Variant Coverage – June 5, 2019

June’s first comics, get’em while they’re hot!

Black Cat 1 (MacKay/ Foreman, Dowling, Fuji): Cops are trained to expect all kinds of responses to “Get your hands up”, but nothing both calms them down and confuses them more than the way Felicia Hardy does it. One thing they don’t have to worry about is whether or not their handcuffs will come into play. [7/10]

It’s hard to make a name for yourself anywhere, and it’s almost impossible in New York City, and yet Felicia Hardy can stroll right into a private gala and is instantly recognized. It could be the white hair, or the sculpted figure, but it’s probably because she’s the infamous thief and bad luck magnet Black Cat. She’s capable of being more than a thief, but at the end of the day she just enjoys taking things, so that’s how she keeps herself occupied. She’s got a couple of guys that’re actually helpful, she’s got some loot, and she’s got a whole shelf of history she’d rather put behind her. If only someone could keep their nose out of the catalog, she might get some peace and quiet.

As any career criminal will tell you, the hard part isn’t getting in or snatching the goods, it’s leaving without trouble that’ll stump you. (CC Note: How do you know what a career criminal would say?) Banking on that, this story’s all about escapes and the trials needed to truly cut all ties. Her criminal empire? Screw it. Her recent entanglements with a certain wall-crawler? Doesn’t matter. Everything you need to know about Black Cat for this book is in this book. There’s some thievery and confidence artistry on display, but by the time you get to the end of the main story, it all feels superficial. I say main story because there are backup stories, these far shorter tales about Felicia and her “family” that’re mostly cute and goofy.

Visually, this book wants nothing more than to catch your eye. Characters and their features are only slightly exaggerated for the sake of aesthetics, but they each have their own fashions and accessories, allowing everyone to look unique. There’s less conventional inking than you’d expect, leaving all the responsibilities for contrast, texture, and shading up to the colorist, and they get the job done. The backups bring different artists in for their different styles on different tales, and each one’s distinct.

Black Cat reads like an online article summarizing a book or a movie – technically comprehensive and a good grasp of the basics, but not enough material to call it an experience.

Silver Metal Lover GN (Lee & Robbins): It’s not inherently shameful to love silver as much as vampires and werewolves hate the stuff. But when the collection’s so vast that guests are sexually assaulted by statues when all they were looking for was the bathroom, or when the appendectomy won’t begin until a doctor’s found that’ll use silver scalpels, it’s time to admit that there’s a problem.

Dragon Age Masked Empire Deluxe HC (Weekes/ Various): What a black cover this is. The faux gold inking sure does remind one of bright colors on dark. And those lines, they’re the very definition of geometric. (Look, you see what I have to work with here, it’s like scooping up the ashes of a staked vampire and using it as cat litter.)

Hashtag Danger 2 (Peyer & Constant/ Harper & Giarrusso): Okay, this looks like a crazy and hopeless idea, but consider it just one moment – if we COULD get the elder gods addicted to social media and obsessed with which mythic horror begat which metamythical nightmare, they’d have so much less time to wipe the world clean of humanity. That’s win-win for us.

Ignited 1 (Waid & Osajyefo/ Briones): “I never saw anything like it. They’ll be talking about this for years. I thought I’d seen everything on the comedy stage, but you… you didn’t just die on stage, you made souls run away. Souls. If you’re not arrested for this, kid, you’ll end up being this country’s next great weapon.” [8/10]

Last year, Phoenix Academy High School suffered a school shooting. Fourteen killed, 38 wounded. The survivors return today to find TV crews, personalities from across the country trying to tell them what they should be feeling, and bullet holes left unpatched. Legislation is making the rounds to arm teachers, and while most don’t like it, the most vocal against the idea are @Wave and @Viral – anonymous SJWs who demand that the school reject such legislation… or all the teachers will crap their pants. The next day’s filled with substitute teachers, a sudden cancellation of proposed rules, and a lot of mumbling. By the minute, it becomes clearer that this was just an opening skirmish in a war sure to put the school in the crossfire again, and the only person interested in negotiations is a student named Anouk, who’s just figuring out that she can figure things out.

