Variant Coverage – March 13, 2019

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Every week or so, you can hear it on the wind…

“New comics… Buy them… “

·Starport GN (Martin & Golden): “We followed the plans exactly.”
“This isn’t what we commissioned you for!”
“Okay, looking back, I guess I can see why you overpaid us so much, but we’ve had so many meetings since then and this is the first I’m hearing of these complaints.”
“Did you just forget about the times we talked about the SCALE this building had to be?”
“And another thing, you keep bringing up scales but there’s not one measurement of weight here.”

·Radio Delley GN (Martinez/ Bonet): “It’s behind this bunch of trees, I just know it!”
“That’s what you’ve been saying for the past two hours.”
“Go back home if you want to so much.”
“That’s not what he’s saying and you know it.”
“The mystic box with all our wrists is here SOMEWHERE! The only way we definitely won’t find it is if we stop looking.”

·Transformers 1 (Ruckley/ Hernandez & Joseph): I’m not saying Optimus Prime has anything to compensate for, I’m just noticing that he got a fresh coat of paint and wax while Megatron just brought the bigger gun and smugness. [6/10]

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the sun shone upon another wonderful day on peaceful Cybertron. This is a very special day – not only is Megatron ready to deliver an address on the importance of individual growth, not only are new and exciting uses for energon being refined, but it’s Rubble’s forgeday! Rubble’s the current youngest Transformer, and is getting the grand tour of his home planet from a couple of familiar faces. Rubble can’t take five steps before finding something wondrous, or beautiful, or interested in eating him (filed under “amazing”). That is, until, he finds a dead body – the first non-natural death of a Transformer in ages.

For long time fans of the Robots in Disguise, this is a whole new world with their favorite characters cameo-ing all over the place. There’s drama, there’s bickering and trash-talking, but it’s all with the confidence that they’re all Transformers in the end and they could never disagree so much that a fight would break out. For readers looking for a fresh point to jump into the franchise, there is nothing. There’s no index, no character introduction besides names with faces, and no context. Instead of a world before a war, there’s a collection battle-hardened soldiers doing their best to act casual. For long time fans of the Robots in Disguise, that is a disappointment.

Some artists choose to place emphasis on the size or mass of Cybertronians, others play with incorporating their alt modes into their anatomy, and others illustrate the unity between the characters, their environment, and their enemies. The artwork here pushes for a clean and active world with a strong, driven population. Each character has their own unique traits that look just like their post-war counterparts… so why do they have them now, when there’s not supposed to be any war?

Transformers reads like a poorly-planned surprise party – a fine idea, just too many clues and giveaways for the event to have any impact.

·Magnificent Ms. Marvel 1 (Ahmed/ Jung): I don’t get why she has to take the train all the time. With a hand like that, even a New York cabbie wouldn’t miss you.

·Apocalypse and the X-Tracts 1 of 5 (Seeley/ Espin): After decades of quiet study and watching, the ancient mutant En Sabah Nur felt that the spirit of the 70’s had at last proved itself. Clearly strong enough to survive after so much time, he embraced it as strong enough to survive, and began embracing its traits as his own. The weak must still die, while the strong tie-dye.

X-23 10 (Tamaki/ Olortegui): Once you’ve brought down an international military force with your bare hands/ claws, things like going to the movies or shopping feel incredibly boring. Bare this in mind when thinking of things to do with your children/ sibs over Spring Break.

Age of Conan Belit 1 of 5 (Howard/ Niemczyk): Is that the mother of Pearl everyone’s going on about?

Flash 66 (Williamson/ Kolins): Next up on “Comics were Always a Platform for Topical Politics”, we’ve got an homage to one of Barbara Bush’s most infamous campaigns. During the height of “Say No to Drugs”, she tried targeting performance enhancers – she was in the Trickster’s position here attempting to cut speed from schools. (CC Note: We can hear all of you groaning at that one, and we’re right there with you.)

Assassin Nation 1 (Starks/ Henderson): It’s Daylight Savings Time. Everyone had to spring forward, but there was only one cup of coffee left at the office. Heaven help anyone stashing creamer. [8/10]

What do you do after you’ve earned the top spot on the list of professional assassins? Logistically, the answer is “whatever you want because anyone that tries to stop you will die”. For “Chekov’s Gun” Rankin, that was to take over an organized crime syndicate and live in crime-fueled luxury. Lately he’s noticed a bunch of people trying to kill him – none of them doing a good job, obviously – and his personal guards weren’t any help. Rankin figured that the problem with his guards is that they couldn’t think like assassins. Rankin also figured that since he was stupidly wealthy, he could just hire the best assassins around to… guard? no… counter-assassinate him. Nothing could go wrong with that, right?

Though it starts off overloaded with monologing and self-aggrandizing, the book quickly starts showing what kind of party it is when all the guests are trained killers. The colorful take on action effects roots this down as an unashamed love letter to espionage and splatterfests. Careful not to fill the room with variations of John Wick, Rankin’s entourage comes from all over the global, political, emotional, and educational maps. Seeing them all together might intimidate anyone anxious at following so many characters, but don’t let that concern you. In fact, don’t let anything concern you – this is a ride, just enjoy it and maybe wear something waterproof.

Anyone that remembers her 37-issue run on Squirrel-Girl will know what to expect from Erica Henderson: exaggerated proportions, lifestyles and outfits larger than life, and facial arrangements so playful and nuanced that they communicate more expression and thought than a real human face is capable of. Henderson’s trademark humor and quirkiness reports for duty, but without the need to keep her art kid-friendly. Anyone ready for another dose of cute and shiny’s about to get viciously disappointed.

Assassin Nation reads like a crossover episode between the Sopranos and Sesame Street – Look at all the people in your neighborhood. Now look at their bodies.

Calamity Kate 1 (Vissaggio/ Howell): She’s not scowling because she found a bunch of dead dragons. And no, her face does not rest like that, be nice. She’s scowling because not one of these horrific beasts of legend is the one that ate her phone. Losing something like that obviously justifies sidewalk slaughter, but if anyone finds out her ring tone is “Baby Beluga” by Raffi, she’ll just have to kill everyone.

Strangers in Paradise XXV TP 2 (Terry Moore): Somewhere in the infinite kaleidoscope of realities that make up the multiverse, there’s one in which at the end of Aliens, the queen never hitched a ride back to the Sulaco. Without drama or vivisection, the survivors put themselves into hypersleep and traveled to Earth and safety. Well, that was the plan, but little Newt the champion vent crawler wanted to join the cops. Plenty of laws old and new make clear that kids her age shouldn’t have a job, but then they caught her giggling at a picture book: it was of unsolved murders in order of blood spatter size.

Hawkman 10 (Venditti/ Hitch): Ha! Jokes on the Ground: this guy dislocated his leg before landing! Or maybe he’s breaking his hip to spite his leg? Is that a thing? Dangit, now I’ll have to read the issue and find out.

Little Bird 1 of 5 (Van Poelgeest/ Bertram): Who’s the snuggliest, wuggliest murderer in the world that may or may not be an octopus? Who’s looking for a hug after going MacBeth against a rival crime family? Does that abomination want some cocoa? I’ll bet it does, and I bet it’d like marshmallows too. [7/10]

When you give a church an army, limitless resources, and no consequences so long as the message gets spread, the world starts being a horrible place to live. Currently, the Papacy of the United States means to stamp out that horrible bastion of destitution and heathenism: Canada. The US’s rank-and-file citizens have been freed already from the burdens of science, education, medicine, while the savages threaten all they hold dear with their make-up, their sense of family, and their heinous proximity to the black-op genetic testing facility the Papacy’s running to find a “resurrection gene”. Canadag’s youngest fighter – the leader’s daughter and a fan of feathered frocks – hides in a one-person bunker for three days during the final confrontation. Then she opens the door.

Our first introduction to this world is cold and desperate, as we witness the Canucks’ final days before the end of their world. They’re determined, willful, and know they’re about to lose. We then see the other side of the fence, absolutely devoid of desperation, but no less cold. Little Bird (the character) is a lot of things that shouldn’t exist: a pre-teen survivalist, an expert at infiltration, packed with cigarettes, and (in spite of all the evidence around) hopeful. The Vicar of ‘Murica plays a bit too close to type, yet pulls off a balance between megachurch pastor and Dr. Mengela. Plenty of uncomfortable elements come together to form a story of humanity’s failure to itself and the infinitesimal possibility of redemption.

Bertram’s made the rounds on bigger books than you might realize – he’s drawn for the big two on top tier books, and this isn’t his first indie publication, either. His style calculates exactly how monstrous people can look before they stop looking like people, and from there forms his baseline. The rustic form of architecture preferred in Canada should appear simple and crude when compared to a superpower like the Papacy, but then you see how the Papacy lives and start yearning for Canada’s idea of a place to live. It’s not always a pleasure to look at, but it consistently rewards anyone brave enough.

Little Bird reads like an original slasher movie – it’s pretty much a vehicle for gore and wretchedness, but they’ve at least put some effort into wrapping a story around it.

Goon 1 (Eric Powell): Behold: shotty masonry work, IKEA drawers with parts left over, a fuse box right next to pooling water, and a horde of demonic creatures. You know what I don’t see? A single nail. No wonder the big guy looks so stumped.

The wind’s telling me I’m done. 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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