Variant Coverage – February 6, 2019

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

It’s a brand new month with a brand new week of comics, so let’s started with a bang!

Oberon 1 (Parrott/ Slavkovic): You thought sharks in a tornado were scary? (CC Note: No?) We’ll get ready to wet yourself in completely different ways when you meet the new meteorological terror: Booknadoes! Quake with fear as a dictionary flies at 120mph at someone’s head! Cower in terror as the complete Harry Potter collection delivers death by way more than a thousand papercuts! Can the Action Librarians stop it in time?!?

Girl in the Bay 1 (DeMatteis/ Howell): You can take the girl out of the bay, unless there’s a pair of gigantic rose bushes surrounding her, then she’s on her own. Those thorns hurt, girl, get to a part of the bay that isn’t bordered by brambles and we’ll talk extraction! [7/10]

Kathy Sartori was not the leading lady type. She tried just about everything an authority told her not to, argued with her parents, and stayed out way too late with her friends. That got her into trouble one night, when she found herself sinking to the bottom of a lake with multiple stab wounds. She’d almost come to terms with her life ending when it didn’t, when she broke the surface of the water in perfect health, only the calendar was about 40 years off. She takes off looking for the answers to the questions she’s too scared to ask, and she finds something unspeakable.

Kathy doesn’t make a great first impression – she’s selfish, uncaring, fickle. Every era has its own trends, and that attitude was pretty trendy in the late 1960’s, but it also strikes a chord today. Kathy’s a person that doesn’t know what’s going on when she was in her time, so the only real difference between then and modern times is a degree of technology, not anything substantial. It’s easy to believe that Kathy’s going through something unbelievable. There’re at least two stories huddled under the surface and poking their heads to get a look at the reader, and they promise to come out and stir trouble later. The audience sees everything as it happens, but that doesn’t mean they see everything they want to see.

The art style isn’t perfect. Some of the perspectives are off, the facial expressions don’t always line up with what the characters are saying, there’re a few panels that’re just too busy. But it gets the basics of the story right. It shows a girl that got scared, waking up only to be more scared, only to find home and panic. It’s not always pretty or pleasant or smooth but it gets the important stuff right. And that’s worth something.

Girl in the Bay reads like a bottle of champagne you find in a lake – clearly there’s something larger about how it got there, but it’s probably still good.

Female Furies 1 of 6 (Castellucci/ Melo): Granny in the background grinning like she’s about to get the residuals for inventing sliced bread, she’s that pleased with herself. Meanwhile, it’s everyone else that’s actually doing the work. Classic middle management.

Battlestar Galactica Twilight Command 1 (Moreci/ Tamura): “Can this unit keep him?”
“Negative. The last human you brought back made messes and attempted to sabotage our engines.”
“This unit understands earlier errors and believes to have developed protocols to ensure those errors do not repeat.”
“Why do you want this human, anyway? It is old and scarred.”
“It needs closer oversight because of those reasons. This unit shall care for its needs – no other units will be troubled.”

Daredevil 1 (Zdarsky/ Checchetto & Zdarsky): So I guess Matt Murdock got pecked at by a radioactive pigeon while looming over a gargoyle, and now he can talk to birds? To be honest, this is the Marvel universe, I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more often to patrolling heroes. “Talking to birds” should just be a default superpower.

Gunhawks 1 (Lapham & Lapham/ Pizzari): “That was a warning shot! State your business.”
“Which one of the 18 bullets you shot into me was the warning? Or are you greenhorns just really into redundancy?”
“Stranger, we don’t care for smartasses ‘round here.” [8/10]

It’s not that the Old West was lawless, if anything it was the opposite – everyone had their own ideas of the way things ought to run, and whoever shot last was usually right. Dean “Dead Man” Donnelly’s law stated that whoever handed out the cash determined which laws stuck. Sometimes that was easy, other times it was dirty, and one time it was nothing short of a vision of hell. From that day onward he started enforcing a different law, one that had a bit more sense of community behind it. He became a respected member of the community. He met a lady and fell in love. The mayor’s chatting up a Chicago reporter to get some national press about the town they’re building. Connelly may’ve turned over a new leaf, but Dead Man’s still got a few demons chasing him, and they figure he’s built himself a fine little corner to die in.

