Review Blog

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Comic rants! Getcher comic rants here! Don’t roll the bones and walk home with snake eyes, get the inside wink and ride off in style with box cars! (CC Note: Where’d this come from?) (We’re almost to the ‘20s, so I thought I’d work the rust off my street urchin accent.)

Comics Will Break Your Heart (Faith Erin Hicks): Well, that’s true to a point. Get into them a little and sure, they’ll break your heart. But if you open up, let them in, and truly give them the chance, they will shatter your heart and reassemble it into something that can’t exist in regular space and is also another story’s MacGuffin. Maybe they’ll be grateful for who you were before, but don’t count on it.


Avengers No Rode Home 1 (Ewing, Zub, Waid/ Medina): “Why did you touch that dial? I told you not to touch that dial! Now we’re all deaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!” [7/10]

Either a follow-up or side-story to last year’s Avengers: No Surrender event, No Return Home centers on living retcon Voyager as she gathers Earth’s mightiest heroes to answer a new global threat. Seems someone turned the suns out. Any planet or living environment that orbited a star just started experiencing 360 degrees of night. The list of who could do this is short, and once they think about who would want to do something like this, that list shrinks more. By the time they’ve narrowed the options to one it hits them: they cannot name it.

This is an event book that can’t be told unless the reader’s read a different event book, which puts this story in negative value already. It’s not that you may not know who’s who – the cast is fairly high-profile – but how they got there and how they’re coming together will baffle anyone that doesn’t already know exactly what they are, and between dialogue and exposition we get a light hint at where they come from, nothing more. If it doesn’t matter enough to introduce properly, it doesn’t matter. It’s not all bad: certain pairings of characters that wouldn’t happen any other way threaten to make you smile, and there’s a wide spectrum of emotions felt within this chapter. There’s just a lot to get through before finding the payoff.

Medina’s no stranger to group books, and people unfamiliar will quickly see that he’s a veteran worth his stripes. His faces express plenty of emotions in regulated doses, so that when the narrative tone switches from laid-back to epic battle cry, readers will observe the shift. He knows when to keep a panel simple and when to illustrate every grain of dirt. There are slow and fast parts, but no boring parts.

Avengers No Rode Home reads like oatmeal with a few berries – there’s juicy stuff in here, but it’s surrounded by grey sludge.

Ms. Marvel 38 (Various): Marvel, I’ve got a pitch that’ll blast the market wide open. Okay, you ready? You sitting down? Okay, here it is: Ms. Marvel vs. Popeye! (CC Note: Here’s our counter proposal, Marvel: take him away and he’ll stop coming up with this stuff.)


Kick-Ass 12 (Niles/ Frusin): “Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but I could’ve sworn the last time we teamed up you were a dude. Not that I’m complaining, or that any thoughts of mine actually matter (help me out Friday), just that I keep a database and I’m just curious what – uhh – pronouns you’d like to use. Oh, right, new armor. I’m Tony Stark: genius millionaire playboy philanthropist. Call me maybe?”


Mr. & Mrs. X 8 (Thompson/ Bazaldua): I’m sure Momma Gambit told her little boy that he’d grow up and have to beat women off with a stick. That’s something mothers tell their children. Mothers tell their children that assuming they’ll realize that’s not a literal thing they’ll have to do. Momma Gambit should’ve mentioned that once Remy started training with a stick. Not sure what she could’ve said about the women that brings swords and guns to stick fights, though.


Army of Darkness Bubba Ho-Tep 1 (Duvall/ Federici): Weighing the options between this and what the system wants us to believe about the King’s death, this is just as believable. In fact, since it’s more awesome I’ve decided that all the other “facts” are worthless and therefore wrong. You may shower me with praise for my enlightenment now.


Suicide Squad Hell to Pay TP (Parker/ Various): “I shall kill the Batman!”
“No fair, I wanted to kill Batman!”
“He is my nemesis, the challenge I must overcome to achieve my ambitions.”
“That’s stupid! Batman locked my boyfriend in Arkham, I’ll never forgive him, I need to kill him!”
“Your boyfr- you mean the physically and psychologically abusive clown man that you’ve since separated from and now will pulverize on sight?”
“Love is COMPLICATED, you oversized dummy!”


Hit-Girl Season 2 1 (Smith/ ⵁrum): So for her after-school job, the Violet Violent Vigilante’s going to destroy old newspapers, posters, receipts, bank documents, illicit correspondence, and anything else the people of LA don’t want to look at anymore? Say what you will about Hit-Girl, but she knows what’s in demand. [8/10]

It was supposed to be what Mindy McCready would call a vacation: hang out at school with people her own age, laugh at inane stuff, don’t worry about killing anyone. A couple angry kids brought guns to school and ruined that plan on a number of levels. For one thing, they got her swords dirty, and for another they revealed that her story was getting made into a movie. Now imagine being a tween that’s used to making adult decisions about who lives and dies, can fully enforce those decisions, and you just learned a bunch of money-hungry know-nothings’re mining your life for everything they can get away with. A quiet talk with the producers over coffee is NOT on Hit-Girl’s itinerary.

Kevin Smith loves his words. He puts them EVERYWHERE: movies, tv shows, comics, online blogs, essays, articles, podcasts. There’re few media that haven’t been stained with his words. So it may surprise readers to know that this is a mostly silent issue. Aside from signs, building names, and other setting features, four words of dialogue are all there is. I was surprised, and then impressed.

Without much verbiage, all the narrative load falls on the visuals, and they’re up to the task. The basics are a form of manga – oversized eyes and features, starts a country-spanning quest in a high school, etc. What turns it from average to stunning is the animation-style approach to the faces, figures, and movement. This looks like something out of Pixar or Dreamworks, and tells the story as effectively as a novella or high-grade video. The surrealness of a pixie chopping heads off doesn’t normally pair together naturally, but it happens. It might be a favor to check Pernille’s other stuff out – it’s not ugly either.

Hit-Girl reads like falling out of a helicopter into an open container of fluffy pillows – didn’t see it coming, probably should have ended tragically, but instead it’s something you’d pay to experience again.

Star Wars Han Solo Imperial Cadet 4 of 5 (Thompson/ Kirk): On your first unscheduled absence from class, you get a warning. Second absence, you’re written up. No one’s ever said what happens after the third offense, though. I wonder why?


Gunning for Hits 2 (Rougvie/ Moritat): “Oh no! You’re here to kill me? AND you’re doing it in a recording booth as an ironic message to other artists to keep quiet about the corruption married to the music industry?”
“Nah, kid, this ain’t about keeping quiet. In fact, the recorders are on right now. I’m looking to market my brand, so now I’ve gotta get fresh samples of my work together. I know it’ll be good for me, but it’s still kinda creepy. I’m not used to hearing myself murder on tape.”


Supergirl 27 (Andreyko/ Pansica & Ferriera): I wonder how much the NRA paid DC to get a cover of Kara Zor-El praying and spraying. I know most farms have guns, I’m sure Ma and Pa Kent needed a gun occasionally, but a speeding bullet crawls slowly through the air compared to her sprinting speed – it’s just doubtful Kara’s ever thought to use a firearm.


Age of X-Man Next Gen 1 (Brisson/ To): So you remember in Idiocracy, when Luke Wilson’s marching with the prison line when he sees the exit and he just asks if he can leave? I’m saying that schools are prisons and Glob’s pushing to break the record for the politest breakout ever.


Wonder Twins 1 (Russell/ Byrne): I’m always glad to see siblings getting along. It’s beautiful. But are we to just ignore that Jayna’s crushing that poor monkey’s tail into paste? It’s sadistic, Jayna! Just because you show compassion for one creature doesn’t mean you have to torture a different one! There’s no quota to meet either way! I never thought I’d say this, but “PETA, we need you!” [8/10]

Zan and Jayna are your average twin high schoolers – they’re worried about their popularity, trying to learn two dozen things at once, driven to impress at their afterschool job – but they’re more than that. They’re outcasts from another planet called Exxor, a world of bold fashion and bolder storm protocols. They’ve been not-quite-adopted by Superman and will do odd jobs at Justice League headquarters until they’re ready for field work. They’ve got superpowers, but not inspiring ones. They’re kids without much of an idea where or who they are, and they lack guidance that can connect personally, but so long as they pay attention and can outthink pan-dimensional terrorists, they might just reach adulthood.

This is a story closer in genre to something like “Fault in Our Stars” or “Eleanor & Park” than “Batman & Robin” – there’re hero tropes all over, but at its core this is a coming-of-age tale. Zan’s the hot-headed type, who jumps as far and fancy as possible but forgets how to land, while sister Jayna would spend all day in her own head if that were possible. Aside from the Vulcan ears and the shapeshifting, they’ve seen and lost enough to have more maturity and empathy than the average teens. They may not be exciting or thrill-seeking, but they’re fun to watch.

At first glance, the art is equally subdued. No one’s threatening to burst out from their skin-tight spandex, only a few physical laws come under attack, it’s mostly people walking and talking to each other. This sounds boring, and most of the time it is, but some artists can render the experience enjoyable, and Byrne’s one of them. He doesn’t skimp on the settings or background characters, and includes plenty of details that interact with each other that the reader sees how important the world is to the twins’ story. And I’m sure we all know what angry Batman looks like, but it’s only in here that I learned what disappointed Batman looks like, and I’m a better person for it.

Wonder Twins reads like romanticized puberty – more focused on development as people coming into their own, less on the facial breakouts and cracked voices.

Exciting Comics 1 (Various): In clinical trials, two out of five superheroes reacted with surprise to news that their parents were in the next room. This shows that out of any five superheroes, three will have been directly involved in their parents’ tragic deaths and learned to maintain composure.


And that there’s a nickel’s worth of free advice, folks. 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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