Variant Coverage – July 10, 2019

Oh no. Some inconsiderate sort left a whole bunch of new comics on our shelves. It’d be a real shame if someone judged most of them by their covers…

… Imma do it!

Bad Weekend HC (Brubaker/ Phillips): WARNING! Do not approach this man. He is about to rant about the state of the world, cultural decline from his day and age, and which people need to be fused (alive or dead) with each other to get the job done, then attempt to mathematically prove he’s right with a story about going to see a movie two weeks ago. Consider him Public Enemy #1.

Reaver 1 (Jordan/ Isaacs & Guimaraes): Here’s a little tip they don’t teach you in Scouts, kids – do NOT mess with forest juggalos. These folk spend their days listening for trees falling down to find out if they make noise, you don’t want to know what they’ll do if they catch you (it involves magnets). [7/10]

There’re unfathomable resources at stake in every battle, one of the most important and least protected being Courage. Ash Mahan lost his courage during a rout of his battalion, where he ran from his friend and commanding officer getting squished to death under the boot of a mad mountain man who was supposed to be an ally. He’s supposed to be living out the rest of his days in a cell with a view, but the king’s not quite done with him yet. He’s come to suspect that the enemy’s using magic to predict the future – maybe just a few hours, but enough that they can snatch victory from defeat like candy from a baby. By the king’s command, Ash’s going to lead a team made of dangerous criminal lifers like himself, infiltrate the enemy scrying fortress, and shut it down by any means necessary.

Though the trappings paint a picture of war and fantasy and political intrigue, this is at its core a heist book. King’s got a suicide mission and he can’t afford to send anyone loyal, so he springs a ragtag group of people that hate each other, figuring they’ll hate their own deaths more for long enough to get the job done. You wouldn’t want to leave them to babysit your kid, or trust them to loan them a car, but they all turn out to have quirks entertaining enough that you’ll want to see more. Just don’t start reading this book if you’re squeamish around blood or violence – they really try to out-gore Game of Thrones a few times.

While the open-air abattoirs in this book don’t exactly bleed happy fun times, there’s a solid spirit of adventure in the art style. There’s at least one nation of baseline humanoids, then there are elves, giants, forest gnomes (don’t quote me on that), each carrying most of the classic traits but switching enough up to convince readers they’re more than stereotypes. The action and pacing all meet the criteria for an adventure story, and the colors may be too eager to strut their stuff.

Reaver reads like that first pull on a refreshing drink – not the healthiest thing for you, but after a hard day of piling up bodies, it hits the spot.

Strangelands 1 (Visaggio & Little Badger/ Del Ray): “RUN! You have to run or you’ll be burned alive! Whatever happens, keep running! JJ Abrams’ lens flare’s gotten loose, and it’s only getting stronger!”

Unearth 1 (Bunn & Strahm/ Rivas): The right set of speakers can blow a person’s clothes off, but when they leave burn silhouettes in the wall behind that person, there’s nothing to do but accept that they’re actually not the right speakers.

Batman Universe 1 (Bendis/ Derington): It’s not unusual for people to commit extreme acts in order to acquire a Faberge Egg. It is unusual for people to be beaten into unconsciousness WITH a Faberge Egg, but then again if you handed Batman a bag of marshmallows, he could bust the bunker of your choice.

Ghosted in LA 1 (Grace/ Keenan): “There’s nothing worse than a whiny carpool,” they said. “Everyone talking over each other is torture,” they said. Meanwhile, housing’s so expensive, only the top 1% of ghosts can afford a place to haunt by themselves, and the rest cram into apartments so tiny they don’t even have room to make the walls shake. [8/10]
No ideas start as mistakes – they begin as grand plans to set up the best years of life with no possibility of failure worth considering, and only after the plan falls apart and spontaneously combusts are they revealed to be mistakes anyone with three brain cells could’ve seen coming. Daphne just finished processing a mistake that moved her to LA for a boyfriend that wasn’t that into her, with no plans or friends to fall back on, and was just in the middle of writing the perfect text to her (estranged) best friend to tell her she’d been right without Daphne conceding she was wrong, when a gate smacks her in the head. Without knowing what she was doing, Daphne’s walked into a haunted house… with a pool, spacious rooms, and working utilities. Daphne’s ready to sign a lease, and even better: the landlord & other tenants don’t even need her to sign it in blood.

