Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
Hey, you! Yes, you, right there! Yeah, come over here. <checks around> Want some comics?
*The Light Princess 1 (McDonald & Finch/ De Liz): “I said no, Gerald.”
“But it’s just one demonstration! I’ve already got med techs and protective services booked so there’s total oversight. She’ll be fine.”
“Look, I’m glad you’re being invited to give lectures, it’s about time. But I am not letting you put our daughter in a vacuum tube with a coin so a bunch of moronic grad students can watch them fall at the same speed!”
*Sharkey 1 (Millar/ Bianchi): I’m not sure who in their right mind would photobomb a large, moustached man wearing a skull and holding two hand cannons, but I think we’re about to learn what happens to that kind of person. [7/10]
In the fairly distant future, in a hive of scum and villainy, there’s a bounty hunter named Sharkey taking names and the criminals they belong to. The pay’s good until the union takes its share and the lifestyle’s lacking in glamour, but it’s a legal way to vent anger and a quick & dirty way to meet exciting people. Sharkey can be clever, but he can also be really stupid, which works just fine for the gambling houses he owes money to, but for Sharkey not so much. Just when he’s looking for an excuse to get out of an obligation, a new contract comes up: one of those once-in-a-lifetime scores assuming you can get the job done. He’s got maybe five minutes of head start, but he’s not the only hungry working man.
In a world where body dysmorphia can be treated with oversized tires and the welfare system can tie off loose ends in five seconds, the story’s surprisingly basic: rough guy with a history, catches people for money, and he wants to catch one person for a lot of money. Imagine if Malcolm Reynolds and Jayne from Firefly had a kid, and they died it purple, and you’ve got everything you need to know. (There’s almost certainly fanfiction of this exact thing, but consider Rule #67 before hunting it down.) He’s the most fleshed-out character of the bunch, so don’t approach this looking for a new personal role model.
With such a bare-bones narrative, the only thing that could prop the book up would be its art, and in this the book excels. Bianchi’s style gorges itself on fine details, usually to the point where things look impossibly complicated and stiff, but here things look more relaxed. There’s still a level of detail that threatens to overwhelm the reader, but he’s not trying so hard to use every bit of space possible. The script throws down some wild challenges, but the visuals accomplish every one of them.
Sharkey reads like a custom gun – it’s dangerous and shiny like every other pistol in the world, only this one’s got a sweet-ass paint job.
*Amazing Nightcrawler 1 (McGuire/ Frigeri): I am utterly convinced that this is Kurt Wagner as a movie blockbuster, not because I received a generous stipend from his manager, but because he’s committing a basic costume foul. Sure it looks badass and suggestive to wear a blade on the front of your hip, but you’ll never catch anyone that really uses knives carry them like that. Why? If a fight goes south and Nightcrawler suddenly crumples, that sharp thing’s going in one of three places: his abs, his femoral artery, or his holy spirits.
*Incursion 1 (Diggle & Paknadel/ Braithwaite): The last thing the giant sub sandwich saw at the Vikings tailgating party.
*Crackdown 1 (Goff/ Jaime): Oh sure they’re feeling confident now, they’re the ones enforcing a crackdown on drugs or gangs or not enough drugs or whatever. Bet you they’ll look more scared and haggard when the fashion police show up to enforce a crackdown on armor with glowing lights. What goes around comes around.
*Stronghold 1 (Hester/ Kelly): There’s a list out there of films that would benefit from live-action, edgy, darker remakes. I’m with you on this – The Little Mermaid never should’ve been on there in the first place. [6/10]
There was an average man working an average job at an insurance company, a guy who regularly meets his quota, knows the delivery girl’s first name (so long as she’s wearing her badge), and rides the bus. This average man on an average day saw something extraordinary, and would’ve seen a child die, except he jumped off a bridge after the kid. Like so many other things, this wasn’t a struggle or particularly fun, it was a slight variation from a regular routine. This man walked home, showered, watched the news, and accepted that this was most definitely not normal. Meanwhile, in a secret installation under the city, a clandestine society millenia old try to determine exactly how much they dropped the ball.
