Variant Coverage – March 27, 2019

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

We’re coming up on the end of March Madness, people! How that’s supposed to be different from the year-round madness, I don’t know, but it has its own title so it’s got to be important for some reason. Maybe by the time you finish this, we’ll have figured it out. (CC Note: SPOILERS: No you won’t.) Let hope live, you!

Mera Tidebreaker HC (Paige/ Byrne): “Be wery, wery qwiet. I’m hunting sea wabbits. Glub-glub-glub-glub-glub!”

Bad Luck Chuck 1 (Gwenn/ Smith): “This is fine. I’m okay with the events that are unfolding currently. That’s okay, things are going to be okay.” [7/10]

Tashi Charlene “Chuck” Manchester isn’t just unlucky – she is a walking black hole sucking all good fortune around her into the abyss, inviting entropy and chaos to do their absolute worst. How much would you pay for someone to have an accident that was in all observable ways an accident? Chuck’s got a chart including time, labor, and expenses. It’s not a luxurious living, but it’s enough to keep her in an apartment with regularly-refreshed good luck charms so it doesn’t burn down around her. Her latest gig sounds easy: bring a wayward daughter home from the cult that’s brainwashed her, render said cult unable to pursue. With an insurance agent chasing her down, a couple of creeps looking to do some kidnapping of their own, and a $20 million dollar inheritance at stake, what could possibly go wrong?

Character-wise, Chuck’s easy to get along with. She’s cynical, adaptable, knows when to let things go, and enjoys watching people lay out the rope they’re about to hang themselves with. My issue with the book is the same as every book featuring unnatural luck: a regular tying up of all loose ends that kills any sense of drama before it can build up. Side characters finish their own plots and arcs about as soon as they appear, and while there are threads left unresolved, given Chuck’s average day on the job there’s little apparent risk for her.

Smith’s visual style seeks to emulate Michael Gaydos, and largely meets that standard. Angular lines form bodies, faces, and architecture that seek realism every chance they can, while the colors and shading satisfy themselves by getting the broad strokes right and otherwise letting art look like art. There’s no flashy indicator of Chuck’s influence at work, instead we see panels zoomed in on the little things that fail together to get the job done. Just don’t spend too much time thinking about that random arm reaching out of the car.

Bad Luck Chuck reads like cotton candy – without much substance, in a few minor ways bad for you, but fun enough that those details don’t matter too much.

Detective Comics 1000 (Various): DC, sit down. Get comfortable, you’re going to be there a while. Your subscribers and I have noticed your performance dropping and we’re concerned that there’s something going on you’re not telling us. We were so excited about the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics coming up. We thought you were too. But, looking at this ultra-generic cover where Batman apparently invited his rogue’s gallery to the Bat-Cave for tea only to beat them all up for funsies, we’re just worried that you’ve lost your spark. We want to help you, DC, but we can’t unless you open up to us.

Avant-Guards 3 (Usdin/ Hayes): It was only a matter of time before People Out-Catting Cats became a viral internet meme. Are we looking at jpeg zero?

Viking Queen One-Shot (Storrie/ Caron): Either D&D parties are taking diversity to a whole new level, or Hydra’s getting desperate with their new recruitment posters. Heck, maybe both.

Neon Future 1 of 6 (Various): This guy was clever. He knew Thanos couldn’t snap him to ash if he’d already brooded himself into glowy butterflies. [7/10]

The future has arrived, and it’s “EVIIIILLLLLLL”! Cybernetics have advanced to the point where people can enhance themselves to superhuman levels with the right implants, technology allows for people to communicate and cross boundaries like never before, pollution’s just about cut back to zero, but it’s okay – the new authoritarian government’s here to put a stop to all that progress. They seek to put the tech Singularity back in the bottle and bring back the jobs all the workers complained about all the time. The poster child for this regressive movement is Clay Campbell, the premiere cyborg hunter in the country, recently killed on duty. The Neon Future Movement, led by cyber-savant Kita Sovee, claim the body with the intent of giving Clay perspective… and techno-powers and the chance to play poster child for the other side of the issue.

To all that believe sci-fi must be served with generous portions of allegory, your meal is ready. The emphasis for this tale relies on plot and world-building, leaving things like character up to whatever’ll fit the slot best. Clay’s your classic “I’m not anti-cyborg BUT anyone that upgrades sucks” type of enforcer – he liked being on TV, good at his job, and until now has never devoted a second’s thought to what life as an illegally-modded human might be like. Too many characters fit clear stereotypes but no personalities make this a desert-dry read.

The art style carries a good chunk of the storytelling weight. Most of the settings could have come from Blade Runner if Blade Runner had toned itself down a few notches. There’s less clutter, more open space, and while most of the time it looks like a decent place to live, it’s hard to tell who cleaned it up versus who trashed it in the first place – neither side is too interested in subtlety. In the real world, color’s so elusive it’s probably hanging with Bigfoot, but in the cyberverse/ afterlife, that’s when limits are pushed, and also where everything looks best.

Neon Future reads like a book report – a perfectly functional summary and reaction, but not itself a finished creative work.

Dial H for Hero 1 of 6 (Humphries/ Quinones): Okay, I have to call BS here. This is part of my official duty as an online blogger (CC Note: Heh heh, “doody”). Children today do not know what a phone dial is. An actual dial on actual phones died more than a decade before this generation of phone-users was born. If there’s an app that turns a cell’s dialpad into a dial wheel, either I’ve never heard of it or it died from complete lack of interest. How are kids supposed to dial for a hero when they’d panic at the sight of any dial at all? (Note to self: write adventure story where the hero tries to disarm the bomb only the code has to be entered with an old-school phone dial, and they sweat so much that it drowns the bomb.)

Forgotten Queen 2 (Howard/ Pinna): I thought I was sneaking up behind you, but now you’ve turned almost 180 degrees to get the drop on me. (CC Note: You wouldn’t dare…) What a twist!

Action Comics 1009 (Bendis/ Epting): “I know ALL your secrets!”
“So you know why I have the recurring dream about the red-skinned boy jumping down a rhino’s mouth only the rhino’s wearing a sundress?”
“Ummmmm… w-wouldn’t you like to know?”

Glow 1 (Howard/ Templer): This is either a group of professional wrestlers from the eighties or a gang of eccentric fashionistas still in high school, and I can’t figure out which would be the scarier team.

Star Bastard 1 (Clemson/ Morales): So… every space adventurer ever? Let’s break this down: Han Solo’s parents kind of don’t exist, Chris Summers barely recognizes his own kids but never brings up his progenitors, Lonestar’s folks ditched him at a monastery (possibly because he was born out of space wedlock), the list goes on. You want star children with verified pedigrees, head over to Star Trek; you want something done and don’t mind collateral damage, you get yourself a star bastard. [6/10]

The mercenary ship Ghost Huffer plays home to an odd collection of talented scallywags, but even among loose cannons, Greeves has his own way of doing things. This is universally the wrong way for anyone that isn’t physically indestructible, but he is so it’s no skin off his nose. Cyborg jill of all trades Molly, and ace pilot/ mech driver Max, wish they could take skin off more than just his nose, but are resigned to tolerate him since even unrepentant jerkwads can be useful when they’re indestructible. So now you know what his teammates think of him, so just imagine how much the loooooong trail of enemies he’s made despise him.

So this isn’t a plot-driven story as the titular space bastard has no interests further than what’s in front of him. This isn’t a world exploration story as the only world seen so far is apparently a fart planet. It could be a character-driven story, only Greeves has no character – he’s invincible, he treats everyone else like toys, he likes ladies, and that’s it. There’s no more character to him than that. Maybe there’s a higher purpose that he’s forgotten, or that his crew keeps trying to get him onboard with; maybe there’s some history to his powers that lead back to a interplanetary conspiracy, maybe future french fries cure cancer and are considered a superfood. The point is, the only reason I can see to read issue 2 is if this guy gets some epic comeuppance, and to be honest, that’s kind of inspiring.

Visually, this book finds the middle of the road and stays there as much as possible. Between the level of tech and design, the overdone fashion statements, and the massive amounts of body hair, this looks straight out of some classic 60s-70s low budget movie set. If anything, this helps sell the degree of thought the reader should expect to invest in this series. If the issue I read is any indicator, there’s one page printed with a low-res file, and while it doesn’t carry too much impact on the narrative, it’s a mistake that shouldn’t make it to press.

Star Bastard reads like a two-day-old donut – yesterday it would have been part of a balanced breakfast, but today it’s a stale lapse in judgment.

I’m off to a padded room for a spell, 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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