Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival
When life throws crazy at you, pick up crazier comic books and the world will magically appear sane. Here’re some recommendations for when perspective just up and leaves.
•War of the Realms 1 (Aaron/ Dauterman): “Oh my gods, has anyone called 911?”
“Why, so they can see THE GREATEST LARP SESSION OF ALL TIME?!?”
“‘LAR– you set Central Park on fire! Hundreds are dead, thousands are hurt, Earth’s mightiest heroes are fighting off nine worlds’ worth of armies, and you think this is all a game?”
“A game I’m winning! And if you don’t like it that makes you a sore loser. But you played, and I respect that. There’ll be a participation prize for you in the afterlife.” [8/10]
The war that’s torn Asgard and Alfheim apart, the war that turned the affable Volstagg into a living engine of battle, the war that opened all the realms to Musphelheim and set them ablaze, the war led by the mad dark elf Malekith, just made Earth its latest battleground. As Malekith’s agents infiltrate every stronghold to assassinate the leaders and key players, he brings his various forces and conscripts right onto New York to conquer and ultimately win the war. New York isn’t just where most of the horrible stuff in the Marvel universe happens, it’s the main refuge for the wayward Asgardians and home to some of the mightiest, most persistent, most annoying champions in the world; these folks may have a counter-proposal.
Since 2015, Thors of all sizes have fought to stop the dark elves’ reign of terror from consuming the whole galaxy/ universe/ however you want to call it, and if you’ve been following the title at all since then, you’ve been itching for this for a while. If you’ve only just realized that there was this interplanetary war going on (which is typically the way wars work), a heavily abridged summary makes up the first couple of pages, so you can catch up. There’re a cornucopia of characters that, while all written in their own unique ways, tend to force their own ways into the situation. This issue gets everyone you care about involved, and it makes the stakes and threats abundantly clear, which is a win as far as crossover events go.
For anything that hasn’t seen Daurterman’s art stylings yet, you’re in for a wild ride. He adores the little details (like hair and wear & tear on clothes) and makes sure to include them to lend story power to the narrative, but he also knows that big pan-energy explosions look great and knows when to give them space and when individual reactions would count more. If he can be bothered to stay on for the entire crossover, this could be one of those crossovers that lives up to its years of hype.
War of the Realms reads like the last trailer before a blockbuster release – everything you need to see to peak your interest, not much context to “get in the way”.
•Obey Me 1 (Mentasti/ Torres): “Well, one of us read the invitation wrong.”
“Clearly. Now, if I remember right, the saying goes ‘Never bring a gun to a knife fight’, so you lose by disqualification.”
“Well actually, it’s ‘Never bring a knife to a gun fight.’”
“Except the ticket clearly said ‘knife fight.’”
“The ticket said ‘DOG FIGHT’ and you know it!”
•Mirror 10 (Rios & Lim): I don’t go to many fancy parties like this – is it considered rude to hold your bladed instrument during hors d’oeuvres? What if your good sheath doesn’t go with the dress? She can’t wear her work sheath, she’s not an animal.
•Atomic Robo & the Dawn of a New Era 4 of 5 (Clevinger/ Wegener): Behold, the next age of parenting is upon us with our latest product: D.A.D. 2.0! Marvel at his insistence on wearing tool belts and bow ties for every occasion! Witness him grilling outside all year ‘round! Patiently chuckle at his anecdotes about the good old days and how hard they were for him! Groan with existential dread at the same five jokes told endlessly!
•Stiletto 1 (Palle Schmidt): I think we can all agree that when your raspberry latte or whatever you drink spills all over your work material, it’s a sad time. I would like to think we could also agree that it’s not so sad that you need to reach out to your sawed-off shotty for comfort.
•Section Zero 1 of 6 (Kesel & Grummett): So one’s got a super sword of one sort or another, another’s got giant hooks, the one on the left looks like she has her own cloud server, and there’s the psychic up top. Is there any kind of fight this group isn’t prepared for? (CC Note: What about guns?) Huh. Two guesses why this is only a six-issue run. [7/10]
The United Nations may not have an army, but they’re far from toothless. They’ve in fact got some of the hardest and sharpest on the planet, operate completely off the books, whose jurisdiction covers the entire planet and its neighboring pocket dimensions. That team is Section Zero, and they’ve seen things. There’s a grey alien on the team who ferries everyone around on his flying saucer, a hard-as-nails action doctor, a remorseless assassin/ dudebro, and (until he comes up with a better gig) a teenager that can turn into into a giant insect for a day. Whenever something disrupts human life that science or society can’t account for, Section Zero settles the bill. There’s supposed to be no one else like them on Earth, but if that’s true then who are the Ghost Soldiers?
