Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
It’s Hump Day, folks. Sure the week’s all downhill from here, but right now we’re at the top of the hill, the view’s nice, and SOMEBODY brought the latest comics. Let’s camp up here a spell.
*Darth Vader Dark Visions 1 of 5 (Hopeless/ Villanelli): The power to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of this horse. (CC Note: Someone throw him in a sarlacc pit, please!)
*Astro Hustle 1 (Nitz/ Reilly): The Atari 2600 was one of the first home video game systems, and by modern standards it could be described at best as a frustration exercise machine. It had five colors (CC Note: Wrong), displayed up to 30 whopping pixels at a time (CC Note: Wrong), and kicked off the phenomenon of screaming at your screen and controller for doing something only an idiot would do (CC Note: That’s correct). Most of the selling points were the box art, and dang it, if a game had looked like this I’d have picked it up. [8/10]
In the very distant… future? Let’s go with future… things aren’t going very well. There’s a brutal regime that doesn’t mind wholesale murder to empty and claim a collectible ship, even if it vents a few hundred of its own civilians in the process. One of the people on said collectible ship – Chen Andalou – has hated and worked against this regime for the last 80 years, which sounds impressive until you hear he’s been out of stasis for only 20 of them. You’d think there’d be a statute of limitations or fuzzy memories after six decades, but not in this regime. Chen wakes to find himself buried alive in corpses, face to face with a friend gone ancient and traitorous, recognized and imprisoned with space pirates, and wondering how things could get worse. SPOILER: They get worse.
From all indications, Chen’s an organized religion’s worst nightmare: a malcontent youth upset with the status quo, repeatedly disregarding the rules of the authority, and encouraging others to make their own decisions and fortunes without any contributions to the church. The stories say he can crash ships with his mind, shoot plasma from his eyes, and all princesses swoon at his picture. The kid that actually shows up falls just a bit short, simply by minding his own business and not dying despite how many people in fancy suits would find that wonderful. His reputation’s brought him all the way here, but there’s a big question as to whether he can put some truth to any of it. There’s also a large amount of swashbuckling and derring-do, so if any of that strikes your fancy, you’ve got a new series to start.
Anyone that knows David Aja’s art will appreciate Reilly’s visual storytelling. Astro Hustle shamelessly brings out every trope it can shove into a cart before the store closes, and against all reason finds a proper place for them. It’s no challenge to go from a mass grave to a sponsored tribunal in a page and a half. The supporting cast is designed so colorfully there might be some jokes thrown in from outside the visual spectrum. There aren’t as many tricks or style variation as Aja, but the subtlety and fundamentals are right there for all to see.
Astro Hustle reads like a Disney production of the Black Plague – sure there’s tragedy and strife, but there’s also singing and laughing pirates.
*Meet the Skrulls 1 of 5 (Thompson/ Henrichon): I suppose that Marvel was always going to try their hand at family comedy eventually – they poke their heads into every genre for fresh material – but was there really no one else besides the genocidal alien invaders? Sometimes we truly don’t need to bother looking at things from both sides.
*Blossoms 666 2 (Bunn/ Herms): You know, for someone that just sat on 50 ketchup packets, she’s remarkably composed.
*Domino Hotshots 1 (Simone/ Baldeon): When just one woman’s efforts toward fanservice prove unable to draw your attention, where there are criminals who never matured past adolescence, and if you can find them, then you can hire… the Justice Harem!
*Age of X-Man Prisoner X 1 (Ayala/ Peralta): Of all the crossover possibilities “Age of X-Man” offered, they went with Green Mile? Don’t get me wrong, the movie’s great, only about half of the story could get passed editorial without a massive scandal.
*Morning in America 1 (Visaggio/ Aguirre): “Ugh! Look at those fatties over there, with their 9% body fat and working organs. Don’t you glare at me! I committed to something, you’re the ones that should be ashamed!” [8/10]
There’s a town so sleepy it should be dead, but is kept alive by a new factory pumping money into the local economy without hiring anyone local. It’s weird. There’s a small clique of high school girls too anxious, clever, adventurous, and disrespectful to make friends with anyone, so they befriended each other. For one reason or another, they’re pretty weird. There’s been a wave of kidnappings of high school girls below the poverty line recently, and the police are either investigating them or actively covering them up. That’s really weird. There’s this idea floating in the air that the only ones that can bring down a possible conspiracy are the girls parents warn their children not to hang out with. That’s insane.
