Variant Coverage – July 24, 2019

What we have here is a failure to exacerbate, but I’m not sure what that means, so read these comic reviews while I figure that out.

Making Friends Vol 2 – Back to the Drawing Board (Kristen Gudsnuk): “Entry #249: My pink-haired android continues to blend into the general population, and while I’m certain it’s incapable of passing a determined Turing test, it seems to have passed all the casual ones so far. Its continued relationship with that brute brunette Shelby infuriates me, as I’ve installed six firmware patches and yet it’s unable to tell how awful she is. NOTE TO SELF: next time you make a friend, make it a friend to YOU.”

Fearless 1 of 3 (Various): This looks like an insider’s view of those monster plants that feed on people. No one’s ever accused Carol Danvers of having a green thumb, but we’re about to discover if green knuckles count. [8/10]

Like so many books and other media on the market, this one could’ve chosen a name better suited than “Fearless”. In this anthology series of Marvel’s “fiercest ladies”, we find our powerhouse damsels wrestling with self-doubt more than anything – at the risk of splitting hairs, each one faces off against intimidating situations and (time permitting) vents anxiety before unanimously deciding that they better flerken deal with it. This makes the book less about not having fears than different approaches to conquering those fears. Each of the individual stories bring their own character, situation, and approach to the idea, but the theme’s easily noticed every time. My biggest complaint is that there’s only so much space, leaving only enough room for each to set up its premise and no farther (for two out of three, anyway).

Likewise, the art wanders away from standard superhero fare and leans into the slice-of-life tropes. No hard lines or epic monuments, some uniforms but also plenty of casual wear, emphasis placed on the faces and every flash of thought going through them. That’s what they have in common, but there’s a different artist for each section, and each brings their own tone to the page. One’s almost devoid of black and depends on the lightly colored palette to make distinctions, another spreads black around as preface for lighthearted crazy, the other covers the middle ground by illustrating each page sufficiently and denying them the polish so many superhero books take for granted.

Fearless reads like a Mexican soap opera – all the interpersonal drama and tension of the US variety, oh but there’s also alternate dimensions and superpowers.

Aliens Rescue 1 (Wood/ McKeown & Straw): “We didn’t train for this!!”
“Stop lying, private! This is exactly what we’ve been training for the last three weeks!”
“I thought we were shooting shadow puppets and negative space! I didn’t sign on to fight giant bugs hungry for my flesh, I signed on to fight lousy street magicians and mimes fer cryin’ out loud!”

Extraordinary: A Story of an Ordinary Princess GN (Cassie Anderson): The princesses feet are sore from months of travelling on foot, and there’s a shooting pain in one of her ankles, but her travelling companion has a grip on his cane tighter than Linus on his blanket. Next time they’re in a forest she’ll cut off a big enough branch to do the job, and if Sticky the Wonder Boy makes a peep about hurting a defenseless tree, she’ll simply state that the alternative is slashing at him.

Sword Master 1 (Shuizhu & Pak/ Anka): “With my sword’s full power restored, I can finally rend our foe asunder!”
“Dammit, Dave, we talked about this. That’s a harmonic kinetic energy transmitter, and the last time you tried to use it as a sword, the rest of us spent over a week fixing it. Do we need to have another intervention?”

History of Marvel Comics 1 of 6 (Waid/ Rodriguez): Comic Carnival does not, nor ever has or shall, condone the recreational use of drugs. Comic Carnival would appreciate anyone disregarding this advice to read this and call in with a coherent summary. This cover’s a deluge of key game-changing points of yester-issue, and I’m not sure but I think it all happened over a four-day weekend.

Star Pig 1 of 4 (Dawson/ Gaston): Please tell me this spacefaring tardigrade waiting for anticipation while the compassionate and tiny thing he’s sharing a star system with weaves affirmations between planets. I never knew before how desperately I wanted a ridiculous sci-fi retelling of Charlotte’s Web. [8/10]

In the same way humans enjoy looking at pictures of animals going back thousands of years, teenagers shall forever be anxious about going off to camp. You’d think establishing the camp in space would hold their attention, but like all other attempts to get a teen’s attention, it’s only somewhat effective. Everyone on the space bus falls somewhere between tired and manically excited, until a stray asteroid chops the bus in half. One lady cadet ignored all the recommended safety precautions, and hit that sweet probability spot where this kept her alive long enough for “rescue”… so long as rescue involves being sucked into the morphable innards of a space creature still getting a hang of the whole “self-awareness” fad.

The catalyst to this story may be absolutely tragic, but the major question of the narrative’s decidedly more upbeat: HOW would humans impact a greater audience of sentient aliens or AI? So much of the dialogue and banter depends on concepts of culture shock and individual panic thresholds, as well as complete-outsider perspectives on what “normal” means. And before I make this seem like a philosophical treatise or anything, I should state that butt jokes and slapstick also survive into the distant future. There’s fun bits, and the exercise of thinking about the premise is fun.

The artwork does more to ground the story into realism than it first appears. All objects and creatures start as collections of heavy lines, with coloring added to achieve texture and depth. It’s not glamorous or high-concept, but when you just want to establish what something is and move on, this is how you do it. It seems counter-intuitive to draw living clouds and mountain-sized pigs the exact same way, but this makes them seem more – not real – approachable. They’re not drawn to evoke cosmic wisdom, they’re drawn as if you could sucked into a supermassive stupid argument with them.

Space Pig reads like good sushi – on paper, these elements should not coexist in such a tight space so well, yet here we are.

Scooby-Doo Team Up 49: “Metamorpho, we appreciate the ride, and I say this in the most understanding tone possible, but we never want to ride below your waist again.”
“No problem, I get that all the time. I can change into all kinds of stuff, including flood lights, giant tools, even Scooby Snacks! Why did it suddenly get so quiet?”

Batman Curse of the White Knight 1 (Sean Murphy): To forever prowl in the shadows of your sworn city, while your cape reveals to all the various things that haunt you to this day – THAT is the Curse of the Dark Knight. It would appear that the White Knight’s curse involves suspenders, which isn’t as poetic but still qualifies as a curse.

True Believers Absolute Carnage Mania 1 (Reprint of Venom #1 from 2003): “More Red Vines! If our mouth is full of them, spear them into our flesh and we shall make new mouths! If you stop, we’ll have to switch back to brains, see if we don’t!”

House of X 1 (Hickman/ Larraz): Okay, so clearly no one in this group can offer constructive criticism as to headgear, but come on! Xavier’s wearing a painted and accessorized beach ball and no one’s batting an eye? On the plus side, at least a major publisher is responding to the Hawk Eye Intitiative’s message, effectively painting over Xavier’s body and calling it “owning himself”.

Return to the Isle of the Lost GN (De La Cruz & Venditti/ Fajardo): “Let’s meet up at the broken mirror tonight.”
“You hit your head? The Mirror cards everyone, including the ancient crypt escapees they have on stage some nights. No way we’re getting in there!”
“No, I meant the actual broken mirror. You know the one.”
“I… I do. The hell was I thinking?”

Valkyrie 1 (Aaron & Ewing/ CAFU): Magical Shards, made from pieces of a divine hammer of from another reality – for when you want to wear ALL your accessories at once. [8/10]

To call Jane Foster a doctor is like calling Indiana Jones a college professor – technically accurate and a gross understatement of what they do. During the War of the Realms, Jane went from cancer survivor, to soldier, to desk ruler of Asgard, to War Thor, and that was something like a calendar week when you break it down. When the dust settled, she couldn’t be Asgard’s All-Mother anymore because she’d become the first true valkyrie – guides of warriors through the afterlife – since the order was wiped out. Jane’s cursed to learn as she goes, and every time she thinks she’s got one aspect of her new situation learned, she becomes aware of three others she didn’t know existed. The universe isn’t that cruel, so for now it merely calls on her find an artifact that can kill anything and endow anyone with godlike powers… before her boss fires her for continued tardiness.

Jane Foster’s your classic overworker – she won’t allow herself any kind of idleness. When she’s not trying to maintain her practice as a medical doctor, she’s subduing criminals super or otherwise as a decked-out angel of death. She’s found her spotlight (as long as Jason Aaron’s around), and compulsively takes on any responsibility gently lobbed in her direction. Her track record says she can handle it, but unlike her previous appointments she has no example to show her how valkyring is done. Jane Foster’s a power fantasy in that we’d all like to think that’s how we’d use supernatural powers, and yet her current rogue’s gallery is all made of humans who gave up on being humane long ago.

Visually, the book’s beautiful. It starts with fairly standard superhero-style artwork – exquisite bodies in elaborate attire – and wraps that in color and shading so detailed that each image looks good enough to hang on a wall somewhere. For a story about the next job of someone with “god” on their resume, there’s an atmosphere of respect and dedication throughout the book. Whoever CAFU is, they want to show us that they’re taking this seriously.

Valkyrie reads like a plate spinner’s act – two or three subjects aren’t very dramatic, but more’ll come on stage until something shatters.

When life gives you a cosmically-charged weighted axe, every problem becomes Thanos’ head.

Make more violent, bitter, or severe”! I am the king of failing at exacerbating! 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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