Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
It just started feeling like Fall last week, and we’re already looking down the barrel of Winter. This is Nature’s way of telling humanity “STAY IN YOUR HOMES OR I’LL WRECK YOU!” In your mad dashes to stock up on supplies, don’t forget to pick up a book or two. Comic Carnival happens to have a lot more than two.
•Die Kitty Die Heaven and Hell 2 (Parent & Luiz/ Parent): You may say you love your smartphone, but would you grow a new set of limbs so you could keep up on social media while burning in Perdition’s Flames? The devil didn’t count on that, as not only is Hell’s wireless connection great, but the pull of the chains perfectly straightens her back. Come on, Fallen One, bring your A-Game!
•Empty Man 1 (Bunn/ Hervas): And the award for “Best New Snapchat Filter No One Asked For” goes to… [7/10]
There’s a modern plague ravaging the world. Equal parts disease and mass insanity, everyone is desperate to find some explanation and answer, from pundits to doctors to enforcement agencies. It starts with mild hallucinations, mostly about glimpsing an “Empty Man”, followed by obsession with those images, followed by violent behavior in response to the most benign actions, and ending with dead bodies. Everyone’s very worried about what’s going to happen, and because humans are human, naturally there are a few that’re really excited about this whole thing. Like, biblically excited.
This is an odd little thing. Normally people enjoy classifying a destructive agent as inhuman, and when it proves to be fully not human they band together and have a good old eradication, but not this time. This time it’s an inhuman threat and everyone’s trying to put a face on it – they’re inventing a person to debate over and get angry at instead of unifying against a clear threat. Naturally, we should expect things to go from bad to worse with this mindset, but then again Bunn’s at his best when he avoids melodrama. There’s a statement or message yet to be made, but this issue lays down plenty of material, so there should be surprises to come.
Visually, this series is a splatterfest only without knives. Many of the victims of the Empty Man often find blood to paint on the walls with, and if there’s a plague, there just has to be boils. If you’re squeamish at the sight of blood or various lesions on the body, consider this your trigger warning. The figures and expressions conform to more realistic effects, whereas anything even slightly related to the “curse” begins to appeal more and more sickly surreal.
Empty Man reads like a modern art piece in the middle of a busy street – there may be no telling why someone would go through all the trouble for what may turn out to be a twisted ruin, but it’s better than reading faded bumper stickers.
•Adventures of the Super-Sons 4 of 12 (Tomasi/ Barberi & Thibert): Okay, this is cute. You’ve got a horrifying clawed monster from myth, a human-alien hybrid with enough power to destroy a city, and a little boy raised by serial killers and vigilantes. If they can hold off the fighting for 30 seconds to make introductions, they’ll realize they’re all nightmares walking the Earth and get a game of Smash Brothers going. The only thing that might get two young boys to run in horror like that is pizza farts.
•Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 1 Reprint (Sacase/ Hack): Kitty, no. You do not need a people wig. You are a kitty, and people wigs are for people. You are already pretty, a wig would just make you silly as well as pretty. Yes, you still are the most ferocious hunter in this house.
•Go-Bots 1 (Tom Scioli): Do you like being lazy and throwing things together at the last minute? Well now there’s a comic based off a series that thought the same way! Gaze apathetically at a bunch of robots hanging out in space purgatory! Question your senses as you ask whether the characters are supposed to be metal or rubber! Brace yourself for when you learn their names came from the discard pile of names from obscure Transformers spin-offs!
•Norroway Book 1 TP (Kit & Cat Seaton): “Oh dear bird friend, tell me another fable from your countless stories!”
“Ooh, I’ve got just the one, too! It’s about a giant bull that sacrificed itself and now watches over us always. Would you like to hear that one?”
“Considering the several helpings of red meat I just consumed, that tale may not sit properly.” [8/10]
The Black Bull of Norroway is an unkillable creature, a fierce fighter, and the goat prize in “Who Will I Marry?”, a game played by three young girls and run by the local witch of a small village outside an ancient kingdom. Sibylla, the boldest and least interested in this game, draws the dangerous studmuffin and decides it will not be so bad. She watches her friends marry well, takes up fencing, and waves off the attentions of the goose boy because she’s decided it won’t be so bad. When the bull arrives to take her, she goes with him, thinking it won’t be so bad. She meets his family, his family’s friends, stays in their houses, and learns more about her groom, and she decides this is pretty bad, but for none of the reasons she was prepared for.
While structured and arranged with contemporary storytelling methods, the premise is something Nero of Rome might’ve concocted set in Arthurian Kingdom #483 – animals doing heroic things and five tons of family drama. In execution, though, it mostly works. Sibylla wastes no time in establishing herself as fearless, independent, and determined to cleave her own way through life or die in the process. The bull and his family seem to want to make things better and even behave kindly, but for reasons all their own they simply don’t grasp the ability to provide clear and direct answers. The pacing, dialog, and cyclical challenges faced all point to this as the beginning of an epic fantasy quest. Some people might be into that.
The art style falls just a couple steps shy of Disney-level precision. The backgrounds can be bland at times, but that’s the worst thing to say about the visuals – the designs are exciting, the figures and faces are consistent and expressive, the panel layout’s easy to follow, and the colors and shading get their jobs done. There’s very little astounding or experimental about it, but the artists know what works and they work it well.
Norroway reads like a lost Grimm fairy tale – it could be retold as a happy melodrama, but this version comes with cautionary tales.
•Road of the Dead – Highway to Hell 1 (Maberry/ Moss): You know the nice thing about a double-barreled shotgun? You don’t need to pull the trigger twice for a double-tap.
•Green Lantern 1 (Morrison/ Sharp): Can we talk for a second about the creepy fetish the Green Lantern Battery must have? It makes hundreds of rings that immediately find the best fear-managers around, and then wraps them in space spandex so tight it makes whoever’s wearing more ridiculously buff than any of them should be. Mogo was the Pluto of its solar system before it put the ring on, and now no one dares call it anything but a planet.
•Watersnakes HC (Tony Sandoval): I don’t know how or why someone would go through the trouble of angering every playable female character in the Final Fantasy franchise, but I have to give credit where it’s due – they did a very thorough job.
•Punchline 1 (Williams/ Weldon): If her origin story even slightly involves Kool-Aid Man, I will enshrine this forever. Drank a punch that had yellow cake in it? Awesome! Bitten while on a sugar high? Excellent! Ancient curse that forbids her from using doors, so she must launch herself through walls to go anywhere? So long as I’m not paying the insurance, I’ll never turn away!
•Typhoid Fever X-Men 1 (Chapman/ Robson): It’s pretty clear what’s going on here – the lady wearing two halves of two different costumes in the back’s interrupted a kicking Halloween party, shouting an exhaustive case for why she should get 1st Place in the costume contest. The judges seem unswayed by her arguments, like Batman with a talkative mugger. [6/10]
Former mid-level criminal and Emmy-deprived actress Mary Walker’s been fighting Dissociative Identity Disorder most of her life, and when she loses that fight it’s usual to her Typhoid persona, which just happens to be the part of her in control of mutant-based pyro- and telekinesis. Her latest doctor was overjoyed when he took her case, as he’s developing a treatment that could target her more constructive self and boost it enough to overwhelm Typhoid, but this is the Marvel Universe where no one gets a Research & Development grant without failing a psychological exam. When that literally blew up in his face, Typhoid’s priorities shifted to burning everything that wasn’t herself into ashes, from her own mind and from all New York. The X-Men would rather she didn’t.
Whoof. I know all stories are just mashes of elements and served with seasoning, but no one thought to finish cooking this thing. Rather than show anything about what brought the characters to where they are now, it instead jumps right into a psychiatric patient doing crazy things and drops hints or editor’s notes when the narrator feels like dropping clues. The X-Men look upon her works and, instead of despairing at the loss of life or continued abuse of mutants, decide that it might be nice optics if they stop her. Prepare for plenty of perilous perspective jumps, particularly because they’re not consistently signaled and maybe half contribute anything to the narrative.
The first page of the art work gave me hope. It featured exaggerated expressions, but they were clear, people and settings looked like they took some time and effort, like somewhere in the chain a couple of creators found a reason to invest in this project. That feeling will not last ten pages as the art team decided to split the load in half, one drawing in one style, the other drawing in their own, working off the same script but not sharing the same concept. Best case scenario is that this is an homage to Typhoid’s fractured soul, but more likely is that the project fell behind and they opted to bring in a ringer.
Typhoid Fever reads like a collaboration of six-year-olds – wild and energetic and yelling over their own ideas because they think theirs are the bestest.
I’m out, gang. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues