Variant Coverage – July 17, 2019

Are these some comics which I see before me? The cover before my eyes? Come, let me mock thee.

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olson 1 of 12 (Fraction/ Lieber): Jimmy’s seen as mostly a good kid, maybe a bit boastful and naive, odd fashion sense, but capable of handling a crisis. Everyone asks how he stays so calm, and he shrugs it off. Let’s make something perfectly clear – panic-hopping to an alternate universe and killing whatever version you find there so you can take your own head back as a trophy is NOT a healthy way to manage stress.

Collapser 1 (Way & Simon/ Kyriazis): “I was swallowed by a cosmic singularity and all I got was this t-shirt. And hungry, I got hungry too.” [6/10]

Liam James’s got a problem, and it brought 98 others with it because problems get lonely like that. Liam just learned that his mother died from a weird-looking delivery guy dropping off Liam’s entire inheritance: a gunk-soaked box he doesn’t even have time to open because he’s late for his nursing job at a rest home where he’s splattered with half a dozen bodily fluids daily. The hobbies and friends he depends on to support him fumble the job a bit, and all Liam wants to do is hide from the world for no less than two days straight. In a cosmic, interplanetary, and horribly traumatic way, he gets exactly what he wants.

Liam’s a decent enough guy generally speaking, but he presents infinite tolerance for some and scornful inpatients for others. He’s a guy uncertain of who he is and desperate to define himself as a decent enough guy before someone comes out of the shadows with proof that he’s not a person. Such a character could hold the lead of a comic, but it’s unclear if he should be leading this comic. Between this, the creatures made out of vagueness, and a whole mess of odd motivations, there’s a lot that hasn’t happened to establish whether or not Liam can measure up, justifying a lot of readers scratching their heads by the end of it.

The art does what it’s called upon to do, and not much more. Human figures mostly look human, but drawn with an edge of abstract cubism – no one looks comfortable. Alien figures lean more into that abstract feeling, with hardly any individual or ship wholly appearing in a panel. The grand total to all this is a style that wants to be surreal, but hasn’t made up its mind to commit just yet. The last page of the story (without spoiling anything) disappointed me.

Collapser reads like a defective chocolate from a box – on the outside it looks fine, even nice, but instead of filling there’s just a void.

Cheshire Crossing GN (Weir/ Andersen): If I met these three, I’d run until I crossed a major boundary (including a river) and pray to any god paying attention that they forget I exist. I think we can all agree on the messaging here: these three ladies conquered the Children of the Corn, converted the land into a sunflower field, and are daring anyone crazy enough to call them on it. You’ve been warned!

Empty Space GN (Friedman/ Cacau): Pistol and Rags here know each other – classmates in middle school, drifted apart, now back together under wacky circumstances. Back then, Pistol was the scrawny kid that always got picked last for sports, except for the times Rags was captain. They weren’t friends exactly, but they both believed everyone deserved a chance. Today, Pistol recognized Rags during a pirate raid, and for old times sake, invited him into point blank range with his weapon drawn, since everyone deserves a chance.

Sera and the Royal Stars 1 (Tsuei/ Mok): “You’ve… been looking into that thing a long time. Do you see my future or what?”
“Do you see a crystal ball here? No, because I’m not a big-city fraud. I’m getting something, it just takes a while to put the picture together.”
“I had other things I wanted to do today. Just refund me and I’ll go.”
“Do you see my epic delts? Yes, because I train an hour every day specifically to break anyone that tries to take money from me.”

Resonant 1 (Andry/ Aragon): “I’ve had my finger up for a week while this thing matured, and now it looks like the thing’s just going to fly off. Do you know how many X-rays I’ve put you through so you could gain superpowers? The absolute LEAST you could do is bite me so I grow wings and stuff!” [8/10]

When is a radical survivalist not a radical survivalist? When a world ending event swept across the planet and now you’re one of the last of the human race. The Waves started up roughly a decade ago, and for lack of any better explanation, a Wave crashes and makes the body tear itself apart. There’s a trick to surviving one, but it takes a lot of practice to get right, which didn’t stop one man from moving his three children into a cabin in the middle of nowhere and training them to be radical survivalists. This guy’s got to go out for a while to restock one kid’s medicine, and under the best of circumstances this shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks, and if there’s one thing to trust about radical survivalists, you can trust their optimism that stuff just tends to work out.

There’s a lot to learn in this opening issue, and they do a great job of limiting the expository history to a bare minimum. There are few names and fewer anchor points to history, but the broad strokes paint a detailed-enough picture. The characters don’t get much of a chance to introduce themselves aside from their daily routine, which includes cooperating, double-checking provisions and safety measures, and basically accepting that life’s crappy but they’re lucky enough to be together as a group so they can keep their house in order. It’s hard not to love them for that. I can only hope that more details will get fleshed out later, if for no other reason than to get to know these folks better.

Like the setting of the story, the art lacks the clean refinement of computer-assisted living and instead uses old-school methods of illustrating that’re proven to work. Collections of heavy ink lines and Zip-a-Tone account for the shading, blobs of color bleed into each other enough to help provide texture and also sell the rough & dirty style of living. The backgrounds take turns between stark, detailed, layered rendering and complete washouts of a color, sound effects, or a mix of both. The art shows you what it wants to show you plainly, but ridiculously hides what it wants to hide.

Resonant reads like the chef’s surprise – you’re not sure what’s in it, but should trust that the chef’s putting all they’ve got into this.

Doctor Aphra 34 (Spurrier/ Santos): Some faces reveal nothing, others can tell exactly what cards are in their hands. Aphra’s face is a mix of frustration, anger, and resignation, or to summarize: “One day I’m gonna meet someone that tells me I’d look great in fishnets who’s NOT a sarlacc-puked bounty hunter, and that is going to be a wonderful day!”

Let’s Make Ramen Cookbook (Amano/ Becan): I don’t have a particular joke in mind for this cover, it’s just that comics are so naturally suited a format for cooking books that I never even thought of it. If they come out with a spiral-bound edition so there’s no spine to break, and show the most popular heroes blearily poke at a toaster wondering why the coffee maker’s not working, we shall enter a sequential art revolution!

Loki 1 (Kibblesmith/ Bazaldua????): “Behold, tiny creatures! The mythic hammer of judgement has found me worthy! I shall begin holding court in Central Park in an hour, so please have your vows of fealty, supplications, and the rest ready before you arrive – I can’t stand the way you Midgardians stutter.”
“That’s not Mjolnir.”
“Of course it is!”
“Then why is there etching on the side that says ‘Made in Cornwall, Tin Capital of the World’?”
“That’s… actually… space-Nordic? The characters may look the same but they’re nothing alike really so it’s not worth noticing. Did I mention I’ll be accepting tributes?”

What Would Skeletor Do? (Robb Pearlman): They got the perfect shot for the cover – this is someone that’s powerful, ambitious, and thinks before he acts. I’m tempted to give this a read just to see what pearls of wisdom are distilled within these pages… or I would be if I didn’t remember that every time Skeletor did anything, he was beaten by He-Man. Like, a lot. So, maybe this is one of those “How NOT To” books?

Age of X-Man Omega (Thompson & Nadler/ Buonfantino): “Let me in! Let me in!”
“Let us OUT! Let us OUT!” [7/10]

Nate Gray had an idea: if everyone was a mutant, no one would hate mutants. Making this happen was easy enough, he just created another plane of existence and controlled everything in it like a god-king, even making a place for the very rude people trying to stop him. It took a while, but eventually Nate clued into the difficulties it takes in playing an omnipotent authoritarian. By degrees, the X-Men brought into Nate’s thought experiment realized they were living in a fantasy, came together to confront the guy, and had their baseline personalities restored. No one likes being brainwashed on principle, but a few had to admit they lived better here than in reality. There’s a choice that’s got to be made, yet as has been proven throughout this entire event, no one’s truly authorized to make that choice.

Do you like finales with tense action sequences that pay off for all the drama and tension that’s been built up over months and months? Too bad, because instead this event wraps up with a philosophical debate! I’m not joking, and honestly I’m not even mad. All too often in action comics, arguments that tear communities apart are reduced to slugfests where everyone just accepts that the last mutant standing must’ve been right, reasons to be retconned in later. This closing chapter’s anti-climactic for sure, but it also gives the X-Men something they haven’t had in what feels like forever: a clear vision of the world they want. It’d be a shame if the next creative team leaves that on the wayside later.

The art style strains with effort to follow Art Adams’ path, and while not as crisp or expressive as Adams’ material, Buonfantino could get there one day. There are mistakes, like forgetting to account for legs and the Wandering Beard, but ultimately he made it to the end. The linework provides figures and faces enough expression to project what’s happening, the environments can whip between calm and calamitous in an instant, and by the time the end arrives, there’s a genuine sense of closure.

Age of X-Man Omega reads like signage marking that the road stops here – it’s an ending, that’s enough.

Blade Runner 2019 1 (Green & Johnson/ Guinaldo): In the future, tough-as-nails private investigators won’t have to wait in their office for a smoky dame to walk in and turn their lives upside down. Street lighting technology’s advanced to the point that they can fire a gun, brood with the silhouette of said dame, and pose suggestively without leaving the comfort of their favorite light post.

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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