Variant Coverage – July 3, 2019

Fire falls from the sky, explosions crack the world in half, opposing forces collide in moments of painful beauty, and now that I think of it July 4th’s about here, isn’t it? Have some bright- colored glory!

Doom Patrol Weight of the Worlds 1 (Way & Lambert/ Harvey): Notice how most of the characters are holding or petting pets and/ or smaller teammates. From the look of things, everyone seems fine and happy with this arrangement. But look again at Robot Man(‘s head) because from his expression, he loves this setup. Maybe a bit too much for the cover of a comic. It’s not printed on the cover at all, but maybe consider this a Mature title, just in case.

Aero 1 (Liefeng & Pak/ Keng & Mhan): Remember “Will it Blend?” videos? There’s something mesmerizing about them – for me it’s that split second just after turning the blender on, when the contents begin to come apart but are still distinct. It’s poetic, the line between life and death caught in one image. That’s the sense I get from this cover: there’s an immediate threat that the world’s least appetizing smoothie’s about to appear. [5/10]

Lei Ling’s something of an architectural prodigy – she’s in her twenties and was responsible for designing and building a good chunk of Shanghai’s skyline. Calling Lei “personally invested” would be an understatement, seeing as how on her off hours she weaves through said skyline as the wind-controlling superhero Aero. Lei’s used to being in control, and being able to find what she needs in any situation. When buildings she’s built change into angry titans, and the upper atmosphere rains horrors from space onto her beloved city, Aero’s hurricane of self-assurance drops to a light breeze.

The classic Stan Lee method of introducing new superheroes is back, with all the cliches and abbreviations that we’ve come to expect from his latter years. 1) Ridiculous battle sequence. 2) Resume/ montage of civilian ID. 3) Setup for next issue. Ling as a person may have great talent and ability according to her twitter profile, but she comes across as entitled and arrogant – MAYBE there’s backstory justifying this behavior in later issues, but the fact remains this first impression couldn’t fill the sails.

There’s a short backup story about one of Aero’s brief acquaintances that has more development and interaction than the main story, and I can’t tell if the book is made better for including some example of narrative structure, or worse for shaming the main story so effectively.

The art for the main story’s so manga it may out-manga manga. It’s that manga. It’s giant eyeballs, hysterically overfashioned costumes, poses vaguely indicative of action or motion, rushed coloring and inking, irregular panel transitions, and tropey designs. It’s not challenging to read, there’s just very little substance to savor. The backup’s art is more mainstream, organized, detailed, and nuanced.

Aero reads like a disappointing storm – you half hoped that event you didn’t want to go to would be rained out, instead the evening’s dry and the air’s stagnant.

Nasty Pills 1 of 2 (Massacre/ Seijas): “Come on out! There’s nowhere to run!”
“Over your dead body!”
“…Okay, look, I’m being paid to do this, and not very much. If you’ll tell me something real quick, I’ll leave, and we both win.”
“What do you wanna know?”
“Where you got that football vest. My daughter wants to play but she’s so picky about what she wears, you get it?”

Lois Lane 1 of 12 (Rucka/ Perkins): There is such a thing as too “hot off the press.”

Test 1 (Sebela/ Kickman): I suppose with security tags getting more complex and expensive, it’s only a matter of time before stores put them on the customers instead of merchandise. Seems a bit much when I just want a cold drink, but businesses gotta run I guess.

Ms Marvel Annual 1 (Visaggio/ Lam): I love covers that can double as games! We’re obviously supposed to guess which out of this group Ms. Marvel she hates most, she most admires, and who she talks to on reddit but they don’t know it’s each other. That’s just science, but there’re so many other ways to play. You could flip a coin and whoever it lands on becomes a recurring villain or love interest. The only limits are your imagination!

Sea of Stars 1 (Aaron & Hallum/ Green): I’ve got my tin foil hat on so the Illuminati can’t stop me from telling you WHY they’re so bent on making the world crazy! Turns out Lovecraft wasn’t just an author and bigot, but he did more than dabble in astronomy: the elder gods are real, they’re just waiting for us in space. They’re up there polishing their ichor-colored hides, indulging in their non-Euclidian LEGO collections, just waiting for unsuspecting star trekkers so they can drive them mad before eating them! Well, the Illuminati figured out a lifehack that’ll protect our intrepid future explorers. See, madness isn’t just a seasoning to the elder gods, it’s more like a medicine lactose-intolerant people take before hitting the all-you-can-eat mac’n’cheese buffet, they can’t eat us without their prescribed form of the brain rots. BUT! If we’re already crazy before heading up there, they can’t impose their crazy onto ours. Because the greatest scientists at the turn of the 20th century felt confident that traumas don’t work like that, and really, who are we to challenge them? [7/10]

It’s not exactly Take Your Kid to Work Day, but that didn’t stop Gil Starx from bringing his son Kadyn out with him to deliver museum pieces to a faraway star system. Gil hoped this’d be a chance to spend more time with his son, Kadyn hoped there’d be anything other than endless void to look at, neither’s enjoying much success. While Kadyn sulks in the cargo bay living an archaeology student’s greatest dreams, Gil spots an incoming ship that’s tracking him. This huge ship stretches for moons, glares with piercing emerald eyes the size of a cruiser, bears teeth that can wreck a bulkhead as if it were paper, and may in fact be a space eel. Kadyn awakens to find two talking space entities enjoying pleasant conversation over eating him now or later, while Gil’s at least one world away wishing conversation was an option.

There’s a lot happening in this issue, and while only a third of it makes sense, it sets up a troubled father-son dynamic swiftly and authentically. They’re both dealing with a lot of grief and unsatisfied expectations, and while they’re depressed feeling as though they’ve lost everything, reality slaps them in their faces and takes away everything else. Along for the ride are too many possible mechanisms for zany antics, and not enough time to consider which ones are important. Many questions remain unanswered by the, and with so little solid ground to stand on, I don’t see many sticking around to find out which answers float past.

There’s plenty to enjoy visually about this issue. The designs carry a sense of function and casual use, with just enough flourishes to keep things interesting. The scenery and alien artifacts push the art past interesting into surreal, which may be too far for this book. It’s the kind of visual language that tells you not to take what you see at face value, while the narrative refuses to stay still long enough to build a foundation. The result is a lot of drifting and guesswork.

Sea of Stars reads like a watered-down vision – there’s plenty of props and explanations to set up an “it was all a dream” ending, and a few shortcuts to skip that awkward “journey” part.

All Time Comics Zerosis Deathscape 1 of 5 (Bayer & Simmons/ Von Eeden & Bell): “I may be beaten, I may have multiple open wounds, my clothes may be torn and ruined, I may be wearing clashing colors, my face may be burned off or I just got out of plastic surgery, someone may’ve switched my weapon with a table leg, and I’m pretty sure that guy behind me’s impaled on what’s left of my car, but I have completely lost my train of thought. Got any ibuprofen?”

Uncanny X-Men 21 (Rosenberg/ Larrocca): When Juggernaut was first introduced, he destroyed the X-Mansion one wall at a time before he beat up on school children. Look at how far he’s come: teaming up with the same people he pummeled for attention. We should devote the next mega-crossover to figuring out just how Juggernaut lost so many battles, but ended up winning the war. 

No One Left to Fight 1 of 5 (Sitterson/ Ossio): What does a monk do when they’ve completed their legendary armor set, but the rest of the guild’s lost interest? This guy never spent one penny in microtransactions, all that’s from pure & honest grinding! Meanwhile Heckyl and Jeckyl back there only log in when a new patch comes out, and then only long enough to complain. What happened to the love of the game?

Space Bandits 1 (Millar/ Scalera): To our contemporary senses, these kids may look like the Fashion Police’s dangerous fugitives, but your vision’s too narrow. And by that I mean we can only see visible light – in UV and infrared light, the revealed patterns tie the look together in a way Paris wouldn’t believe. And again, that’s because they can only see in… I said that already, didn’t I? [8/10]

In the VERY distant future, humanity will join its culture with those of other spacefaring species, and in the process resurrect a fascination with a certain musical era, to the point that things are named… uniquely? Cody’s a genius heist planner and infiltration agent, Thena’s so dangerous she takes up the top three spots on the intergalactic most wanted list, and they have no idea the other exists. Cody’s crew shoots her in the chest and note how honorable they are having not shot her in the back. Star systems away, Thena’s beau sets a new record for worst break-up ever. Between these two, they’re majority shareholders of righteous fury.

With all the violence and deception, the story’s careful to include moments of kindness, allowing the main characters to claim the protagonist title without restricting their dastardly deeds. The people around them help establish how wide the ethical spectrum is, and where they all fit on it. The action and twists may look extreme since it’s the future and wild, but they’re executed in a way that there’s little doubt these sequences were plausible, perhaps inevitable. There’s no a whole lot of direction or momentum by the end of this chapter, but there are clearly defined women with a lot in common and a deep craving to bring hell down on some folks what deserve it – I want to see what they do.

The art starts by smirking – presenting outlandish structures and people in an everyday context – and follows it up with a Cheshire Cat smile – showcasing betrayals and defeats while the bad guys sadistically cackle. There’s little as far as realism to be found, but all the elements are rendered clearly and consistently, leaving little question about what a thing’s purpose is or how it found its way onto the page. Some art abandons perspective and proportion with the intent of confusing the eye any chance it can get, but Scarela’s art gently teases those properties for the sake of fun.

Space Bandits reads like a dinner bell – at this point we should all just expect three-act mayhem begging for live production whenever Mark Millar’s name appears anywhere.

Wear earplugs, keep water on hand, and 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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