Variant Covers: Forget About Fury, Da Vinci Is S.H.I.E.L.D. Like Woah

Another week, another edition of Variant Covers. The weekly column dedicated to fawning over Wednesday’s new comic book releases. As an over-educated but under-developed fanboy, most titles I mention are of the superhero assortment. This results in me griping about the lack of character development in financially charged titles, while still giggling at laser beams, and staring at spandex-covered asses. Paradox! Let’s dance.


S.H.I.E.L.D. #3
If you’re not reading SHIELD (I’m absconding from using the acronym every time, sorry), I don’t blame you. Outside of the buzz carried through the various comic book websites, it’s rather unassuming. Walking across it at the shop, you may not be lured by the gorgeous artwork. I mean, funny books ain’t cheap no more, and curiosity often meets short ends at the hands of a tight wallet.

So I’m beseeching you, read this comic book. If you haven’t yet, snag the first two issues, and pick this up tomorrow. Jonathan Hickman’s SHIELD ain’t Nick Fury and a helicarrier. It’s Leonardo Da Vinci, and an immortal city underneath Rome. It ain’t covert ops and espionage, it’s Galileo versus Galactus. From what the reader has been told throughout the first couple of issues, the premise is that SHIELD has been a centuries-old secret society fashioned to further the Human Machine. Unfortunately, as all good things, it has been spurned by the handiwork of some legit d-bags. Alas. Fuckers.

Thankfully, a resurrected Leonardo Da Vinci has returned to set shit straight. Yeah man, that Da Vinci.

It’s a surreal trek through time, space, and philosophy. Not content just blending the worlds of history and funny book, Hickman has continually pressed the issue on the power of ideas in shaping human history. SHIELD ascends being a literal shield, and instead becomes symbolic of humankind’s pursuit of the Heavens. Not only that, but the battle over definition extends to the very concept of definitions – if Da Vinci claims destiny means one thing and the Legions of Old Assholes claim otherwise, the battle seems to rage on not just an ideological battle, but also a physical one as well.

In other words, they be spittin’ both thoughts and spears at one another.


What I like about SHIELD is that it discounts the notion that you can’t do anything new within the structure of dedicated and oft-milled continuity. Hickman has managed to take both a universe that many would argue has been exhausted, and a term that has stood for something very specific for a long time, and managed to excavate wonder from them. If there’s a time when his storyline eventually leads the reader to the SHIELD we have come to know throughout the ages, it’ll be via a path that has enriched and complimented canon that has long since stood.

All it takes is a creative writer. There is space within the mythos and structures of a universe to invent.


Sweet Tooth #12 [Re-Re-Reader Recommendation!]
Often within these fictional walls, I solicit recommendations. And thanks to a solid reader who continuously reminded me, I’m jumping aboard the Sweet Tooth train. So I haven’t actually read it yet? Nah son, I haven’t. But that’s the sort of faith I place in you guys. And honestly, what’s $3.00 if it allots you the opportunity to stumble across some great piece of narrative wunder? Nothin’, yo. Nothin’ at all. I spend that scratch daily on my caffeine addiction.

So word, Sweet Tooth #12 comes out tomorrow, and it’s a stand alone issue. In other words, dickheads like me who have been too obtuse to check this title out yet can hop aboard the Sweet Tooth train. I’m crossin’ my fingers that when I go into the funny book store tomorrow, the first Sweet Tooth TPB I ordered has come in, so I can really get rollin’ on this ball.

For those of me within a fortress of Capes and Mind-Powers who don’t know the premise, allow Senor Wiki to elucidate:


Sweet Tooth is an American comic book ongoing series written and drawn by Canadian Jeff Lemire and published by DC comics’ Vertigo imprint. Dubbed by some as “Mad Max meets Bambi”,[1] it takes place in a mostly rural post-apocalyptic setting where some creatures are human/animal hybrids.

Not sold? Don’t know what to tell you, duder. It sounds strange enough to roll the dice on. And as an avid champion of the Bizarre and Absurd, I think I’m going to be happy in my purchase tomorrow. Supplement your archive of Deadpool Titles and Variant Covers with something from left field. Dare to get a little bonkers. I won’t tell the rest of your friends.


Then there’s titles like Sweet Tooth, which seem like they are too odd to pass up. Unlike a well-manufactured and raked-over universe, Sweet Tooth invites my fanboy brain-hive to enter into a realm filled with the fantastic. Not the Fantastic Four mind you, but an alternate fantastic. Sweet Tooth is an argument for variety to me, the idea that you don’t have to pick and choose between superheroes and oddities. And let’s be honest, Vertigo isn’t rife with mainstream acclaim, but it isn’t something being pressed out of a basement and sold at conventions.

Still though, as much as it is nice to see new found within a universe, it is sometimes even more exhilarating to find a new universe.


Amazing Spider-Man #639 [Crow Alert!]
Two weeks ago I bemoaned the lack of progress inherent in the Spider-Man universe. Parker’s married. He’s not married. Now? Well, maybe uh he’s married, or he’s going to get married, but at the very least we’re going to find out why he isn’t married. It’s all sorts of confusing. Well, not really. Knotty, it’s knotty.

But having read the first issue of One Moment In Time, I came away…impressed. I said it. For the first time since perhaps the beginning of Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, I found myself face-to-face with a webcrawler that I could emote with.


And that Peter Parker wasn’t some high school kid with angst that I thought was most appealing to me. Instead, he was just a regular dude trying to hash out some shit with an ex-girlfriend. Wow. Good god damn, at this point, I have to say let the kid evolve! Having grown-up (theoretically), seeing Parker trying to work things out with MJ in his apartment over tea was both banal and hauntingly relatable. So within the span of what, twenty-something pages, I was happily eating crow.

Let Parker evolve, let him grow. We’ll all be the better for it. There’s an Ultimate universe for him to be a pimply-kid in again. I want to nod my head as Parker is like me or maybe you – just a regular guy who fucks up, trying to do well.


But perhaps the lesson through the three titles I’ve highlighted this week is that good writing can find worthwhile narratives within any niche. Hickman has plumbed a mythical history out of the Marvel Universe, Lemire has created an absurd post-apocalyptic landscape, and Quesada has given a weathered character an appreciable moment in the minutiae. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, and come to believe throughout my many years of reading the Pictures and Words Things, it’s that talented writers conjure gripping narratives out of places you wouldn’t expect. And despite noticing this time and time again, I’m always surprised when I come across one. Perhaps its better that way, cause I’ll be god damned if comic books aren’t about wonder.