Variant Coverage – February 27, 2019

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

So according to tv, comics took home a lot of movie awards the other day. I’m thrilled to see society getting over the myth that comics are funny books for kids, but this isn’t a total shift – it’s a good moment. And before we march on to make the next dozen moments and demand serious recognition, we’ve got to look at how we got to this one. Movies are colossal projects of collaboration, and the comic-related Oscar winners got onto that stage because they each brought their own flavor of nerdgasm into the project and piled them on top of one another. (CC Note: Phrasing!)

It’s great to see our heroes win and be recognized for it. But them showing up on the screen and doing all the cool stuff we imaged? That’s our win. Let’s keep finding ways to turn our favorite borderline obsessions into cultural monuments!

I’m just very sad that the way the alphabet works, these two won’t be neighbors on the shelves…
*Sub-Mariner Depths TP          and         Superior Spider-Man 3
(Milligan/ Ribic)                                         (Gage/ Hawthorne)

Just two more members and their YMCA cover band is off the ground.

*Forgotten Queen 1 (Howard/ Pinna): “Behold! I alone stand victorious on the battlefield! The heads of my enemies could be arranged to form an obelisk. I shall keep the chieftain’s head to be made into a goblet and toast to my future conquests. Upon the bodies of these fallen warriors, we shall expand our nation!”
“Aaaaaand what nation is that again?”
“It was the first five minutes of my speech. The audience chanted it, it’s carved on the broken temples around us, and you can’t remember its name?”
“I swear it’s gotten lost in my brain, but if you tell me one more time, I promise I’ll remember it from now on!”

*Archie 3000 TP (Various): Are letter jackets so doomed to death that they’ll be replaced by number jackets? Why stop there? Let’s get rid of school names, place names, and people names! People aren’t people anymore, they’re meat sacks with serial numbers. No wonder Archie-3’s doing barrel rolls on a airboard fifty stories off the ground – it’s the closest experience he’s ever had to a personal identity.

*Savage Sword of Conan 2 (Duggan/ Garney): “Buy this comic and I’ll put this sword through your chest!”
“Don’t you mean I should buy this comic OR you’ll stab me?”
“I meant what I said! You want something, I want something, we’re both happy.”
“But I’m dead.”
“The dead are happy. That’s why skulls grin.” [8/10]

Conan and his adopted lackey Suty, still chained together from the slaver ship they just sunk, find themselves on a beach with towers of burnt and burning corpses while the architects of these towers wonder if they’d lend a hand. Or leg. Turns out the pair’ve arrived at Stygia, and the warlocks are about as close to a welcoming committee as they’re going to find. Conan’s not likely to get himself too lost, since before abandoning ship, he slaughtered the captain and took his treasure – just a bunch of magic sand that drew a map on his visual cortex to a tremendous treasure. There’s been a lot of interest in that particular treasure lately, as they learn from a local librarian that read a scroll about using a crossbow. 

Anyone familiar with Conan stories knows what to expect by now – a large man living larger, a scrawny guy rushing to stay in his shadow, and an evil wizard always on the lookout for the next great subjugation tool. The story sticks to what works. The execution and the details behind that are what separates the best in life from the crushed enemies, and this book delivers. Conan doesn’t say much, but his one-liners meet the definition of epic. The inhuman army under the wizards command revel in intimidating anyone they come across, and revert right back to sniveling cowards when their targets deviate from the script. Add generous amounts of mystery and mayhem, and you’ve got yourself a good Conan book.

You couldn’t ask for much better as far as the visual styling goes. While the illustrator recognizes that human anatomy follows certain proportions and shapes are fundamental, they also know how much to deviate from these norms and when to make a character look incredible or abominable, depending on context. A great deal of thought and effort went into the settings and architecture planning, which considering that most of them have been torn down, generates a honest air of tragedy around the place.

Savage Sword of Conan reads like a slab of granite – utterly unmovable, but with some gorgeous stuff built around it.

*Detective Comics 999 (Tomasi/ Mahnke & Mendoza): “All my monitors are red-filtered, I’m wearing black and yellow, there are no shades of any other color in the cave. NOW let them ask me if I’m blue!”

*Emotional Data One-Shot (Abby Jame): What’s so special about a defeathered chicken fixed with two different heads presented as a child’s favorite toy? Didn’t everyone have one? (CC Note: Did you?) Yeah, Mr. Sammy. My parents had a different name for him but I couldn’t pronounce it back then. (CC Note: …you okay, man?)

*Crimson Lotus 4 of 5 (Arcudi/ Lee): Dance like no one’s watching, then get anxious at the lack of attention and throw yourselves out the window.

*Bloodshot Rising Spirit 4 (Grevioux/ Tolibao & Goodhart): Quick searches on Google will provide all the equipment you need to put an awesome cover together: a beefy dude, an exploding vehicle he’s not paying attention to, velocity, but the problem is it looks like someone searched Google real fast before designing this cover. “What’re the kids into these days?”

*Martian Manhunter 3 (Orlando/ Rossmo): “Let me get this straight: humans slice through reality itself and arrange these slices to create cascading paradoxes FOR FUN?!? Clearly the cake is a lie, but is there ANY truth on this insane planet?” [7/10]

Officer Diane Meade’s having a bad night. She shot her partner, only it wasn’t her partner, it was the psychic alien that took her partner’s form after her real partner died years ago on a case. Not that John Jones is having a much better night – he just got shot by his partner, and to keep from being shot again, he’s got to tell her his real name (J’ohnn J’onzz), how he was ripped away from everything he knew by a brilliant old man just a couple days behind on his meds, and how he’s been walking around in a dead man’s life just to stave off the crushing loneliness. If this sounds like too much drama to you, there’s a B-story about a scared little girl subjected to horrific experiments by what could be a blood slime.

While this probably isn’t the most intense books on the shelves this week, it makes a valiant effort to show up in the finals. While there are moments of indulgent curiosity and prideful perseverance, the focus is on John’s fear of the aliens around him, and the inner discomfort that’s building ever since he started living a lie. His best laid plans for the future are either stay invisible/ intangible and ghost through the world, or to cosplay as regular folk fifty years at a time, with no room for actually dealing with his situation. As different and engaging as this series has been so far, this issue is devoted to backstory and catch-up, and for all its montages there’s not much of a highlight reel.

Do you like foreheads and chins? Because the artist here LOVES foreheads and chins. They take up most of volume and mass of the head. While definitely a unique trait of the visuals, and honestly adding some much-needed levity to the book as a whole, it’s also distracting. Who cares about the dozen tubes and wires controlling a girl’s respiratory system, or the myriad details from an autopsy table shining the way towards justice, that guy needs three headbands tied together to make one headband that actually fits. There’s plenty of information and emotional expression to fill the page nicely, and as cartoony as the figures can get sometimes, the pages all carry a weight of tension.

Martian Manhunter reads like a piano recital played by someone with a fork in their hair – technically it’s performed well, and the players are into it, but there’s always a detail that keeps the audience from fully engaging.

*Captain America 8 (Coates/ Kubert): Anyone facing this man would think he’s disappointed in them, and knowing that this is the embodiment of the USA’s best qualities, that person would hurt. It’s even possible that they’re traumatized for the rest of their lives. If only Cap weren’t so proud to admit he’d dropped his keys somewhere and he’s that determined to find them.

*Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur 40 (Montclare/ Bustos): I know Christmas gets all the mojo about keeping the holiday in your heart all year round, but wake up and smell the reality people! Just open your eyes and accept that the true daily holiday isn’t Christmas, it’s Halloween. If it’s an office party, people dress up in costumes. If there’s a convention, people dress up in costumes. If there’s any excuse whatsoever, people dress up in costumes. I’m sure Big Toy and Big Wrapping Paper dream of that kind of devotion, but Big Costumes and Tiny Candies are just leaving money on the table.

*Sim City A Dave to Kill For (Sim/ Hobbs): If anyone brings up a new Sim City and it’s NOT about the computer game, that person should be arrested on a felony charge. Try me and just see if I’m joking. The 2013 release burned with all the effervescence of a dumpster fire, but I remember the earlier versions and their grand social experimentation glory, and dammit we NEED an urban planning simulator right now! (CC Note: So this has nothing to do with the cover, huh?) (What, like Dave Sim deserves the attention?) (CC Note: Fair point.)

*Action Comics 1008 (Bendis/ Epting): Being Superman’s pal sounds like it comes with a lot of perks, but when you’re brought in as Superman’s alibi, then tend to not matter. Funny, isn’t it?

*Zorro Legendary Adventures 3 (Nadaud/ Rogot): “A-Ha! Without a word, I’ve captured your line of thinking: We’ve found the man responsible for this giant ‘Z’ on the ground. Would it surprise you to know that I too wish to find this individual? The defending of the poor, the punishing of the corrupt, they’re all fine, but the ‘Z’ is MY brand. I don’t care if the hermano’s three or thirty feet tall, no one must be allowed to use it without my permission. You get that, right?”

I’m being played off the stage, so I’ll end with my catchphrase: 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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