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The Walking Dead #130 – Review

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

This was a pretty interesting issue.  The Walking Dead delights in being a “slow burn” and that can be frustrating while readers are waiting for the story to coalesce (like a kid waiting for the Jello to harden), but once it does turn the corner and develop a sense of direction, TWD is able to instill more of a sense of anticipation that just about any other comic that I read.

This issue seems like it might be turning the corner to doing something real.  I say that mostly because of the sheer number of players in motion right now.  You’ve got the newcomers getting settled, we’ve seen them find Negan and resist his charisma, Rick is out visiting Maggie at Hilltop, Carl is having employment challenges, and maybe the zombies are changing.

Probably my favorite part of this issue dealt with Negan.  I liked how quickly he saw that his “HELP ME!!!” charade wasn’t working on the newcomers and we even saw him revert back to vintage Negan.  I really do wonder what Kirkman is going to do with Negan in the long term.  He’s too interesting to kill, and Kirkman probably could have killed him at the end of All Out War, but he’s such a fun character that Kirkman kept him around.  It was probably like when you were a kid and your parents told you that you were too old for some of your toys and they were right, but you kept one stuffed animal anyway because it was awesome.  I’m looking forward to what becomes of Negan.  I also enjoyed that the possibility of the newcomers naively letting him go didn’t come to pass.  That could have been a good story, but it would have been a little too fast.  I mean, surely anyone who has survived the zombie apocalypse this long isn’t a dummy. Continue reading

American Vampire: Second Cycle #4 – Review

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

The Story: The Gray Trader comes after Pearl.

The Review (with SPOILERS): This has been a very challenging review to write.  Anytime that happens it is a sure sign that the comic is one that I had high hopes for that has let me down in some way.
What’s weird about writing this type of review is that they easily veer heavily into what is wrong with this issue and the ways that it has disappointed me.  Then I proof-read the review and realize I have written 1000 words about the shortcomings of the issue, and then given it a “B” for a grade.  Which is weird…
So, just know that there is a longer analysis of the negatives of this issue as it relates to the prior run of American Vampire.  It was deleted, but this issue has slightly disappointed me for a couple of reasons.  One is that it really misses Henry.  Not only was the Henry/Pearl relationship fascinating, but Henry was interesting with everyone else too.  Great character.  He was also kinda the reader’s eyes into the world of vampires.  We could identify with him because he was a human and without him, there isn’t a similar anchor for our perspective.  And the Skinner/Pearl relationship isn’t anywhere near as interesting as Henry/Pearl.  In fact, Skinner just isn’t that interesting.  He’s just an anti-hero and while I think he was fine as a cool supporting character, he’s not quite strong enough to carry the series.
The other thing that hurt this story arc is that it felt less anchored to a point in American history.  It’s set in either the late 1950s or early 1960s, but there is no big theme to help me fix this story in time.  It sounds like that will change in the next story arc as our vampires get sucked into the space race.  THAT sounds very, very cool and not just because “Duh….vampires in effing SPACE!!!” but because the space race is an important part of American history.  I hope that we’ll also get some civil rights movement (possibly involving Cal) and some Vietnam War stuff in there too (again, Cal is a former soldier and could play a part).  But this story didn’t have that historical anchor and it suffered for that.

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Spread #1 – Review

By: Justin Jordan (script/creator), Kyle Strahm (art/creator), Felipe Sobreiro (colors) and CRANK! (letters)

The Story: A post-apocalypse nomad finds a baby that could hold the secret to defeating a demonic plague.

Review (with minor SPOILERS): This was a pretty solid first issue.  The post-apocalypse genre is very crowded.  It happens to be one of my favorite genres just because I like to see what storytellers can do when you take away certain rules.  It’s the same thing as telling a story where gravity didn’t exist or where faster-than-light travel was possible: Taking away rules opens new avenues for storytelling.  So, I’ll sample most things post-apocalyptic even if it means I get a healthy dose of crap sometimes.

Spread is pretty solid.  The reasons for the apoclaypse are vague: something about digging too deep and unleashing something nasty and horrible.  Humanity isn’t totally destroyed as we see dead researchers and their crashed plane.  And there are bandits, there are ALWAYS bandits.  But the focus is on a nomad named “No” who wanders the land and is immune to The Spread.

No has a neat look to him.  He looks like a less muscly version of Wolverine in civilian clothes: messy black hair, unshaven, sideburns, Candian wilderness attire, etc.  And we learn quickly that No can handle himself well in a fight when he uses twin hatchets to take down a Spread-possessed researcher.  Along the way, he finds a baby who may be the secret to saving humanity from the Spread, get’s chased by lots of Spread monsters and that’s it.  End of issue #1.  So, we meet the protagonist, his reason for being in the story and learn the basic set-up of this world.  Some comics take 4-5 issues to accomplish that.  Spread #1 pulls you in enough that you’ll be curious to see what happens in issue #2.
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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)


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)


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 Walking Dead #127 – Review

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

A jump forward in time is a good idea for this series.  Much of what happened between the end of the last issue and the first page of this issue was stuff we didn’t really need to see.  I mean, there was a lot of reestablishment of agriculture, getting new haircuts and picking out sunglasses to wear over your eye.  That’s not terribly compelling storytelling, and we readers didn’t need to be dragged through that stuff.  It’s over and done with.  Now we can just get on with the storytelling about murder, zombies, and whatever else Kirkman has planned for us.

Unfortunately, what they’ve jumped forward to isn’t very compelling.  I mean, if you and I were actually survivors of the zombie apocalypse, you would TOTALLY want to live in Rick’s little town.  But, we’ve already seen these attempts to “be happy” and recreated civilization before.  They tried it in the prison and the Governor messed it up.  They did it before in Alexandria/Hilltop and it was ruined by zombies and Negan.  Even though Rick & Gang seem to have better stuff this time (better farms, better administration, etc.) and even though it seems like he is more the leader than he’s been before, from a storytelling standpoint, this is really the same-old, same-old…  This is just the appearance of giving Rick’s group something nice only for it to be ruined again.  We’ve seen this dynamic before, and I just wish that out of all the possibilities in this world, Kirkman would show something different.
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Alex + Ada #6 – Review

By: Sarah Vaughn (story/script) and Jonathan Luna (story/art/letters)

The Story: As Alex and Ada start to settle into their lives, they come to grips with the fact that they are not normal.

Review (with SPOILERS): Even though this issue of Alex + Ada is (again) very high quality, it still hasn’t turned the corner into the bigger story that I am anticipating.  However, even in an issue where we’re still waiting for the shoe to drop, there are still some cunning and clever elements to this story.

The big thing that struck me was how quickly Ada is blasting through her learning phase.  She’s trying to experience and DO everything.  That’s going to lead to two things.  First, Ada will probably outgrow this phase where she is dependent on Alex pretty fast.  She needs him right now, but what about next week when she knows everything?  Is their relationship based on something “real”?  Or is it just based on the fact that Ada wants to learn about stuff and Alex is willing to indulge her?  Is she staying with him just because she needs him or does she really want to stay?  Right now, she needs to stay with Alex, but can you have a truly great relationship where one party is dependent upon the other?
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Black Science #6 – Review

By: Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (art), Dean White (colors) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Grant McKay and Co. are stuck in another hostile environment.

Review (with SPOILERS): I’m really happy with where this series stands as it heads into a short hiatus (presumably to allow Matteo Scalera to work ahead on the art).  Mostly, it’s just rewarding to see that Remender isn’t totally committed to the cookie-cutter stereotype characters that he created earlier in the series.

The revelation that Kadir and Grant might not really be the characters we originally thought is very refreshing.  I really didn’t want this series to be about the noble crusading scientist who is beaten down by the evil venture capitalist.  Who needs that type of class-warfare story?  If you want class warfare, it is being done tremendously well by Greg Rucka over in Lazarus.  So, it is refreshing to see that Kadir isn’t as villainous as he was originally portrayed, nor is Grant McKay as wonderful as we were lead to believe.  That doesn’t mean that this will be a role reversal with Kadir being the hero.  In fact, I hope it doesn’t end up that way.  Stories are more interesting when there aren’t defined heroes and villains.  Humans have a variety of competing compulsions and storytelling that limits people to being purely good/evil is tiresome.  Kadir seems to be financially motivated, but he’d also rather not have reality destroyed.  Grant kinda wants to make the world better, but like most scientists…..he falls into that trap of being more interested in his own research and then feels the need to rationalize a story that makes that research vital to humanity.  These characterizations of Kadir and Grant now ring true with both the scientists and venture capitalists I know.

Also interesting was this concept that Grant is polluting all of reality with his Pillar devices.  Here we see Grant and Kadir run into another Pillar under construction by the chief scientist of this bizarre Possessed Ape species.  This ape probably didn’t get the idea from THIS Grant McKay, but the implication is the all of the Grant McKays are a scourge on reality as they flit about in their Pillars causing mayhem.  It reminds me a little of the argument that time travel is impossible…..because if it WERE possible, someone from the future would have invented it and we’d have time travelers wandering all over the place in present day.
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Lazarus #8 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (writer), Michael Lark with Brian Level (art & letters) and Santi Arcas (colors)

The Story: Forever begins to piece together the terrorist mystery.

TheReview (with SPOILERS): This was the issue where things began to click together.  Through the first cycle of stories, Greg Rucka and Team have created a very intricate, detailed and entertaining dystopian future that is highlighted by the ruling families and their respective Lazaruses (Lazari?) – supersoliders who manage the families respective security operations.

We’ve also been introduced to the concept of the castes of society (Family, Serfs and Waste) and seen how unequal society is with the Ruling Families living in opulence, Serfs in a sort of middle class existence and Waste in abject poverty.

A few issues ago, Rucka started spinning this tale of of a family of Waste who were headed to Denver in an attempt to be “uplifted” to Serf status.  Their trip has had a sort of “Wizard of Oz” feel to it as this family has endured struggle and death to reach Denver, but they were extremely excited to get uplifted.  Then last issue we saw that the line of desperate Waste auditioning for Serf status stretches for miles outside of the Denver city limits.

At its heart, Lazarus is really a class warfare tale.  It is supposed to be a funhouse mirror version of what our current society could be like if the 0.01% keep getting richer and the economy continues to provide few jobs for everyone else.  That’s why it is such a fun story.  Rucka isn’t saying that this is what WILL happen if things continue along a current path, but it has enough similarities that people can follow along.  Probably any reader who has been jobless knows how the Waste feel.  Anyone who has had a terrible job for a terrible boss, but needs the salary, knows how the Serfs feel.
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The Walking Dead #126 – Review

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

The Story: The final battle between Rick and Negan?

The Review (with SPOILERS): What a lame anticlimactic issue!  The Walking Dead made its bones by being the series where anything could happen, but I think this could be the issue where it jumped the shark.  It’s the issue where preservation of the valuable characters and branding took priority over exciting storytelling so that Rick Grimes & Co. could continue to be exploited on TV, in video games, etc.  That doesn’t make TWD a poor series going forward, but it won’t be #1 on my must-read list anymore until it convinces me that “anything can happen” again.

This resolution to the Rick/Negan war is deeply unsatisfying.  It isn’t just that I’m blood-thirsty and want some DEATH!  I want to look forward to a story that doesn’t seem just like the stories I’ve seen before.  It seems like the next story will be Rick and his crew repairing Alexandria and we’ll be back to having Alexandria, The Kingdom, and Hilltop working as walled cities.  We’ve seen that.  We’ve seen this discussion of how to build a better tomorrow and how to rebuild society.  It happened on a small scale at the Prison and we’ve watched it for the last 50 issues in Alexandria.  I really don’t want to watch another story cycle of urban planning, wall construction and farming; with interludes of zombies and banditry.  I’m sure there will be wrinkles to this coming story and they might be fun, but for the first time in The Walking Dead history, I’m not looking forward to what happens next.

I’m also disappointed that nobody died in this issue.  It isn’t that I get off on death, it’s that I like to see the group continually reforming to react to new situations.  What is enticing about post-apocalypse stories is that they give us a glimpse of people like us without the same rules that govern our lives.  It’s kinda like, “What if there were no police or laws…  Would you kill that neighbor you hate so much?  Would you steal food from someone to feed your own children?”  We’ve seen this group of Rick & Co. for a long time now.  Rick has always been the leader.  Andrea has always been the sniper.  Maggie is the moral conscious.  Carl is the little boy growing up badly in the apocalypse.  Michonne chops off zombie heads.  I’d kinda like to see what happens if Rick isn’t around anymore.  Who leads?  Where do they want to take the group?  Or what if Carl dies?  How would that change Rick’s perspective and actions?  What if Andrea died and Rick had now lost Lori, how does that change Rick?

I guess my problem is that I want The Walking Dead to do something new, and this feels very old to me.  Now I’m very cynical about everything to come.  I just don’t believe that Kirkman will kill his major characters.  I won’t be excited by cliffhangers anymore.  Kirkman has to re-earn that sense of anticipation, because he squandered it with this event.
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The Unwritten: Apocalypse #4 – Review

By: Mike Carey (script), Peter Gross (art), Ryan Kelly (selected finishes), Chris Chuckry (colors) and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Tom goes into storyland to find a possible ally.

Review (with SPOILERS): Geez….I really don’t know what to make of this issue.  By that I mean, I literally don’t understand what happened.

The main focus of the issue was on Tom Taylor dreamwalking his way into a Tommy Taylor form and visiting Madam Rausch.  Of course, I understood the surface layer of things in that Tom was there to recruit Rausch as an ally in his war against Pullman and that she may or may not help them, but then things became murky for me.  Rausch has been a recurring character in The Unwritten for a very long time, but this issue made me reevaluate her character in a different way.  I’ve always thought of Rausch as being similar to Wilson Taylor in that she was a gifted storyteller who did her work with puppets whereas Wilson was a writer.

But to be honest, I never thought of Rausch that deeply before.  She was just always “there” in the story as a quasi-villain.  Whereas Pullman is obviously the embodiment of the “Original Sin” story and Leviathan (i.e. humanity’s collective consciousness) loves that story to the detriment of all else in the world, I always thought Rausch was just an antagonist.  Hmm… I’ll have to revisit her because it seems there is a LOT more to her character than I’ve appreciated before.
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Batman #30 – Review

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

The Story: Riddler pulls his final move as Gotham descends into chaos.

The Review (with minor SPOILERS): I could almost copy and past the preamble to these Batman reviews at this point: This is another very, very good issue of Batman from Snyder, Capullo & Co.

We’ve now entered the final chapter of this very long Zero Year story and it’s all come down to Batman versus Riddler in a post-apocalypse version of Gotham.  Even though we have a young Batman and a young(er) Gordon, by now we have characters that long-time Bat-readers will recognize with Gordon and Batman working together as a team.  All they have to do is figure out a way to solve the riddle of the Riddler.

What makes this issue special is how smartly Snyder was able to include a post-apocalypse theme into a cannonical Bat-story.  I think we’ve seen Batman in a destroyed Gotham before, but it’s usually some old Batman in an elseworlds-type story.  I guess there was No Man’s Land, but that felt very different – the snow, perhaps?  Still, it was very clever to see this Gotham that was destroyed by Pamela Isley’s botanical research.  The way Greg Capullo depicts Gotham, it looks like something out of The Last of Us or countless other post-apocalypse stories.  I love stories of the apocalypse because they smash enough rules of society that we can see new constructs arise…

Enter the Riddler.  I really enjoy the bigger picture question that he is putting to Batman and Gotham in this story.  He’s basically tackling the problems of the modern world (pollution, climate change, wealth inequality, food production, overpopulation, etc.) by turning Gotham into a microcosm of everything wrong in the world and challenging someone to solve the riddle.  My goodness, don’t you wish we could chuck some real life politicians into this fictional Gotham and tell them that they cannot come out until they have fixed everything?
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American Vampire: Second Cycle #2 – Review

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

The Story: The Grey Trader is revealed.

Review (with SPOILERS): Bravo for pacing and layered storytelling!  Excellent comics like American Vampire really make me appreciate what is lacking in other, less imaginative stories.

Of course, I’m talking about the fact that we didn’t have to wait until issue #5-6 to have The Grey Trader revealed to us.  I’m would have been very easy to have an entire first cycle about the lead-up to the revelation of what TGT even looks like, much less who/what he is.  You know….the end of each issue would end with this very creepy looking man standing there in the distance with his top hat and cane?  Each final page he would be a little closer to the viewers perspective, so it seemed like he was coming closer and closer?  Until they showed his face at the end of issue #5?  I’m sure that Snyder and Albuquerque could have even made that a pretty hot story, and to be honest, that is the pacing I was expecting.

Then… bam! We get to see the true face of TGT in the middle of this issue.  I love that.  It wasn’t expected and I’m reading the issue and thinking, “OMG! I think they’re going to show what this dude looks like on the next page!”  Don’t you love those sorts of page-turns in comics?  We don’t get enough of them, in my opinion.

But, just to show what a sophisticated story AV is, the mystery doesn’t end with this reveal.  It’s really just beginning.  We still don’t really know what TGT is up to, what motivates him, what manner of creature he is, etc.?  Why does he attack other vampires?  Does TGT view all vampires the same way that the Carpathian vampires view the American Vampires (i.e. as a threat to be attacked)?  How does TGT connect with Dracula and the Lord of Nightmares storyline?  They call him “the Devil” at the end of the issue, but is TGT really the metaphorical embodiment of human evil (in the Biblical sense) or is TGT meant to be a some sort of inspiration for the Biblical “devil”?  I love a comic that begs such questions, especially when you trust the storytellers as much as I trust Snyder and Albuquerque.  They’ve got answers for all this stuff.  I guarantee you that there isn’t a question in this paragraph that hasn’t already been addressed in a story outline.  Readers just need to strap in and enjoy the rest of the story in confidence.
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Manifest Destiny #6 – Review

By: Chris Dingess (writer), Matthew Roberts (art), Owen Gieni (colors) and Pat Brosseau (letters)

The Story: The resolution of the Plant Zombie storyline.

Review (with SPOILERS): A lot happened in this issue.  We got a good and exciting dose of Lewis & Clark (and men) fighting Plant Zombie Animals.  That was exciting and gave the art team a chance to stretch their legs a good bit.

Then the issue went totally sideways with this revelation that the Plant Zombies were being caused by some sort of underground Sarlacc-like creature.  I have to admit that this wasn’t something I saw coming at all.  I’ve consumed a lot of monster-fiction in my life and it takes quite something for a storyteller to throw me a complete curveball like this.  That alone isn’t enough to make the story wonderful or great – I’ll always contend that execution is more important to storytelling that a mere idea – but if you can be semi-original, more power to you.  I don’t mean to totally discount ideas, it’s just that there aren’t that many ideas that are actually all that new and novel.  But, this was at least “new” to me, so bravo!
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The Walking Dead #125 – Review

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

The Story: Is Rick dying or not?

Review (with SPOILERS): I hada lot of “mixed feelings” with this issue.  It’s honestly been a difficult one to even review.  It’s just not an issue that inspires a single, unified feeling, just lots of stray thoughts and disappointments. And that’s a fail for this issue.  The action is coming to a crescendo, and it should inspire a solid feeling rather than a bunch of stray thoughts.

Teasing death is cheap: This cliffhanger would be a million times more effective if Kirkman hadn’t just yanked the football from in front of us a few issues ago.  I mean, we just saw this BIG tease that Rick was going to die because of the zombie-goop bolt.  That turned out to be a total nothing, so why should we get excited that Rick has nicked Negan’s neck with a knife?  Charlie Adlard could have drawn that scene any way he wanted to (or any way Kirkman asked him to).  It looks like a nick for a reason.  If they wanted to kill Negan, that knife would be buried up to the hilt.  They could have used either of these implied death cliffhangers, but not both.

Too much talking!: My goodness did Rick go on and on before trying to stab Negan!  They were building a better place, they were working together, blah, blah…  It’s the same rhetoric we heard back at the Prison and countless times in Alexandria.  I get it and it’s a noble goal.  It’s what we would all strive for in the apocalypse, but farming and blacksmithing don’t make for a very compelling story.  I know that Rick was talking about that to distract Negan so he could stab him, but he could have talked about anything.  He could have talked about surrendering.  He could have talked smack.  But, instead he talked about a theme that has already been kinda played out from a storytelling standpoint.  We’ve seen TWD do a “Let’s re-establish society!” theme for 40+ issues.  It’s time to see something else.

Negan is great: I really hope Negan isn’t dying because he’s so much fun.  Honestly, when he started agreeing with Rick’s spiel, I thought he was just going along with it to pull Rick’s leg, and the next second he was going to say, “What?  Are you nuts?  Just listen to yourself, Rick?  You sound insane!”I thought we were going to see him try to whack Rick with Lucille.  Negan is such an outstanding character, so well-written and drawn, that thinking Negan was about to play his own little trick on Rick is a perfectly plausible explanation.  It’s a credit to the creators that we can even speculate about such things.  Comics are usually pretty literal, but Negan allows for subtext.

So, where does all this leave us? I’m afraid I can’t look forward to any of the major storytelling possibilities.  If either Rick or Negan dies next issue, I’ll feel like this story was too long.  It isn’t that we didn’t need the All Out War story, but twelve issues and making artistic compromises to achieve bi-weekly shipping probably wasn’t necessary.  On the other hand, if both of these guys walk away unscathed next issue, it will feel cheap that they’ve both had their deaths teased, keeping the story from moving forward.  What would be next?  All Out War II?
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Black Science #5 – Review

By: Rick Remenber (writer), Matteo Scalera (art), Dean White (painted art) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Grant has to deal with a mysterious, masked assailant.

Review (with SPOILERS): Last issue of this series put it right back on the top of my reading stack.  It was fast and furious and ended in a really cool place with a nifty-looking villain (?) appearing to possibly menace Grant McKay and our heroes.

This issue wastes no time dragging out the mystery of this masked man, it’s Other Grant.  It would be wrong to think of him as Future Grant who is on a sort of Back to the Future mission to help out.  No, this is just Other Grant from another reality who somehow has knowledge about the normal sequence of events that takes place in alternate universes.  Except in Other Grant’s native reality, his Pillar exploded and killed his children and now he seems to be on a mission to stop Our Grant from killing his kids.
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The Field #1 – Review

By: Ed Brisson (writer/letters), Simon Roy (art) and Simon Cough (colors)

The Story: A man wakes up in a Field and gets into the wrong passing car.

Review (with SPOILERS): This is a play on a classic hitchhiker story.  We quickly meet a man who wakes up naked in a field and can’t even remember his name, but he has his phone and immediately starts receiving ominous text messages like, “Watch out!  They’re after you.”  It’s a little like that scene in the Matrix where Morpheus tries to help Neo escape the Agents by giving him instructions on the cell phone.  Eventually, the guy doesn’t follow the instructions, gets into a strange car and ends up on the worst car-ride/road-trip EVER.

Basically, the guy he rides with is NUTS, drug-addicted, violent, random…..  Nice one second, shooting up a restaurant the next.  The whole thing is supposed to make you uncomfortable and it accomplishes that mission very nicely.  The antagonist, Christian, reminds me of every bad hitchhiker cliche, and since our protagonist has amnesia, he has little choice but to follow along with the dude even if it is against his better judgement.

On the positive side, this comic is a good illustration of how panels can be constructed to create a sense of unease.  Zoom in, zoom out, perspective changes galore… I’m sure there is a solid visual theory that they teach in art school about how to make the audience/reader feel unsettled; I don’t know how to explain it, but Simon Roy is all over it in this issue.  Very solid job.
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The Walking Dead S04E16 – Review

Original air date: March 30, 2014


That was a largely decent finale for a show that missed badly at the end of Season 3. While I guess I am slightly disappointed that we didn’t get more of the story of Terminus this season, that’s more regret about what the show has stumbled around during this spring than any real misgivings about this episode.  It wasn’t perfect – and we’ll talk about the saggy parts – but it left us with a very nice sense of mystery for next season.  I’m really looking forward to Season 5 and that’s pretty amazing given how mediocre this show has been at times.

Let’s just get the bad parts out of the way first.  It seems fair since I generally liked the episode and it would be appropriate to end on a positive note…

Where this show keeps stepping in dog poop is when it gets into this whole issue of GOOD versus BAD.  It’s just highly insulting to have a show keep punching you in the face with this attitude about how Herschel was GOOD and he DIED.  Rick tried to be GOOD like Herschel, but he realized sometimes you have to be BAD to survive.  The little kid who plays with legos was GOOD and he DIED, whereas Carl is field-stripping weapons and he LIVES.  It’s just so in the face and clumsy that it’s insulting.  Any adult knows that the world is more simple than GOOD/BAD, BLACK/WHITE… Eespecially in an era of television where we have debated the morality of Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White, Jack Bauer, etc.  There was a moment early in the episode when Rick and Gang were walking down the tracks and Carl asks, “Are we going to tell the people in Terminus what we did?  I mean, all of it?”  And my first thought was, “Did what?  When?”  I honestly couldn’t think of anything truly wretched that Rick and Gang had done.
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Alex + Ada #5 – Review

By: Jonathan Luan (story/art/design) and Sarah Vaughn (story/script)

The Story: Having been freed from her restrictive programming, what will Ada do?

The Review (with SPOILERS): This has been a wonderful series so far and this issue mostly serves as the fulcrum from the beginning of the story toward its second chapter.

So far we have seen young Alex be given a super-fancy android named Ada.  The gift was from his wealthy grandmother who wanted him to have a friend/companion/sex-toy.  Alex never wanted Ada, but was too kind of a person to abuse her and he eventually became frustrated with her lack of self-determination and sought out a group that could remove the blocks in Ada’s programming allowing her to be fully aware.  That took us up through the last issue where Ada “woke up” and screamed her head off.
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The Walking Dead S04E15 – Review

Original air date: March 23, 2014

Review (with SPOILERS): Geez! What a flat episode…  There wasn’t much great, but there wasn’t much to really hate on either.  I almost feel like I could end the review right now, by giving the episode a “B.”

Probably the best thing about this episode was the sense of forward momentum.  It reminded me of a car that is stuck in the mud that begins to inch forward before launching itself back onto the road.  Mind you, we didn’t get the full LAUNCH in this episode, but a story that had been swirling for weeks/months with everyone separated is finally headed in the right direction.  Things just started to snap together when Glen saw the touching notes Maggie had written in zombie goop.  Next thing you know, Glen’s group is united with Maggie’s group and they’re wandering into Terminus.  Ditto for Darryl’s band of rednecks as they are clearly right behind Rick/Carl/Michonne on the road to Terminus.  All roads lead to Rome– or Terminus.

This is important because the story has been a little stuck.  While I’m not exactly eager to see this entire band back in a fixed set for a half-season, the Terminus story has lingered a week or two longer than necessary.  Let’s just get there already!  It’s time to move onto whatever is next and this episode was a nice step in that direction.

Also interesting was the whole dynamic between Darryl and Joe the Redneck.  That’s mostly because both Norman Reedus and (especially) Joe Kober are both pretty charismatic actors.  They both have a presence about them where you just want to see what they’re doing next.  So, even if Joe rattled on a little more than was necessary about their stupid “CLAIMED!” system and the nature of man, it was at least entertaining.  That “claimed” system was a little stupid.  It wasn’t a very good way to show Darryl’s rejection or their methods; just because he won’t “claim” a place to sleep.  Or at the end when he “claimed” the roadside radishes?  I mean, was that the dumb guy who picked them up and forgot to say “claimed!” just the dumbest of the group?  Suddenly, Darryl is the fastest one to the magic word?  Or was it some joke where one of the guys ran ahead and peed on the radishes and they all let Darryl “claim” them?  But, here I am analyzing that silliness more than when I actually watched the episode.  It was only marginally dumb, so I’ll stop and move on since I generally enjoyed Darryl and the Rednecks.

There was a lot of “meh” in this episode too.  Probably the biggest downer was listening to Eugene talk.  This show just has a thing about getting actors to fake ridiculous southern accents.  We’ve already had the terrible accents from Shane and the Governor and the strange accents from Maggie and Rick, now we have this preposterous crap coming out of Eugene’s mouth.  I just don’t understand the fixation on forcing actors to affect these accents.  I mean, a southern accent isn’t important to the Eugene character in the comics and I doubt it is important to the TV version.  So why not just let the actor speak normally?  Furthermore, why would anyone believe that a guy who sounds like that (and looks like that) would have the solution to the zombie problem?

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Lazarus #7 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (writer), Michael Lark (art and letters), Brian Level (art assists) and Santi Arcas (colors)

The Story: Forever continues trying to unravel a terrorist conspiracy.  Waste see different paths to being uplifted.

Review (with minor SPOILERS): Another very powerful issue of Lazarus.  This is just about the perfect series for me.  The art is great.  I like the characters.  I love the dystopian near-future setting.  And I LOVE the attention to detail.

This things that I like best in this issue are the subtle moments.  One is when we see poor little Forever being trained as a little girl by Marisol.  Little Forever is so much more composed and collected than a typical 12/13 year old, but there are the moments when you remember she is still just a little girl.  You can train her and beat her with a stick to teach her stoicism, but she’s still a little girl who needs a hug sometimes.  Anyone who has a child can’t help but be touched by the situation and the art.  Kids that age alternate between impressing us SO much that they are nearly adults: They can handle complex concepts, do physically challenging things and start to say things that don’t sound entirely foolish, then the next second, they are crying and after your initial “WTF?” reaction, you remember that they are only 12 years old.  Rucka and Lark (especially Lark) are capturing that age perfectly here.

The other aspect of the comic I really enjoyed were the two different paths to uplift presented to these waste.  On one hand, we continue following this group that is trying to do uplift the right way.  They’re trekking across the country, dealing with death and banditry and awfulness…..but they are going to Wallyworld and look forward to the wonderfulness.  Only they get there and see a line that runs 20-30 miles out of the city of similarly desperate people who want to be uplifted too.  Not many people are going to get their dream.  That’s what they get for trying to be uplifted via the standard procedure.

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