Any and every project comes down to two choices: take the shortcuts wherever possible for the sake of keeping momentum up, or backing off a bit and taking your time to find the best way available. This week’s comics may be throwbacks and ridiculous stage shows, but they took the time to get all their funky criteria RIGHT. They can be proud of that, but do you want to buy it? Read on and find out.
•Ms. Tree Volume 1 (Collins/ Beatty): Looking for that perfectly cultivated look between Fashion-forward woman of the city and Person in charge because the have the gun? The latest out of New York’s clothiers is a percale cotton jacket appropriate for work and the bar afterwards, with matching handbag available in a wide range of sizes measured by caliber.
•Something is Killing the Children 1 (Tynion IV/ Dell’Edera): “Hey, folks, glad you could all come out here tonight. I asked the forest to call this meeting of mysterious dangers together because I wanted to show off my big knife. I just picked it up after completing an epic quest where I also made friends and put my traumatic past behind me. Just look at this thing! I could carve a path through a jungle with just two swings, it’s that awesome. Oh, and by the by, we’re missing some kids and wondering if anyone’d seen or heard anything. They were last seen on bikes just like the ones in that corner, only not smashed with tons of inhuman weight and centuries of rage. Anybody?” [8/10]
There’s lots of stuff in the woods: birds, animals, trees, darkness, they’re all things you’d expect to see in a forest. Lately something else’s been found in the woods – the bodies of children. Well, enough of the bodies to make identification easier, and guarantee closed-casket funerals. James is what you might call a survivor of whatever’s in the woods; he fell down a muddy hill and by the time he’d climbed his way back up, his friends were in screaming pieces. The ones that believe his story can’t act on it, the ones that don’t turn the bullying dial to 11, he’s living out of a motel room and his dad works most nights. James’s living it rough, not knowing what to do, until a high school girl with platinum blonde hair and a set of bladed weapons struts into town with a lot of questions for him.
One way to look at this is as a reaction to school shootings – kids developing PTSD before their first crush, and everyone would rather talk around the problem instead of face it. Blame’s thrown like confetti, the ones closest to the victims feel smothered by it, talk of changes ignites for a while before it fades out with no action taken. Another way to look at it is “Buffy: The Road Show.” We’ve got a young woman slicing her way through life fighting a different monster every week or two, she’s snarky, she meets a lot of hurt kids, and if she’s lucky she can wipe the blood of herself before moving on. TL;DR: this is familiar territory AND a fresh take on a ghost story just in time for Fall.
The book’s style borrows a little bit from manga – large eyes and graphic scenes of killing & mutilation – but as far as layout and figure-staging goes, this is a western-style comic with all the pacing, groundedness, and nuance that includes. Everything from the principal’s office to the desolate parking lot to the collection of peaceful trees providing refuge to sadistic predators includes layers of minor details that sell not just the purpose of the space, but information about who uses them and how. Not enough of the action is shown on the page, but based on what’s in there already, those moments are being held until the time’s right.
Something is Killing the Children reads like the lottery – the odds of something happening are so small it’s not worth considering… unless you know it happens.
•Pretty Deadly The Rat 1 of 5 (DeConnick/ Rios): There’s a complex interplay with dramatic overtones between black and white in the foreground that turns pedantic and indulgent once you realize that in the background, the world is on literal fire.
•Triage 1 (Phillip Sevy): Okay fine, the plantlife has eyeballs, the earth’s screaming at you with a dozen voices each signing a different song of anguish, and a ginormous brain’s rooted itself into the ground, but you don’t need to worry about that. You’re not just you, you’re you in power armor with three magic power runes I guess and two fists. You’re about as weird as anything else on this planet, but you’re also the most dangerous.
•Alpha Flight True North 1 (Various): After global invasions, spats of shifting into another dimension without sun or star, decades of planning culminating into crippling attacks from numerous fronts, and their own government debating whether or not they should be in service or prison, super teams tend to keep their holiday celebrations low-key. Even Thanksgiving – the most stereotypically-dramatic holiday of the year – comes and goes voiced only be exhausted, detached grunts.
•Everything 1 (Cantwell/ Culbard): Must shop sales. Must stop sales. Sales are good. Sales are divine. Anyone not shopping is a traitor to the country. Traitors to the country must be purged. Purged by fire. Purged by fire! [7/10]
A new “Everything” megastore’s just (as of October 1980) opened up in Holland, Michigan, which means sales and discounts flow while small businesses in the area stop. Some’ve already sold their shops and moved on, others with a competitive edge stay and see what’s so great about Everything. Shirley, the store’s manager, knows her territory like the back of her hand, and also to get real cozy with the mayor if the place wants to stay long-term. Lori Dunbar once wore a badge, transitioned bloodily into real estate, and feels something wrong when she hears Everything’s background music. There’s a homeless person that shouldn’t come up in the series again, but almost certainly will.
Take Twin Peaks, set it in a CostCo, and that’s your nutshell expectation for this book. On the surface there’s some power-plays, some PTSD, some spontaneous window shattering, and a whole lot of selling. A few of the pages are in fact ads for the megastore in this story, if you need more meta in your life. Underneath all that lay tiny red flags, nervous habits, flashbacks, and other indicators that the prime motivator in this story is what’s going through the character’s heads. In case I haven’t spoiled that for you already, it’s weird. If your criminal psychologist needs to run around for some exercise, or because you don’t play with them enough, then this is a book for you.
The artwork’s between realistic and cartoony, playing it campy as much as possible. Since this is a period drama, the campiness is inevitable – the styles are more what people expect the 80s to have been like. If you compared it to Mike Allred’s plain-yet-surreal style, you wouldn’t be far off. Color and its frequent changes emphasize how easy it is to read this in different ways, as if something will show up under one light source that’d be invisible in another.
Everything reads like walking into an improv team’s outdoor skit – you’re minding your own business, when suddenly nothing makes sense anymore and you’re not sure who’s the main character in your life right now.
•Going to the Chapel 1 of 4 (Pepose/ Guidry): A progressive’s version of a shotgun wedding? If there’s a share of that duffle bag involved, I do. I really really do.
•Battlepug 1 (Norton & Passalaqua): Everyone in comics: you can stop now. There’s nothing left to achieve. Peak comics has been achieved, and it’s this cover. No one past, present, or future will ever present an illustration so objectively perfect as this. (CC Note: If you didn’t like that riff, check out the last time he and this title clashed.)
•Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy 1 (Houser/ Melo): “What are you doing?!? We’re supposed to be going to San Diego, not Area 51!”
“But I turned left at Albuquerque!”
“I don’t mind the sudden road trip change except if we’re going to Area 51 we’re supposed to be Naruto-running, not in a 50’s roadster that in hindsight we should never have let Batman even look at, much less tune up!”
“Is your hand talking to you? My hand’s telling me to let that overactive duck dig his own grave.”
•Midnight Vista 1 (Rahal/ Meath): Little Timmy’s visit to Starfleet command took an unexpected turn once they visited the Hall of Transporter Accidents, but to be fair, he WAS wearing a red shirt before the 70’s disco effects appeared. [7/10]
The 90’s were a difficult time. If you wanted to talk to someone on the phone, you needed to be at home with a device connected to the wall. If you wanted ice cream right away, there was no other option than to get it yourself. Oliver Flores was raised in this desolate landscape, while listening to the golgothan epic that was his parents’ divorce. His honestly-pretty-cool soon-to-be step-father took him for a ride late one night to get him away from the drama; it was 20 years before Oliver was seen again. The whole town shakes in shock at the slim chance this is actually the same kid, but once the DNA match confirms it, a select few are absolutely horrified.
Oddly enough, the main character doesn’t have much of a story behind him – Oliver had a less-than-ideal childhood, blacked out for a few years, woke up with a jacked bod and confusion for everyone. The meat of the story’s directed around Oliver: at the media that’s sensationalized his disappearance, at the cop who just happened to be on duty when he was found, at the people left behind who could only guess at his fate. This is a great method to tell the story of someone too traumatized to tell their own story… IF Oliver was traumatized. He was, but psychologically he behaves like he’s already processed the whole experience. Appearances may deceive, however the drama leaves a story real fast when the protagonist ends the book by eating ice cream and talking to people that’re listening.
The artwork illustrates everything we need to know as we need to know it clearly and concisely. A sturdy cartoon filter’s been applied to what could be photos from that bygone era, providing enough details to understand what’s happening, but not enough to gross people out (your revolution may vary). For the beings and places without (credible) sources to draw from, the designs and usages follow stereotypes in a way that’s too brutal to be called “playful”, but you get the idea.
Midnight Vista reads like a real Kinder Egg – exotic fun in cheap-yet-delicious packaging, but some assembly’s required.
It’s been a long ride, but we’ve reached the end. See you next week!
Looking for earlier blogs by Ryan Walsh for Comic Carnival? They’re here: Variant Coverage Blog Back Issues