Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
*bursts through door* *trips over cardboard* *nearly drowns in gravy* *angers the cat* *shakily grabs table*
It’s *pant* New Comics Day!
•Warning 1 (Edward Laroche): “We have a combatant on the field, be advised!”
“Roger, TacCom! Threat assessment?”
“Full torso armor, tailored, and a bat.”
“Confirm last, did you say combatant has a bat?”
“New intel: melee weapon combatant is armed with is a sword, over.”
“Let one of the other squads deal with him, we’ve got real problems down here!”
“Negative, combatant landed on Alpha team and dismembered them to mark an LZ for incoming reinforcements.”
“See, NOW I know what our job is, thanks TacCom.” [6/10]
There’s a plane off somewhere loaded with a squad of soldiers and one fighter surrounded by med techs calibrating his neurochemistry like a pit crew. The reason he’s around is because months ago a biotech firm long ago shuttered had to blow the dust off its stuff and get to work because Uncle Sam whipped out his wallet and turned the thing upside down. Uncle Sam would never have done this before last month, before a microscopic black hole shot through the solar system and just started hanging around a particular spot in America. And before you ask, no, that spot did not have an In & Out.
I suppose in honor of the recent holiday, this story’s presented Turducken style – one series of events inside another inside another. There’s a whole lot of concern about causality and establishing how things get to some critical moments. This concern overrides other story qualities like character development, world building, and defining the catalyst. That doesn’t mean this is a bad first chapter – it establishes the essential situation and provides a comprehensive timeline – but it does mean future issues have their work cut out for them if a fully realized story’s supposed to come out of this.
Laroche’s overall design and proportion attitude remind me a lot of the artist from Die Die Die! (also new this week), only it’s mostly about people sitting down. The downside of an issue devoted to building up things is that there’s not much actually happening. The changes in times and perspectives help to prevent scenes from getting stale, but that’s their biggest contribution. The art accomplishes what it’s called on to do, but it should be capable of more.
The Warning reads like hitting random on another person’s playlist – there’s supposed to be a theme under all these selections, but this isn’t enough to suss it out.
•Labyrinth Under the Spell 1 (Various): Alright, Labyrinth cracked the code. They’ve deduced the worst type of person to be an adventure protagonist: anyone with severe ADD. Sure, it’s important to be mindful of the supernatural royal that kidnapped a child, and the multitude of magical friends you’ve made along the way have been wonderful, but none of them are as interesting as this shiny bubble that just appeared! For the kid’s sake, I hope the schools in the land of the Fae are nice.
•Atomic Empire HC (Smolderen/ Clerisse): “Hmmm, so if a rocket takes off from the surface with an average speed of 12,000 miles per hour, and a comet passes the moon on its way to the sun at 12,000 miles per second, how long will it take to find my keys?”
•Barefoot Gen Volume 1 (Keiji Nakazawa): Anyone that’s done roof repair will tell you it’s not just a mistake to be on site without shoes, it’s basically a very slow suicide attempt. Friends, if you or someone you love doesn’t own shoes, keep them away from wreckage.
•Night Moves 1 (Boyd & Boyd/ McCormack): I’m not a Scarface fanatic, but if there’s a scene where the guy says “Say hello to my little friends!” and whips out a couple of miniaturized cops, I will read this series in its entirety just for pulling that off. [7/10]
Everyone’s got a game going in Vegas. People think if they’re lucky, they’ll win, but that’s not how Vegas works – if you’re lucky, you’re a player, otherwise you’re being played. Chris Dundee’s been on both sides of the table enough to develop a relaxed attitude and chases opportunities that cross his path, and that walking away is an essential survival skill. The tall blonde lady he chats up learned her own skill set at the police academy, but a chance happening with three priests assures them that they’re going to get to know each other very well before parting. After a nickel tour of Vegas’s darkest spots, Chris realizes he’s already in someone’s game too deep, and hopes that arm of the law’s long enough to reach him.
You wouldn’t expect a bullet-ridden Vegas tale would be told Princess Bride style, but damned if there’s not a little boy wanting to avoid an old man but needing to be told a story. Dundee hits that sweet golden spot of just casual enough to be anybody, but too valuable to cast aside. He doesn’t save a cat from a tree, but he proves he’s never the worst guy in the room. He thinks he’s too smart to anger the wrong people, and usually he’s right, but he’s so over his head it’s funny. It’s not much of a spoiler to say he lives through this, but that may not mean he wins.
Dive bars, penthouses, desecrated churches – this may not be a classic noir story, but it loves the trappings. The overall art style actually enjoys putting its props and players under the light and give us a good look, even though they’re rough and not refined, they’re not a chore. Even the more extreme hints at the paranormal don’t stray from what’s available on certain markets, meaning the designs are mostly pedestrian, but their arrangement should hold attention.
Night Moves reads like a warm cookie – not cliche enough to be pandering, not strict enough to be serious, just satisfying enough.
•Book of Ballads & Sagas HC (Various/ Charles Vess): “Oh, blessed statue! If only I could rest in the garden for eternity. Were you to know the suffering of being kept only for the entertainment of guests and nobles, I fear you’d come to hate the image your were carved in.”
“Blaarrrgh, lady, do you even hear yourself talk? Come back in two centuries and maybe I’ll tell you a story.”
•DC Nuclear Winter Special (Various): So this cover has done it for me, the votes are in, DC has officially thrown in the towel. If you’re a team of superheroes sworn to defend the planet against threats foreign and domestic, and even one chunk of that planet undergoes a nuclear winter, that’s a loss. It doesn’t matter how good you were the rest of the year, Santa’s not bringing you a atmospheric processor for Christmas.
•Monarchs 1 (Medina/ Pinto): Four people walk into a bar on a space station, bartender says “Why the long faces?”
•Ironheart 1 (Ewing/ Libranda & Vecchio): What’s the zoning like in DC? I’m sure there are drones buzzing around that drive security up the wall, but they can’t do anything about those most of the time. Kites in parks are probably cool, and perhaps remote controlled planes, but is the Reflecting Pool a green zone for low-flying craft? And before anyone @s me, she literally crafted that suit in a lab, so she’s got a case. [9/10]
Riri Williams is a young woman that knows change is inevitable, that sometimes you have to choose something before it gets chosen for you, and that it’s nice having options. Riri’s also a mechanical genius that built her own Iron Man suit from scratch, which gives her so many options that in spite of the tragedies in her life, she can choose to enjoy it. That doesn’t mean it’s a game to her when the trustees at her college get taken hostage by a C-rank baddie, it just means she can foil the plot so efficiently that it looks easy. But when a 15yo celebrity in one of the most prestigious colleges around, involved with a couple of supergroups, heir apparent to the primary industrialist on the planet, literally cannot leave whatever project is in front of her, looks mean nothing.
There are some steps taken in this first issue that appear to be fumbling or disconnected, but by the time you get to the end it resolves into a strong and purposeful path. If every superhero has PTSD, then Riri started learning how to deal with it before she was ten, so this is not a story about surviving PTSD. It’s not about fear of failure or performing in front of people, it’s about one of the biggest brains on the planet falling victim to the same thing everyone feels: being overwhelmed. Just because she can fight a battle on three levels at once doesn’t mean Riri never sits down and wonder how she survived. In times like these, we need to hear from voices that can crash once in a while and find a way back to their feet.
The art team studied Riri’s previous stints in Marvel canon, and brought as much as they could into her solo title. That’s not just the design of her suit or face, that includes attention to her facial expressions (which showcase tons of range and ruin her chances as a poker player), or full-on 3-D fight sequences pushing spacial limits like MC Escher but include endings. True to the pink and yellow in her suit, the colors are intense and the shading and depth and weight only to where it needs to be.
Ironheart reads like a memoir – a personal story that can also easily connect to your own story.
See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues