Keep on rocking with some new booooooooks!
(CC Note: You’re done, no more rewriting classics into abominations!) *ugh* Fine.
•Cookie and the Kid 1 of 6 (Alex Kosakowski): “That’s right, Cookie, all you need to do is step into the mushroom circle and grasp the ash-and-fire colored stone, then all the bullies will go away, your parents will stop fighting, and your dog will come back!”
“I’m not sure about this, Mr. Fuzzy-Wumpkins.”
“Oh, but Cookie, I’m the only one in the world you can trust!”
“But you’re a talking dog.”
•Bad Reception 1 (Juan Doe): In an alternate reality, where Doc Joe advocated for designer baking instead of capital punishment, elaborate cakes are made not for special occassions, but for horrible sins. In this case, a woman married her brother to take advantage of a loophole in a cell phone contract to get unlimited phones, not just data. [7/10]
Blaise and Gaia are getting married! Gaia’s a model/ actress/ social media demigod, while Blaise is a professor and author on how to detach yourself from social media, and Blaise convinced his fiance to have their wedding off the grid – no cellphones, no laptops, nothing but brain-meat memory and film photography (and open bar). Celebrities and fans alike wonder if this is really happening, the guest list is personal invite only, the house is booked in the middle of nowhere, this is happening. Really. Blaise wants this to be a chance for people to remember who they are when they aren’t linked to the internet and all its resources, but he’s also gathered some high-profile figures into an isolated setting without security or the ability to call out. Sure would be a shame if someone came along and took that as an opportunity to do something worse, wouldn’t it?
If it weren’t for the opening pages leading to a human corpse, this could be read as a cheerful social commentary story about the various ways people try to better themselves and each other. Instead, we know someone’s going to die, where it’s likely to happen, leaving us to discover the who, when, and why. The biggest suspension of disbelief comes from accepting so many stars from different circles thinking in layers vs. scandals. Most every character shows off varied sides of themselves to push the understanding that these aren’t professional celebrities, but professionals that achieved celebrity. If it weren’t such perfect irony that they self-helped themselves into a slasher story, I’d want them to make it out alive.
Artistically, this book avoids rendering people as too pretty. Plenty of skinny people around, but most body types and colors find space for themselves. Following the “Less is More” tenet of drawing, faces and their expressions usually think getting 80% of the way there is enough to sell a smirk or some shame – usually this works fine, but the sense that they skipped a step persists longer than it should. The coloring sometimes adds depth and detail, other times it might’ve been applied with a paint roller.
Bad Reception reads like jello on a train – shaky and tricky to get into, satisfying by the end.
•Planet Caravan 1 (Amenta/ Cardoselli): You can suffer through hundreds of pages trying to understand America’s foreign policy – needing a bachelor’s in political science to read any faster than a steamroller treading uphill – or you can just appreciate this picture and comprehend the central outline with a few branch subjects.
•Catstronauts Vol 5 (Drew Brockington): “You can’t face them on your own, Lieutenant Cuddly-Poops! Those angry alien vines aren’t just some string for you to bat at!”
“It’s the only way! There’s not a threat in this galaxy I won’t slash at, no vacuum too loud, no red dot too shiny, not when my food’s at stake!”
“FOR FISHY TREATS!”
•Headless 1 (Banchita/ Ahmad): “Well hey kids! I was hoping to find some local young adults. You see, I work for a development company, and we’re thinking of tearing up the local mall, soda bar, library, and public gym, and establish a chain of formal suit shops, and I just noticed that you’ve got a gun on you so I’ll be speeding away now bye!”
•Norah Vol 1 (Pierce/ Seal): I don’t care if your spider/ cockroach/ beetle’s in a French beret, or a ballerina costume, or carrying an assortment of seasonal taste treats, I need to be a minimum safe distance away from this thing here and so I’m hopping a plane to Antarctica.
•Pretty Violent 1 (Hunter & Young): “Look, Mama: I crippled ALL the cosplayers!” The MCU has done a little bit to curb this, but the truth remains – when your heroes punch through their problems, a generation of kids will look at their fists as problem solvers. [7/10]
Little Gamma Rae’s got big dreams, most of them include punching bad guys to save people and drinking in their endless adoration. She’s got flight, super strength, impossible toughness, and the excitement of a dozen 11-year-olds. The first three let her go toe-to-toe with monstrous behemoths, but that last one’s what ends up making her look like the bad guy. It turns out charging into a situation without context or a plan can get people killed. Violently, and in large numbers. Not a great kick-off to a superhero career, and if you’d expect her to go home to her loving family who hear out her problems and support her interests, then you really don’t get how superheroes work.
If I Hate Fairyland were set in the 616, it’d look and read a lot like this – a world full of costumed heroes and villains that go wildly misunderstood by citizens entitled enough to tell a child hero she’s doing it wrong, while being ripped or melted or otherwise killed. Gamma’s motivations are as complicated as a Valentine’s Day party for the polyamorous, but essentially boils down to “I don’t want to do what my parents want me to do.” The concept’s presented and executed well, but for now it’s afraid to go places other such stories haven’t explored and mapped already. There’re more issues coming, but aside from the gimmick there’s not much inspiration to pick up the next installment.
Visually, this book has two settings: “Cutesy-Wootsy” and “Visceral with Viscera”. There is no middle ground. Gamma’s able to wear blood spatter and make it work with the rest of the costume, which singles her out among the many capes and hoods. The costume designs travel off the beaten path and include accessories that result in intriguing figures, most of whom die. The settings also enjoy some real thought put into their purpose and place in the larger city before falling to ruin. So long as you can handle your entrails, this should be a fun time.
Pretty Violent reads like a cheesy action flick – the better you are at not thinking about it, the better your experience will be.
•Psycho List 1 (Grevioux/ Lau): “I’ll never let you rip off my flesh so you can reconstitute and take over the world!”
“First: gross. Second: Who gives a desiccated glute about ‘ruling the world’? If anyone’s stupid and crazy enough to attempt to herd you rabid cats into shape, they can try their luck. More time for me to follow my bliss: Fashion collection. Now I don’t know the god you sacrificed to so you could wear a 2014 Vitelli, but that masterpiece of clothing is wasted on you, now drop it. Drop it!”
•Tony Stark Iron Man 15 (Slott & Zub/ Ramirez): Superman wouldn’t be as popular as he is today if every time he took off his business suit, the skin went with it. “I lost track of Clark! All I could find were his glasses and a square yard of torn flesh that smells like a farm.”
•Ghost Spider 1 (McGuire/ Miyazawa): Forget the murder, the arson, or kidnapping – if the Purge were to actually take place, ignoring air traffic control laws’ll be what really brings the world to its knees. They’re not the laws I’d ignore, but I get that there’re people itching for the chance.
•Marvel Tales X-Men 1 (Various): I can practically hear the 60s cartoon buzzing sounds coming out of Marvel Girl’s hands, like pouring sand into a garbage disposal. I’d ask where Beast is to complete the original team dynamic, but I’m too distracted by the small green lobster in front of Jean – I remember a few creatures that could qualify as the X-Men’s “mascot”, but not one of them’s… that. The best case scenario is that’s Baby Doop, and that’s still a bad scenario.
•Strayed 1 (Giffoni/ Doe): Try to imagine yourself in the Andromeda Galaxy. You get your first look at this “Carny Garfield” as you enter a clearing. He moves like a furry, casually flicking its tail for questionable reasons. And you keep still because you think that maybe his visual acuity is based on movement like a space antelope, he’ll lose you if you don’t move. But no, not Space Siamese. You stare at him, and he just stares right back. And that’s when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the side, from the other two Siams only just red-shifting into the star system. [8/10]
In the fairly distant future, humanity continues to explore and experiment for any reason they can get away with. Kiara wanted to develop a translation device based on thought instead of speech, and through the hijinks of science she gave her cat Lou basic sentience and the ability to astral project across the galaxy. They’re each other’s only family, have zero regrets about the way they’ve grown, and just want a simple life. Robert – the commander of a space station run by the authoritarian government, wants to industrialize the process so he can send countless scouts across the universe to find exploitable planets. He just wants to please his hegemon and enslave lower life forms. Kiara and Robert are not friends.
There are two narratives competing for dominance. One’s the plucky scientist and her beloved super-cat exploring the galaxy and cuddling on the couch. The other is the “Colonialism = Bad” messaging behind James Cameron’s Avatar. Kiara’s slow learning about the hazards of military funding adds an innocent/ naive aspect to her character that – in a distant future where one assumes she’s read a few books in her life – feels out of place here. Likewise, the commander and his people all subscribe to “Smugly Evil Digest”, taking delight in reminding Kiara that she and her prototype psychic kitty work at their pleasure and NOT the other way around. The story’s blunt, but makes its point.
Another comic illustrated by Juan Doe (see Bad Reception above), this book exhibits more detail and attention to design and coloring, which is refreshing. Some of those design choices – like Kiara’s variable shoulders or the station’s resemblance to a squeaky toy – confuse the atmosphere of the book. The surreal bleeds into the defined images and vise versa, and this forms a barrier that keeps the reader from trusting what they see. The reading is easy enough to follow and by the end there’s a solid gist of what’s going on, but little to explain why it looks the way it does.
Strayed reads like a web-ready bathtub – the same basic contraption that’s worked for millennia, but now it has blinking lights and confuses your parents.
See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues