Variant Coverage – August 8, 2019

Happy August, read some comics!

Absolute Carnage 1 (Cates/ Stegman): Carnage, I know the xenomorph queen. I’ve seen her at her best, and at her worst. Not a year goes by when we don’t catch up on old times. You, Carnage, are no xenomorph queen. Now get your edgelord, goopy self back to the 90s before you hurt anyone else!

Island of Dr. Moreau 1 of 2 (Adams & Rodriguez): “I am the only genius on Earth capable of breaking the language barrier between humans and animals.”
*Seven crimes against god and nature later*
“At last, my experiments have produced a cat with the basic abilities of a human! Speak, and let the world understand your mysteries!”
“I’m just so sad. I ate the food, I want to eat more food, but there’s no more food! I remember eating food and want to do it again. I’m not eating food right now and it’s cruel. How could you do this to me??”
“RESULT: That assistant I killed for being a smartass might’ve been onto something.” [8/10]

Barely surviving a violent mutiny and landing half-dead on a strange island bums you out super hard, but then so does getting thrown out of London society for violating the laws of God and man where everyone could see. Ellie and Moreau might’ve found they had a lot in common if her first day hadn’t involved horrific experiments, introductions with a cult, and a game warden with a biology degree and little idea of personal space. True to form, Dr. Moreau didn’t let a little thing like excommunication from the medical field stop his research into human-animal hybridization, and for her lack of immediate & enthusiastic support, Ellie may not be allowed to enjoy the full amenities of Moreau’s island.

Based on the 1896 novel by H.G. Wells, this story finds the general beats of the original fine, throwing in changes in gender more for variety than anything resembling shock value. Expect subtext heavy with ethics in medicine, the purpose of experimentation, the line between cute and cautionary, and other themes that in a just world wouldn’t be a vexing and topical today as they are. Moreau is a brick wall as a character – he’s abandoned every other part of his personhood to follow his line of research to its conclusion (whatever that is). Ellie experienced a number of traumas on her way to the island, and shows zero tolerance for any new ones to show up. They make a fine menagerie of misery.

Speakly frankly, the art’s wonderful. It brings the deep details out for your viewing pleasure, spares every effort to bring the humans, the island, and everything in between to life as vibrant as possible. Rodriguez continuously demonstrates a balance between the torturous ordeals everyone had gone through and the new, functional, symmetrical beauty they find themselves in now. As painful as some of the scenes appear, at least they’re rendered with passion and precision.

Island of Dr. Moreau reads like fair-fresh taffy – tacky, not too different from the old stuff, and nearly impossible to resist.

Comic for Flint HOPE One-Shot (Various): It’s been over five years since Flint’s water supply started suffering from contamination, during which time local administrations have effectively spun around in desk chairs and ended bottled water distribution, lawsuits blossomed like toxic algea, and today Flint’s taps still don’t spout potable water. By the time this comes to a conclusion and a book is written, that book will be cataloged both as non-fiction and dystopian fantasy. Literally any chance to help the people of Flint could make a difference, and here’s one.

Batman 76 (King/ Daniel): Another promising chiropractor whose future was destroyed by violent crime, being born and raised in prison, addicted to a drug that increases his muscle mass, and has an unhealthy fixation and guys dressed as bats. It happens all the time and yet breaks my heart each time I see it.

KISS The End 4 (Chu/ Menna): If your catman spontaneously combusts, do not panic or attempt to smother the flame. This is a purrfectly normal response to under-stimulation. One night spent rock ‘n rolling, followed by one day of partying, is usually enough to settle the flame down. If the blaze purrsists for more than four days, consult your local demon or exorcist (whichever one returns your calls).

Berserker Unbound 1 (Lemire/ Deodato): “‘Right on 12th?’ The twelfth what? If they’d put skulls or shields to count, maybe you wouldn’t need a cartographer to find your way around. And these metal hellhounds confound me! Their breath chokes me and they bleat horribly and for some reason I must have the biggest one! Your directions have been as useful as shirts to me, I’ll go back to navigating the tried and true way: following the will of Crom!” [7/10]

So let’s say you got this guy who’s definitely NOT Conan the Barbarian, yet just so happens to have muscles on muscles, multiple weapons handy, and a reputation for destroying armies. Let’s also say that this not-Conan – in the middle of the wastelands and death and oppression – found someone that could calm him down enough to settle down just a bit, long enough to build a house and make a kid. If not-Conan’s work followed him home and set his happy place on fire, not-Conan (or the Mongrel King) might see the world in red and single-handedly slaughter the first team of bandits that come in range. He might consider dropping his weapons and following his family. He might stagger off somewhere and follow whatever warped pattern of light looked prettiest and pass out only to be woken by a guy with a stick. He could do all those things and more.

I should be able to skip the character reviews since Conan the Barbarian’s been a steady part of popular culture for almost a century, but just in case: The “Mongrel King” is a walking slab of muscle harder than stone, trained in endless ways to kill, and released onto an unsuspecting world for reasons maybe. The Mongrel King finds a middle step between wandering vagrant and epic warrior emperor in his family, but the book fridges them ASAP to kick the plot into gear. The narrative borrows characters, tropes, and dangling threads in an attempt to tell a very different kind of story that may already being published somewhere else. It could be a tongue-in-cheek play on a concept if not for the pain and revenge, etc.

Mike Deodato continues to produce high-tier illustrations that could paint a steak dinner with power, camaraderie, and the fate of the planet. He’s no stranger to drawing overpowered individuals, so it’s no surprise that he draws an armed man-mountain comfortably, but never casually. Backgrounds only show up when required, the designs of the Berserker and bandits don’t vary from normal. The action scenes – pretty much anything with motion – carry a sense of energy potent enough to blow your head off. But at the end of the day it’s just not different or updated from he’s done before.

Berserker Unbound reads like your favorite toy after a friend decorated it – technically it’s still the same toy, but the extra flaps and glitter look completely out of place.

Future Foundation 1 (Whitley/ Robson): “What’d you learn in school today, kids?”
“That if you’re going to break a law, you might as well do it spectacularly!”
“That’s a horrible lesson to learn!”
“Remind us how you fly with such a small wingspan again?”
“For the last time, the wings are vestigial! I negate the law of gravity and… I, well, err… who wants ice cream?”

Isabellae HC Volume 1 (Raule/ Gabor): Maybe the wind wouldn’t toss your hair or the foliage so violently if you kept your haunted sword in its sheath? I may not be an expert on samurai lore or meteorology, this just seems like one of those “common sense” situations.

Dead End Kids 1 (Gogol/ Cvitcanin): “You kids selling dead ends?”

“The sign give it away?”
“I got some evidence for a murder case that is just bringing me down so hard. I’ve never been this depressed before, I’ll crack if I dig any deeper – can you help a guy out?”
“So long as our records get sealed when we’re 18, yeah.”

Coffin Bound 1 (Watters/ Dani): “It’s not like I HATE the living, I just like skeletons more. They’re chill, they don’t judge, once you get them clean they stay clean. They’re the best roadtrip buddies I ever had. And you got the nerve to stand there and tell me they don’t count toward qualifying for the carpool lane?” [6/10]

Izzy’s gonna die. Not in that existential “everything that begins must end” kinda die, someone’s coming to kill her. That person has a name and a rep and maybe magic nature powers. Izzy knows this because they were the dying words of the posse that came to kill her before this assassin could do the job. She knows this because the collection of bird bones only she can see explained it as well as animate bones can explain anything. Izzy could fight back, she could bunker down and resist until her last breath, but she’s opting out. Izzy wants to tie up loose ends, minimize her footprint on the world, and otherwise live out her last will and testament.

Do you like words? I like words, and I’m here to tell you that this is aggressively overwritten. Every character talks like they swore an oath to only speak in poetry – I haven’t worked out a meter or anything, but no one opens their mouth to say less than two things at once. For all that effort, you might expect deeper questions, or insights into a larger history or backstory. Save your brain meat – the world’s a dystopia, no one talks about how it became that way, watching someone tear their own skin off is a fetish now, that’s about it. It’s entirely possible that there’s messaging and intent that’s shoots right over my head, meaning you’ll have to guess whether or not it’ll go over yours.

The art is not horrible to look at, it even shares some properties with Bruce Timm. All the major elements of the narrative find their way to the page loyally, but contrary to the Jenga game that is the story, what you see from the art is all that you get. The character designs distinguish everyone from each other with huge margins for error, favoring sport casual to half-dressed over tires and leather. All the details are so grounded, even the maybe-supernatural predator dresses like a desperate party-goer on October 30th.

Coffin Bound reads like a high schooler’s personal notebook – fun doodles around blocks of verse tangentially connected to each other. 

The Dark Age 1 (Handfield/ Rodriguez): I get that it’s “natural, which makes it beautiful”, but I also believe that trimming and basic hygiene keep everything healthier.

That’s right, that’s how I’m ending it! 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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