Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
You know the best way to escape? Read about someplace crazier than where you are now. It takes you out of your head and applies some perspective, and in the meantime it’s pretty entertaining. And if you’re looking for worlds so crazy they make insane asylums look like ice cream parlors, we’ve got a couple of doozies for you!
•Archie Meets Batman 1 (Parker & Moreci/ Bone & Parent): *slams head on desk* *looks at screen again* Nope, that wasn’t a hallucination. That’s the Batusi on a modern comic cover. Maybe it’s showing my age, but these kids and their dance moves are everything that’s wrong with the world and it can wrap itself in fire and I hope the next dominant species avoids our mistakes.
•Rick & Morty Dungeons & Dragons 1 (Rothfuss & Zub/ Little): “Isn’t this great, Morty?! We’ve got the 20-sided macguffin and the only one that knows is an eternally hungry monster made of eyes and teeth. It could’ve been an army, y’know, same number of eyes and teeth but about 500 more bodies. That’d suck, Morty. Gotta appreciate what’s right in front of you.”
“Rick, can you get my axe out of this rock so I can slay the abomination, or are you gonna stand there holding that thing like it was your ego?”
“I wanted to name you Meatshield, but your dad was obsessed with the name Barry, so your mom wrote Morty on the birth certificate. A placating action, that’s what you were born to be, Morty, always remember that.” [7/10]
Hapless school kid/ control group specimen Morty gapes in confusion at the number of social circles playing D&D. It seems everyone’s playing it except him, and he’s got ladies to impress, so he hits the books and starts rolling. Problem is not only is it overwhelming to create a character on your own but it’s painfully dull, the antidote to which is always his grandpa/ mad scientist/ galactic terrorist Rick. You want to talk random numbers, pretending to be someone you’re not, living a life centered around fighting and drinking? Rick practically helped Gary Gygax write 1st edition! Now Morty’s witnessed his grandpa create and detonate explosives out of used gum and condiments, but even Rick couldn’t turn a pen-and-paper game into something potentially lethal, right?
To anyone that already plays D&D, or already enjoys Rick & Morty, this’ll be a wonderful collection of in-jokes. The background characters drop lingo and trivia like they were microphones at a rap battle. To fans of just one or the other, this is the perfect gateway to both – between Morty’s bumping around the most critical spots of his world and Rick’s sadistic examples of the game, there’re plenty of places for newer readers to set their feet. Without at least some pre-existing drive or motivation going into this book, there’s not much to carry truly new audiences in. The co-authors are both top-tier nerds, one an official writer for D&D’s intellectual properties, the other a novelist that needs to get back to novelling (some of us need closure!), so say whatever you want, but the writers know their material.
Rick & Morty’s style of animation hinges on cartoonish characters based of what a 4th grader might design, but produced by a manic genius. Bodies are boxes, limbs are thinner boxes, and faces are made out of simple shapes strategic colors. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll recognize it right away. It’s first impressions are that it’s shamelessly immature, but after a while it becomes clear that the art wants you to feel non-threatened so it can get close and stab you right in the feels.
Rick & Morty Dungeons & Dragons reads like an inside nostalgia trip – a refreshing blast if you remember it, but without context someone might think you’ve committed a crime.
•Web of Venom Ve’Nam 1 (Cates/ Ramirez): So, is it official that the origin story of the symbiote costume’s been retconned hard. I realize that starting as a black jawbreaker from a machine built by a cosmic sociopath as a desperate alternative to nudity doesn’t play well on screen, but do you have to throw away every single element? Next you’re going to tell me its favorite organ is the liver.
•Ozy and Millie Vol 1 (Dana Simpson): To us, it’s a song or phrase that seems to persistently reappear in the conscious metal cycle, but to these two I bet the term “earworm” means something quite different.
•Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian HC (Weinstein/ Brosgol): Okay well this is just horrible, toxic upbringing. Building a stack of books twenty stories tall (see what I did there?) (CC Note: Get on with it!) and then standing on it is a bad idea. People on web videos do it just before needing intense medical care. And here we see not one not two not three but FOUR grown-up with zero excuses atop those things wondering where to plant their flag. Of course the little girl’s going to stand on a stack of books too, and she’ll probably pick up a whole bunch of other destructive behaviors too like wearing suits and ties to work or being bald.
•House Amok 1 (Sebela/ McManus): “I’m going to school, Mom!”
