Variant Coverage – September 11, 2019

Not to walk out in the street with my tinfoil hat, but crazy conspiracies got fashionable again. I don’t know how or why, but here we are sitting on three reviews featuring one mad delusion or another, and me without my chart full of notes and arrows and multicolor underlines. I believe we can get through this okay without them, but I also believe lizard people invented aglets to weaken our immune system. Strap in, folks!

Free S$$t Charles Burns Zine Collection (Charles Burns): “What do you think of my Snidely Whiplash cosplay?”
“I’m excited to see the coat and hat, but I wish you’d check the rules. I still think the Parent-Child contest is for human children, not for emotional support garden snakes.”
“Don’t you call my baby that!”

Gotham City Monsters 1 (Orlando/ Nahuelpan): “We’re here for the All-You-Can-Eat contest. And coincidentally ruin any future your restaurant once had.” [6/10]

Since Leviathan swept all clandestine agencies off the planet, the surviving specialists need to come up with something to do with themselves. The Monster of Frankenstein’s not short of resources, so he hops the globe tying up every loose end he can remember from his SHADE days. Lady Clay(Face) quests for a sense of identity, Orca tries out being the Batman of the Ocean, vampire Andrew Bennett’s busy killing vampire cultists, and then there’s Killer Croc, fresh out of his rotation in the Suicide Squad, looking for work and more depressed every day. What cause might unite these disparate creatures? An explosive ritual in their shared home of Monstertown might do the trick.

For anyone excited about a team book featuring Gotham’s most ferocious, hold your demon steeds for a bit. What we have here is an introduction to five players, and a moment between two of them that doesn’t end constructively, even though they know there’s an urgent common enemy to face. These are souls that – for reasons unique to each of them – can’t just move anywhere and serve coffee until a halfway decent 9-5 opens up, yet that’s what most of them want to do. Add to the mix a villian that comes out of thick soup with a not-immediately-terrible plan and looking for assistance, and the result is a bunch of people going different directions without any reason to interact with each other more than saying “hi” to each other at the grocery store.

This being a miniseries starring powerful creatures out of the DCU, house-style artwork is the special of the day. Basic lines and coloring for an action comic book, but I do have to give it a bit of credit: since most everyone seen isn’t quite human anyway, the designs and proportions that come across as exaggerated and ridiculous instead appear just part of the territory, as casual as litter on the sidewalk or a theater marquee. It’s a unique and fitting visual tone for a book like this.

Gotham City Monsters reads like taking your friends to scare park – the less you know going in, the more fun the experience.

Star Wars Adventures 25 (Dawson/ Saltel): Not the power to destroy a planet, not the power of the Force, no known power in the galaxy can stop hungry photographers when they see a princess leaving a nightclub and failing to look inconspicuous.

Bigby Bear Volume 2: For All Seasons (Philippe Coudray): “Well, hi there new neighbor, just thought I’d introduce myself. I’m Biggy Bear, this dimensional portal of yours sure looks swell, and I’ve got some great news for you!”
“H-howdy! Biggy? Um, so, what’s the good news!”
“You and all your friends, family, everyone in this world – body and soul – shall be sustenance for my Lord and Master, Cth’Fuzzybutt!”

Chainsaw Reindeer 1 (Rhiness/ Trigo): Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Everyone knows they’re Santa’s reindeer, but they weren’t the first. Santa does like anyone talking about his first team of reindeer.

Beware the Witch’s Shadow 1 (Various): All the scrolls and tomes SAY two pints of human blood, but the ones that really know how to work a cauldron, the ones that earned their demon familiars, know it takes at least three to get a proper boil going.

Midnight Sky 1 (Pruett/ Van Domelen): Oh sure, at night the red hooded sweatshirt with solid shape and an unnatural void inside intimidates people. The weirdest thing is that it looks the same during the day. Scares any passerby right back home to the safety under their beds. Such people are superstitious and foolish. They don’t know about Vantablack, a substance that absorbs almost all light that hits it. It’s easy enough for bored teenagers to get a supply, a hoodie, and a haunted skeleton to put everything on – it’s just science, people. [4/10]

No marriage is perfect, just ask Jennifer and Jacob. Jacob moved the whole family to Florida while Jen was seven months pregnant with their 2nd kid, and he doesn’t even seem that excited about it. Jennifer, meanwhile, is from Florida, is tired of winter seasons, and believes this move will make their lives better. As far as anyone can tell, they really love each other. Six months later, Jennifer’s beaten Jacob to death with a baseball bat. Thirteen years after that, the world’s an arid wasteland, and aside from the shapeshifting aliens, everything is an endangered species. Oh, and this story provides context for most of what I just described.

This could be a sci-fi story except there’s no science. This could be a horror story except the scariest actions all go “and then the human turned their flashlight on the bad guy, and it was an alien.” This could be a drama about kidnapping, or coming to realize the one you thought you knew you didn’t know at all, it’s just that we never see drama like that. This could be a cheesy action story about the end of the world, but all that’s on display is before and after shots – no big plans coming to fruition, no explosive ends to one sides’ hopes, not even an upgrade in arsenal. I spent the entire time thinking that the creators expected readers to care about the protags, but didn’t include any reason to actually care.

The art style’s economical, using as little as possible in linework, coloring, and shading to project scenes to your eyeballs. It accomplishes the task of establishing who’s saying what just fine, but if you stripped the characters of hair on their heads, it’d be exhausting to puzzle things out. The environments don’t give much away, either – years deep into an apocalypse and plenty of people still have decent shirts and gym builds. 

Midnight Sky reads like the Cliff’s Notes of a story – it’s got the major plot points, data on the characters, and none of that filler crap that might entertain you.

King Thor 1 (Aaron/ Ribic): The daughters of King Thor the Mighty pleaded and begged without moving or saying a word, and while the King heard them, his order had been absolute: Ignore Loki, even if he gets as big as a mountain and wears that bizarre head thing. Though the daughters doubted, the wise king knew as few others could that his brother would eventually lose interest, or leave to catch the next episode of whatever he was binging on Netfliheim.

Vamp 1 (Eckels/ Bazin): This is actually the most expensive and exclusive spot in Las Vegas. It’s got a wide view with natural appeal, no noise, a comfy place to sit, and you’re not constantly aware that the clouds want to eat you. It’s worth it.

Batman Universe 3 of 6 (Bendis/ Derington): If you asked, the family might tell you that Damian insisted on adding other dinosaurs to the Bat-Cave because the T-Rex looked lonely. Damian might agree with the observation, but threaten to kill anyone suggesting he asked such a thing in their sleep (that’s his version of “Nuh-uhh, Imma tell on you”). And to be fair, Damian’s not the reason the dinosaurs were added to the Bat-Cave… but he is the excuse Bat-Dad gave to everyone.

Pandemica 1 (Maberry/ Sanchez): Hush my baby, nom Jarlsburg, Mama’s gonna shoot you a Cronenburg/ And if that Cronenburg should die, Away from the gunshot we shall fly/ And if our flight takes us due West, Mama swears she will never res/. And if that Mama doesn’t nap, we won’t fall into a Citrine Trap/ And if we avoid the dire-grapefruit, Baby can come out from the hazmat suit. [6/10]

Hatred and money can each make a person do crazy and terrible things, like shout vicious ideas from a platform of credibility, or launching a car into space. The worst case scenario is when riches and mindless anger take hold of the same person – that’s when disasters go industrial. For instance, say one of the pharma giants suddenly decided that instead of treating diseases, they’d “treat” brown people to a custom disease with a giant mortality rate, a disease that just so happened to avoid caucasians. Since it looks a lot like a racist attack, no one wants to talk about whether or not it’s a racist attack. The racist attackers see the whole thing as making the world “better” and making a profit in the process. Spoiler Warning: They’re wrong.

The social commentary and allusions to the zeitgeist of the world today may lack the nuance and subtlety of a controlled explosion, but the message gets across. The Happy Pharma family never go into detail about why they’ve decided to pick out parts of the population they don’t like, but the way they talk to each other makes it clear that this isn’t a misunderstanding. Independently rich person, doctor specialist in disease control, and libtard Moses Katz heroically steps up and out from complicit government offices to fight this epidemic head on, with his crack team of just geniuses and security team that emphasizes security over punishment – the kind of squad that happens to be perfect against the threat they don’t know faces them. One might think this whole story followed a script.

Visually, the world and its people appear like they would in real life (or a Netflix set), and that includes poses, backgrounds with too much open space at times, and people that aren’t flawless or inhumanely pretty but nonetheless would turn heads anywhere they went. Every effort is spent on making this story look as close to reality as it can, as if to push the notion that this could happen in our world, and in this case it’s not working to the book’s favor. There’s supposed to be a bit of buffer between fiction and non, and loosening the reins on the art could’ve supplied that.

Pandemica reads like a family feud blown way out of proportion – Hatfields want the town to be only their territory, McCoys despise the Hatfields, the only reasonable thing to do is break out the missile turrets and PMCs.

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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