Variant Coverage – June 12, 2019

Some of these comics could riff themselves, but they had a very long trip from the printer to us, so I’ll let them get over travel lag because I’m nice and crap.

Gargantuan 1 of 5 (Douglas/ Czerniawski): This Mad Max remake has some potential, but will need to give us a lot more than this to capture the world’s heart. The last one featured a blind bard in a red onesie with a flame-throwing guitar – the bar can’t be set much higher than that.

Silver Surfer Black 1 (Cates/ Moore): It’s about redemption. It’s about exploration. It’s about $250 a bottle. Silver Surfer Black – the latest cologne from Marvel. [7/10]

So a while back, a bunch of jerks crashed Thanos’s funeral and dropped most of the attendees down a black hole. The Silver Surfer happened to be one of those attendees, and since things like gravity, light, and time are neat little suggestions to him, he threw everyone back out… but ran out of gas before he could take care of himself. Even when bound to the very fabric of the cosmos, black holes will find a way to rip a passerby apart, and its after something like his fifth round of reassembly that the strangest thing occurs: a planet seemingly appears for the Surfer to land on. There he finds three giant sentries not interested in listening to a word he has to say, instead violently passionate that their master/ god is not disturbed.

This book’s hit and miss. One hit is how the Surfer’s desperation and inner turmoil don’t just serve as introduction to the character, but also as a form of attack that can reliably cause problems – never a bad thing for an OP character to confront. A miss would be the gaping plot hole of the Surfer actually not needing to put up with the suffering this book provides if only he could’ve trusted himself to use more of his power. This issue cycles through demonstrations, disappointments, and nods to some questionable players in the 616.

Tradd Moore’s known for his unique interpretation of figures and shapes. Between the aliens, interdimensional travel, psychological breakdowns and all the other strange business, he already has plenty of room to play, and yet he leans into it heavily, taking special care to portray the Silver Surfer as someone with a head and four specialized limbs yet absolutely not human. There’s no guarantee that readers will comprehend what they’re seeing, but at the same time it’s not a chore to read through.

Silver Surfer Black reads like a piece of chocolate cake from a five-star restaurant – the amount of production and presentation is nothing short of grand, but something simpler might’ve done the trick without the hassle.

Banjax 1 (Grant/ Alves): I hope they took his boots off before taking the mug shot. If this guy’s really 6’ 3”, I’m a linebacker for the Patriots. Techno-billionaire vigilantes love designing their footwear to stand a few inches taller than normal. At first it was “This will help preserve my secret identity,” but the practice has since devolved into a series of petty competitions. We’ve all seen how ridiculous that can get.

Immortal Hulk 19 (Ewing/ Bennett): While certainly challenging, rehabilitation and work training for the morbidly disfigured creations of mad science remains the most effective method to incorporate these violations of the laws of god and man into society. Where mobs would grab pitchforks and torches would hunt this creature down in the past, today it thrives as a puppeteer. His one-thing production of Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe made grown men cry.

Star Wars C-3PO Does NOT Like Sand HC (Kennedy/ Kesinger): You want to grind a droid’s gears? Stick ‘em on a beach, desert, anyplace with enough particulates to sneak into the smallest crevices and wreck every joint a robotic life form has. You think the Sarlacc Pit’s stomach or R2-D2’s vocabulary are corrosive? Wait until a droid that can launch angry, swear-filled tirades in over six million forms of communication suffers from sudden onset arthritis. If kids hear more than ten seconds of that, there’s just no saving them.

Penny Nichols GN (Reed & Means/ Wiegle): Why’re they bothering with a grand scene with a wedding dress, a dagger, and artificial blood when there’s a set of identical quintuplets ripe for the exploiting? Even if it’s just a bunch of clones, that’s still crazy inspiring for terror and excitement on its own. Mark my words: slasher movies will be the deciding factor when the time comes to decide on the practices of human cloning, ethics be damned.

Sonata 1 (Hine & Haberlin): “Hey, the city’s five miles on our right, shouldn’t you be turning, giant bird?”
“SQUAAAAAK! What the – have you been on my back this whole time?”
“Is this the flight to Brigadoon?”
“NO! Now tie yourself back in and don’t say another word or I’ll drop you at the next patch of solid ground I fly over. Customs’ gonna be a nightmare.” [8/10]

Interplanetary travel may be possible, but it’s still generations away from convenient. Travelers sail on vessels moved by cosmic winds to take advantage of rare moments when planets come close to one-another, with the resolution that comes from knowing it’s a one-way trip. The most popular destination spot is the planet Perdita – a world with abundant water and resources and no native life to be seen. Of the three races jockeying for their fair share, two get along fine while the third won’t be happy until they’ve got everything. Their most recent prize is a local river the others can’t live without, and so they plan to negotiate for its release as well as breaking the dam if negotiations don’t go well. Sonata – the youngest veteran flyer on Perdita – watches as both fail spectacularly.

