Variant Coverage – January 9, 2018

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Happy 2019, everyone! Let’s kick the tires, start ‘er up, and take this new year for a spin.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man 1 (Taylor/ Cabal & Ferreira): Production Trivia Time!: Spidey swung between these two buildings over 500 times to get this shot right. The amount of webbing required blocked out all light from the windows to the buildings for over half an hour, threatening the lives of countless houseplants and leaving some residents to wonder what cosmic debacle wiped out the rest of the city this time.

Gunning for Hits 1 (Rougvie/ Moritat): Behold the American lounge lizard (homo sapiens croonus) in its natural habitat. Notice the full suit, indicating to its peers that he’s a creature of status, but worn unkempt as a display of toil. His diet consists largely of cucumber sandwiches and whiskey, both of which are naturally available in abundance. It prefers to hunt cocktail waitresses and lonely housewives in mood lit locations, but must be wary of angry husbands and debt collectors, as he is their preferred prey. The lounge lizard finds any source of red light it can, as it may not see the sun for weeks, and sings to assert dominance over a gathering. [7/10]

Being a talent scout in the music industry’s like a section of Greek hell – wallow in substandard clubs digging through absolute filth for a tiny piece of beauty, hand it over to someone else and hope it satisfies them enough so that you can repeat the process forever. The guy who rented out a dive to hear Stunted Growth play is no stranger to repetitive grinding, blatant posturing, and childish demands, but so long there’s talent to back it up, he’ll put up with almost everything. Stunted Growth’s manager may be young and loud, but she’s a little savvy too, and the lead guitarist can bring the tunes, so he wants to sign them up, but he’s not going to invest any more than he absolutely has to. When they push for that one last thing too far, that tells our scout it’s time to lean on old habits.

Our nameless protagonist handles the narration on top of his duties as a player in this show, and he’s kind enough to supply us context complete with amusing illustrations. This lets us know what he’s thinking as he’s thinking it, which provides plenty of information but not everything. He’s calm, he thinks three steps ahead, and respects when the people he’s up against know how to play the game. His comfort with the cutthroat nature of the industry may just be because he’s done as well as he has, or he might have a background that makes this feel like kindergarten, either way the man knows performance. The band may be entitled pricks, but they know the business and still want in, so they’re fun as well.

The art work doesn’t worry itself over consistency or accuracy, obsessing instead on how to best make the point with each panel. If the scene needs to be serious, the art looks like a lost scene from Casablanca, but when the moment calls for caricature, that’s just what comes forth. The expository chapter plays out like a Schoolhouse Rock segment right down to the chibi-style characters (only with drugs and sex). It might not look like it from the dominant use of black, but color carries more meaning than you’d think.

Gunning for Hits reads like an angry donkey in the middle of a desert – a bit dry and slow, but with some powerful kick.

Curse Words 19 (Soule/ Browne): “Aww yessss – magical eucalyptus with extra protein! This is going to help me CRUSH today’s workout, bra! And later, we head to the beach, I wanna try something. Everyone thinks all we do is throw shrimps on barbies, you gotta get a vid of me throwing a barbie at a frozen food bag!”

Savants 1 of 5 (Reed/ Damoose): It’s nice to see someone happy. Even if they’re just found the sweet spot in their victim-to-be’s face. Especially when that victim isn’t me!

Barbarella Dejah Thoris 1 (Williams/ Garcia): Holy smokes, a tear in the space-time continuum corrupting the universe, and it’s starting with those young women’s clothing! Hang on, getting new information here: that’s their standard attire, and it’s still more than Jim Kirk wore half the time when this kind of thing happened to him, so there’s absolutely no reason to make a thing of it. Well, that’s my bad.

Captain Marvel 1 (Thompson/ Carnero): Some people are born glam, others have glam thrust upon them. Carol here’s a superhero/ jet pilot/ military officer/ social media star/ demi space alien – she achieved her glam. [8/10]

Carol Danvers gets thrown through the wringer so often that she should get a commission any time someone uses the phrase “thrown through the wringer”. She’s just coming out of a crisis that killed her mother and almost killed her brother, and while that’s tragic, it’s not the most messed up thing that’s ever happened to her. Now she’s back in New York taking meetings, meeting friends for coffee, with the goal of putting some stability back into her life. You’d think someone that can channel a star could get anything she wants based on her resume, but no, she’s got to be interviewed for the spot she wants. The enthusiastic reporter’s eager to transcribe a day in the life of Captain Marvel, which just demonstrates that some people lack basic common sense.

So there’s a new movie coming out, and any three-year-old knows to have a book supporting that property. The cynical insist that such books must be unenjoyable and cheap to make the movie look better. This team did not get that memo: the story starts with a combat scene sponsored by Goo-Mart (America’s #1 supplier of goo) and ends on another planet with a superpowered version of the A-Team. In between those points lies playful banter, complex character depth, a capable summary of the Danvers life to date and cameos from all over the Marvel universe. It’s an unashamed starting point for anyone that just happens to want to know everything about Captain Marvel for whatever reason, but it’s also well-crafted story.

Likewise, the visuals drew in attention and nurturing, developing into a robust and vibrant display. Basic anatomy falls into the usual house style – everyone’s pretty and toned and an eye-treat. Facial expressions build on that and become their own project, giving each portrait as much to communicate as the dialog. New York looks about as chaotic as a city running non-stop for centuries is supposed to, both pre and post-Rapture. Some of the postures and wind-ups fail to reach their full potential, but most get there fine.

Captain Marvel reads like a myth from ancient times – “There’s no way one person could’ve done all the things they’re saying, but this thing I’ve got to tell you is absolutely true!”

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 40 (North/ Charm): You don’t see many monuments to concepts in totalitarian regimes. Every despot’s all about statues of themselves, or their ancestors, or favorite/ most oppressive generals. No generic soldier in a monstrous army ever transports prisoners and says, “On your right, you’ll see the Statue of Neighborly Affection, gifted from the nation of Altrion shortly after being destroyed. Notice the difference in elevation between the shoulders – that gentle shrug is made from 10 tons of steel. This concludes your scenic tour of the capital, we hope your spirits break at the camps.”

Atomic Robo & the Dawn of a New Era 1 of 5 (Clevinger/ Wegener): I hope the company Steve Jobs built is writing them a HUGE check for all the product placement here.

Young Justice 1 (Bendis/ Gleason): Everyone looks like they’re really enjoying their time together blasting the landscape with at least four different forms of energy. Now before anyone starts judging, let’s really look at this: they’re teenagers, they’re outside, they’re demonstrating teamwork and respect towards each other. Other than the weapons and flagrant selfies, they’re everything young adults should be. [8/10]

It’s just another day in Metropolis, meaning there’s an extra-dimensional threat mortals couldn’t possibly contend with. This one’s from Gemworld – ordinarily a nice and shiny place that’s lost most of its luster, and they blame Earth for that. The lords pop in for a quick thrash with Earth’s champion, only Superman’s on break or something, so it’s up to the tourists to sort things out. Just your average bunch of folks seeing the sights, like the colorful caped crusader out of Gotham, a granddaughter of Zeus (the Mt. Olympus one, not Maxie), a Texan gal never far from a firearm, a teen still learning the ropes on her cosmic-powered army knife, and a kid that runs at mach speeds but can’t keep up with his mouth. With a show like this one, these visitors won’t be going home anytime soon.

Narrative-wise, a component that stood out to me was how each and every character had their own things going when the shinies hit the fan. It wasn’t coincidence that they just happen to find each other in Metropol… okay, it reads like a textbook coincidence, but rather than the classic school trip convergence you see people with errands, missions of self-discovery, first chances to see the world, all clearly solo trips when they started. It’s a hot mess but one with heart, which is about as close to a brand statement of Young Justice as it ever had. The early buzz hypes this as challenging everything readers thought they knew about the state of the multiverse, but when the universe refuses to stay consistent enough to set up a status quo, it’s less of a smash and more of a light jostle.

The art is refreshingly NOT house style. Its features are generally rounder, smoother, and celebrates more that shows the action. The lighting avoids shining everywhere, in fact the art team wields it handily: shadows hide and obscure what doesn’t need to be known yet but are waiting for the right moment. The settings and designs may be destined for demolition, but they’re finely detailed and play a role in the way things play out. There’s also a great sequence of Robin kung-fuing an alien warlord mid-tiraid, which the world needs more of.

Young Justice reads like a sugar rush at a park – massive amounts of stimulants and stimulation coming together almost impossible to catch in still images… almost.

Here’s to another year of great/ grating ridiculous comics. 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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