This introduction features characters tripping into introducing themselves regularly, some fun action sequences, and a dumptruck’s worth of exposition about how they all got there and what they’re about. It starts about a dozen possible threads of exploration, but doesn’t hint at all about priority or stakes. The organization behind Section Zero is either the lone ear listening when everyone else’s talking over each other, or a global powerbroker more interested in finding one extraordinary individual than the innocents they burn to smoke such a figure out. There’s plenty of enjoy within this book, but nothing’s stood out as worth investing in yet.
The visual style seeks to emulate Neal Adams if he storyboarded The X-Files. Curves, angles, and lines come together for the purpose of getting faces and details communicative versus keeping things clean. The colors and lighting sufficiently add depth and clarity, though everything seems to be filtered grey. There’s not much to glean from people’s facial expressions and poses, but there’s enough to tell whether they’re happy or sad or angry.
Section Zero reads like a sugar cookie right out of the oven – a safe recipe that could have used a little bit longer to finish baking.
•Amber Blake 1 (LaGard’re/ Guice): Check out the savviest of the savvy business women here. Most settle at doing everything with the assurance of two or three men, but this one walks with a gun, a roadster, and an army of secret agents at her back while they’re all striding away from a nuclear explosion. That’s either totally badass or trying way too hard, your line between the two may vary.
•Uncanny X-Men 15 (Rosenburg/ Larocca): Scott Summers, ladies and gentleman – founding member of the X-Men, fighter for mutant rights and liberties, and champion air guitarist five years running.
•Major X 1 (Rob Liefeld): I’m not going to ask who wanted another Marvel-Liefeld collaboration. It’s not worth it. Of the teams of people that cheered it on, I’m sure there’s more than a few who did so unironically. All I want is for you to think about what you’ve done and how it’ll affect not just you, but your friends, your family, and society as a whole.
•Cannibis Illegalization of Weed in America GN (Box Brown): How sad is it that when I first saw this, I thought it was a taco in a commemorative shell? (CC Note: The stuffing is green. Explain why you’d eat green taco stuffing.) Could be an extra-thick curry, or a cream-pepper sauce mixed into the meat. Or maybe it’s an apple pancake being eaten like a taco. I don’t know, use your imagination! (CC Note: My imagination’s mean to me.)
•Bronze Age Boogie 1 (Moore & Finch/ Mauricet): I never considered what kind of stuff BCE populations would see on LSD, but now that the idea’s in my head, I can’t think of anything else. Anthropologists, get to work! [7/10]
There’s a talking chimpanzee that’s in her twilight years and wears sundresses. There’s a different talking chimp that got ditched in the Bronze Age and blew his cover to a young warrior just so he could pass the time. There’s magic that may be science or the other way around, a conspiracy to conquer all of time, a rag-tag bunch of experts itching to just let time play out, and a disco ball keychain. And visions, plenty of visions an ethereal whispers of wisdom, some without the aid of “medicine”. Did I mention the Martians, already? They’re here too.
By the time I reached the end of the issue, I knew it had happened. I don’t know what exactly, or who or why or how, but there were happenings, and among them were these. Most of the book follows Brita: literal warrior princess, intuitive and intelligent beyond her age, keeper of secret treasures lost within time, and best friend to a cosmically-enhanced chimp only she can see or hear. There’s almost no context going in, and no projected path out. So maybe some “medicine” is required to bring out the most from this book; personally, I don’t recommend that.
Visually, the book is a trip. It smashes together castles, glowing rocks, space ships, nature shows, and disco with an arrogance certifying that it will never apologize for what it is, and besides it mostly pulls it off. Faces (human or otherwise) don’t stay consistent from panel to panel, but the designs of the characters and their features are detailed enough that you’ll never forget who each person is as the story moves. It’s not the prettiest book on the shelves, but it gets from beginning to end with its menagerie of elements more or less intact.
Bronze Age Boogie reads like a moving speech in a foreign language – many will find poetry and levels of meaning and furiously applause, but if you don’t understand what anyone said there’s no shame in that.
And with that, I’m gonna wig out. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues