Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
We got loads of comics and less time to review them in. Everyone on board, let’s GOOOO!
•Clyde GN (Jim Benton): Oh do NOT get me started on that butterfly. You thought burning down the school was bad? That insect has done things humanity has no words for, and it sleeps soundly as it listens to its victims’ wails. That creature was cocooned in Hell. Do what you gotta do, Bear. Do it in the name of the Grizzly, the Panda, and the Holy Siberian.
•FairLady 1 (Schirmer/ Balboni & Louise): “You gotta stay out here, Det. Fuzzywumps.”
“What did you just say to me? I’m the senior officer on site, the coroner’s cleared the scene, that evidence isn’t going to collect itself!”
“Your partner can come in, just not you.”
“Oh this is BULL! What, do you think my giant paws walk over the department keyboards? Or I’ll knock over some glasses because they’re there? Are you afraid I’ll shred your jeans, is that it, Rookie?”
“N-no, sir, only…”
“Spit it out!”
“The lights’re turning the place into an oven and your partner told us you were shedding I’m sorry!” [7/10]
It’s hard to re-enter society after serving with an army. It’s harder when no one in society wants to admit that a soldier’s skill set is still useful. And it’s especially hard when you’re a woman that faked being a man to enlist and need to continue being the only lady in the investigators’ boys club, but Jenner Faulds carries on anyway. Jenner survived the war that lit the world on magical fire, and now she’s making her place in what’s left. Her main gig is keeping an eye on the Feld from the Tower with her partner: a large cat man called Oanu. For money, she’s a private detective/ bounty hunter/ mafia diplomat, aka the FairLady. She winds up stuck with all the odd and shady jobs the other FairMen won’t bother with, and often trips over reminders of the hellish warzone she served in, but on the upside… uhhhhhhh.
The world building hints at a story more than anything – everyone within’s already accepted is as the new normal, and so don’t feel the need to talk about things like how their town’s the husk of a giant metal golem or how there are so many sentient races living together and yet racism’s alive and well. The plot moves steadily, showing a more or less normal day in the lives of two beat cops no one wants to deal with, but its most urgent thread gets tied up by the end. There are plenty of potential threads to follow, but nothing stands out. The characters are okay – get past the outfits or fur or eldritch kitch and everyone sounds and behaves like their roles would expect. Jenner, for example, does what she wants for the best cause she can find, and every so often can beat people up without getting arrested; there’s more to her than that, but she’s fine not touching it ever again. The concept’s more interesting than the execution.
For a world with outlandish architecture and settings, myriad species and organizations vying for power, and a tone that celebrates its allegory on sexism, the visuals take the safe route whenever they can. Jenner’s drawn like a tough tom boy that’s done pretending to be what she’s not, her partner’s a hairy linebacker with a cat’s head, there’s that one guy with the octopus hat, and it all renders as standard action-book stuff: realistic proportions where possible, simple designs, basic shading and coloring. That’s not to say it’s bad, only that a bit of play would’ve made a lot of difference.
FairLady reads like a song sung by a novice – in their mind, everything was perfect and bold, but halfway through they got nervous and ended up toning it down too much.
•Underfoot The Mighty Deep GN (Fisher & Whitten/ Nguyen): Behold the hero setting out on his quest. Though the odds are low, he packs for a long journey. Though he walks alone, his determination keeps him company. There shall be no obstacle too large to overcome, no force too great to be resisted, this hero SHALL be the next viral cute animal video on youtube, and he too shall enjoy the taste of victory (which tastes like a micro-burrito).
•Alienation GN (Ines Estrada): For anyone curious about what a fever dream feels like but are too healthy, here’s a resource you may want to check out.
•KISS The End 1 (Chu/ Menna): “Hullo, Gene? We’re lining up for the cover, care to join us?”
“You’d think the poor thing’d never seen the streets flowing with lava before?”
“Funny how only the children knew what to do, isn’t it?”
•Orphan Age 1 (Anderson/ Plati): I think we all have been where this guy is now. On the one hand, he’s been to every city on the map, crossing them off one at a time as he goes. On the other, he’s going to run out of stops to make soon, and that’s when his parents’re going to finally kick him out of the basement. Courage, friend. [8/10]
One day all the biologically adult people in the world fell down dead. This was commonly looked back on as a bad day. Everyone short of physical maturity was spared, grew up into adults, and had to learn how society worked while rebuilding it. A man named Brian’s the mayor of a town – he keeps people working, holds them together, and otherwise is being a good leader type fellow. So of course, when the hot new religion sweeps on through with their promise of salvation for the righteous and bullets for the heretics, Brian’s one of the first to die, and far from the last. Between the only three survivors, they’ve got one-third of a plan for what to do next.
