Review Blog

Variant Coverage By Ryan Walsh For Comic Carnival

Did you know that new comics come out on Wednesdays? Like, every Wednesday? It’s true, I even brought samples and analyses – I’m a guy that does science stuffs!

Batman Who Laughs 1 (Snyder/ Jock): These rumors about The Mask reboot get more ridiculous every time they pop up.

Goddess Mode 1 (Quinn/ Rodriguez): “You hold your mouth open just two more seconds until this firmware update completes, then your teeth are getting cleaned so thoroughly that Big Flouride’ll try to buy me out.” [8/10]

In the fairly distant future, after AI’s successful integration into common society, people are more connected than ever. They can start a pot of coffee from their bed, look at the time tables for trains on the other side of the planet, banter with ethereal consciousnesses, and cure 99.9% of all diseases. That last .1% – Tucker Brady Syndrome – basically eats your eyes before putting you into an eternal coma. Tucker Brady Syndrome’s the new cancer, and it’s claimed such high-profile people as Cassandra Price’s father (the wise uncle of modern AI) and Tucker Brady himself (the father of modern AI). Cassandra jumped over her boss’s head at work to protect her dad, so she’s put on monitor detail for her boss’s boss: the nonresponsive Tucker Brady. On the surface, all his equipment works fine, but Cass’s peek underneath the hood drags her into a whole new world, kicking and screaming.

If someone walked up to me and asked if I would read a mashup of Sailor Moon and Tron, I’d have told them no, then run far away. But now that I’ve actually done it, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Cass comes right out of the gate juggling problems, and she’s wise enough to know when to call for help (even when it screws her over). The environment’s just different enough that it feels otherworldly, but functions exactly like you’d expect a techno-city to behave. The story runs with the idea of a ghost in the machine that operates the world, and expands on that until stuff bursts. Not only does this first issue establish the world, its crises, and its reluctant hero, it also caps a minor problem from the very beginning. There’s a lot going on, but also confidence that it’ll find its way.

Readers of the first Spider-Gwen series will recognize the art style right away, from the hyper-stretched gestures to the interactive color scheme. Despite a few moments of adventurous layouts, the pages are generally easy to follow. Rodriguez goes to some trouble to make sure the expository bits present their own share of visual information simply and clearly. Within this series are two distinct settings, and each one features its own palette, architecture, and lighting system, not just to remove the challenge in noticing the difference, but to shape the experience into a treat.

Goddess Mode reads like a fanfiction project put through a publishing editor’s paces – the novelty and passion are there, but the polish and finishing help make it all sparkle.

Hex Vet Witches in Training Volume 1 (Sam Davies): “Dangit, Red, how come you always get the front? I’m always stuck checking the tail end of everything!”
“I’m sure that’s not true, Blondie. And besides, are you saying you’d enjoy staring down the gullet of a living flamethrower?”
“Can it be any worse than looking up the butt of a living flamethrower?”
“…I’m sure you’re imagining things.”

Phantom Complete Dailies Volume 14 (Falk/ McCoy): How do you make “American Gothic” more gothic? Cripple the wife and curse the hubby to maintain an eternal tale of revenge by pretending to be centuries old is a great start! Add a dog that’s just waiting for their deaths so he can eat their remains, and that clinches it.

Alien 3 #2 (Christmas & Gibson/ Bonvillain): “HUG ME!!”

Life is Strange 1 (Vieceli/ Leonardi): I don’t like focusing on the title versus the actual cover image, but the image here is so vague and lacking in information that I’m not sure where else to go with this riff. Not only that, the title’s so painfully obvious that you could put literally any image below it and it’d be more relevant than the one printed now. An air show on a submarine? “Life is Strange”. A pumpkin pie with a slice taken out of the middle, “Life is Strange”. The howling, infinite abyss losing a staring contest with a tired cat… “Life is Strange”. This needs to be a meme, STAT!

Mega Ghost 1 of 5 (Soria/ Kendall): Either this is some afterlife version of the Avengers, or a paranormal Voltron. And honestly it doesn’t matter I am so frosting in! [7/10]

Magic floods over everyone and everything in Dunwich Heights. It follows the whims of child and adult with equal force and gives zero craps about what happens to who in the process. This sounds like a nightmare, but to the residents this is the sun-kissed status quo. Enter a group of teenagers fixing to wreck it all up on account of there’s nothing better to do. A creepy old man in a dark alley wants to give them a ritual to summon an elder god? Sweet deal. On the other side of town, Martin Magus is in the middle of winning a bet with a classmate when he trips over a hidden chest with a mystical ring inside of it. Putting it on releases three spirits of terrible power and business-like demeanor. Martin wishes he could take the thing off, but when faced with an an ancient and destructive deity, even he’s got to admit that working together sounds appealing.

Remember that Rowling novel that didn’t quite make it into canon: Harry Potter Meets the Power Rangers? If you don’t, this is your chance to catch up on things that never happened. The presentation of the characters and their circumstances make things crystal clear: this is a project made for the thrice-damned fun of it. If the timed exposition doesn’t clue you in enough, the observations that knock on the fourth wall will settle the matter. Martin’s most endearing quality is the smooth way he manipulates bullies and braggarts, but he’s also possessed of just enough common sense to avoid the worst forms of stupidity. So long as you roll with it, it’ll take you for a ride.

The visual tone’s ripped right out of the Saturday morning cartoons of yore – they’re cartoony, a little silly, appropriate for kids, and not out to educate anyone about anything. The buildings and clothing mostly stay rooted down, reaching for the good ol’ Americana vibe, except for where the school students are involved, and the three-piece uniforms add a slab of pretention. The coloring and shading avoids the trap of getting overdone with dark and dismal gloom by playing it smart with the color palette – each individual color can stand out with the best of them, but together on the page they paint a picture just the fun side of spooky. With the way the TV shows of Riverdale and Sabrina are playing out, this would fit right into the Archie-verse.

Mega Ghost reads like road trip snacks – not heavy or loaded, just filling enough to let you enjoy the scenery.

Sasquatch Detective 1 (Stillwell/ Randall & Vasquez): This flatfoot bigfoot sure looks bright of sight and true blue, but can her hand cannon protect her from the dove of love? More importantly, would an accidental discharge make her a criminal at large? Will the force stand up for their newest wildcat when they couldn’t afford for her a decent hat? Her current expression is oh so chipper, will it stay when she catches that crooked reshipper? (CC Note: Stop it! STAHP IT!!)

Magic Order 5 of 6 (Millar/ Coipel): Don’t let the scene fool you, he’s fine. The guy’s just cleaning his ears, but he’s a wizard and magic doesn’t let you do anything without being super-dramatic. Magic’s that goth kid in the cafeteria of natural laws.

Fantastic Four Wedding Special (Various): Consider that the groom, one Benjamin Hieronymus Grimm (CC Note: That’s not his middle name.) weighs about 500 lbs. He exercises great self control when he walks, and if the guy even jogs lightly it shows up on a seismograph. He’s overloaded planetary pile drivers with his strength. What I’m saying is that if they don’t want that glass to instantly become powder on contact with Thing’s foot, it better be made out of something impressive, like transparent aluminum or political stubbornness.

Vampirella Reanimator 1 (Bunn/ Shepherd): I can’t wait to hear the doctor’s overly detailed explanation as to how they were found like this. He’ll probably claim something went wrong with the refrigerator, and an issue with all the lab’s coats. He might even pass off his sneer as a sneeze on the edge of his nose even since Vampirella’s hair whipped in his face, which happened under perfectly normal and professional conditions. I have no doubt Vampirella’s centuries of experience and poise are the only reason she’s keeping a straight face, but then again what does she care if people know they’re teaming up to reinvent the monster mash? [7/10]

Herbert West considers himself a reasonable man, he simply wants to prove to the world that he can perfectly control the fundamental forces life and death. He also believes that reanimating a church graveyard’s worth of corpses to slaughter the attending priests and steal their forbidden tome of rituals is a perfectly valid form of research. Nice fellow, he brings homemade guac to the faculty pitch-ins (or would if he hadn’t been discredited years ago). Then again there’s Vampirella, an undead vampire more interested in keep the living alive and the horrors dead. There’s no way this odd couple would have anything in the world to talk about (aside perhaps from best taxidermy practices), not when their actions mean to speak so much louder.

Both of these characters are of a certain age – secure in pop culture from the time our grandparents hunted and gathered scary stories. Each one’s in their own element, with West surrounded by corpses fighting gatekeepers, and Vampirella fighting monsters of all shapes & sizes. It sounds like these two meeting would be inevitable, but this promises to be something other than your average slugfest. Both characters are deeply set in their ways and goals, so much so that neither an easy pick for who’ll back down first. That confrontation promises for more violence and drama than any third party than might poke its head out of R’lyeh.

Visually, everything looks fine from a distance. Every setting’s brushed with just the right amount of murk, and includes enough space to feel cavernous while also enclosed enough to trigger claustrophobia. As far as costumes and basic character designs, they made all the safe decisions, sticking with West’s usual shirt-and-slack combo along with ‘Rella’s trademark V-piece. It’s when the story goes for the close-ups that the art falls apart. In typical horror fashion, there’s no face without some level of pain or fury, but there are so many lines put into their construction that there’s no trace of West’s toxic innocence or ‘Rella’s sharp beauty.

Vampirella vs the Reanimator reads like a bite offered from someone else’s plate – low risk, definitely an adventure, still a chance of tragedy.

Stay cozy, 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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