Variant Coverage – January 16, 2019

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

New comics are IN right now! Here’re some of them!

TMNT Shredder in Hell 1 (Mateus Santolouco): Oh, look at you now, Shredder. You thought you had all the answers. You knew all the techniques of the shadow kill. You understood how to bring the worst of humanity under your heel. You paid a retainer to the best chef in the world whose specialty was turtle soup. But in your mad quest for all that knowledge, all that power, you forgot the three basic tenets of life as a Japanese character: Live by the anime. Die by the anime. Get tentacle tickled in hell by the anime.

Black Widow 1 (Soska & Soska/ Flavino): A childhood spent learning spec ops in the Red Room, years of service to the Soviet Union, more years after that working with the Avengers, and you expect me to believe she holds her pistols like Rick “I actively hate my wrists” Grimes?!? Marvel, I thought you respected us enough to at least tell a passable lie. [8/10]

Natasha Romanoff – super spy, trained assassin, Avenger, and at the moment officially dead – spent New Years with Captain America at a costume party… taking down a fascist uprising before it could rise too far. (Avengers have not properly observed a holiday since their founding.) Since Nat’s resurrection (not worth getting into), she’s not so much getting her vigilante legs back as much as holding her brutal vindication back. Rather than force herself into Cap’s code, she travels to clear her head and blow off some stress in the central hub of all crime and abuse on the planet: Madripoor. Turns out when you’ve got to spill blood righteously, Madripoor can deliver a truly horrible crime lord right to your door in 30 minutes or your next weapon is free.

This book feels like it’s split into two parts. The first is a Cap team-up featuring the Black Widow. It’s Cap’s mission following Cap’s parameters for the restoration of Cap’s public image. Nat’s only there to lend a shadowed hand and demonstrate how unsteady she is. The second is Nat’s trip to Madripoor, which unfolds what’s going on with her, why she went there, and how she intends to restore her sense of balance. Some of the ideas presented are openly horrible, but by only showing reactions to those things and not the things themselves, the narrative gets to twist your gut into a knot and not bat an eye when the censors come a’calling. It’s not gentle, but it is clever.

This version of the Black Widow isn’t all dangerous curves; she’s streamlined, efficient, built for work and not play. If you need hourglass figures, there are plenty around, along with impossibly buff characters and their ridiculously elaborate attire. While the narrative’s delivery is straight as an arrow, the art is the office prankster that meets all deadlines, works with teams, and will fill a cubicle with balloons if given half a chance. I won’t say who, but there’s an adaptation of a role I always enjoyed, and after the appearance here it’s only more endearing.

Black Widow reads like a babushka doll – larger than life on the outside, easier to hold and examine the deeper in you go.

Appalachian Apocalypse 1 (Tucci/ Nicolle): Finally! A Civil War reenactment featuring the actual soldiers that fought and died there. I can’t wait to see Confederate officers beat up their descendants for daring to drink beer and stream “the game” during what was actually a pretty crappy day. Oh, and you know how Grandma tells that story about how your ancestors fought for noble causes in that war? Brace yourself for a first-person second opinion.

Creepy Creations HC Volume 1 (Ken Reid): So are the creations that creepy, or are these the creeps that create? You know what, don’t answer that. Ever. I might want to sleep in the future.

Flash Rogues Reverse Flash TP (Various): Discerning cover readers know that when a cover needs to attract AND repulse its audience, villains indulging in their villainy prints the golden ticket. By that measure alone, one might think this cover succeeds. Those same people probably think Johnny Mnemonic succeeded, and I am here to tell you it did not.

Invaders 1 (Zdarsky/ Magno): Can we just agree right here, right now, that crotches aren’t all that great to look at? Personal preferences aside, there’s just too much going on there for aesthetics to be a factor – holding the whole body up, managing waste ejection, AND housing the reproductive organs?! Too much function to worry about form. Not even Namor, the very template of imperial standing and the ocean’s gift to manliness, can make his crotch work. So please, PLEASE, stop it with the crotch-centric shots. [7/10]

Current Avengers readers may’ve noticed the king of Atlantis tearing through the map and setting up a firm line between land dwellers and sea dwellers, along with a squad of oceanic killers ready to shred anyone that tries crossing that line. To most everyone on the planet, this is the latest in a series of policy shifts from a temperamental monarch in desperate need of beating down. To Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, and the few surviving Invaders of WWII, this is something else. They can’t be sure, since any time Namor’s in crisis he pushes everyone away, but if this is not a heavy resolve to change the balance of the planet, if this is the self-destructive behavior of a friend in pain, they owe it to each other to help.

Namor’s always had motives and goals that turned as severely as the tides (CC Note: Really?), and now he’s added to his already OP power set to make that work to his advantage. Between that, signs of PTSD, rivals all around him, and the belief that the world actually is out to get him, it’s should be impossible for anyone to feel sorry for him. And yet you do, not because of the overwhelming good he could bring to the world if he got his stuff together, but because there’re a few stubborn old fighters that’ve seen his compassionate side and just want to see it again. It shrinks the crossover threat of the season down to an episode of angst and explosions, but again, the Invaders have always been about that.

True to stories about war, be they internal or external, the artistic direction lines itself with reality wherever it can, yet can’t resist throwing in a sculpted torso or scene of devastation for dramatic effect. If a particular character is well into old age, they are drawn to show every wrinkle, every loose piece of flesh, anything that might make them appear to have one foot in the grave. But then there’s the literal poster boy of America sporting cheekbones and forehead furrows carved out of solid granite, with grit – not a poster boy look. Overall the visuals are as subtle as plastic explosive, but also as effective.

Invaders reads like a old-timey horror show – maybe the real monster isn’t the twenty-foot long barracuda that blasts lasers from its eyes, but fighting between ourselves.

Star Trek vs. Transformers 4 (Barber & Johnson/ Murphy): Stan Bush cover by Montgomery Scott:
“Ye’ve got tha touch… ye’ve got tha powahhhhhhhhhh
But only for two minutes, ah routed power to the shield emitters thru the starboard transduction coil and into tha gymnasium, and honestly ah might’ve broken a physical law er two doin’ eht. If it works, ah promise, ah’ll apologize!”

Amazing Spider-Man 13 (Spencer/ Ottley): Okay, before we get too excited about how cuddly Spidey and JJJ are in this shot, let’s remind ourselves of a few things. 1) JJJ is NOT a cuddler. Every one of his exes will testify to this (or would if they lived) (CC Note: That’s cold!). There’s got to be some significant context we’re missing. 2) Scorpion is feeling a lot of something at the image of them leaving, possibly jealousy, possibly constipation, it’s hard to tell. 3) I’ve got nothing, but these things come in threes, don’t they?

Return of Wolverine 4 of 5 (Soule/ Shalvey): Logan, Mr. Howlett, Wolverine, Patch, whatever you’re calling yourself these days: sometimes you just have to accept that she’s not that into you.

Isola 6 (Fletcher & Kerschl): The movie was a critical and box office flop, but the internet memes will see to it Venom never dies. Can we just have ONE property that doesn’t get a cameo from America’s favorite alien symbiote that’s just fine killing people? Because I am ready to open my browser tomorrow and face the horror of “Venom of Green Gables” or “William Taft: Lethal Protector” and that is NOT a healthy state of mind to maintain! (CC Note: You think if Alan Moore’s offered enough, he’d write “League of Extraordinary Venoms”?) (Officially, I don’t know you and should be left off any occult murder lists. Unofficially, let’s talk merchandising.)

Wonder Woman 62 (Wilson/ Kermanico): So Dancing with the Stars isn’t something I watch voluntarily, but I know some people that do. Personally, pairing C-list celebrities with professional dancers and attempting to train them to move competently and then asking us to watch it play out is an unreasonable ask on the part of the producers. But then I look at this cover, with a god and an immortal warrior matching steps better than you’d see on Broadway, and I realize I’m also being unreasonable when I say this is the only way I’d watch it. [7/10]

Ares, the Greek god of war, revealed unto the peoples of the world that he was turning over a new leaf: pointless and endless wars were out, resolution and end to conflict was in. Diana of Themyscira accepted this with skepticism and a mountain of salt, but started believing the dude might be genuine. Only now Ares has taken sides in a bitter civil war, kidnapped leaders from both sides, and sharpens his axe to start chopping mortals up if the other side doesn’t start surrendering. There’s no more time for speeches or lessons – if Wonder Woman wants to stop Ares from ushering in a new age of theocratic rule, she needs to take down a god now.

For all the myth and attitude and set pieces brought in from Greek legend, there’s even more that grounds this story into the world we live in today. Strife, resentment, recovery, abandoned love, doubt, faith, and more besides but I think I make my point. This has been a story about how two divine brings would approach some of the tragedies that start within one country and affect whole continents, a subject that’s got plenty of real world source material to draw from. And if that weren’t heavy-handed enough for you, said divine beings only speak in polished pearls of dialogue bordering on the lyrical, a trait more curious by the humans speaking mostly the same way. The characters all behave and interact consistently, it’s just their words that sound overprocessed.

Visually, I’ve got no beef with this. Most of the major attributes are standard house style – poses, body composition, background and panel layout – but not all. Faces and heads don’t come from the same template, rather each features distinct shapes and structural points, rendering each a study of that character’s look. It’s this and other subtle inclusions that allow Diana and Aphrodite – two Greek women not used to paying for their own drinks – to convince readers that they’re two very different people. It takes a keen eye to identify, and a bit of study, but that effort does pay off.

Wonder Woman reads like a famous civil rights speech – practiced and constructed phrases with a definite message if you just read the words, but pairing it with the place and its people make it a Moment.

Dick Tracy 3 (Allred & Allred/ Tommaso): So. Six arms and two legs, huh. (CC Note: Don’t.) Bissected faces allowing for a greater area of vision, I see. (CC Note: Don’t you do it!) Emerging from a central swath of red into a series of blues and blacks? (CC Note: I’m warning you!!) Ahem. “Spider-Dick, Spider-Dick, does whatever a-* OWW! (CC Note: You know what you did.)

New comics OUT! See you next week!

Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival?  They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues

Variant Coverage Review Blog by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival

Variant Coverage Review Blog by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival

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