The story opens with children all around the world finding dead adults, then skips 20 years to begin with a world’s that’s mostly got steady feet under it. There are bakers, carpenters, doctors, and when someone’s feeling jittery or some other symptom of PTSD, they talk to each other. The world’s compelling both for the people getting it right and for the people getting it biblically wrong. The characters follow in that style, showing what they’re about more than talking about what needs to be done. Brian’s a good father and leader because he helps others become self-sufficient, he and everyone else has their own story behind a globally-shared trauma, and their own responses. There’s volumes left to unravel and tease out, but the beginning’s solid.
The art style (blockily) follows conventional anatomy in the general sense, but when it’s time for the details this book likes to crank things up. When someone has a lot of hair, their hair makes up a third of their total body, and when someone’s got a baby face, their eyes are bigger, their face is rounder, and the rest of the body’s fashion tends to match. Plati’s not afraid to embellish particular traits so long as it helps the reader keep the characters straight. Likewise, the scenery and shading point to and highlight whatever needs the attention. That’s something art can do that reality can’t accomplish as effectively.
Orphan Age reads like a generational melodrama – the previous generation left their kids a wasteland, but they make it into something beautiful (until the neighbors move in).
•Symbiote Spider-Man 1 (David/ Coello & Land): I can’t help but imagine what things would’ve been like if Peter Parker already had the alien costume when Uncle Ben went down. Would it have mocked him for crying? Would it have eaten the robber before Peter even noticed who it was? Of would he have eaten the robber as he ran past, thereby saving Ben’s life (for Your Friendly Neighborhood Venom to eat later)? Whatever the case, you can bet there’d be no “Great Responsibility” line.
•Faithless 1 of 5 (Azzarello/ Llovet): “You can let go now, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Said that yesterday. This morning you left. Can’t risk it.”
“Weren’t you complaining about your ex the other day because he was too clingy?”
“I’m not clingy. It’s just that all quantum versions of myself missed you too, that’s all.”
•Captain Marvel 4 (Thompson/ Carnero): That last copy of the new “Mortal Kombat”’s going home with one of these two, and whoever gets it won’t need a tutorial for the Fatalities.
•Web of Venom – Cult of Carnage 1 (Tieri/ Beyruth): OH MY GOD IT’S A GELATINOUS MONSTER WITH TEETH! Holy CRAP there’s another one! And another! And another. Another. Two, wait five more. Okay, so am I the only one here not wearing goo and lusting for the taste of human flesh? Every time I go to a party, this happens. [6/10]
The town of Doverton doesn’t enjoy much good press or tourism, maybe because it doesn’t have a robust theater community, but much more likely because everyone in it was possessed by the Carnage symbiote in Cletus Kassidy’s attempt to consume the world. That didn’t work out, but there’s interest in a second try. Back in Venom, the god of all symbiotes landed on Earth with a similar intention, and in this day and age it’s easier than ever to find someone with a common goal. Carnage first went to Doverton with global ambitions, but he’s returned in the name of… pious service? That’s a question Misty Knight and John Jameson have to answer, preferably before Carny eats many more spines.
There’s the briefest of primers on the opening page to established just a few key details, and the rest of the comic proceeds to punish the reader for not possessing the rest of the keys. See, it doesn’t so much summarize Carnage, USA as vaguely hints at possible interpretations of it. “You read that series? Great, you know what’s going on! You didn’t? Why not? Do you hate us? You hate us don’t you, FAKE FANS!” By the end, the reader gets enough info that they can figure out and follow future issues, but most references are left without context, some of which contradict the primer. The characters chosen to investigate are either questionable or wrong, depending on your point of view: John Jameson has a negative history with things from space that trigger compulsions and violent outbursts, a history that a mindful supervisor might’ve caught before it became an issue, while Misty Knight (a detective down to her bones and cyber-hardware) seems to turn off her observation and deduction for the sake of letting Jameson ride shotgun after a mind-blowing trauma. For all the lore it wants to draw from, this presentation feels cherry-picked.
Visually, the book reminds me of one of the artists from Cassidy’s first crossover – Alex Saviuk. His style also relied on shape-based faces, jaws that unhinged when people screamed, and could capture the horror and pain of a moment without falling back on gore. It may not look particularly attractive to everyone, but it certainly gets the job done.
Cult of Carnage reads like a fugue state – you’re in a strange and spooky enough place, but a little name dropping and highlights can’t be expected to solve everything.
•Aliens Resistance 3 (Wood/ Carey):
Can someone put an Elmer Fudd hat on one of those things?
Thank you, this is everything I’d hoped it would be.
I’m calling it there – see you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues