Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Like that heroic icon, let’s bust right in and get to work! (CC Note: Captain America? Batman?) (Kool-Aid Man.)
•Infinity Wars Prime 1 (Duggan/ Deodato): “Who replaced my hand soap with Icy Hot?!? I’ll snap your body into reddit accounts, I’ll shatter your mind into pop-up ads, and launch your soul so far into the abyss that even Nietszche won’t find it!!”
•Bone Parish 1 (Bunn/ Scharf): Yo dawg, I heard you like snorting things up your nose, so I got you some nose and skull fragments, that way you can snort a snorting nose up your snorting nose. [8/10]
Some people take drugs to get high, but the latest and greatest lets the person taking it visit six feet under. Called “Ash”, this drug can give whoever takes them entirely new life experiences. Wanna climb Mt. Everest? Or maybe travel five years with a circus? Experience the enlightenment of a dedicated priest or the wildest night of a long-dead hedonist, just about anything’s possible. The effects are the talk of every town in the nation, but hardly anyone’s talking about where it comes from. If more knew that dried human bones were the key ingredient, demand could drop, so the Winters family’s keeping the recipe to themselves. New York’s made a very attractive offer by New York standards – sell the entire business and walk away forever – but the Winters are New Orleans folks, which in this case means they don’t let things go easily.
So if anyone ever suggested that there’s no room in modern literature for stories about cannibalism or engaged conversations with the dead, first of all they’re dumb, and second you can put this book in their hands to prove they’re dumb and wrong. The basic elements of the premise are absolutely morbid, yes, but presented as a new resource to mine or branch of science to study, and weighed against the motivational power of greed and loss, it’s fairly believable. The Winters clan members each possess their own unique strengths and qualities that allows their casual desecration to read as endearing. Think Breaking Bad meets Brady Bunch.
The art style applies a grainy texture to everything, which I would like to believe is intentional as it reaffirms how important the “Ash” is to the story. That’d be clever. However, there’s no effective difference between this and any other book searching for that balance between computer-washed clean and hand-drawn comfort. The shading and coloring supply plenty of texture and depth to the world, and the linework itself renders everything crisp and naturally, but nothing about the art distinguishes itself from any other book. It’s well illustrated and simple enough to follow without getting lost, it just may not impress.
Bone Parish reads like a secret vice – there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the hell out of it, but bear in mind there are people that’ll say there is.
•Hellicious 1 (Elwell & Medina/ Wallis): As someone with little sisters/ cousins, I can attest that this cover accurately portrays tea parties. When you’ve looked down both barrels of an adorable, wide-eyed face wondering why you aren’t trying her cake that she worked so hard to bake, and been deafened by your survival instincts screaming to get away from the plate of yard clippings and shrapnel, then you can tell me what Hell is.
•Justice League Dark 1 (Tynion IV/ Bueno & Fernandez): I have a range of attachments to the rest of the characters on the cover, but they’re nothing when next to the image of a chimpanzee in detective garb wielding a broadsword. DC, can I tell you something? You’re trying to hard. Print Detective Chimp the Barbarian and you might as well be printing money. “Elementary, my dear Crom…”
•Britannia Lost Eagles of Rome 1 (Milligan/ Gill): Whenever you see skeleton soldiers in uniform, they’re wearing helmets correctly, and that just doesn’t make sense. Helmets are designed to accommodate things like hair and flesh. They protect things that’re naturally kinda squishy. I’m not saying no skeleton soldier should ever wear a helmet, I’m just saying if and when they do, it should slide around and fall off for not fitting like it did back in the old days.
•Long Con 1 (Meconis & Coleman/ Robado & Denich): Plenty of stories throw in scene about non-humans hiding in plain site at costume parties or cons. Is it so hard to imagine that hideous creatures would get tired of going as themselves just to mingle with humans? Maybe Sasquatch worked really hard on recreating Jon Snow’s armor from Game of Thrones and wants to show it off. Maybe the creature from the Black Lagoon is really into Doctor Who. Let these beautiful abominations have their fandom!
•New World 1 (Kot/ Moore): It’s bachelor(ette) party season, you’ve got your next big gig coming up, but you can’t decide whether to wear the armor or the fetish gear. Finally, there’s a tailor who understands you shouldn’t have to choose. [6/10]
Five nuclear bombs detonated at the same time in major American cities. This event changed the map, it changed global weather patterns, but completely failed to change American habits. On the contrary, the hottest show on the planet right now is a reality show about elite bounty hunters chasing down perps through some of these wastelands. Everyone’s got their favorite, and one of the easy hunters to love is Stella Maris: she’s young, she dresses well, she kicks all manner of ass and she’s not completely under the sway of what people think. Sometimes at night she disguises herself so she can go to parties or hook up without anyone realizing who she is. Her handlers normally don’t have a problem with this, and let her believe she’s fooled them. Then again, she normally doesn’t make out with people about to top the federal most wanted lists.
A lot must have happened between now and the time this story plays out, much more than is explained or referenced. That’d be alright if the present time featured hyper-advanced tech or a fundamentally new philosophy or anything captivating, but instead it’s basically the present with fresh paint and another wall. That’d be alright if the characters brought out parts of themselves or the world that challenged things and forced the best aspects to show themselves. When everyone’s just punching in, gets their work done, and goes out to blow off a little steam, it’s relatable. Relatable’s good, but it’s not engrossing.
Tradd Moore’s frankly wasted on this project. Moore’s visual style puts every available skill point into precision hyperkinetics – capturing the best possible frame of an action too extreme for the mind to process. There are perhaps two panels in this whole book where such a style pays off, the rest either prop up exposition or noticeably skip over moments that could’ve been visually exciting. This may be an attempt for Moore to develop himself as a visual storyteller, learning how to communicate more subtly than we’re used to seeing, and while that’d be good for him, to the reading audience it’s fairly disappointing.
New World reads like New Coke – impressive packaging, not the groundbreaking sensory experience they’d like you to believe.
•Teen Titans 20 (Glass/ Chang): Something about this team’s mission strategy doesn’t mesh well with the whole hero thing. Maybe it’s the overabundance of laces, maybe it’s the enthusiastic vandalism, it could be anything. I’m sure someone brainstormed that no one would steal a car if they ripped the roof off it, and I’d bet they’re right, but they could’ve work-shopped that idea more.
•Mr. & Mrs. X 1 (Thompson/ Bazaldua): “Dangit, Gambit, what’d ah tell you?”
“I put the seat down on the toilet or you put it on my head?”
“Uhh, that unless it’s mid-battle banter, I need to watch the casual flirting?”
“Yes, AND ah told you to send out the thank you cards with stamps! Not with biokinetic energy, but with stamps!”
“…If I could only get two out of three right, cher, I didn’t pick wrong.”
•DC’s Beach Blanket Bad Guys Special 1 (Various): It’s not the simple concept of association that throws me off about this cover – I fully believe that capable villains would understand the importance of vacations and networking. I think it’s entirely plausible that, before ripping everything out to build their secret lair, a dastardly ne’er-do-well would invite their pals to their recently-acquired island so they could trash the place in style first. I just can’t believe they could agree on catering options without bloodshed and explosions. You think Poison Ivy lets it slide when she sees a vegetarian option on the menu? Or Grodd after the fifth unsolicited banana split arrives at his room? No. Just no.
See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues