Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Walking Dead RETROSPECT

Note: This retrospect covers the first 150 issues of The Walking Dead. I will not be giving up any explicit spoilers, but some of the links lead to them. So don’t get all click happy if you haven’t read the series yet.

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Unless you’ve been living in an underground fallout shelter in the middle of nowhere (Montana, maybe?), you know The Walking Dead has become a cultural phenomenon that has wormed its way into the cultural zeitgeist like a tick in a deer’s ass.

This is mostly due to the hugely popular AMC television adaptation. But (and yes, I’m about to sound like a comic geek hipster, so please don’t close this page just yet) some of us have adored the source material for the better part of a decade, long before that first episode aired on Halloween in 2010, which makes it hard to discuss the comic series without the shadow of the show looming over any opinion us elite comic dorks might have on the show’s roots like a doomsday eclipse (too much?).

I remember sometime in 2004, a buddy of mine told me about a cool little black and white zombie comic he was reading and passed along the first trade paperback. After reading it, I scooped up the current issues until I was up to date and continued to buy The Walking Dead on a monthly basis for nearly five years. I used to keep a stack of back issues on my toilet tank. Friends and family members would spend a copious amount of time in my bathroom reading through them, long after they conducted their business (that would be pooping, by the way).

The series was all the rage in my circle of friends and we felt like the cool kids (or at least as cool as a pack of comic nerds could be) among out uninitiated fellow comic readers.

“Oh, you haven’t read this?” we’d scoff as we slapped a stack of (hopefully poop-free) singles in front of them. “For shame!”

This went on for some time…until the comic began to spin its wheels. Shortly after the whole “Battle of Woodbury” story arc, I fell out of the series like an epileptic baby in a crib without guardrails.

It wasn’t until several trade paper backs later, that a co-worker of mine discovered the book and asked if it was any good. I told them it was, at least the first 50 some issues or so were, but I had no idea if the series picked itself up by the zombie skull-crushing boot straps. It turned out the series had. It got good again. Like really fucking good. And about twenty issues later, it began to lose steam…until it got good again.

And that’s the deal with The Walking Dead (and with most monthly comics). There are lulls, and at times they feel like bottomless pits of boredom that make you wonder why you ever enjoyed reading the title in the first place. But unlike most ongoing monthly books, the TWD has zero supplemental material to tide you over until your flagship book gets its shit together.

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**Guess I have to deal with this shit for a bit.**

I mean, you can read Detective Comics until it gets shitty, and then easily jump ship to one of the other ten Batman comics on the newsstands and find one that’s worth a damn. TWD doesn’t afford the same luxury. If the comic isn’t good, tough shit. You have to deal with it if you want to know what happens next. You have to deal with characters talking in circles and spitting monologues that are so tiresome you wonder if they weren’t the regurgitated rally cry of a long dead character from years before. You have to deal with the artwork becoming repetitive and the story beats growing benign and cheaply punctuated with character deaths.

There is nowhere to hide from The Walking Dead when things take a nosedive. Shit, even the TV show has Fear of The Walking Dead as a companion piece.

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**There are no tigers in either show, though…so, I guess the comic still has the upper hand.**

There is good news, however. That aforementioned nosedive does not occur too frequently when you consume the series in large chunks. The trade paperbacks, which come out twice a year, do not have issue breaks and read like single chapters of a larger piece. This works to the series’ benefit. We’ve all read novels where things slow down for a chapter (or several chapters if you’re George R.R. Martin – Fuck A Feast for Crows) and most of us can power through until the next.

I’ve read the first 150 issues of TWD and two thirds of them have been in graphic novel form. I can’t image buying this book month-to-month (but honestly, I don’t buy any comics month-to-month outside of the occasional mini-series & Heavy Metal Magazine).

Now as far as story goes, it’s often difficult to tell where creators Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (and I guess Tony Moore in the first six issues) are going with things, but they always find their way to something interesting and often times shocking. Now, these things don’t always work. In fact, there have been shocking twists and deaths that have left a bad taste in my mouth (ref: the death of REDACTED from issues 100). It’s not that I have a weak stomach for excessive violence. Hell, I think this may be the only book where I kind of chuckled when an infant gets blasted with a shotgun (I know, I know, but go look at that page again; you know you don’t have anything invested in that baby or the person holding it so get off your high horse).

Even with all its shortcoming The Walking Dead is never godawful, and it’s usually enjoyable and even occasionally brilliant.

Kirkman might be a genius for crafting this thing so well. He’s made a soapy drama about the zombie apocalypse and it sells well every month. I don’t know of any other comic book that sells trade paperbacks in Wal-Mart or Target. I’m sure most of that has to do with capitalizing on the success of the television show, but shit, man it works. Kirkman and Co. have television-watchers and comic-readers eating out of the palm of his hand and now those two factions are cross pollinating.

Look, go read The Walking Dead. You can actually buy compendiums that collect the series in 48 issue chunks. And trust me, that first chunk is awesome. The second, not so much, and the third gets back to form.

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**Hey! New people!**

Many of the characters are likeable. Our hero of the book, Rick Grimes, gets put through the wringer so often, you wonder if the shred of humanity he still holds on to is even legit. The supporting cast is very hit or miss. There are some characters who seem like they get killed because Kirkman doesn’t know what to do with them, which is unfortunate. But there are other characters, who are snuffed out, that make the book devastating and actually add gravity to an already dire situation (I’m looking at you, REDACTED my sweet, sweet prince).

But when it comes to problems with characters, my biggest complaint might be with the villains. The series has really only produced three honest to god villains, and just one of them has been truly fascinating. Yes, I’m talking about Negan. And before anyone gets their panties in a twist, I like Alpha and the Governor just fine, but Negan is the closest thing we have to a filthy mirror version of Rick. Also, he’s super charismatic.

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**Ladies…**

According to the creators, we’re about halfway through this series. That’s both a relief and a disappointment. If they would have said we were 50 issues away from the end, I’d be doing back flips (I can’t do a back flip, BTW).

I don’t know what Kirkman has in store for us. He says there are tons of big things on the horizon, but he’s said that before and has delivered a mixed bag. But I’ll call his bluff. I’ll keep reading. And so should you.

Mid-term Grade: B

*Footnote: All images are property of Image Comics.

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Update

I’ve been out of town some this week, so I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done. I have, however, been reading some comics like a champ.

I’ll be reviewing Bitch Planet Vol. 1, AMC’s pilot for Preacher, The Private Eye, and the first 150 issues of The Walking Dead this week. 

Stay tuned.

Providence Act 1: REVIEW

Note: This review covers issues 1 – 4 of Providence.

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DISCLAIMER: I am dumb and often times, Alan Moore makes me feel dumber. Now on to the review.

Like many of my fellow comic nerds, I absolutely love the work of Alan Moore. Now, I’ll be first to say that not everything he puts out is golden. But this should not detract from how brilliant the man is, nor should it lessen his importance to the graphic medium.

I’m of the opinion that we should judge an artist based on their strongest works (hence why Francis Ford Coppola is still riding that Godfather/Conversation/Apocalypse Now wave; we all saw Jack; fuck that movie). But Moore doesn’t rest on his 1980s DC laurels. If anything, Moore has grown as a writer since the days of Watchmen and Swamp Thing.

Being that he’s bit of an elusive writer, Moore belongs to an echelon of comic creators that actually make me excited when I hear announcements for new work. Guys like Brain Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, and Scott Snyder always have several stokes in the fire at any given time, which makes them far more accessible, but that’s not to detract from their talents.

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*Best resume ever!*

That’s why when I first heard Avatar Press was going to publish another Lovecraftian horror comic scripted by Moore and drawn by my favorite horror/shock artist, Jacen Burrows, I had to physically wrestle my erection into submission.

I thoroughly enjoyed (but didn’t love) their earlier collaboration, Neonomicon, and thought it had a lot of potential to be great, but was bogged down with Moore’s own fetishism of monster sex/rape.

I pre-ordered Providence Act 1 in Hardback the day its release was announced, and I immediately cracked its spine the day it was delivered, and about halfway through the first issue, I set the book down and walked away, wondering if I would be able to produce the energy to finish it…

This was not good. I had never had that sort of experience with Alan Moore’s work.

You see, usually with Moore’s stuff, I can’t wait to see what’s next (even in the case of Promethea where things were super entertaining at first, but ended super fucking weird). But Providence initially bored me to tears. I mean, all the elements were there: a quasi-detective story about a journalist named Robert Black researching occult stories throughout New England for a “Great American Novel” he intends to write, all the while a looming horror is just behind every door. This is a really cool setup for a story, but the book just didn’t click with me early on.

I did pick Providence Act 1 back up and powered through it, trying my damnedest to be engaged, and by the end of it, I came to two realizations:

  1. I like Lovecraftain stories way more than actual Lovecraft stories. Now, this is a Moore book, but the man is using such thick Lovecraft mythos to convey it, it reads like H.P.’s greatest hits, more so than Neonomicon. I think you can create a Lovecraftian story without relying so heavily on the source material (i.e. Revival by Stephen King, John Dies at the End by David Wong, True Detective Season 1 etc.) and make is stand on its own.
  2. Alan Moore is simply not a “grab you by the collar” sort of writer any more. I doubt very much we’ll see many “a comedian was murdered in New York” openings in future work, which I have mixed feelings about.

Look, Providence is not bad, okay. Not every aspect was a chore and some of those aspects are quite remarkable: The dialogue in this book is some of Moore’s strongest in years; every conversation was well-conceived and felt real; Jacen Burrows’ art is fantastic and disturbing (the street vendor splash page gave me chills); and some of the diary entries were really entertaining and insightful.

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**Good Stuff…**

I’m not giving up on Providence. Eight issues have been released, which means Act 2 should be out soon (this is a 12 issue mini-series, by the way). This book does not tarnish Moore’s image in my eyes. There was enough here to pique my interest for future installments. I just hope they have a little less dreary pacing issues and a little more of this:

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**”Hi, I’m not in this comic.”

Is this shallow criticism? You bet your ass it is. But what can I say? I love monsters. Give me more of them, Mr. Moore.

Final Grade: C-

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Lumberjanes REVIEW

Note: This review covers Volumes 1 & 2 of Lumberjanes (Issues 1 – 8)

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**Friendship to the max!**

Lumberjanes is the story about a quintet of best friends (Molly, Mal, Jo, April, and Ripley [my favorite character]) and the adventures they go on during their stay at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, where things are not what they seem. That is the only way I could pitch this book to someone without robbing them of the sheer delight that comes from reading each page.

What Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson have done is created the comic book equivalent to a Pixar movie. They have produced an all-ages intellectual property filled it with rich characters, heartwarming relationships(Mol + Mal 4ever), and fun adventures that only the coldest of hearts would not enjoy.

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*Oh, did I mention Molly has a pet raccoon that doubles as a hat?*

There’s so much warmth and humanity dripping from each page. The art is fluid and the creature designs are fun and often very inventive. This comic should be animated right now. I want to know who at Cartoon Network needs to get punched in the throat for not bidding on this property with enough money.

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*Yeah, that’s Ripley, my spirit animal* 

I can honestly say that Lumberjanes is the best “cartoon book” Ive ready since Jeff Smith’s Bone.

Lumberjanes is a goddamn delightful comic. If you don’t have a big, dumb smile plastered across your face while you read each page, you are dead inside. This is the truth. Do not argue. Go read it. Buy a copy and give it to your daughter. Buy it for your Father. Buy it for your friends who don’tread comics. There is no excuse not to love this one.

I plan to continue reading this book. I feel like this review may have been a little premature since I’ve only gotten through a third of the issues that are out, but I just had to write about it. I adore this book. And if issues 9 – 24 are half as charming as the first 8, this series is gonna be just fine.

Final Grade: A

 

 

 

 

 

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40 Bullets: Captain America: Civil War **SPOILERS!!!**

So after I jotted down 40 thoughts about the abysmal Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I felt it would be fun to do that again, but this time, for a movie I actually really liked loved. Let’s talk about Captain America: Civil War.

The following is in no specific order. Sometimes the bullet points run into one another, and sometimes they are disparate.

Warning: Spoilers like a mufucka from here on out! If you have not seen this movie, turn back now. Otherwise, here were go:

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  1. I don’t want to be one of those assholes who harps on how shitty BvS was, especially compared to this movie, but I’m gonna. DC needs to get its shit together. Marvel Studios has been banging out quality flicks for almost a decade now and they are not showing any real signs of slowing down. I’m two DC movies in and I already feel exhausted.
  2. Do we need to see our Superheroes fight each other? Well, sure, just so long as it makes sense.
  3. Smart choice on making Redwing a robot.
  4. “Don’t thank me, thank Redwing.” “I’m not thanking that thing.”
  5. This movie was filled with personal vendettas, and I like that. This might be the most personal Marvel movie.
  6. Black Panther was great. I’m not super familiar with the character (I knew enough to appreciate his presence in the film), but I feel like they explained him really well and made it easy for non comic readers to grasp (He’s a badass African version of The Phantom with a cool suit, got it? Good).
  7. Um, I feel like they never said T’Challa’s name in the movie. Maybe I just missed it.
  8. Wasn’t Black Panther a Defender at one point in the comics? That’d be cool is he showed up in Daredevil or Jessica Jones. It’d be a nice little nod.
  9. Chadwick Boseman was awesome (he’s awesome in everything).
  10. You know, Black Panther would have totally ruined Bucky’s world if Cap hadn’t stepped in.
  11. I loved how everyone called T’Challa “Prince” or “Your Highness”
  12. Iron Man is an asshole. He’s right about the Sokovia Accords but he’s still an asshole.
  13. Cap and Bucky’s bro love is soooo strong in this movie. I mean, I get it. Steve Rogers is from a foregone era, and Bucky is his last connection to that world. I’d want to preserve it at any cost, too.
  14. They killed Peggy Carter off screen? That’s kinda lame. I guess we got our old Peggy/young Steve fill in The Winter Soldier.
  15. I loved, loved, LOVED Falcon and Bucky’s relationship. They were jealous of each other. One is Cap’s old BBF and one is his new BBF.
  16. “Can you move your seat up?” “No.”
  17. Hawkeye just kinda showed up out of nowhere. I feel like there was a scene missing that was needed to explain him being there.
  18. I like the Wanda/Vision relationship. I thought it was sweet.
  19. I also like the Wanda/Vision fight. I thought it was rad.
  20. I really liked this version of Baron Zemo. I felt like his plan made way more sense than Luthor’s did in BvS (sorry for bringing it up again) and there was actual emotional weight. I feel like part of it is just Daniel Bruhl being such a damn good actor.
  21. “The world of the living is not yet done with you.” – T’Challa (he is so fucking awesome).
  22. Please make a Black Widow and Hawkeye movie. I would watch the shit out of that.
  23. “Something just flew inside me!” I love Paul Rudd.
  24. “Give me back my Rhodey!” I love RDJ
  25. Holy shit, they crippled War Machine. That was fucked up. Nice one, Vision…you big dummy.
  26. When this happened: this My wife leaned over and asked if I just nerded out. The answer was, “yes.”
  27. Crossbones dying early was a little bothersome, but it was a nice nod to Nitro in the comic series.
  28. On the other hand, Crossbones going boom pretty much guaranteed Cap was making it out alive, for better or worse.
  29. Dude, Tony had Cap dead to rights in the end. Instead of giving him one more warning, he should have shot his ass out of the building and taken Bucky captive. Jeez…
  30. “That shield doesn’t belong to you!” That was kind of brutal.
  31. Dude, Iron Man blasted Bucky’s metal arm completely off, which was pretty damn cool.
  32. The Winter Soldier strangled Tony’s mom…with his real handThat’s brutal.
  33. “Do you remember them?” “I remember all of them.” That exchange gave me chills.
  34. Stowing Bucky away in Wakanada made sense. It was also nice to see T’Challa work things out in a sensible way and grant amnesty. Also, we got to see those rad panther statues.
  35. Spider-Man was fantastic. Tom Holland knocked it out of the park. Honestly, the scene when Tony went to visit Peter felt like it was taking place in a different movie, but it didn’t pump the brakes on the film, overall. It was actually a nice little reprieve.
  36. I cannot wait for Spider-Man: Homecoming.
  37. I also can’t wait for the Black Panther solo flick. Now that we got basically his origin story out of the way, we can focus on T’Challa being a badass even more.
  38. Where is Thanos? I mean, this was a pretty big movie and we’re marching closer and closer to Infinity Wars. We have like, what, four more movies between now and then? I feel like there is going to be a lot of ground to cover. Maybe Doctor Strange and GoTG Vol. 2 will shorten the story gap.
  39. Please don’t take your fucking kids to this movie. I know they like superheroes, but this is not a kids movie (I’m looking at you, dumb dad in the front row).
  40. Behind Guardians of the Galaxy and the first Avengers movie, this is my third favorite Marvel Studios joint. Thank you for continuing to be awesome, Marvel.

 

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Batman: Earth One REVIEW

Note: This review covers Batman: Earth One volumes 1 and 2.

 

Let’s talk about Batman.        

It’s pretty much an inarguable fact that superheroes, especially heroes like the Dark Knight and Superman, are so omnipresent in pop culture and that they have become humanity’s New Greek Mythos. Hell, several writers of comics and film utilize this in their storytelling to the point to where it’s downright annoying.

These characters are more than just their names. They are symbols. They represent the best (and worst) in us. People across the globe know their origins and back stories. They know their weaknesses and victories. They know their deaths and rebirths. These heroes have been dissected to pieces by children, comic nerds, and academics alike (in some cases, this is the same person in different periods of their life). It’s amazing how something as simple as a guy in a cape or a woman with a magic lasso can wiggle their way into the mindscape of the general populous and stay there for the better part of a century.

But of all the titans that have made such a splash, the one hero of our pop culture pantheon that is truly immortal, both within their own fictional universe and in the real world, is Batman.

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*See? Everyone loves this dude.*

Hear me out. Batman is truly a symbol… yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard that one before. And I’m well aware other heroes are symbols, too, but here’s the thing:

If you kill Clark Kent, guess what? No more Superman.

You kill Diana Prince? Adios, Wonder Woman.

But if you kill Bruce Wayne? Fuck it! Who cares? We got a backup Batman, son!

Oh, and if you kill Dick Grayson? No worries, we got another one, yo…and another one after that and another after that, because it doesn’t matter who is under the cape and cowl; it just matters that there is a cape and cowl.

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#squadgoals 

Now, I know that comics have toyed with this exact character principal in the past (i.e. Danny Rand as Daredevil, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson as Cap, etc.), but I feel like no one has been able to reach on the same levels of overbearing iconography as ol’ Bats (maybe it’s just because he’s been around longer, I don’t know).  But Batman is important. Not Bruce Wayne. BATMAN.

Everyone agree? Good. So now with that being established, the question is how many times can we retell the origin of Batman before the audience gets completely fucking sick of it? The answer to that probably varies depending on your age. I know, I’m tired of it.

I’m in my 30s and I grew up watching the Tim Burton Batman movies, which led to Batman the Animated Series, then those god awful Schumacher flicks, followed by Jeph Loeb’s comic work, then Frank Miller’s Goddamn Batman, then Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and finally the utter shitfest that was BVS. All told, I’ve must have seen Martha and Thomas Wayne get gunned down in an alley followed by a training montage dozens of times.

Gunshot! Pearls! Crying! Training! Crime fighting! We get it!

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**This old chestnut**

That’s why I find it impressive when a comic book can make that tragic story interesting again. Enter: Batman Earth One.

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*WEEEEEE! OW! Fuck!*

This is a simple retelling of the Batman mythos that blends previous incarnations of the caped crusader and then homogenizes him to the bare essentials of what makes Batman Batman.

Writer, Geoff Johns and artist, Gary Frank present a Batman tale that exploits the shortcomings of the beloved character and humanize Bruce Wayne in a way very few writers have done before (at least not as affecting). Bruce isn’t likable in this story, but he’s not supposed to be. He’s a goddamn nut job. And with the help of the coolest version of Alfred ever, his nuttiness is cultivated into a weapon, one that doesn’t work in every situation.

This version of Batman is kind of a dipshit, too. He’s self-righteous. He’s overzealous. He makes bad calls. He’s the most believable on-page version of Batman I’ve read since Batman: Year One.

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*What a dummy…*

But what makes Earth One work is the remix of supporting characters: all the faces are familiar, but their stories and motivations differ from what we’re used to, and it’s quite refreshing.

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*Some things never change.*

There are elements that don’t always sing, however. There’s a interesting character gender swap that sort of petters out. And the Earth One version of Jim Gordon is basically standard Jimbo. Nothing really new or appealing, .

I don’t know if Johns and Franks have plans for a third graphic novel. Volume 2 ended rather abruptly with a lot still on the plate. I’ve never been this hungry to learn more about an already established character, but when the preparation is so fresh and unique (while not diverging from what makes the character work in the first place) it whets my comic palate like a son of a bitch.

These books are worth your time, especially if you’re a Batman fan (I mean, who isn’t?).

Final Grade: B+

 

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