So this is a school drama about surviving massive trauma, and maybe superpowers are involved, but they’re mostly a device to give our plucky revolutionaries some leverage against a system run by people hopelessly disconnected with them. The characters are either misunderstood teens or stereotypes, but there’s a couple that manage both. One of the tragedies of a project like this is that there’s so much real world material influencing it that puzzling out where the fictional parts are and whether they matter or not. This and the tragedy of school shootings in the first place make this book a bitter pill to swallow, which the authors confess on Page 2. Their take on censoring is different: instead of blocking out the letters or switching them with icons, they print the word that shant be said in church/ synagogue/ mosque and seemingly scratch an eraser over it to make it slightly more difficult to read.

The art style takes a loose, almost lazy approach to the DC House style of strapping figures in contemporary fashion in between feats of derring do. There won’t be any trouble telling people apart, as the designs cover a wide spectrum to produce more than enough distinct combinations that’ll register. The settings and architecture also serve up detail in family sized portions, even and especially the depressing ones.

Ignited reads like a clearly marked sour ball – you know this’ll be intense, the wrapper made that plain to everybody, but some look for that rush.

Thumbs 1 of 5 (Lewis/ Sherman): I’ll admit that it’s pretty cool how fingerprints are so immeasurably unique that even with seven billion people on this rock, a clean set leads to just one out of all of them. But there are limits, and no one has to go beyond them to continue working with fingerprints. They can’t predict the future, they can’t tell who someone’s OTP is, and they certainly can’t plot out what kind of tattoos a guy wants OR where. Get big government out of the parlor, already!

Hotel Dare GN (Blas/ Aguirre): Masks emitting eldritch light, fog machines set to 11, rat infestations, penthouses built on houses built on a shack? Oh yeah, this is a hotel that has a story behind it. Maybe a bored billionaire and an architect got drunk, some other substances got involved, and when they wake up there’s a $5 million media campaign for this place. Or maybe a popsicle stick project kinda got away from these kids. Real estate’s weird.

Category Zero 1 (Kiamil/ Lima): So a Category Five storm acts as Nature’s eraser wiping whole patches off the map, so a CZero is a… purple spotlights? I’d say I don’t understand meteorology, but considering how often network weather people miss the mark, it’s just time for us to accept that no one understands meteorology. It gives about as good as it gets, and I guess that includes filtered lighting for dramatic effects.

Princess Revolution 1 (Elaine Tipping): It’s about time we got a princess that reads AND can conjure magic. Ancient sorcerers, spellcasters, etc, they were all the ones with the deepest libraries, now how many royal ladies have their been leafing through books or studying tomes and yet the wizard’s always the smelly old guy with an exotic pet? Beauty and the Beast would’ve lasted half an hour if Belle’s literacy fueled cosmic powers – she’d have grown roses for her father, cured the Beast without any of that “true love” nonsense, and make Gaston think he was a random animal each day just for giggles. [6/10]

Celyse and Etan are that strangest kind of royal teens engaged to be married: they actually like each other. They live in neighboring kingdoms and feed each other’s interests, only since it’s Celyse’s birthday, she’s who we learn about – she’s mostly happy, likes girly things and is also a potent magic user for her age. So when a queen with an evil reputation breaks in, steals Etan from his own castle, and leaves a smouldering ruin in her wake, Celyse feels pretty down about it. She also has a powerful spellbook, resources of her own, and no chill to wait for the kingdom to put itself back together before questing for her man.

Okay, so this is one of those classic fairy tales. You know the kind – one crowned kid gets kidnapped, another gears up and charges to kidnap them right back and beat whoever started all this into submission. The twist is that the princess is the one that’ll be doing the rescuing, thank you. This might be more of an impressive feat if there were absolutely anything else about it. Other books have done this kind of twist, and while they weren’t as interested in saving princes, they took the trouble to play with other tropes than the Damsel (or Don) in Distress. It’s not that the characters are confusing or fighting where they shouldn’t, they’re just a little too perfect. Etan’s the perfect boyfriend, Celyse’s the sheltered girl turned genius wizard, there’s nothing else to them.

Visually, this is a bubbly manga-style romp with more skin-tone diversity. There are plenty of over-the-top curves and lines, but they mostly affect the face and hair. The approach and execution is decent, though some more detail in the action/ chaotic moments would’ve been helpful.

One more thing to mention is that there will be NO SECOND ISSUE. Instead, in about two months, the first storyarc will be released as a trade, so if you just need more of it, now you know to preorder the complete first volume. This is teasing, but it also splits the difference between investing in a whole volume versus one little taste to see how you like it. I hope it works.

Princess Revolution reads like a fourth grader’s specialty toast – the key ingredient isn’t special, but there’s an effort you can appreciate.

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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