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The Walking Dead #129 – Review

By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (grays) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Locking Negan up was always going to be a bad idea…

Review (with SPOILERS): If The Walking Dead could have a sub-title, it could be, “Hoist by one’s own petard.”

This whole shift in tone for The Walking Dead over the last several issues has really focused on a kinder, gentler and older Rick Grimes.  To me, he seems almost like Herschel, and I almost felt like they had made him too old.

But, what we saw in this issue is that he’s still the same old Rick.  For one thing, the scene where he beats the hell out of the highway patrolman shows how he continues to put a lot of stock in symbols.  Whether it is The Prison, some walled town, or now a Road, Rick always looks at these sorts of symbols as things that show that humanity is getting its act back together.  Or he’s had some selfish motive for valuing the symbol.  With the Road, it is obviously important because it is linking the various human settlements, and those settlements are important because moving from single-cities to a network of connected communities is a natural evolution.  But Rick really cares about the Road because his son is going to live in another community and he needs the Road open so that he can go see his son.  If a few highway patrolmen need to get flogged so that Rick can see his son, so be it.

You also see Rick’s ego coming into play with Negan.  He tells people that Negan is a prisoner because their community is too civilized to execute him.  But, the real reason is that Rick wants to rub his victory in Negan’s face.  He wants to visit Negan every day and spike the football in front of him.  That’s why he brings Negan his food personally, but makes a minion clean out Negan’s shit bucket.  The clever thing is that Negan knows the score.  He knows that Rick is making a mistake by not killing him for prideful reasons, and he knows that Rick will eventually pay for making the wrong choice for the wrong reason.

The other development in this issue is that we see the newcomers find Negan.  One of our commenters last month pointed to this possibility; that the newcomers would find Negan, he’d fill their heads with lies about Rick and they’d release him from jail.  I’m happy to see this storyline moving forward.  As readers of these reviews know, I’ve grown weary of the deliberate pacing of The Walking Dead.  It is has never been a fast comic book, but it has gotten slower over time and my opinion is that stories need to move more rapidly as they age.  And this story is gracefully moving forward.  I’m not entirely sure I want to see another round of Rick vs. Negan, especially after finishing two years of . But we’ll see what Kirkman & Co. come up with for these two…
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The Walking Dead #128 – Review

By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (grays) and Rus Wooton (letters)

SPOILER ALERT

The Walking Dead has always been a slow-paced story, but this story is setting the bar higher (or lower?) than its ever been.

You’ve got Rick wandering around town talking about bread and giving out relationship advice.  You’ve got Andrea aggressively questioning the newcomers.  You’ve got newcomers talking about whether this place is trustworthy.  You’ve got Rick and Carl discussing his career options.  There just isn’t much to grab onto yet.

It’s all well and good to watch the characters that we’ve (mostly) grown to like living their lives, but I also don’t want to see The Walking Dead become even slower paced than it has been before.  It makes me wonder if Kirkman doesn’t have a plan or that he’s out of ideas and is just milking the story.

But, since we know that TWD isn’t going to become Archie, the danger will have to come from somewhere.  Right now we’ve got three possibilities.  I just hope we get on with developing these stories:

  1. Negan - He’s clearly not going to stay locked up in the cell forever.  And Kirkman is making great efforts to remind us of Negan’s attempts to manipulate Carl and befriend him, but Carl is going away to be a blacksmith.  Hmm… That seems odd: Reminding us of the Carl/Negan dynamic in the same issue where it is announced that Carl will be leaving the city.  Regardless, I’m amazed at how much charisma Negan has lost by growing his hair out.  He’s like the anti-Samson.  Grow his hair out and take away his bat (the jawbone of an ass?) and Negan is just a dude in a cell, and not a very interesting one either.
  2. Newcomers - Well, they clearly didn’t come all this way to fit quietly into Rick & Co’s lives.  But, beyond the obvious mutual suspicion, I don’t see a THREAT looming here.  The newcomers don’t seem to be evil and we know that Rick’s crew isn’t evil either.  So, what bad could happen?  Maybe they’re legitimately new characters who are going to be built up  to join the main cast and there won’t be any stress and conflict.  Jesus joined without any real stress.  Still, it seems a waste to not make something stressful happen.
  3. Zombie! - It all seems a little too convenient with the zombies right now.  It reminds me of a movie where there is some pompous corporate jackass boasting about how how *they* have “mastered the weather cycles of Earth” and how the “planet works for US now…” only to learn the hard way that Mother Earth will NOT be controlled and the corporate jackass is killed by a hurricane/shark/earthquake/Godzilla.  It’s the same story any time the arrogance of man allows him (it’s always a man) to think he can control the uncontrollable, and it comes back to bite him.  That’s kinda what I see going on with the zombies.  They’re basically a force of nature now and Rick & Co. seem to be getting a little cocky with how they can herd and control them.  It’s like the zombies aren’t even dangerous anymore… They’re just flood waters to be diverted into a ditch.  You know that won’t last.  To be honest, I’d like to see another round of the zombies being scary.  The political stuff with Negan and other survivors is fun, but it doesn’t quite compare to the horror of being gnawed alive or seeing your loved ones eaten in front of you.

The other thing I’m struck by is the change in Rick.  He’s kinda gone very quickly from a guy who yelled a lot and covered a lot of pages entirely in word balloons to a man of few words.  I mean, you could totally see that scene with him and Eugene talking about Rosita playing out differently with Rick going on for pages about the nature of relationships.  Now he’s almost Herschel-like.  I understand that this is a new Rick, but the combination of his shorter dialog and his new visual appearance makes him seem a little too old.  He’s not acting like a 40 year old man who has had his eyes opened, he’s acting like a 65 year old who is dispensing advice while letting the young folk learn lessons themselves.  I suspect this is just something for writer and artist to work out.  Either the dialog OR the art change would be okay, but the combo ages Rick a little more than they probably intended.  They’ll probably get this recalibrated in a few issues.

Watching the Rick/Carl dynamic continues to be interesting.  I’ve been complaining for months that TWD isn’t showing enough forward progress in the story, but if you look at where Carl was in the first story arc to now, he’s changed a lot.  Back then he was very much a child and now he’s a young adult.  Nevermind that he’s probably aged more rapidly than the rest of the cast, Carl has come a LONG way.  Kirkman clearly has some sort of plan for Carl/Rick/Negan because “Carl Grimes – Apprentice Blacksmith” isn’t going to be a very popular comic.  I have no idea where this Carl story will end up and that’s kinda fun.
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Batman #31 – Review

By: Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo (pencils), Danny Miki (inks) and FCO Plascencia (colors)

The Story: Batman and gang get a little closer to solving the Riddler’s riddle.

Review (with SPOILERS): This doesn’t have to be the most complex review ever.  This is another wonderful issue of Batman’s Zero Year story.  It is well-written (as always) and beautifully illustrated (as always) and Zero Year will be another instant-classic when it finishes with issue #33.

There are a lot of wonderful moments in this issue and I loved seeing The Gang (Batman, Gordon and Lucius) planning how to take down The Riddler.  I love the Riddler and how he’s just smarter than everyone.  His power is being smart.  How cool is that for a group of people like comic fans….considering that comic fans usually consider themselves pretty damn smart?  And we get to see Post-Apocalypse Batman fighting a effing LION!  Where is the Post-Apocalypse Batman action figure?

All of that is excellent. But…(you knew there was a “but” coming) Continue reading

Velvet #5 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (writer), Steve Epting (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors) and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

SPOILER ALERT

This issue acts as a capstone to the first arc of the series.  I’ve loved every issue of the series so far, so I wish I could say that this was a triumphant exclamation point to the first arc, but there’s something that just isn’t quite right about the issue.

The disconnect I felt with this issue actually made me slightly concerned for the future of the series.

The problem is the guys!  I love Velvet and I feel like I know her, but the dudes in this series are seriously blurring together.  I can’t keep track of which guys are main characters and which are background noise.  For example, when Velvet is forced to kill her fellow agent/lover in this issue, I couldn’t remember whether this was a character we’ve seen before or not.  Part of the problem is that none of these guys have been developed much and that’s probably intentional.  It sounds like Velvet’s past is a blur of lovers who she had to hang out with for the job – some she was fond of, sometimes it was just work.  Nevertheless, this issue asked me to feel an emotional impact from Velvet killing this guy and I just couldn’t because I didn’t know who he was.

And that is why I’m a little concerned.  Suddenly the story seems interested in making me feel things that it hasn’t earned.  The only character I’d be bummed about dying right now is Velvet herself.  The others are just background noise.  And all these guys look the same.  How am I supposed to get wrapped up in how Dude A (a fellow agent/lover who Velvet really liked) was betrayed by Dude B (random agency guy) and how Dude C (possibly a long-time friend) is dead and how Dude D (another possible long-time friend) is helping in the present day?  It’s too many easily forgettable dudes. Yet these guys seem important to the story.  I was happy when the story was simpler and it was just “Velvet was betrayed and must run!”  That was cool.  The nuance and complexity is escaping me right now.
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American Vampire: Second Cycle #3 – Review

By: Scott Snyder (writer), Rafael Albuquerque (art), Dave McCaig (colors) and Steve Wands (letters)

The Story: More about the Gray Trade becomes clear and a familiar anti-hero returns.

Review (with SPOILERS): I really like the way the story is unfolding in the second cycle of American Vampire.  Here in only the third issue, we have The Gray Trader basically identified as “the devil”.  And he’s not some metaphysical construct either.  TGT is a corporeal being that lives in the bowels of the Earth and he takes the essence of your dead loved ones down there with him.  A single bite from TGT is enough to infect a being and turn them into his minion.  Then on the side of “good”, we have the American Vampires.  We’ve already seen them pitted against the old-fashioned “Carpathian” vampires in the first cycle of this story.  Now we’re learning that TGT basically created the Carpathians, and since the Carpathians created the AVs by mistake, the AVs are essentially TGT’s wayward grandchildren.

So, while the first cycle of this story was about the AV’s being an allegory for American history in the 20th century (new land, new vampires, growing into their place on the world stage).  The second cycle might be about something deeper with TGT being the inspiration for the Devil of various religions and the AVs being tasked with fighting The Devil.  There are still a lot of general ambiguities around the story.  For example, we don’t know if there is something special about the AVs – some American quality – that helps them resist the evil of TGT and want to fight him.  Why are the AVs basically the same people they were in life, whereas all of the other vampires descending from TGT have an essence of evil about them?  There is still a LOT for Scott Snyder to unpack in this story.
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MPH #1 – Review

By: Mark Millar (writer/creator), Duncan Fegredo (art/creator), Peter Doherty (colors/letters)

The Story: An honorable criminal gets into a drug that causes him to move with superhuman speed.

Review (with SPOILERS): I really find Mark Millar to be an interesting writer.  More than almost any other writer I can think of, he has a very clear goal with his stories.  Things like Wanted/Kick Ass/Nemesis are him doing market research on the limits of good taste.  Don’t listen to the guys who say he’s just trying to get “cheap shocks”.  People who say that are dumb.  In those stories, he’s figuring out where the boundary between edgy and tasteful is so that he can write stories like The Secret Service where there are still some edgy things, but the volume is dialed down to 9/10.  And, it allows him to also write stories that are safe as hell like Superior/Starlight where he isn’t going anywhere near controversy.  Of course, all of the properties are intended to be developed into movies at some point and while reading comics that are “failed screenplays” is annoying, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with developing a story with multiple mediums in mind.  Money is money…

MPH is very much in the vein of Superior or Starlight.  This is Millar turned down to about 6/10 on the shock dial.  And that’s because he has a decent premise for a PG13 movie.  In this first issue, we meet a small-time criminal.  His buddies are a little unsavory, but he’s just trying to save a little money so that he can go “legit” and get into real estate.  He’s kinda like Stringer Bell from The Wire: the criminal activity is a means to an end.  And this guy isn’t doing anything horrid.  Just some minor drug running.  No murders, tortures, etc… And he doesn’t use the drugs.  He’s even got a cute girlfriend.  But, everything goes to hell in a handbasket when he is set-up by his drug-runner boss and sent to prison.  There he gets depressed and uses a drug called MPH to escape from prison, basically the drug turns him into The Flash and he walks right out of the place while the guards are basically standing still.
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The Unwritten: Apocalypse #5 – Review

By: Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (art), Al Davison (art), Chris Chuckry (colors) and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Paul Bruckner struggles to regain his humanity.

The Review (with SPOILERS): I initially found this to be a challenging issue of The Unwritten because I didn’t understand WHY we would devote an issues to a supporting character (Pauly Bruckner) when we are so close to the finish line of the series.  I mean, Pauly is cute and all that, but the meat of the story is with Tom and Wilson.

Right?

But, as with most things in The Unwritten, if you pull on a thread, it starts to make a little more sense.  Or in this case, start writing a review of the comic five times until you talk your way into understanding what is going on.

All along we’ve kinda held this notion that Wilson Taylor could either cast characters into stories (Pauly Bruckner banished to a child’s story) OR literary characters could be made real (Lizzie Hexam being pulled into our world).  Or, at least that is how I thought of it.  But that’s not at all what happened.  Pauly Bruckner wasn’t sucked away into a strange dimension or anything like that.  Wilson basically brainwashed him into thinking he was a rabbit in a children’s book.  Pauly thinks he is a rabbit because Wilson told him he is a rabbit, ergo he is a rabbit.  It’s basically the same thing that Wilson did later with his son, Tommy.  Wilson told Tom that he was a wizard and Tom came to believe that he was a wizard, ergo he is a wizard.  It’s just an issue of mind-over-matter.
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