.

Justice League TP Volume 6 (Priest/ Briones & Santucci): What sounds more likely? After watching his parents shot to death, a young boy with almost unlimited resources would:
1) dedicate himself to training and study until both body and mind were honed into invincible weapons to be used against violent crime,
2) deny emotional attachments of any kind for an ever-growing list of reasons, and take decades to even begin stretching reasons off, or
3) develop an intense phobia of blood, which he watched bleed out of his parents for who knows how long before the cops took over the scene.
Trick question! It doesn’t matter because no matter how you look at it, this scene is a buffet line of Batman’s triggers.

Space Boy 1 (Stephen McCrainie): So is Planet Girl here Space Boy’s partner, sidekick, archenemy, neighbor he nods at while getting the paper, or what? Throw me a bone here, cover.

Archie’s Superteens vs. Crusaders 1 (Flynn, Williams, & Martin/ Shannon & Williams): This is what happens when a city gets too many superheroes without any attempt to regulate air traffic. That’s why so many caped team-ups start with a fight – maybe two times out of ten it’s a misunderstanding of intent, but the rest of the time it’s an argument over right of way.
“I was on the right, I get to go first!”
“But I was coming from below, so I get priority!”
“Will you two get out of the way, my secret identity’s got to be at work in five!”

Wild Storm 14 (Ellis/ Davis-Hunt): Behold, the future platinum level of service offered by AAA!

Lost City Explorers 1 (Kaplan/ Sarreseca): This is the face they make every time someone asks them if Lost City is where they’re from, since you’d have to find a lost city before you could explore it. These kids have heard it a hundred times and stopped answering verbally 97 times ago. [7/10]

At any given time on the island of Manhattan, people gather for any of a thousand reasons. Hel(en) and Maddie were just complaining about being with people for no reason at all when Hel learned her father Dan died. The funeral was nice, and the company Hel’s dad worked for had a generous life insurance check ready for them so long as they signed a couple of forms, just a formality really. Then someone comes up to Hel and her friends as tells them they didn’t know Dan as well that they thought. Dan was a historian with some unconventional ideas about what Manhattan was built over, ideas that he was about to prove right before an incident.

An easy way to make a character likable is to show them doing something charitable or beautiful. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, just a tiny act is enough for a reader to get their measure and decide they’d spend more time with them if given the chance. Hel introduces herself through an expository montage about how dissatisfied she is with the world, which isn’t exactly endearing but does the job of letting the audience get to know her. Maddie lets her rant – possibly an act of charity, but more likely a passive tolerance for a friend in a bad mood. All the other central characters provide ample evidence that they’re shallow, perhaps even toxic. I’m genuinely curious about what the mystery of the expedition was, but I don’t want to hear about it from these people.

Visually, the book treats the reader to the VIP tour of the story. The characters are distinct without being too obvious, the settings are chosen to take advantage of the whole city, the colors bring out the vivacity of everything, and yet there’s never a panel where the art feels overproduced. The proportions and scales anchor themselves to realistic standards, but the fine details are cartoony enough that they can stretch the truth a bit and get away clean.

Lost City Explorers reads like another class’s yearbook – plenty of places and scenes you may recognize and even enjoy, it’s just a shame a bunch of strangers keep showing up.

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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