Beyond the intriguing lore and gorgeous sci-fi/ fantasy tropes, Sonata’s main struggle is political: colonialism vs. eco-friendly living. There are only so many stances to take when presented with all the raw material you’d ever need to make a new community, and those stances sometimes just aren’t compatible. The path this story takes for most of its first issue comes across as uninspired, but a twist pops up at the end that could double-down on the familiarity of the story, or take it someplace exciting and new. As for our heroine, Sonata’s a bit cocky and excitable, yet backs up every self-affirmation with risky action that helps the people around her.

The visuals make the most tempting aspect of this book, and are worth leafing through if nothing else. The designs of the environment, its creatures, the standard dress, and the various colonizers stand out for being unique and give the scene as a whole a mosaic quality that draws the eye in and softly whispers that they don’t want the eye to go. Moments of action may not display the energy or tension that they’d like, and yet they get the job done.

Sonata reads like year-old Girl Scout cookies – they taste fine, but you can’t escape that they’re also stale.

This Love so Brief One-Shot (Fred Chao): Five years on paid matchmaking apps, speed dating programs, sky-writing pickup lines – a lonely soul may roll the dice on all that and more with no guarantee of finding a suitable partner. Sometimes all it takes is getting out of bed, heading to the fresh fish market, and accidentally touching a stranger as you both reach for the same whole tuna in order to find true love and/ or a business partner in starting that locally-sourced ink business from the happiest fantasies.

Sea Sirens – A Trot & Cap’n Bill Adventure Vol 1 (Chu/ Lee): Jellyfish, armed mermaids, and giant snakes (though I guess since they’re underwater they’re eels)? Fit abandonment and expired milk in there and it’s my top five flavors of NOPE.

Ride Burning Desire 1 of 5 (Warner/ Hillyard): Look, furries are the butts to a lot of humor today, whether they deserve it or not, but there’s got to be a line between funny and abusive. Playing around is wonderful, but when someone’s losing a quart of blood because Sparkles the Fursona forgot the pre-arranged safeword, it stops being a game. Let’s keep it light!

Amazing Spider-Man 23 (Spencer/ Ottley): There’s so much pressure on heroes to redesign their costumes every now and then, and most don’t appreciate how stressful that can get. Not all heroes are fashion geniuses, it can take months or years to come up with a decent design before they start patrolling and screaming into the rain. Tack on a job and the minimum social activity required to stave off insanity and it’s a recipe for anxiety breakdowns. Before long wearing a dagger in the mask starts looking like a sound marketing strategy.

Trust Fall 1 (Sebela/ Visions): So when someone talks about a “fashion statement”, this is the kind of thing they’re trying to communicate. When a lady walks up to you wearing a suspender-vest, a giant broach, ladybug earrings, and a circus master’s coat, she’s not just telling you “I’m not to be trusted,” she’s screaming “I will flip you upside down, rob you of everything remotely valuable, and leave you wondering what’s real and what isn’t in this mad, mad world.” [7/10]

A lot of people don’t find their talent until late in life, but Ash found her gift early. She can point at things (people included) and teleport them someplace else, a ridiculously useful talent when you’re a member of a crime family. Ash Brixton’s the odd child in more ways than one, but she’s also the one that pulls off the job’s that’re moving the family out of being thugs and into elites. If she can stop herself from sneaking out at night to live like a normie for ten minutes at a time, hold back the urge to throw certain siblings into a volcano, and help a sponsor family pull a heist, they’ll all be set up for life.

Ash’s powers rate among her less critical traits – she’s been abusively sheltered, raised around violent paranoia, gets zero praise or fulfillment from what she does, and when stealing a moment for herself she rides the subway and indulges in people-watching. Ash’s complex, angry, but at her core she’s kind. Her family covers a range between meek and pleasant to keeping guns at the dinner table to keep everyone in line. The focus is so tight around the Brixtons that everything else – like the major crime families, Ash’s unreliable backup, and so much more goes unsaid aside from exposition that plays out fine at first, but by the halfway point slows the pace to a molasses crawl.

The visuals take the elements the narrative provides and runs with them into glitzy territory. Ash doesn’t run around in camo or kevlar when she can break out a 1920’s dapper outfit or something from a 90’s thrift store. Her family estate is well-maintained, tastefully decorated, and clashes with everyone living in it. There’re half a dozen different combinations of culture fusion at least in this book and they’re each a joy to gaze upon, even when that joy’s a shameful one.

Trust Fall reads like an instant cult classic – technically there’s plenty going wrong, but the execution’s enjoyable enough that it’s impossible to truly hate.

My shift’s over – 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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