The heroic delinquents (called the Sick Sisters in the book) love acting, talking, and working tough – even the cutesy one stands her ground while everyone else tries to brush her off. They’re in charge on their own turf, but then we follow one home to find a house in turmoil, where we see what it looks like for families when a town’s dying. The closer look at this one member may indicate she’s the prime protag in this story, but more likely we’ll get behind the scenes look at each one soon. There’s something abnormal going on in the town, but clearly we’re not meant to know specifics yet.
Visually, the art could be storyboards from an upcoming Pixar movie. Each character wears their lore on their sleeves, and the town definitely sports unique and telling features. These two also interact like it’s no big deal, where so often figure and setting are treated like different projects. There’s some manga influence in the way the art exaggerates some traits over others, but the approach to faces and body actions are rooted in western fashion.
Morning in America reads like a “Twilight Zone” episode – yes there are cliches and obvious plot twists, but once you see a little you become invested.
*Doomsday Clock 9 of 12 (Johns/ Frank): In space no one can hear you violently curse the universe when you lose your ring down the drain.
*Haphaven GN (Harper/ Joyce): Holding a bat can mean a lot of things – you’re a major league player, you’re pretending to be a major league player, you identify with Negan from Walking Dead. Most everybody feels variations on the same thing: you feel bigger and more powerful, cast a longer shadow, and there’s a demonic voice telling you that everything in the world is a ball waiting to fly out of the park.
*Justice League 19 (Snyder & Jiminez): Everyone knows about Superman’s weakness to kryptonite. Almost no one knows his OTHER weakness… wasabi. He’d eat it five meals a day if he could, but if he tries it less than two hours before bed, his subconscious really lets him have it.
*Giant Days 48 (Allison/ Sarin): Nothing suspicious going on here.
*Obey Me 0 (Mentasti/ Torres): You know something? If someone walks up to me with a sword in their hand and a dog with glowing red eyes keeping pace, and demanded I obey them, I’d hear them out. Doesn’t matter if they’re toned and gristeled or chubby and soft. I’m not saying I’ll swear undying loyalty there on the spot, but if all she wants is a drink from the vending machine, I’ll treat a stranger and avoid possibly stabbings/ maulings. I don’t think that makes me a coward, just proud of not being perforated.
*Ronin Island 1 (Pak/ Milonogiannis): “Any idea who’s turn it is to be master today?”
“So long as it’s not me.”
“No one likes being revolted against, but we’ve got to revolt against someone.”
“Why? If we’re so hung up on being defiant, why pretend anyone wants to be in charge?! Why not practice the anarchy we’re so gun-ho about?”
“What’d we do then? Watch movies we haven’t invented yet? Read all those books we already burned for warmth?”
“…I think it’s Li Wei, I’ll ask around.” [8/10]
After the Great Wind abated, China, Japan, and Korea were all decimated. The very few survivors set sail for a place the Wind hadn’t wiped out, and all three found one little island. No civilization had enough people that they could afford a war, and so a new nation was founded, one that honors as many traditions as possible, but also finds new ways to bond together. Kenichi and Hana – two very different children about to claim adulthood – are close to completing the competition for First in Class when a ghost from a lost era arrives to subjugate them. The entire village wants to run these upstarts off the island with kicked asses as souvenirs, but then the alternative arrives.
At its heart, this is a coming-of-age story with a few twists. One is that we’ve got two protagonists to focus on, both of whom are headstrong and relentless and that’s about all they have in common. They provide a bit of buddy-comedy to the mix. The theme of generations in transition fills a lot of the space as well, and we’re shown the best and worst scenarios. There a generous amount of lore, characterization, and plot coming together all at once in this book, but it comes together at the best possible meeting places so that it won’t overwhelm you. There’s a lack of funny in this issue, but plenty of fun.
The art style marries several different origins just to drive the point of strength through cooperation home. The basic line work is rough inks coming together to form shapes and shades that form faces, clothes, buildings, fields, etc. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the textures of any of these materials, but the colorist swoops in to to provide texture, shading, age, and more. With the two working together, they portray farming and invasion with the same sense of devotion and respect. It may not be the prettiest art on the shelf this week, but any reader can open to a page and trust they’ll know what’s happening.
Ronin Island reads like a mid to low-res jpeg – the finer details don’t show up well, but the big picture’s clear and bright.
Time for me to roll out. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues