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The Walking Dead #133 – Review

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

The Story: Lots of little story nudges and more about the skin-zombies.

Review (with SPOILERS): Well, this was a bit of a kick-the-can-down-the-road issue, huh?  It isn’t that it’s a poor issue, it’s just that nothing hugely important happens.  Lots of little plots get advanced.  Some of them are A-story (like the new skin-zombies) and most are definitely B-story (but still interesting).

There isn’t a whole lot revealed about the skin-zombies.  Anyone looking for answers to WHAT these guys are up to or HOW they are doing it will be disappointed.  I’m sure those answers will be forthcoming in the future, but we’ll just have to be patient.  I guess we did learn that they have “lands” that were “invaded” by the protagonists and also that they aren’t totally bloodthirsty, since they don’t kill Darius instantly.  I’m enjoying the mystery of the skin-zombies even if the logical parts of my mind are screaming in protest.  It just doesn’t seem to make much sense to wander around in zombie skin, but I’m still intrigued by the mystery.  We’ll just have to wait…
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The Wicked + The Divine #5 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Jamie McKelvie (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: The devil loses her head.

The Review: When Luci decided to do as T.I. says and live her life, mortal imprisonment and divine admonishments be damned, it was pretty clear there’d be consequences. It may be her nature to rebel, but it’s also her fate to pay for it. Maybe this is the difference Ananke was referring to in #4. The other gods exist at the top of their respective mythologies; Lucifer is the doomed thorn in a greater God’s side. She exists more to draw glory away from others than to take it for herself.

[Major spoiler alert!] So perhaps it’s not terribly surprising that she meets her end by Ananke’s hands—well, fingers—this issue. In fact, it’s not surprising at all, given her determination never to go back to custody and the Pantheon’s equal determination to ensure she does for their own survival. Between two convictions of equal weight, the one with the greater power wins, and Luci is fighting on her own here. The only surprise is how quickly the end comes; Luci’s freedom lasts only long enough for her to get a coffee and have a few smokes. It’s the very definition of a bad bargain.
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The Walking Dead S05E02 – Review

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.18.13 PM

Original Air Date: October 19, 2014

Review (with SPOILERS): “No, no, no…” is what this episode inspired me to say again and again.  As I feared in reviewing last week’s episode, once the budget for zombie-splatter gore diminished, the same stale group of writers would again assert control over TWD and the results would be uninspired.

An important caveat is that this is a comic review site and I come at this episode as someone who has read the TWD comics.  If you have not read the comics, there might be more anticipation in this storyline than there is for a comic reader.

There was so much draggy and soggy moments in this episode and almost nothing crackled.  This show continues to waste insane amounts of time on whether good people can do bad things.  That’s an interesting question and has been the root of some of the best TV dramas of the last 10-15 years, but this concept has been MUCH better explored in shows like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos or The Wire or pretty much anything.  When I see fist-bump Tara being agonizingly integrated into the group and forgiven for her past sins, I just think how poor the acting/writing/directing are when compared to a show like Breaking Bad.  What makes it worse is that TWD constantly reminds us what  these characters have done: Tara was “there” when The Governor attacked The Prison, Carol shot psycho-Lizzie in the back of the head, Rick has done “stuff,” Bob was part of groups that died, etc.  It’s just so damn tedious to be constantly reminded that these characters have done some questionable things, but remain fundamentally good people and are worth rooting for.  And if you were slow on the uptake, we got a patented moment where Rick squatted down to tell Carl how it was (except that Carl has to sit down for these squat-talks because Carl is now 6 feet tall).  The writers are just much more fascinated with these topics than any of the viewership.  If you doubt me, Google “was Walter White a bad person” and you will find serious, Ph.D.-level ethical debate about the main character in Breaking Bad.  Now do the same for any TWD character and you’ll find almost nothing.  It’s not just me.  Nobody cares.  Just move on, and splatter some zombies while you’re at it.

The other problem with these characters is that their stories are all the same.  Virtually every character has done “something” (often referred to as “it” during dialog; as in, “Are we going to tell them about IT?”) and the show demands that we reanalyze this same dynamic of a basically good person who had to do some questionable things to survive, over and over and over…  Where is the diversity of storytelling and character creation?  Why do we have to see the same basic story repeatedly?
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Wytches #1 – Review

By: Scott Snyder (story), Jock (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors)

The Story: And this is why no one should ever go into the woods without a scout troop leader in tow.

The Review: When you have a good imagination, it doesn’t take much for you to get paranoid, but even a person without a lick of the dreamer in them can appreciate how mysterious and frightening nature can be. That’s why the best horror stories are often anchored there, something Snyder seems to recognize better than most. In Swamp Thing, he spawned endless terror from the essence of nature; the Mers in The Wake rose from the sea; and the eponymous Wytches lurk in the deep woods.

Snyder has repeatedly described Wytches as inspired by strange encounters he’s had in the forest, and he does capture the eerie feeling that crawls up your neck as you pass through a thicket of trees at night, the unshakeable conviction that there is something watching you from the boughs, behind a trunk, within a hollow. The issue warns us to take the threat seriously from the start by consuming the doomed Ellen Cray* so chillingly, keeping you alert for danger as you continue reading.
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The Walking Dead #132 – Review

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

The Story: The mystery of the whispering zombies is revealed….

Review (with SPOILERS): After last month’s hot mess of an issue, it’s a pleasant surprise to see The Walking Dead dust itself off with a very credible effort.  It would be nice to see this series develop some consistency, but that probably just isn’t in the cards as the series is being written more and more for binge consumption in collected editions.

Of course, the big event takes place in the second half of the issue where we see Dante’s group learn the secret of the talking zombies.  Learning that these talking zombies are actually normal humans wearing zombie skin was a pretty nifty reveal.  When you’ve consumed a healthy helping of fiction in your life, you kinda live for the moments when a storyteller can show you something you haven’t seen before; and this is one of those times.  True, it’s a play on the early reveal that smearing oneself with zombie guts would keep the zombies at bay, but it’s still pretty different.  And the reveal was so nicely handled from a storytelling standpoint– we see Dante’s group doing their very orderly, teamwork-driven attack against the zombies and …  WTF?!?!? Was that zombie holding a knife?  And did it just take a swipe at one of Dante’s group?  I liked how the moment was revealed to the reader in the same confusing manner that the actual characters would have felt, a very, “Did I really just see what I think I saw?”  Then a couple of the humans are killed in the ensuing confusion and we the readers are left to contemplate whether this talking zombie is really some kind of smart zombie.  It just looks so evil when it’s whispering away at Dante.  The zombies themselves are only scary in the way that sharks are scary, they aren’t really evil.  So, it was a nifty twist to see zombies as something scarier.

Now, there are a number of questions raised by the reveal itself.  I trust that Robert Kirkman will come up with some reason as to why skinning a zombie and wearing it’s skin is the way to go.  I mean, why not just do what the other survivors do and avoid the zombies?  What is to be gained by shuffling along in the herd?  Perhaps it helps them to control the herds and use them as weapons?  I also have a question about how exactly you skin a zombie and whether the skin wouldn’t be so rotten that it wouldn’t just fall apart.  And getting a buddy to actually sew the skin shut seems a little excessive.  And what’s the point of shuffling along with zombies way out in the middle of nowhere?  Anyway, it’s a neat reveal, but I hope there is a solid storytelling reason for this novel approach.

The rest of the issue is a bit of a miss.  There is a quick follow-up on last months BIG CLIFFHANGER that the Newcomers had attacked Andrea and were going to perhaps torture some answers out of her.  Of course, that BIG CLIFFHANGER only merits a single, solitary page in this issue and there’s no resolution or payoff.  It’s things like this that are really hurting this series.  You can’t keep dropping BIG CLIFFHANGERS and then have the next issue treat that storyline as an annoyance.  And then there was more of Rick and Maggie yammering about how nice and boring things are.  I guess there is a school of dramatic storytelling that says you have to show the characters at peace so we really appreciate what they will lose when the zombie-skin people find them. But we’ve been reading TWD for 132 issues! We KNOW that these characters will never have a respite because once they do, there is no reason for the series to continue. Continue reading

The Fade Out #2 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (story), Sean Phillips (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors)

The Story: Reshoots—the actor’s true death.

The Review: I don’t know how you feel about celebrity culture, but I’ve never had much patience or sympathy for it. To put it less gently, I look down a bit on celebrities and their divorces, benders, scandals, and other tabloid-generating behavior. It’s not fair—not always, because frequently all that stuff is just typical human failure, only with media sensationalism. I’m just saying it can be hard for me to drum up sympathy for these people, so ethereal and out-of-reach they seem.

Brubaker recognizes that, which is perhaps why this issue takes steps to contrast Valeria Sommers, the luminous ingénue of the silver screen, with Valeria Sommers (nee Jenny Summers of Pasadena), who befriended black kids in her youth, cringed at hack writing as her career blossomed, and otherwise seemed like a nice, entirely human gal navigating a bewildering business. Her death is going to be the anchor that keeps the series running; it’ll only have the necessary weight if we get to know her.
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C.O.W.L. #5 – Review

By: Kyle Higgins and Alex Siegel (writers), Rod Reis (art)

The Story: How do you define a hero?

The Review: From the moment you open this issue and see that the cast list on the inside of the cover is only three characters long, you’ll know that you’re in for something big.

With the union on strike and a riot broken out at the end of last issue, Geoffrey Warner is scrambling to hold C.O.W.L. together. Warner is the primary character of this issue, as he has been in one form or another from the beginning of the series. The book is called C.O.W.L. and Geoffrey Warner is C.O.W.L. The question now is what that means when C.O.W.L.’s future is very much uncertain.

Most of the cast has been taken into custody, leaving only those who weren’t present at the protest. That leaves John Pierce, who was busy investigating the Skylancer case, and Tom Haydn, who was sleeping off a hangover and an altercation with a pimp in a cell.

This issue’s greatest strength is its ambiguity. Driven largely by his basest impulses, Arclight has been, in many ways, the series’ most simplistic character, but that begins to change this issue. Despite being more than a little detestable over the last four issues, Siegel and Higgins do an admirable job of balancing the self-inflicted nature of Arclight’s troubles with a legitimate feeling of estrangement, building upon interactions like his conversation with Radia in issue #3 and even the audience’s own derision. While I doubt you’ll walk away from C.O.W.L. #5 rooting for Arclight, it takes crucial steps in defining him as a significant player going forward and establishing his own view of what it means to be a hero.
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