“Did you pack your homework?”
“Are you wearing shoes?”
“Did you perform the morning rituals that keep F’Talkrep the Skineater at bay?”
“YES! Mom, I’m not a baby anymore!” [7/10]
Dylan and Ollie are twin girls in your typical nuclear family. They’re homeschooled, they’ve got a territorial older brother, and embarrassing parents. They’re also steadfast in their belief that reality is being altered by creatures no one can see, that they intend humanity harm, and that they’re the only ones who know and for their safety it has to stay that way. Their idea of a family vacation is to visit a house famous for its pockets of ignored physics, share a vision of global catastrophe, and pledge to escape the grid no matter what the law says. Their Thanksgiving dinners are delightful.
The point-of-view for this book is both hard to identify and uncomfortable once found. The definition of “normal” according to this family goes into Hannibal Lecter’s territory, but how they got there would not seem to be a narrative priority. In fact, that narrator seems to purposefully skip that part in favor of the part they want to tell, which adds some credibility to them as a character, but denies us valuable context. At its core is a question I believe many people are asking these days: how do you stay sane when everything around you has gone mad? I hope this is the path the story takes, but it’s hard to track.
On the spectrum between realism and cartoonishness, the needle on House Amok occasionally spikes toward the middle, but otherwise hangs around the cartoonish side. Figures and features are rendered quickly and less cleanly, but consistent throughout the issue. As difficult as it can be to trust what’s going on, there’s rarely a reason to question the visual component to the storytelling. It doesn’t impress anything upon the reader, nor is it particularly clever artwork, but the job does get done.
House Amok reads like a new and remarkably on-point swear word – not sure what it was at first, fascinated at the time, but looking back it may be irrelevant.
•Catwoman Tweety & Sylvester Special (Simone & Fontana/ Miranda & Carzon): Here we see a hungry cat challenging the alpha of the region for the first bite of its prey. To maintain her status, the alpha must assert dominance, even if she doesn’t happen to be hungry or eat talking birds.
•Edge of Spider-Geddon 2 (MacKay & Way/ Albuquerque): Alright who ordered the D.Va with a side of Parker?
•Ms. Marvel 33 (Wilson/ Leon): “We’ve got this character with lots of popular momentum, she’s a girl, she’s a person of color, her whole thing is about flexibility. We want to make the most of her outstanding traits, what kind of cover do you have for me?”
“Here she is ready to punch someone with giant fists!”
•Beyonders 1 (Jenkins/ St. Claire): National Treasure but the Nic Cage character is played by a corgi? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! [8/10]
Kids have hobbies. Some draw, the cool kids collect comic books, but Jake’s the kind of kid that’s just got to be different. He breaks codes, researches global mysteries, micro-analyses obscure manuscripts, he’s basically Fox Mulder without the alien abduction. Jake lives with his parents in a beachside house outside of town, where everyone tells him he’s average and should focus on average things. Average things bore him, driving him crazy enough to sign up for random chats online, and yet rewarding him by introducing him to women he wouldn’t otherwise meet, like Narine with the blue lipstick. The honest truth is if Jake is bored, that means the androids and undercover agents dictating Jake’s every step are doing their job right.
A problem some books can have is they set up a status quo, and then wreck it beyond what the audience will stomach by way of random magic or bonus character or deus ex machina. This story starts by explaining that there are things in the world that can’t be explained, and so there’s never a status quo to disrupt in the first place. On the one hand, it’s easier to accept things when they go nuts, but it takes power out of the punch some of the plot twists are expected to possess. Instead we find a wide assortment of fun elements to the story and confusion as to what to do with them.
The art style takes blocks and other shapes and arranges them in a panel to create figures, faces, and backdrop, usually to a successful degree. While appearing simple and not concerned with realistic proportion, it does not cater to whimsey like a more animated style might. The color palette has its default shades and enough sense to go beyond them when the situation demands.
Beyonders reads like a murderer with five masks – a series of big reveals that each challenge everything you thought you knew until it’s completely ridiculous.
•Fantastic Four Behold Galactus HC (Lee/ Kirby & Quesada): Wow, the surfboard is his penis and no one’s being subtle about it, are they? Galactus sends it everywhere without asking, someone’s always riding it… I guess they’ve never been subtle about it, I just chose not to notice before.
And that is where I’ll end it. See you next week! Happy Labor Day!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues