Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
The future’s looking pretty good for comics. The seasonal products are available, snack foods are readily available, and we’re coming up on Free Comic Day 2: Electric Boo-galoo. If you are a hardcore Halloweener, if you like getting free stuff, if you want to show off your costume, or if your just looking for an escape from reality for a few precious minutes, you’ll want to visit Comic Carnival on October 27th, that’s what I’m saying. In the meantime, there are some very new and fine books out today. Let’s look at them now!
•Girl Town TP (Carolyn Nowak): Now this is just typical. Whoever’s running Girl Town probably says they’re all about equality and representation, and on the same day makes it mandatory for all single women to live in the sewers. Politics suck.
•Cursed Comics Cavalcade 1 (Various): “Mom, Dad, let me go! You’re embarrassing me in front of the Justice League! I’m a grown man, Batman doesn’t need hugs!” [9/10]
Swamp Thing plays both victim and villain in his tale of heroism. Batman’s luck with the ladies continues to increase his obligations to Arkham Asylum. Wonder Woman goes to war against an immortal murderer. Black Lightning and Kitana bond over a common language and enemy. Robin (Damian) and Grundy enjoy a moment over cooked bacon, Guy Gardner does what he loves on his day off, and Zatanna discovers a way to participate in Halloween and enjoy it. These tales of tragedy and strife come in a conveniently bound format and can be yours for $9.99.
I enjoy anthologies, largely because they begin and end clearly. No dangling threads (or at most very few), no indecisiveness, just a collection of simple stories that know better than to waste your time. Even better, these are fun stories with plot twists, mostly about horrible situations but clever enough to throw in a laugh or two to mix things up. They tackle a wide variety of monsters, ranging from the monsters they are to the monsters from kids’ stories to the monsters that fight each other. The timing of this issue must have been calculated: this is definitely a read for Halloween.
The art styles also vary from highly detailed to apparent frames of animation. Each one’s solid, and each approaches their main characters from a place of respect. Between the art and the narratives, this is worth the price tag.
Cursed Comics Cavalcade reads like a box of chocolate – there are some you may not like, but there will be some you love.
•Devil Within 1 of 4 (Phillips/ House): “Oh no, I broke a mirror!”
“I’ve never thought of you as superstitious, much less that 7 years of bad luck nonsense.”
“7 years? Wait, I’m talking about how if you break a mirror your reflection shatters and allows an archdemon to leer into the mortal realm. Is that what you’re talking about?”
“No. Very no. On a related note, we’re taking that mirror to the dump NOW.”
•What If? Peter Parker Became the Punisher 1 (Potts/ Ramirez): I find it fascinating how it looks like everyone else can shoot webbing in this reality, and yet Parker feels justified in call the things on his wrist Web Shooters. Hell, for all we know this scene could be a fight over naming rights. Remember what Uncle Ben used to say: “With great power must come great responsibility, and also never sell your brand.”
•Artifact One 1 (Krul & Hernandez/ Moranelli): “What’s going on, people? How you doing? What? Well, yes this is a giant fly. Yes, it serves as my mount. A horse? Never heard of one. What do you mean they don’t fly?! No, you keep whatever running creature you have, I’ll stick to my colossal insect that’s perfectly satisfied eating my trash.”
•Infinite Dark 1 (Cady/ Mutti): Today’s average person might scream in horror at anyone surrounded by microfusion explosions, but do bear in mind this is the space of tomorrow. It’s highly likely that they’re so festive that they create mini-suns to decorate their space stations with. Some want Christmas to be all year around, but who guarantees that their decorations will be seen on the other side of the universe 20,000 years from now? Okay, there’s Chevy Chase, but he only did it once! [8/10]
Humanity has come full circle in answering the question “Are we alone?” They explored space, found out that the heat death of the universe was ahead of schedule, and in the last space station ever, they know through meticulous, repeated observation that they are very much alone. Life is rough for the survivors, and it’s Security Director Deva Harrell’s job as leader of the police force to keep Space Station Orpheus from getting any worse. What was supposed to be a refuge for 15,000 people now holds only the engineers and staff that built the place, with no one else able to get ahead of the collapsing cosmos in time. Now somebody has taken in the situation, with its dead sections and little hope, and they decided it needed a murderer.
Very few stories take place at the end of the universe (unless a restaurant’s involved) because the idea is so bleak that even if there are survivors, they’re only fighting to get a little more time before it’s up. This book has found a way to turn it around, suggesting that without the burden of having to make things better, they decide to simply find and become the best version of themselves so that when they end, they end with pride. It’s a beacon of hope that lasts only so long as everyone agrees to play it that way. When you don’t, you get anarchy and death.
The art checks the narrative’s tone by taking every chance it can to add color and light to the station and its inhabitants. Light and color actually become a signal as to the purpose of a scene, using blue as a measured and clinical discussion and red to denote trouble and urgency. It’s a bit sad that the light tends to wash over the designs of the station and their uniforms, as they wouldn’t be out of place in Mass Effect 3000: We’ll take the Reapers Back Now Please.
Infinite Dark reads like an oddly specific horoscope – it makes you think about the reality of something watching you and knowing how to use that.
•Murder Falcon 1 (Daniel Warren Johnson): We don’t deserve live metal this epic, but damn do we need it right now. You just know Metalocalypse is looking at this and getting equal parts jealous and hungry.
•Albert Einstein Time Mason 1 (Perry/ Donley): So wait, Einstein figured out relativity and the link between space, and then he went back in time to give himself a job more exciting than the patent office? Finally: a time travel story that makes sense! I wonder which of his own ancestors he’ll impregnate. I just hope whatever his time machine is doesn’t use jarred brains as a fuel source, otherwise there’s some twisted irony coming for him.
•Quantum Mechanics 1 (Jeff Weigel): Do check your local and online resources before hiring a contractor for anything, but especially if you’re vulnerable to a flashy name. Quantum Mechanics sounds high-tier and capable of things you can’t imagine, but you know some of the reviews read something like, “Polite and friendly, clean and punctual, but didn’t repair my sound bar as much as locked into a state between broken and working.”
•Shades of Magic: Steel Prince 1 (Schwab/ Olimpieri): I’ll give the cover points for including so much metal (not necessarily steel but who knows), but the only magical aspect I could find was how well this guy pulls off the the cape-and-jacket look. Find me anyone else that can wear both and not look like a “beyond all hope” rated entry of “Queer Eye”, and I’ll call them magical too.
•Last Space Race 1 (Calloway/ Shibao): So long as humanity doesn’t go through massive cultural change, there will never be a last race. We gots to go fast! [8/10]
Sasha Balodis has an airline company, a mission, and a desert-dry sense of humor. He wants to go to Saturn. While most people are thinking of how to properly colonize Mars, he’s got his eyes on that next milestone, and he’s building a ship that may one day get someone there. But it’s only today that the government’s approached him with a blank check to finish this ship of his. They’re curious about Saturn, but they’re more curious about the unidentified object passing through the solar system and its resemblance to an interstellar craft. That mission of Sasha’s just became a duty.
A story about first contact can be dramatic or a tragedy, but Sasha’s raw enthusiasm grabs hold of the story and steers it towards fun adventure. There are bread crumbs throughout to suggest that this isn’t naivete or ignorance of the dangers, but a constructive use of suffering trauma. Between that and the sass between him and his colleagues, it’s hard to not like him. The idea that he’ll be part of an alien species’ first contact with Earth is amusing enough to keep the reader from thinking about how much of it’s a heroic form of suicide. It’s also refreshing to find any character that, through loss and trial, truly deserves a win under his belt.
The art matches the narrative in the sense that both want to tell a story that’s genuine and fun. There’s not much innovation as far as design goes – the spaceship Sasha has in mind is a boxy shuttle – but then again there’s a sense that everything shown off would function the way it needs to, and there’s beauty in that. The lighting, inking, and coloring all work towards seeing everything as plainly as possible, which isn’t always the funnest way but it’s certainly relatable.
Last Space Race reads like a raw shot of alcohol – strong, leading to one adventure or another, and possibly addictive.
And just that fast, it’s time for me to chug something pumpkin-spice or caramelized/ salted or whatever sugar-delivery mechanism I can find. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues