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Saga #21 – Review

By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)

The Story: Usually, the revelation of your newborn son involves less homicide.

The Review: As I said last issue, the core of Saga is maintaining a typical domestic drama within a highly fantasized universe. For the most part, Vaughan succeeds in this endeavor; some of the series’ best, most poignant moments have been sympathizing with Alanna and Marko in managing their in-laws, debating the upbringing of their child, worrying over the staling of their lifestyle. Many’s the time when you overlook the galactic war around them altogether.

But always, in the background of things, the war quietly exerts pressure on the story when it’s not drawing them in outright. Almost every single character in Saga wants to live an ordinary life, and it’s always the war that gets in their way. If not for the Landfall-Wreath conflict, Alanna, Marko, and Klara could live openly and take any opportunity that comes their way, instead of settling for less. Prince Robot could have his idyllic family vacation by the sea, instead of it existing merely as a hopeless dream.
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The Wicked + The Divine #2 – Review

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

The Story: As you can well imagine, the devil doesn’t take kindly to being imprisoned.

The Review: Not to get too socio-political, but I think current affairs of recent weeks teach us that humans have awfully short memories, which explains why history so often repeats itself, which is to say we may all be doomed. You’d think, if something repeats itself often enough, we’d learn a little something from it each time and at least make some progress. More frequently, however, we end up practically starting over each time, learning the same lesson only when it’s too late.

Fortunately, repetitions in fiction are easier to keep track of. It doesn’t take an English major to recognize that if something is cyclical, you’d best be alert for constants, so as to better observe the changes. In the case of the Recurrence (the centennial appearance of gods that forms the premise of The Wicked + The Divine), our constant is Ananke, the elderly woman with the eye-mask who greets the gods when they return and bids them farewell when they depart.
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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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Saga #20 – Review

By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)

The Story: It’s the typical Open Circuit story—sex, drugs, and money.

The Review: I’m sure I wasn’t the only one disheartened by last issue’s pronouncement that Alana and Marko are due to split up at some point—though #15 indicated they’ll still be involved in Hazel’s life together, no matter what—but what depressed me even further was the idea their parting would be due to something as cliché as work-family balance and a potential fling between Marko and a clearly flirty dance instructor he met in a park.

It’s possible, given Vaughan’s gift for the unexpected, that he could take this particular plotline in a different direction than you’re expecting, but I’m actually not holding out that much hope. The whole point of Saga is to maintain the normality of Alana and Marko’s relationship even against the backdrop of an intra-galactic war, and there is nothing more normal in a relationship than the imprudent affair that sends it astray. Hence Vaughan makes no effort to disguise the burgeoning chemistry between Marko and Ginny, as the dance teacher calls herself. She even goes so far as to mention, quite needlessly (but very purposefully, methinks), that her husband “is on the road most of the year.”
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Fatale #23 – Review

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

The Story: Nick and Jo engage in a little…what’s the opposite of sexual healing?

The Review: Even though I’m a self-confessed romantic, there’s one thing about modern-day romance that never fails to irritate me: when someone decides to set aside a perfectly functional, stable, loving relationship just because they’re not “feeling it.” And that doesn’t even compare to the outright dismay I feel when that same person decides they feel it a lot more with someone who practically lives in a city of red flags. Call me a downer, but that doesn’t sound much like love to me.

That’s pretty much the situation Nick finds himself in now with Jo. He claims that what he feels for her renders all past dalliances as pathetic imitations, that it’s enough to make all the pain she’s made him go through, even to the point of mutilation, worth it. I’m inclined to be skeptical, but once the two finally get it on, the experience is so mind-blowingly fantastic, so sublime and ethereal, that even I’m halfway convinced that they’re not just having sex, but making love.
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The Wicked + The Divine #1 – Review

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

The Story: Fan worship reaches a whole new level…

The Review: I’ve only recently gotten to know Gillen through his work on Young Avengers, but between that and what I know about Phonogram, a running style starts to emerge. Perhaps “trend” is the better word; Gillen is kind of a hipster. He’s at once dismissive of the mainstream, yet also hopelessly, blatantly obsessed with what’s popular, if not with pop culture. How else do you explain the Young Avengers’ incessant Instagrams, foodie cravings, and clubbing?

It also explains why music looms large in the works of Gillen. Music, more than almost any other kind of art, defines our tastes, style, and even our personality to some extent.* Music permeates our lives in ways that books, movies, and TV don’t, inspiring heights of emotion faster than all those other mediums. No wonder that in the world of The Wicked + The Divine, gods manifest as pop stars and the mass is replaced by the concert as the quintessential mode of worship.

I exaggerate a little; while the gods we’ve seen thus far have achieved a level of notoriety on par with a sizable cult following—think Bruno Mars before “Just the Way You Are”—their sway is far from universal. Part of that comes from natural skeptics like gotcha-journalist Cassandra or worshippers disturbed by the appearance of divinities outside their faith. But part of it also comes from the fact that no one, not even the gods themselves, understand why they’re there. Amaterasu claims, “We live to inspire. We make life worth living, for an evening at a time.”**

Lucifer (Luci to her friends) comments wryly, “Translation: we don’t really do anything useful.”

It’s undeniable that the gods display some inhuman powers, the ability to kill on finger-snap being the most notable, but they’re surprisingly reserved about displays of divinity. “Maybe we didn’t want to scare the shit out of you?” Luci suggests. So the crucial question isn’t so much the how these gods came to be, or what they are, but what’s their point? If they’re only to possess various human bodies for a mere two years, surely they’re meant to do more than give people orgasms or fainting spells by turns.
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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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Saga #19 – Review

By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)

The Story: Are there couple’s counselors for wanted criminals?

The Review: With my overloaded Pull List, I shouldn’t mind a few months’ hiatus from any given series, but I do get a little pang every time Saga goes on break. It’s a bit like every time I started a new semester in law school and basically abandoned all my friends for four months, except Alana, Marko, Will, Klara, Izabel, etc., don’t have Facebook pages for me to keep up with. After that kind of separation, you can’t help feeling a little giddy when you finally have the chance to catch up.

Despite the break, or maybe because of it, Vaughan is clearly in his usual fine form, opening the issue with—but of course—a woman under labor. This time the lucky lady is Princess Robot, whose delivery takes place within far more rarefied circumstances than Alana’s, but without the love of the father nearby. Chalk this up to the princess still being on her epidural, but this is the first time you’re really seeing the depth of feeling this robotic woman is capable of, both in her tender ministrations to her newborn child or her confidence that Prince Robot is “alive and well somewhere out there[.]” Typical Vaughan: always finding ways to find the humanity in non-humans.

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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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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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Mind the Gap #17 – Review

By: Jim McCann (story), Rodin Esquejo (art), Jessica Kholinne (colors)

The Story: Elle wakes up from the longest, least refreshing nap in history.

The Review: Talk about hiatuses, Mind the Gap has been on a doozy of one since December, clocking in at almost exactly five months of break time. It got to the point that I nearly feared the title cancelled after so long not seeing it show up on my comic book shop’s shelves. While it may not have the razzle-dazzle appeal of Saga, its stifling suspense and classic whodunit elements give it a special place in my heart, specifically the place that loves a good, old-fashioned conspiracy.

Unlike Saga, however, Mind the Gap‘s return issue doesn’t put any of its hard-earned strengths front and center for anyone who might be new to the series. Only the most intimate fans will recognize the some of the title’s most appealing features from this issue: its psychological deviousness and almost palpable sense of paranoia, such that no one, not even the ones we consider antagonists, feel safe. For the newbies, who haven’t spent months following the drama of Elle’s comatose hauntings, deaths, and resurrections, I’m sure they’re just wondering what all the fuss is about.
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Rocket Girl #5 – Review

By: Brian Montclare (story), Amy Reeder (art)

The Story: I saw the lights go out in New York City…

The Review: I don’t think every story in the world has to have a purpose beyond pure entertainment, but it sure can’t hurt for their longevity to have one. It’s kind of a game for me to gauge where in the silly-serious spectrum a story lands, but it’s also an important task for doing a proper review. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t weigh every story on the same scale; how I think of a story largely depends on how it wants me to think of it.

After five issues, I’ll hazard a guess that Rocket Girl wants me to think of it as an exciting thrill ride that’s also capable of dangerousness when the occasion calls for it. Vague as the causes of Dayoung’s dissatisfaction with “The Past” were, at least here we can see there are very serious consequences to what she’s doing in “The Present.” A distinct feeling of dread looms over “The Past” as darkness rises from the bottom of the city until all of NYC is in shadow, suggesting that maybe LeShawn was right and Dayoung’s meddling with Qintum’s history did “erase everything this city is built on!

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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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Fatale #22 – Review

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

The Story: Even being evil can get pretty drab after a while.

The Review: As a relative latecomer to Fatale, I feel like I’ve dealt with my lack of background knowledge pretty well. The one character I still struggle with understanding is Sommerset, Jo’s scaly, blinded archnemisis. To date, I still have no idea what his deal is. Besides the basic questions of where he comes from and what he’s after, there are more specific curiosities. Why is he scaly? How was he blinded? What’s his exact problem with Jo? With Wikipedia pretty much useless when it comes to recent Image series, I was afraid I might just be left in the dark until the end.

Fortunately, it seems that I’ve only been operating in the same darkness as everyone else, as this issue provides a fairly complete summary of Sommerset’s life from his first resurrection to his present schemes. Just to make it clear what kind of man Jo’s dealing with here, Brubaker takes us to San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, depicting it as the product of a hellish ritual to make Sommerset into the new bishop of hell on earth, with the ensuing casualties as his empowering sacrifices. Whatever forces he’s worshipping, they are very real and very powerful.
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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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Powers: The Bureau #9 – Review

by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Michael Avon Oeming (Penciler/Inker), Nick Filardi (Colors).

The Story: The curious case of Extreme and his many, many pouches.

The Review: As a Screenwriting/Playwriting student at a university, I’ve always appreciated that the comics industry not only has room for a writer that has more of a naturalistic voice for dialogue and pacing, but also that his writing style has been embraced and led to such astonishing success. That said, I’ve started to feel that the delays with his creator owned books such as Brilliant, Scarlet and Powers are really starting to diminish my enjoyment of them.

I’m not assigning blame to Bendis, I’m not sure if blame for the book’s delays can be laid at his feet, whether its the demands of artists workloads or a confluence of events, what I do know is that when I opened this book I had no recollection of the previous issue. Despite being a tad foggy on the particulars of issue #8 I still found this issue to be a great read, other than the Retro Girl sub-plot that gets a little movement at the close of this chapter, issue #9 is business as usual for detectives Pilgrim and Walker as they interrogate 90’s throwback Extreme. The Hollywood setting of this arc really does play to the strengths of Powers VH1 Behind the scenes take on super-heroes behaving badly, as Hollywood is the epitome of celebrity excess, so to is the 90’s the epitome of super-hero excess. Bendis and Oeming tie these two elements together with their hilarious send up of 90’s extremism in the form of, well, Extreme. The former “mentor” of the teen super-group The Circle is suspected of having a hand in their deaths and this issue alternates between the detectives interrogation of him and the flashback sequence detailing their final, fateful mission.

The art in this book is some of the most idiosyncratic on the stands, Oeming excels at both the moody, shadowy interrogation room scenes as well as the bright, poppy, Kirby-esque invasion sequences, other than perhaps Mike Mignola or Chris Bachalo I’m hard pressed to think of any working artist that is more singularly unique than Oeming. His partnership with Bendis at this point is a well oiled machine, there is never a duff panel, never a confusing sequence, and the over-cross hatched double page spread this issue is hilarious.
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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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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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Pretty Deadly #5 – Review

By: Kelly Sue DeConnick (story), Emma Rios (art), Jordie Bellaire (colors)

The Story: Just because Death gets a tired of all the yard work, suddenly the world’s about to end.

The Review: I was a bit concerned last issue at how this series seemed to be barreling towards a close mere issues after it had only just started. Not that I love Pretty Deadly so much that I hate to see it go, but it’s different from everything else on the market, and that’s a highly attractive quality that should be fostered, not cut off. So it is with some regret that I discover this is indeed the final issue of the series—for now. DeConnick promises on the last page that Deathface Ginny will return in a second volume.

But do I care, now that DeConnick has deconstructed so much of what’s made Pretty Deadly interesting? And as I asked before, will the stakes ever be higher than the fate of the very world and the life-death cycle? I tend to doubt it. The really sad part is despite the supposedly epic scope of this story, its highly metaphorical nature transforms the battle between Death and the Reaper of Vengeance into a shootout, albeit a fairly intense one, amidst fire and ruin, with plenty of major casualties.
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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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