Okay, first piece of business that’s critical to discuss – this will be a spoiler-free update. No talking about the number of white walkers were in the bell tower shooting Captain America off of Rosebud, alright?
Second: this is Saturday is Free Comic Book Day! We being a comic book store, this is a big deal for us. And you better believe there’ll be more treasures to be found at the store than a few free folios. In the interest of spoilers, I won’t go into it.
Got it? Good. Get some comics!
•Barbarella Dejah Thoris 3 (Williams/ Garcia): The war between Martians and non-specified space humans will finally be resolved by the ancient contest – let the Battle of the Glamour Shots begin!
•DCeased 1 (Taylor/ Hairsine, Harren, Guadiano): So logistically, I get why crossovers happen. Sometimes it’s to make a plot development bigger, other times it’s to give newer titles a bump, usually hoping to find a profit somewhere in the process. But I don’t get it, both Batman and Walking Dead are doing great, so who are they trying to target with this? Maybe they think there’re people who like hyperviolent undead procedurals going uncatered to nowadays? [5/10]
Dark “I Brake for the Anti-Life Equation” Seid comes up with a surefire hack to copy-paste Cyborg’s Mother Box and and retrieve the final pieces he needs to subjugate all life to his will. Putting a decimal point in the wrong place leads to a calamity that gets forwarded to Earth’s internet, leading everyone looking at any sort of screen to regress into sprinting, acrobatic, and hungry zombies.
Before I get into the actual review, let’s look at another DC title. Don’t worry, the review will work for both.
Year of the Villain 1 (Various): I never put much stock in them anyway, but if they keep retconning zodiacs like this, I’m giving up on calendars altogether. Although, reading about how Banes are compatible with psychotic Batmen, but should avoid Green Arrows born under Oa, could be entertaining. Alright, screw it, I’ll give them ONE CHANCE! [5/10]
Lex Luthor’s off the hero wagon and finding himself leading an assault against the Oval Office. He’s figured out a scheme involving every active villain on the planet, that should eliminate every active hero and give them free reign. This should occur just as the mother of the Multiverse – herself the OG template of villainy – awakens to check on her babies. Brainiac checked his math, and we all know how infallible that guy is.
I’m going to rant about canon for just a wee bit. For the purposes of comic book universes, canon = history. The more a series or franchise understands and respects its own canon, the more that can be built upon it, the more readers will engage with it. Every now and then, it can be fun to explore a path not taken and see where that could’ve gone, so long as it’s clear to everyone that it’s a thought experiment. What we have here are two hyped-up events set up to exploit established canon but will ultimately contribute nothing to that canon. By the end of both these events, something is going to happen to set things back up to the way they were – both start off taking out characters too critical to kill off. If “DC Zombies” or “Mother’s Day Crisis” are things you absolutely had to read before you died, they’re here now. Otherwise they don’t deserve your attention.
They found some legitimate star power to handle the visuals for both books, and the individual styles make themselves apparent and delightful. BUT. By the time the coloring and shading are done, a good portion of that uniqueness washes out. Seems for the purposes of events like these, DC allows for some artistic license, but not too much.
DCeased and Year of the Villain both read like lectures by the teacher about the price of cola – they’re obviously passionate about the subject, but there’s zero chance it’ll matter come exam day.
•Savage Avengers 1 (Duggan/ Deodato): Blades and bullets, teeth and two-piece suits, all out to put evil doers on the ground. When will we finally get a team of Snuggly Avengers, who understand that most villains don’t need more broken bones or a fresh reason to swear vengeance – they just need a good hug. I’m not sure how Wolverine will find his way onto such a team, but it’s gonna happen!
•Battlestar Galactica Twilight Command 2 (Moreci/ Tamura): Oh that poor sniper. I’m sure you’ve got to have a lot of disconnect to shoot someone from across great distance (at least if movies teach us anything), and that snipers see all kinds of traumatic stuff through the scope, but to witness your target look directly at you with such… disappointment. “You’re looking at me because you’re too pathetic to look at yourself.” That’s better protection than a concrete wall.
•Nobody is in Control 1 (Kindlon/ Tucker): At long last, we have a formula to compute every variant of “How many X does it take to change a lightbulb?” joke. No matter who or what X is, the answer will always be “None, because somebody broke all the replacements!” Look, it’s not a perfect system, but future generations can build on this for something closer to perfection.
•Descendant 1 (Phillips/ Bornyakov): Okay this is going to be great. Bring your friends into the comic shop and as you’re browsing, mention how generic this cover looks. They’ll ask what you mean, and no matter what they say, you need to tell them it’s just your average sailboat. When they try to point out the symbology or symmetry, look at them funny and move on. Let’s see how many minds we can twist! Bonus points if someone breaks down in tears! [6/10]
The more you have, the more you want, and the more people want from you, such as Carter Miller, a rich American running for president whose child’s being held for ransom. The less you have, the less you have to lose, the less you care about consequences, like David Corey, who perpetually chases down conspiracy theories by driving through military gates. These two don’t have anything in common, except for a strange symbol featuring connected circles and a dot. This symbol was found at the scene of the kidnapping, and David recognizes it from a “lead” he chased for a while – a “signature” left by the kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby.
It’s hard to tell what this story’s angle is. The characters aren’t developed so much as templated – there’s your typical sociopathic politician, your typical dude with nothing better to do, your typical successful woman that keeps bailing out her ex for no reason, etc. All the plot revolves around this mysterious glyph that’s either globally significant or a sign someone needed a coaster. The skeleton of the story is split down the middle between high-profile crime or mystery thriller but it’s not ready to decide which yet. But the bottom line is, when push comes to shove, the main characters prove themselves either unreliable or unconcerned with what’s happening, which should be all we need to know about how interested we should be.
The art style is what I call contemporary standard – no exaggerated muscles or figures like in hero comics, not cartoony like Disney or manga books, not flashy or playful as you’d get with experimental comics. People generally look like people, cars look like cars, talking looks like talking. So I suppose this art style could also be called WYSIWYG.
Descendant reads like a ball from a vending machine – of all the things you could buy, this is definitely one of them.
•Floppy Cop 1 (Dougherty/ Damoose): “I’ve had it with you, Floppy! Between sneaking past my window and your complete incompetence behind the wheel of a car, the question of how you ever became a cop will haunt me to my grave! You’re cooked as far as I’m concerned! If I had my way, you’d be off the force so fast you’d stick to the wall afterward! But dammit, it’s not up to me. We got word from the mayor’s office: there’s an underground limbo tournament between the crime families, and we’ve got a chance to get an undercover agent in there. I hate to admit this, but you’re the best we got.”
•Hashtag Danger 1 (Peyer & Constant/ Harper & Giarrusso): Just more evidence that we’re simply too safety-conscious as a society. When someone is actually too dumb to live, it’s okay to not get between them and their sure-to-be-hilarious demise.
•Dragonsblood 1 of 4 (Bermel/ Muhr): No matter how keen your senses are, there is ALWAYS a chance for you to miss something. That something’s not often a mountain-sized lizard with wings and a hunger for human flesh, but there’s a chance it could be. Getting killed by a dragon anyone asleep would notice wouldn’t be the worst thing – the worst thing would be getting killed, showing up in the afterlife, and being laughed at for centuries by the other tortured souls.
•Gogor 1 (Ken Garing): “Boss, I can come into work today. Nah, I’m fine, it’s just that when I woke up the human was on top of me. Oh what, so the office cat falls asleep on your lap and it’s fine postpone everything for a day, but I’m in trouble if there’s no one to shoo this tiny human away so I can emerge from my slumber? You know what, report me to Elemental Resources. Let’s see where this goes. Uh-huh. Yeah. Alright, I’ll check back in an hour.” [7/10]
The Islands of Altara hang in the sky forming a floating ring, and that ring supports life for all the different creatures and sentients everywhere. For time immemorial, it was understood that owning the land was impossible, and so it “belonged” to whoever was standing on it. The colonial army of the Domus brought with them a new philosophy and guns to argue that they actually owned the land and would accept rent if the people standing on it wanted to keep living. Armano just escaped his academy as it was falling under the Domus, but a teacher gave him a scroll and a place. Maybe it’s a sanctuary, maybe it’s a clue to hidden wealth or technology, maybe it’s a coupon for a free lunch, but no matter what it is, Armano’s not finding out alone.
This story wears its heart, mind, and soul all on its sleeve. There’s giant varmints and talking crab claws and a fixation on canteens, there’s just no subtext. If someone takes a stranger to a hostel, it’s not because it’s a trap or a secret society, it’s because they think you’re tired and might get good advice from the other guests. Instead of puzzling out intrigue, the book beckons the reader to travel between exotic places, meet fascinating new creatures, and somehow build a counter-revolution. It’s a fairy tale with violence more implied than demonstrated, but there’s plenty of that “teamwork is key” and “tolerance beats intolerance” material, and so this might be a decent book to read to your kids or little siblings.
P. Craig Russell is something of an industry standard in illustrating tales in a way that respects the years and centuries they’ve been told, and Garing’s careful to follow in that path. They both measure their subjects so they stay consistently rendered from panel to panel, and play with proportion and perspective to emphasize the fantasy environment. This book doesn’t indulge in the kind of impossible detailing or page design that Russell’s known for, but it does the job, which fits Garing’s storytelling needs just fine.
Gogor reads like a spin in the merry-go-round – there are more advanced and challenging possibilities available, but it’s still fun.
You see that? I did it! I got through all the reviews and I didn’t spoil one thing about Avengers Endgame, like how Darth Vader was Thanos’s faa-ha-hah-HAAaaaaaa, NUTS! I was so close.
See you next week, OR see you this Saturday on Free Comic Book Day!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues