Variant Coverage – September 18, 2019

You ever wonder if you’ll reach a point where comics won’t matter as much to you? Me neither! Check out this week’s offerings!

Butcher Queen 1 (Ousley/ Sawyer): After all these years, we may finally have an answer to the question that’s plagued humanity: What’re real estate agents like in Judge Dredd’s universe? She’s sad, maybe a bit scared, and packing ordinance, so of course she’s on the hunt for a rent-controlled 4BR. You just know one of them’s insisting on access to a pool with a reasonable water-to-body-fluid ratio.

Flash Forward 1 (Lobdell/ Booth): “Stop me if you’ve heard this one… That’s right you can’t stop me ‘cause I’m the Flash, bitches! I’m going to the next galaxy over to find a civilization that hasn’t heard that joke yet and leave you here to agonize that nothing can stop me from Dad-joking the universe!” [6/10]

At the end of Heroes in Crisis, Wally West confessed to killing some of his fellow heroes after a mental breakdown tapped into the Speed Force. This is the story of his difficult recovery, focused on the self-sabotaging habits everyone fights with, and the patient & qualified doctors and nurses never giving up on restoring Wally to a mentally stable person.

Don’t tell me you actually believed that?!?

This is a mainstream book from one of the Big Two, ain’t nobody got time for self-assessment and change! It actually follows Wally’s tour of the prison system, featuring how ineffective it is at preventing crime or rehabilitating criminals.

Okay that time? That time was on you.

Wally’s tearing himself apart over his guilt, but gets a chance at redemption as the agent of Tempus Fuginaut, a cosmic being older than the universe (NBD, the current DCU’s only eight years old) and supervisor for the multiverse and all the shifts and changes they go through. Tempus currently observes that the “dark” universes that normally crumble as soon as they’re formed aren’t crumbling anymore. They threaten to choke the life out of all existence unless someone can sort through them and figure out what’s causing the problem. Fortunately, there’s a speedster just sitting around with nothing better to do.

Wally West killed people. He didn’t mean to, he killed himself to figure out what to do next, but they’re still dead. We don’t need one more book about someone completing an abstract quest and earning redemption in the eyes of someone irrelevant to the situation. It might be fun to watch Wally save characters that haven’t shown themselves in years, but not while he’s wailing over his own damage and suffering. Throw away the angst and what’s left is your basic “hero must jump between timelines to fix crap” series.

Please enjoy DC Artist #238 pumping out oversized threats, sculpted bodies, random energy waves melding with the human form, and focus-tested costumes. Looking at it one way, there’s nothing wrong with going the way that’s proven to work, but from another angle, it’s a sign of insecurity that such a “safe” artist was brought on, one that’ll offer everything fans already like, associate it with the book, and call the whole thing “good”. The art avoids failure more than succeeds.

Flash Forward reads like a magic 8-ball – personal questions asked through turbulence resolve with a random glowing canned response.

Napoleon Dynamite 1 (Verdugo & Guzman-Verdugo/ Monlongo): Does anyone actually remember Napoleon Dynamite? Okay, those of you who do: does anyone doubt at all that he wore that shirt while he was painting over it, dooming his chest to look hypothermic in front of everyone in gym class? I will not believe any other sequence of events.

Uncanny Origins GN Mutant & Monsters: Herdling & Raab/ Raimondi): Venom’s not just cursed with a pathological hatred of spiders and the whims of an alien jellyfish, there’s more tragedy to the tragic backstory… of tragedy. Venom cannot get enough street vendor food – the more run down the cart, the better – but it’s Eddie Brock that has to digest it, and not all shrimp salads are created equal. For years he’s had chronic food poisoning, but because Venom drools so much anyway, no one has noticed.

Forever Maps 1 (Lagace/ Hristov): Did Edgar Allen Poe quoth a raven of unusual size? Because it looks like those exist.

Spider-Man 1 (Abrams & Abrams/ Pichelli): I’m not going to harp on how Mary-Jane couldn’t secure herself onto Spidey mid-swing (since someone did that for me), but if MJ’s patrolling with Man-Bit-by-a-Spider, the least she could do is wear something to hide her ID. That’s just courtesy, “Hey, I want to go with you patrolling the city and saving people, but this outfit looks too good on me to not wear as often as possible, soooo since I’m not flying in uniform you shouldn’t either!”

You Are Obsolete 1 (Klickstein/ Bornyakov): How do you make the Children of the Corn even more menacing? Give them your cell phones. Still not scary enough? They’re using your data across national borders! [8/10]

The little island hamlet of Muhu may be isolated, but it has its charms. Easy access to beaches, some breathtaking scenery, and say what you will about its backwater nature, but they have excellent wi-fi. There’s something else going on there, something no one can bring themselves to talk about, which is how Lyla Wilton found herself there to observe and tell that story. Lyla’s greeted by painfully wide smiles and every point of her itinerary taken care of in advance. Upon checking out the local pub, she finds a weak link in the chain in a musician bursting with frustration at the lack of freedom everyone has before being dragged off by more composed residents. Lyla thought her assignment came from the ones in charge of the city, and she was right to a point, only the ones in charge aren’t who you’d expect.

The printed love child of It’s a Good Life and Hot Fuzz, this story continues the traditional moment when you need a child around to make sense of things, in this case the listening devices and cameras people pay top dollar to help record and broadcast their every move. Lyla as the narrator carefully explains why she’s a competent storyteller and warns that she messes up sometimes. Every other character’s just a smile wearing a tortured mind and body. The closed island setting should create the sense that no one is coming to help them, and while Lyla’s arrival in any other story might deflate that abandoned tone, the narrative turns it into one more barrier.

The art knows better than to include every fine detail or illustrate sensations instead of people and stuff. This book plants its feet in basic proportions and designs for civilians, but doesn’t mind leaning towards cartoony elements so long as there’s a purpose. If a character needs to look extra-cynical or twisted into obedience, the illustration allows itself to bend a jaw out of shape of fill the eyes with something other than eye to sell cynicism or oppression. It’s not perfect, at times it can seem too plain or the colors too subdued, but they get the job done.

You Are Obsolete reads like a relaunch of a TV show – you recognize all the framework and the roles, even while all the names and production values change, but there’s also a drive to bring something new into the mix.

Inferior Five 1 (Giffen & Lemire): So either three kids (two with impaired vision) sneak out at night to hunt for marked puppets, or the creepy dude wearing the X on his face is just that detail-oriented with his dystopian dioramas.

Lex Luthor Year of the Villan 1 (Latour/ Hitch & Currie): Did Apex Lex seriously crack open the Multiverse, murder all his alternate selves, leave all their bodies in a pile, just to retrieve the other half of a plastic bracelet he broke during childhood? I can’t imagine half a string of green hearts would be worth a cosmic menace’s time, but then I can’t imagine offing myself and trusting that the Mother of Malice would bring me back so I could play Santa to my fellow no-good-nicks, so what do I know?

Steeple 1 (John Allison): Oh what’s the big deal?! Nun on the run riding 180hp like she’s trying to get out of hell, except there’s no hell behind her, just a mountain and a befuddled college student. Imma stop you right there, you don’t need to point out that the top of that triangle looks like a demon, and actually that’s presumptive of you. No one said Skull Mountain had a human skull on top, but I get that Hollywood presumes that a lot, so we’re still cool.

Monster World Golden Age 3 (Kim, Interlandi, Marrero/ Kowalski): Between the beefy farm boy wearing red and blue, the hellhounds, and the flashy-dressed glass blower, you’d think someone would notice the class 5 tornado in the background. The tourism board HAS to work on their shuttling service if they want Oz to become a vacation destination.

Black Panther & the Agents of Wakanda 1 (Zub/ Medina): I know it can be frustrating when a fly or mosquito gets in your car and buzzes around for miles, but when that happens you don’t jump out of the car and charge to tackle it like it was headed for the goalpost. Flailing around and screaming only a little safer but that’s still a bad idea. The point is everyone on this cover’s either an entomophobe or deliberately hitting their triggers to see what’ll happen. Not cool, Janet! [7/10]

When SHIELD went down and Nick Fury 1.0 got booted to the ultimate isolation ward, global intelligence suddenly got rarer than a third day of quiet with the Avengers. No one’s stepped up to begin rebuilding an organization that could work with so many countries at once, so T’Challa the Black Panther figures if the secrets of the world need to go through somebody, it might as well be him. He builds a helicarrier as much for nostalgia as anything, gathers a team with diverse backgrounds and skill sets, and dispatches agents to stop arms heists, alien squatters, and the occasional anomalous energy spike. Like the fresh spy organization, the targets they trace aren’t as simple as good or evil. You might think that demonic hordes eating or infecting a small town is completely evil, but turns out it’s not.

It’s nice to see a group of heroes owning the idea that they don’t know anything. It’s a let down to see this group find a way to reduce listening and deduction into fights featuring flaming fists. Tack on the timing of four active hot zones running during introductions, pushing characters together that may trust each other with their lives but never their drinks, crazy super tech, and what you have isn’t a rebuilding of global monitoring but an action comic with the occasional mention of spying. It’s a fine example of over-the-top action – including slapstick and banter – that’d be much more enjoyable if it could get its own premise out of the way.

Everyone that’s read a superhero book should expect the expectable: bodies so cut they should slice up their own skin, guns with 20lbs of science stuff attached, mooks made out of distilled nightmares, and military-grade vehicles built in the style of luxury cruise ships. The art understands that this is supposed to be a fun book, and will exploit every opportunity to throw in an Easter egg or impossible scenario or cheap nut shot. By the same token, the art style seems condemned to stay between the lines.

Black Panther & the Agents of Wakanda reads like a comedic Top Ten list – an easy, silly, safe story told with enough gravity that they think could be the next best thing, but has no chance of getting there.

Before my go-to closer, I have some news. Thanks to some new circumstances, I will be taking a hiatus from reviews. JUST reviews – I’ll keep riffing on covers until I die – but I need devote myself to this new situation for a while. Let’s embrace some change, 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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