Variant Coverage – March 20, 2019

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Somebody wanted comics. Someone wanted them bad, and now we’re drowning in them. You ever see someone drown in paper? It’s not pretty. The relief effort needs you.


Dark Red 1 (Seeley/ Howell): Okay, buddy, I know your life seems like hell right now, with your cleaning up something spilled by someone too full of themselves to realize they spilled, or with your continuous ruminations on the series of life choices that brought you to this utterly depressing moment, or the highlight of your day when a complete stranger does anything to acknowledge that you’re a sentient creature and not a mopping robot made of meat. But do you have to be such a downer about it? [7/10]

Chip’s got the look of an average US citizen down to a science. He’s not beefy but not dangerously skinny, either. He’s good at talking people down from escalating situations, and he’s handy with a mop. Thing is he’s terrible with sunlight, and going too long without sucking blood, and that’s right he’s a vampire. He works a crappy night shift at a 24-hour gas station so he can afford his crappy-yet-cozy trailer and re-convince his personal blood bank that she really doesn’t want to be a vampire. Say what you will about the lifestyle: it’s the ultimate in staying out of people’s way. So when a pack of ghouls show up at his door looking to kill the lord of the land and hero of the vampire race, something somewhere’s gone horribly wrong.

There are a couple of ways this story could go, but by the end of the issue there’s no sense of commitment. Vamps and humans living together in ignorant harmony is the basis of True Blood, so we know that’s something that works. An older gentleman looking to keep his house in order while enjoying the quiet life’s another tale that never gets stale. The possibility I’m most excited for is the epic of a great hero that led armies, defended his country, and when offered power denied it so that he could taste the lifestyle he’d fought so hard to protect. I’d eat that story up, but even with the cameo of a mystery woman only wearing furs questing for a savior, it’s hard to tell.

The art manages everything fine – not well, but fine. Every scene under fluorescent lights looks so appropriately washed-out you can practically hear that incessant hum. Chip’s own space is simpler, lit incandescently, and yet everyone in that light looks exactly the same as before. When things get taken outside in the dead at night, there’s almost no loss of color brightness or detail, which indicates they want to show off wherever they can, and they’re not worried about space or environment setting the tone. For any book involving the undead, that’s a missed opportunity.

Dark Red reads like seeing half a trailer before getting distracted – there’s some good stuff, but it’s missing a lot of context.

Family Man HC (Charyn/ Staton): Should we assume that he’s called the Family Man because he’s grafted a number of families’ worth of organs and muscle tissue onto his frame, until he resembled the love child between Frankenstein’s monster and the Berlin Wall? Because I’d believe that.

Rise 1 (Don Aguillo): Ahhh, generic collage of D&D character types No. 219. Always a classic.

Tainted Love 1 of 4 (Bellfield/ Silva): You want bold creative choices? Here’s one!
“Hey, you, get away from my partner!”
“Partner? You don’t mean ‘hostage’?”
“You don’t have to be a goodie-bright-cape to respect people’s autonomy!”
“You’re… absolutely right, I didn’t mean to assume, but I know your personal history and when I saw you on a street with a civilian, I had a defensive reaction.”
“I… can’t blame you. I understand that my actions haven’t inspired much trust, but I’m trying, man.”
“I get that. Can I treat you two to a cup of coffee or anything?”
“You two are being so LAME! Beat each other up, already! I’ll never get 5K likes with a bunch of psycho babble!”
“…By the way, Bright-Cape: app dating’s as crappy as you’ve heard.”

Firefly Bad Company 1 (Gordon/ Mortarino & Cafaro): Remember when the original “Star Wars” trilogy was released with tweaks that included Han Solo getting shot at before shooting his would-be assassin? It might not measure up to a Twitter war by today’s standards, but back in the day the streetlamps were LIT. Was Han more brave and ballsy for letting his opponent give his death the ole’ college try? Or was he a passive idiot that waited for his opponent to attack first? Or was George Lucas throwing in changes for the sake of changing things? All I’m saying is that if this woman allowed TWO shots before responding, either she deserved to die or whoever shot at her did not deserve to live.

Invisible Kingdom 1 (Wilson/ Ward): Every tourist comes to this planet expecting the mystery and splendor of an apparent empty field and put on overpriced rental glasses to witness the majesty of a glorious castle hidden by a naturally occurring optical illusion. And every tourist states in naked disappointment when they see for themselves that the title’s metaphorical. Local customer service attendants are among the most mentally sturdy people in all the galaxy. [8/10]

There’s a star out there with multiple planets orbiting its habitable zone. Each has its own ecosystems, sentient species, traditions, and other quirks. These planet are on trading terms and for the most part get along fine. Just because there’s interplanetary commerce and no war doesn’t mean life’s easy. Grix runs deliveries for one of the biggest conglomerates in the system, and keeps her crew alive even after their maintenance-starved ship crashes on a moon. Vess walked all the way to another planet to answer her calling and join the Invisible Kingdom (LSS: a space nunnery). These two strangers have nothing in common… except for their stumbling upon hard evidence of an ongoing conspiracy that if revealed could shake the entire system to its core.

Vess and Grix steal every scene they’re in, either by being more genuine, more intelligent, or less tolerant of crap than anyone else around. The settings each have deep and complex histories, styles, and cultures, so world-building fans will devour every scrap as it comes up. The controlling factions even project a sense of purpose and attitude, soulless mechanisms of oppression they may be. Within this tapestry of space opera, there is one glaring flaw: one person discovering a clue to a vast criminal network is unlikely, but that’s how stories start; two is asking a lot of any audience.

Imagine if someone recreated the world from Avatar using only watercolors and nailed it. That’s more or less what it’s like to read Invisible Kingdom. The various sentient species all may start with humanoid templates, but the features and costumes that identify them make worlds’ worth of difference. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the visual information and just blow everyone off as “alien”, but stick with it. However you learn to tell them apart without breaking them down, you’ll have grown as a person.

Invisible Kingdom reads like meeting your heroes – it’s built up a lot and will be dramatic one way or another, but when the chance comes it’s still worth taking.

Offbeats 1 (Ward/ Crawford): Most people just need to be told certain lessons to learn. Nuggets like “Don’t bring fists to a knife fight” should be immediately effective at improving the student’s odds of living. The ones that need to experience such lessons themselves tend to learn a bit too late.

Deep Space Canine TP (Chapman/ Various): Serious doggie with dye job and a portfolio of endorsement deals is serious.

Raygun OGN (Schoen/ Molina): “This is horrible! My parents are in jail, my friends are nowhere to be found, and attack helicopters with APCs are chasing me, all because I picked up a toy space gun that glows and shakes like I’m holding an atom bomb in my hand. If only there was some way my problems could solve each other… dangit, I got nothing!”

Amy’s Diary GN (Grisseaux/ Desjardins): I’m glad this cover’s here, because it gives me a much-needed chance to vent. Those of us who were kids when two MB of RAM was considered state-of-the-art are adults now, and they’ve watch the world around them transform from machinery-driven to software-driven, and you know what? IT SUCKS! Where’re our reflective fabrics that’s also fashionable? Where’re our cybernetic enhancements? I mean sure, we got the corporate overlords competing to feed their ads directly into our brains, but it’s still through boring old 2-D screens! And what angers me the most? We just skipped over wearable antennae. We could’ve had 6G networks everywhere if someone had the bravery to suggest phone users wear a couple of dongley things on their heads to boost signal strength. I waited for that time. I was ready for a fashion trend that never came. I just… don’t look at me!

BRPD Devil You Know 14 (Mignola & Allie/ Campbell): I don’t care what the next comic book-based TV series it is, but it MUST feature a Big & Tall shop for metahumans. Bonus points if the supers notice they’re all wearing from the same tailor. “You go to Foselli too?! That’s amazing, the things he does with collars changed my life! It’s funny we haven’t run into each other before.” [8/10]

The Old Ones are coming, the Old Ones are coming! Rasputin’s broken the seals, the seas boil, the sky rains blood, and that’s after the BRPD scored a legitimate victory. Televangelists cry with joy at the world’s impending doom, as Hellboy and the last field members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense make their stand for a last-minute cancellation of the apocalypse. Rasputin’s no longer a mere herald for the elder gods, he’s become their avatar. Hellboy’s been to hell and back, but he’ll need to dig even deeper if he wants to have a prayer.

So, yeah, this probably isn’t the best jumping-on point for Hellboy, but it makes for an intense trailer. There’s not much more to say other than this is what it looks like when they’ve gone through all the books, dusted off all the artifacts, called in every favor to every pantheon they could reach, and in the end it just about equals to what one single man wants badly enough. There’s no better understanding as to WHY Rasputin loves the idea of ending the world so passionately –  historical Rasputin did pretty well for himself up until the half-dozen murder attempts on the same night – but at least he’s got conviction.

Sometimes a creator will delegate art chores to someone with the only notes being “just do it exactly as I did”. Then there’s Mignola’s apprentices that definitely follow in his style, and also take it in their own direction. Campbell follows the playbook as far as panel layout and basic blocking go, but is a little looser with his linework, allowing for artistic blending of textures or extra details. It’s a reminder of why Mignola’s art has endured as long as it has.

BRPD Devil You Know reads like the second to last bite of a meal – it’s been a ride so far, but only now do you notice that the end is nigh.

And as it happens, nigh = now. 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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