Chase Variant One Shot (Is All I Need)

Written by Rich Johnston
Art by Saverio Tanuta and Bagwell
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I don’t mind when comic creators try and play with the format of comics; when done properly, I applaud it. When reading Chase Variant One Shot (Is All I Need), though, a corollary to that general rule quickly came into play. Not only do creators need to have a solid reason for playing with form, they also need to understand when that shift in format has turned from something different and interesting to a gimmick that’s starting to bore your readers.

Based on Rich Johnston’s thanks at the start of the issue, it looks like Chase Variant One Shot (Is All I Need)‘s three stories were originally published in an anthology (or multiple books) from Mamtor. I can’t help but think that isolated from one another, these stories might have held a stronger punch. The initial story is amusing enough, as Johnston tells an adventure story in the top two-thirds of each page, while the bottom third shows it all to be playing out thanks to a collectable card game in the "real world." That’s the gimmick, as cards, hands, and comments from players at the bottom of each page dictate what’s to happen up at the top to poor Chase Variant, a four-armed assassin.

After the initial story, though, the joke is already out there. The second and third stories follow the same format, and while they both try to spice things up by having an external object from the real world drop into the narrative, it’s already feeling old hat. Chase Variant One Shot (Is All I Need) quickly becomes a poster child for the idea that some groups of stories are best left uncollected, or at least not without additional stories to space out the similar ones from one another.

Saviero Tenuta draws the first story, and it reminds me of back in the day when Angel Medina was drawing comics for McFarlane Productions. Long lanky characters, a smear of colors on the backgrounds that look overly rendered, and graphic exploding heads. The story and art really don’t match one another, which is perhaps why Bagwell takes over the art for the second and third stories (as well as the cover). Bagwell’s art for the second story reminds me more of old, computer-generated art, with slightly stiff poses and figures that looks a little too smooth and polished. There’s a tweak before the third story, and that’s easily the best looking of the three. Everything seems slightly less slick and stiff, which is a shift for the better. It’s still not great art, but it finally hits the level of acceptable.

Chase Variant One Shot (Is All I Need) isn’t a bad idea—it’s actually an amusing one—but a little goes a long way. The title says that a one shot was all the character needed, but I think a single story would be a more apt statement. By collecting these three stories, Johnston managed to undo the good will earned in the first story by stretching it out into two additional pieces. Somehow, I suspect that’s not the effect he was aiming for.

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