This is not your Sunday afternoon spaghetti Western, this is “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” only without the hint at a reward. Connelly’s not a drifter with a heart of gold, the invading gang is not looking for a quick score, and we’re short one soulless land baron. This all worked toward establishing “Gunhawks” as a story set in the historical territories, not in the romanticized Wild West. There’s hurt, betrayal, and vengeance, and they don’t always go where you’d like. Readers will see one side of a despairing story, more than most would tell, and yet clearly it’s incomplete. I’ll be in the line to read issue 2, bet your horses on it.

It’d be easy to draw comparisons between Pizzari and Andy Kubert, like easy enough that I wouldn’t need to say much else, so I won’t. Every character wears at least part of their character and history, be it Donnelly’s perma-scowl, or the mayor large and flamboyant facial hair, or the makeup of the relentless tracker playing the role of death itself. Whether it’s dry desert or town in development, the backgrounds communicate about how it’s been lived in and what it’s trying to be. Visually, this is a treat.

Gunhawks reads like your first bowl of fresh ramen – if you’ve been eating the old and cheap stuff and can’t imagine what would possess you to bother to spend more than a quarter on a serving, prepare to be amazed.

Magical Beatdown 1 (Jenn Woodall): I’ve seen boxing matches that seemed incredible at the time, but I’ve never seen one I’d describe as “magical”. Maybe the magic comes later, when she does her laundry and the blood stains disappear? Is this a new detergent ad campaign? If issue two is about how this girl put dirt and grime in the hospital, I’m out of here.

Red Sonja 1 (Russell/ Colak): Now Sonja here’s cracked the code on cleaning your favorite threads between blood rages: you can’t stain your clothes if you’re not wearing them!

Ogre 1 of 3 2nd Printing (Salley/ Daley): You know that when Jesus was telling his apostles that they’d be fishers of men, at least one of them heard that and thought of this. “But Jesus, even if you use an adult corpse as bait and even if it attracts a lot of fish, wouldn’t the Romans call that murder?” It’s stuff like that happening that Jesus stopped at twelve.

Vindication 1 of 4 (Marie/ Miko & Dema Jr.): Where are you when we need you, Ted Turner? [8/10]

Many people in jail for violent crimes want to have DNA tested in order to reopen the case and maybe get out. Sometimes the evidence just proves that they did it, but not in the case of Turn Washington. Police say he killed a woman, he swore he didn’t, they locked him up anyway. An entire decade is how long it took for anyone to check the evidence, but when they did they found it definitely wasn’t Washington, so they let him go. Detective Chip Christopher meets him outside to let him know he’ll be back, that it’s only a matter of time before he slips again, that Turn doesn’t have a place outside of jail. But once you get past the closed-mindedness, the need for validation and control, the anger issues at work, he’s really an okayyyyy, okay he’s still kind of a jerk, but he’s one of the good ones.

While meeting all the criteria of a comic, this book also provides examples of all kinds of the biases, assumptions, and habits on how to be a self-denying racist. Chip’s not a fascist or Neo-Nazi, he doesn’t attend rallies with a torch, he stays out of political feuds. Chip does his job, which is to solve crimes; he’d chuckle at the idea that he could be racist, it’s just that unbelievable. What Chip does is generalize, emphasize certain words differently, take any excuse to not deal with his new partner (and her Mexican heritage), and trust his gut more than procedures or evidence. This book’s also about Turn and how he can’t get away from the judgement and cruel expectations of everyone around him, as much a jail as the one he just left. This book’s ALSO a murder mystery with just enough breadcrumbs to lead you in any direction. It’s too soon to say who’s the real villain here, or even if there’s a genuine hero.

The artwork labors to bring the grit and ugliness to every panel, and that labor pays off. All the characters are symmetrical, have decent skin, they’re not hideous, but the way their clothes hang on them, the way their hair refuses to behave, the postures they strike at any given moment, those all point to a world of confusion and discomfort, which is fully appropriate for a book like this. There’s also a calculated amount of empty or unused space – not enough that it looks like something’s being left out, just enough to pull you in and let you gawk.

Vindication reads like a bowl of rice when you’re sick – not exciting under normal circumstances, but just the thing you need when things stop being normal.

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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