Superheroes with secret identities are comic book bread and butter, kind of like news articles about middle managers that try to stand up to crooks only to botch something up royally. This is a very different kind of story: a metahuman so deep into the Joe Average act that he’s forgotten what being anything else was. Even stranger is that there’s a civilization based around keeping him from remembering. This society’s a few technological eras ahead of the rest of the world, though “how” is never made clear. There’s strangeness everywhere, but nothing interesting’s happened yet.
The fundamentals of the art are rooted in rigorous anatomy meeting (mostly) realistic proportions, heavy on sharp features. The faces make a fascinating case study because they’re all over the place – there’s one grand Liefeld face, a genuinely cute face, and one that could be a face through a fisheye lens, and they’re all the same character. In contrast, Michael is so middle-of-the-road that he only has one facial expression. It’s not neutral or passive, it’s just out of place in most situations – it’s the “I’ve been to this website a thousand times but they updated it and now I can’t find the link it’s been half an hour what the hell?” face.
Stronghold reads like a Netflix show that’s gone too meta – it’s different that the main character’s binge watching his own life, but that doesn’t mean it works.
*Wulfborne 1 (Brian Middleton): “Now I may be yer average roughneck with a torch and wearing the latest simple men’s belt from Rob Liefeld, but I know a thing or two about land. I work it, I ride it, I can make stuff grow in it. Except tentacles. Maybe there’s new thinking up dere in the big city, but down here we don’t see many tentacles. Like any.”
*Anthem 1 (Freed & Walters/ Francisco): “Why’re you shooting at us?”
“Why’re you shooting at me?”
“We asked first!”
“You shot first.”
“No we didn’t! Did we?”
“I don’t know either. You mind if we keep firing, though? The recoil’s hitting my shoulder muscles beautifully right now.”
“What the heck. Jenkins, drop and get me twenty pics!”
*High Level 1 (Sheridan/ Bagenda & Fajardo): The certifications available for inspection down at city hall, but some people just don’t trust the system, so they travel all the way out here to check the level out for themselves. It didn’t get its name from backyard pharma.
*Wolverine Infinity Watch 1 (Duggan/ MacDonald): Everyone wondering why the X-Men aren’t in Avengers Endgame, or asking how cool it’d be to watch their favorite mutants team up with Cap and Spidey, needs to look no further than this image. Dang it, Logan, this is why we can’t have nice celestial macguffins! [8/10]
On his way back from the dead, Logan stopped by the Xavier campus to see what’d changed. At first it looked like nothing, but it soon looked like Loki couldn’t find Thor and so caught up with Wolverine to exchange stabbings and maybe go on a quest. As usual, no one has any idea what Loki’s ranting about, but there’s another god that shows up to dish out truths, drink beer, and give Logan a blunt instrument. Does this have anything to do with an escaped prisoner in Texas, or the mega-Chitauri violating his resolution to never go to Earth again because it sucks? We’ll get back to you on that.
Sometimes after a big crossover, they’ll print these heavy and over-complicated mini-series to tie up most of the loose threads left in the crossover’s wake. Wolverine Infinity Watch, while on a mission to tie up loose threads, is anything but heavy. It’s features of the Marvel universe drawn out of a hat, dumped into a paint can, mixed thoroughly, and dropped back in time to become its own grandfather. This book is absolutely aware of what it is – answers to a bunch of questions no one really asked – and rolls with it. There’s not a whole lot of substance behind it, but it’s the exact thing needed after an intense cosmic clash between order and chaos: something refreshing.
The visuals indulge in a casual flavor of violence. It’s part montage, part summary, part riff, so there’s not much time or effort put into any one character or feature. That is not to say the art’s simple, in fact it pays close attention to getting details and nuances in where they’re needed. That’s not always in the prettiest place or way, but it gets the job done every time. Every so often you could be forgiven to thinking Matt Wagner snuck in to mess with the art, and it went to print.
Wolverine Infinity Watch reads like a classic comedy duo – a block of confusion and misunderstanding, two natural opposites, and a belly laugh.
*Love Romances 1 (Various/ Various): “Oh my prime directive, it satisfies so many of my subroutines that we’re together.”
“Our cross-platform compatibility is so perfect, it’s like I could count to two.”
“Careful: raw code like that could get you a firmware update later.” (CC Note: Red flag!) (Oh, come on! Can I get a replay review on that call??)
Looks like that’s all the funny stuff you’re getting out of me, folks. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues