Variant Coverage- January 23, 2019

•Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Another week, another round of sequential beauty to look at, maybe appreciate, maybe giggle at. No matter what it’s gonna be a fun time, let’s jump right in!

Guardians of the Galaxy 1 (Cates/ Shaw): Look at all the war faces in the void that’s glaring back. A couple of gods, some aliens powerful enough to beat up gods, a few humans rocking alien tech or implants… and then there’s Cosmic Ghost Rider in the middle. The way his head’s cocked, he’s probably wondering when the line for the bathroom turned into a group shot of living warheads. He’d wear a confused and relatively goofy expression on his face if he had skin. [7/10]

Thanos is dead. Maybe. He should be, he got decapitated and the head’s MIA, so he’s effectively dead for now, even by comic book standards. Still, there are a lot of powerful people unable to trust rumor. Starfox arranges a viewing so they can see Thanos’s corpse, and also his last will and testament. Instead of treasure or caches of information or fond wishes, Thanos leaves them a scavenger hunt: find the individual he secretly stored a copy of his consciousness in, and the winner can kill his spirit before it rises back to power. Before anyone can shoot a starting gun, Thanos’s personal task force the Black Order arrives to claim their master’s body, and leave behind a small black hole to tidy up the mess. Would you like to know what it looks like when a galaxy filled with war and mistrust panics?

True to the form set down by all the cosmic Marvel books in the past decade, no one involved is interested in being subtle. Classic Guardians like Star-Lord and Groot keep getting harassed by space cops (the restored Nova Corps), Beta-Ray Bill and the Silver Surfer (each one a planet mover, and they’re not the only ones attending) compete over who can act the most nobly during a gravitational singularity, and apparently there’s a cat fight brewing between two aspects of Death. Everyone’s still licking wounds of all kinds after the Infinity Wars crossover, and about all they can deal with is knowing that at least one truly evil being is out of the picture. This is about the bunch of unlucky stiffs who learn that’s not the case, put their war pants on, and go deal with it anyway.

Between demigods, actual gods, cosmic hunters, mourning trees, and various planes of existence, there is a lot of describe visually, most of it beyond anything that can be referenced or imagined in real life. Somehow, that’s not a problem here. The outrageous character designs and the surreal environment and the mind-twisting sense of scale all come together in a way that tells the reader’s brain, “It’s okay, you don’t need to really get it, just roll with it and it’ll be fine.”

Guardians of the Galaxy reads like a case study in reckless response – if you thought killing a mosquito with a cannon was ridiculous, how do you feel about a global flood stopping the cannon?

Battlepug the Compugdium HC (Norton/ Passalaqua): I’ve never had an use to own a van before now, but those days are over because I need this painted on the side of the van I don’t own yet. I need this like a romantic-comedy needs a meet-cute, or the way the MCU needs to toy with our emotions like a cat cornering a mouse.

Spider King Frostbite One-Shot (Vann/ D’Armini): So every animal this guy killed for pelts comes back from the dead and charges him at once. Suddenly, dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail doesn’t sound so bad.

Oliver 1 (Whitta/ Robertson): I’m sure all those birds are the finest feathered friends a boy could ask for in the city. If he’s counting on his friends to catch him, he’s going to be disappointed, possibly for the rest of his life.

Naomi 1 (Bendis & Walker/ Campbell): It’s always taken me a lot of work to see the constellations the same way earlier stargazers did. Those drawings around the formations do more work to get me into the moment than I’d like to admit. I never thought that someone would look at a set of cosmic fusion explosions and think, “This is too easy, I’m going to extrapolate the stars’ relative positions to each other, set up a 3-D representation, and clip news bites onto certain stars to keep me entertained.” I’ve never thought that, and I think I’ve lived a decent life without it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1 (Bellaire/ Mora): This is the Apple apocalypse. Can’t find an app? Here comes a genius to reinstall it while draining your blood. Need to change plans? Just bring your old bill and they can put you in a brand new coffin. Screen broken? We actually prefer them that way. Become one of us, Buffy. One of us. One of us. One of us. [8/10]

It’s the end of summer in Sunnydale. Buffy Summers only just moved there from LA, and is wondering how to keep up her studies and her part time jobs without making any friends. It’s not that Buffy even likes her jobs, the thing is they’re kind of requirements for her to have any life at all. Her gig at the local fish sandwich chain is how she gets enough money to wear clothes that aren’t embarrassing and eat when she’s hungry, not just at the mandated breaks. Her other job involved blending into the night and stalking the silent predators that hunt mankind from beyond the grave. She is the one chosen for this generation to check the nightmares and otherworldly forces bent on Earth’s conquest. She is the Slayer, and it’s a horror show to meet social obligations when you’re caked in bone dust.

This is not a spin-off or a sequel – this is a full-on reboot of the Buffyverse. Forget everything you know about the Hellmouth, or Glorificus, or the little sister that wasn’t. They could pop right back up again later, but it’ll be in a different context. Introductions only go so far as the central characters and a few hints at a Big Bad, but these introductions are thorough and multi-dimensional. Moments that should by all rights move slowly play out so that they don’t interrupt the pace, so the whole issue covers a lot of ground while avoiding feeling cramped. If you never heard of Buffy before and have too much on your steaming queue already, this should be a worthy entry point.

Dan Mora’s the artist that draws a new action fantasy story starring St. Nick every year, and lately he’s been illustrating Power Rangers. They may not sound impressive, but he hitches up every horse he can to pull his work forward, and the results go the distance. Each character draws obvious inspiration from the actors on the original TV series, receives treatment to appear more streamlined/ dynamic/ comic booky, and powers through each panel wearing an expressive and appropriate look on their face. The detail and depth afforded to the scenery wrap all these elements up in an attractive package.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer reads like a familiar joke told by a stranger – you recognize the components, but the one telling it has something different in mind.

High Heaven 5 (Peyer & Wilson/ Scott & Giarrusso): This was me after two weeks of cutting my caffeine intake and begging for anything to keep me awake. The bad news is I needed my jaw rewired, but the good news is I didn’t have to eat right, exercise, or sleep more!

War is Hell 1 (Chaykin & Johnson/ Various): You want to live in a world without air traffic control laws? Where anyone with a plane and a few achievements on whatever their favorite flying sim is can strap in and launch a few tons of metal into the sky at hundreds of miles an hour? Where planes dive, zig zag, and speed up either randomly or based on the song they’re listening to at the moment? Where every hour the tower may be buzzed as much as forty times? Forget war – anarchy is hell.

Aliens Resistance 1 (Wood/ Carey): “Please tell me we don’t have to go through this every time you lose your keys.”
“I promise I was around here the last time I had them! I remember the bathroom over there, and also the disturbing lack of air circulation, as if the wind itself died.”
“All I know is if I show up to work yawning again, my boss’ll rip me apart over it. I need one of his lectures like I need a hole in the head, or chest cavity.”

Heroes at Large 1 (Spradlin/ Hutchinson): For all the times this cover style’s been rendered, this may be the first time any of the characters actually noticed they were jumping over something and might not want to trip. What I love even more is seeing some that are thinking about it way too much and will probably forget how a foot works by the time they’re up. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think gravity’s going to win their next encounter.

Avant-Guards 1 of 12 (Usdin/ Hayes): There’s a natural instinct to find the odd person out in a group, and I’m pretty sure it’s related to survival. Take this collection of happy young adults of on an adventure, and it’s easy to spot the one that’s just not feeling it. Has she been to where they’re going already and didn’t enjoy it? Is she superglued to the roof of that van? Did she sneak a few bites of their picnic lunch before loading up, and about to realize the egg salad expired? I don’t know, but figuring out her problem would tell anyone right quick whether they want to hitchhike or not. [7/10]

Charlie Bravo (her real name, no relation to Johnny) just transferred colleges. She knows it’s healthy for her to find some club or activity that’ll get her away from her room and schoolwork, but she also knows she’s fed up with people and would just as soon watch them wither and die from a trendy plague. Charlie packed some emotional baggage from her last school along with everything else, and doesn’t trust herself to give new people a chance yet. Enter the fledgling basketball club on the lookout for team spirit, exercise, and the last member they need to become official. While Charlie insists they wouldn’t like her to join, she meets all their criteria: she looks like she’s been to a gym in the past two weeks, and she didn’t run screaming when encountering them. That’s college life for you.

Rather than dashing across courts and slam-dunking plot points, Avant-Guards moves slow but deliberately. It takes Charlie a long time to get to the basketball table, but until then she demonstrates how difficult it is for her to engage with anything or connect with anyone. She spends two minutes total in her room, but those minutes are filled with nostalgia, regret, and despair. This is the story about someone ready to throw everything she enjoys away because everyone around her seems to ruin it, and giving the world one more chance to prove her wrong. The other characters don’t get nearly as much attention, but they all hint at backstories as complex and immersive as Charlie’s. This is a book requiring patience, but promises some payoff.

The art style attempts to marry manga’s facial structure with western comics’ sense of posture and page layout, and it finds a happy medium between the two. The expressions on people’s faces abandon subtlety, even when Charlie’s trying her best to look as neutral as possible. The college is centered around the arts, so there’s not much in the way of bodybuilding or feats of physical prowess, but there is a wide variety of frames and features that give every person their own unique look, safeguarding the reader from forgetting who’s who.

Avant-Guards reads like the journal of an injured athlete – it’d be easy to throw in the towel now, but what if the story’s not done yet?

Crypt of Shadows 1 (Ewing/ Brown et. al.): You ever wake up hungover or sick? I don’t mean “Can I use this as excuse to call in” kind of bad. I mean “I don’t remember much past Henry VIII’s fifth bachelor party, I’ve got enough chemicals in me that I’m a fire hazard, mind the mess I haven’t swept up since the Renaissance, my eyes dried out so bad that my sockets are channeling Hell’s own inferno” bad. Yeah, me neither.

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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