As wacky and superstitious as the premise sounds, the story itself roots into themes of confusion, forgiveness, and resilience. EVERYONE in this story’s screwed up somehow, in some cases lethally, but those screw-ups haven’t actually ended them. In the case of Daphne, she not only survives her mistake, she also surrenders to the universe to figure out what to do, and finds the craziest path to walk down for the sake of being the only walking walking on it. Her excitement and adventurousness make her endearing, her failures and defensiveness keep her grounded, and by the end it’s easy to like her and want to know what’ll happen. Other characters don’t get nearly enough page time to make a decision, but there’s a clear promise that their time will come. Action junkies may not find much in this book, but it’s entertaining.

Visually, the book matches the gentle and fun tone of the narrative. Flashbacks are drawn with a slight Disney-vibe focusing on misproportioned figures and black ovals for eyes, while the bulk of the story’s rendered with more realistic proportions, detail, and a spectrum of facial expressions. Body language plays a significant role in this story to sell a character’s emotional state. There’s enough energy and tension to give each panel the impression of a candid snapshot.

Ghosted in LA reads like an elaborate milkshake – the care and ingredients set it apart from chilled partially-frozen milk-like products, establishing it as a genuine treat.

Invisible Woman 1 (Waid/ De Iulis): I thought threatening bubbles were more Thanos’s thing, but it’s not like nobody but Deadpool can shoot guns or talk smack.

Strong Box Big Bad Book of Boon 1 (Altman/ Sala): We get it, parking in the city’s tough, but holding a driver at gunpoint until they drive their car off doesn’t make anything go faster. At best, they’ll conquer enough fear to pull out fine, at worst they may test to see who wins when you bring a car to a gun fight.

Black Hammer Justice League 1 of 5 (Lemire/ Walsh): I know a popular version of multiverse theory is that different universes stack on top of each other, but I assumed they’d all be… how do I put this… face up. Now I’m wondering if two universes facing each other like this acts like velcro, and all I can picture is the next DC crisis about converting the multiverse to laces. “Can the Caped Crusader untie the Infinity Knot before the Cranky-Monitor’s naptime?”

Second Coming 1 (Russell/ Race): One’s a loaf shy of a knuckle sandwich, while the other’s just realizing an all-carb diet’s so bad for you it should be a sin. So lucky these two found each other! [7/10]

And on the sixth day, God created Adam and Eve because He was bored of nature programming, He needed something He could identify with that also amused Him. Like a lot of God’s early work, He didn’t think that one through and ended up descending to Earth a few times to show us a thing or two. Fast forward to the modern era: a superhero named Sunstar beats up bad guys, fights bureaucracy, and God likes what he sees. God wishes His own kid could be more like that. In fact, God drops His kid off at Sunstar’s doorstep with the hopes that living with an action savior will give Jesus the perspective he sorely needs.

Yeaaahaahaahaa, so you know how superhero comics are full of religious symbolism, but most of the time it’s subtle? Instead of subtle, this book chains a cinder block to a sledgehammer before laying out the good china and glass sculptures. The contents of this book probably don’t match up with what they taught in Sunday School – they’re more likely to hock a loogie into the sacramental wine – and certainly some people won’t read past that. But there is more to this book than savior-shock value.

This is a story of how inescapable problems are, how even the most holy or powerful don’t find themselves where they’d like to be all the time. And as backwards as it may sound, the typical and tested way out of these sticky situations is to help someone with theirs. Of course, the wide gap between how these two approach the ills of the world, there’s going to be discontent.

Contrary to the narrative’s themes, the art prefers to play things safe. What you see is essentially what things are, right down to the burning bushes. Even the burliest of superheroes isn’t more swol than a regular runner. Color palettes switch out depending on character more than era, but give the eye plenty of context to know who’s who and when.

Second Coming reads like an appropriately used reference – someone’s clearly read the source material and wants to do something clever with it.

Watch_Dogs 1 (Kansara/ Horne): The future of delivery’s still uncertain, but here we see some clear advantages and disadvantages for both cases. People couriers are more adaptable and can handle surprises, they can carry more things easier than a drone can, and also present a face that can give customers that personal touch. Drones, on the other hand, can fly, and when they suddenly can’t are way easier to clean up after they land. We’re not deciding this today.

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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