The Weekly Round-Up #146 With The Walking Dead, Godzilla, Spider-Men #5, Wonder Woman #0 & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

The Walking Dead #102

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
A lot of times in comics, when a main character in a comic is killed off, within three issues, it’s like they never existed.  Not so when Robert Kirkman kills someone important – their presence continues to be felt in the book for quite some time, such as when Rick had phone conversations with Lori long after she was gone.

Kirkman killed off a pretty important character in issue 100, and while I was sad to see that character go, I do like how his loss is being shown as affecting the entire population of the book (I’m going to great lengths to avoid identifying the character, because I’d hate to be the one to spoil it for the trade-waiters).  Now, the entire community is being threatened by Negan and his band of ‘Saviors’, and Rick is getting cold feet.

Most of this issue is spent with Rick, Michonne, and others suffering through their own version of survivor’s guilt, which ultimately leads Rick to accepting Negan’s terms.  He’s decided that peaceful subservience has more value than risking the remaining members of the community in a battle that he doesn’t think he can win against larger numbers.  This is Rick though, so there may be something more going on…

As always, Kirkman delivers a story full of emotion and good, strong characters.  The loss of that particular character is clearly being felt by the entire Community, and the quiet moments that fill this issue carry great emotional weight.  Also as always, Adlard and Rathburn render this emotion perfectly.  I love this series (even when there isn’t a single ‘walker’ around).

Other Notable Comics:

Dark Horse Presents #16

Written by Phil Stanford, John Layman, David Chelsea, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Carla Speed McNeil, Erika Alexander, Tony Puryear, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Corben, Nate Cosby, Bo Hampton, Robert Tinnell, and Chad Lambert
Art by Patric Reynolds, Sam Kieth, David Chelsea, Tony Akins, Carla Speed McNeil, Tony Puryear, Richard Corben, Evan Shaner, Bo Hampton, and Apri Kusbiantoro
Another month, another collection of short comics of varying topic and quality.  Let’s see what was impressive…

Of course, I continue to love Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder the best.  This episode has Jaeger wandering the desert looking for water, which is the way to complete the ritual he began last month.  I love the complexity of McNeil’s world, although I do really miss the explanatory notes that she has filled her collections with – not because I need them to understand the story, but because they help me appreciate how truly layered and well-realized her fiction is.  The colours this month, done by Jenn Manly Lee and Bill Mudron, look very different from what we’ve seen before.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, probably the two most prolific writers and idea creators in comics, start Deep Sea this month.  Usually these two work for DC or Image, and it’s interesting to see them providing a story for DHP when they could just as easily include it in their own anthology Creator-Owned Heroes (unless, of course, there is no one heroic in their comic).  This is an ocean bottom exploration/love story/potential time travel story, and it looks pretty interesting.  Art by Tony Akins never hurts.

Concrete Park has another good chapter, as the two strands of the story get closer to colliding.  Tony Puryear and his crew have really caught my attention with this series, and I look forward to seeing where this is going.

Richard Corben adapts Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Berenice’, a strange story about an obsessive young man who marries a woman with alluring teeth.  For some reason Corben adds a gender-bending element to the story that is probably not in the original, and it makes the story extra disturbing and bizarre.

Chad Lambert returns with another comic memoir about his days in the radio industry.  I particularly appreciated the love Lambert shows for my all-time favourite sitcom ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’, both literally and figuratively.  What is it about Cincinnati and autobiographical comics anyway?

John Layman and Sam Kieth’s strange Aliens story takes a turn for the worse again, mostly due to Kieth’s rushed-looking art.  Bo Hampton’s Riven continues to feel like a big part of the story is missing, and Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner’s Buddy Cops continues to be amusing, but not my cup of tea.  David Chelsea’s ‘The Girl With the Keyhole Eyes’ is a cool idea that is being done to death; I think if this free-form thought poem of a comic were shorter, it would be much less exasperating.

The new serial, ‘Crime Does Not Pay’, by Phil Stanford and Patric Reynolds was pretty underwhelming.  The trick with crime comics is to not make them be something everyone has read multiple times before.  This is not that.

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #2

by James Stokoe

The longevity and popularity is something that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Ultimately, all Godzilla stories have to be about the people trying to kill the giant monster, and they can never succeed in their mission.  There’s not a lot there that makes for sustained runs in comics or movies, unless a stream of new monsters is introduced.

Why then, if I have no real interest in the franchise, am I buying Godzilla comics?  The answer is easy – James Stokoe.  This gifted and unique cartoonist brings his wonderfully detailed and strange art style to the big green monster, and therefore is keeping me captivated.

This series follows a Japanese officer, Ota Murakami, who has devoted his life to following the creature and trying to stop him from destroying cities.  This issue is set thirteen years after the last, as Godzilla wanders his way through the middle of Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.  Ota has been sent by his government to work with the US Army and a very manga-looking professor (you know you know what I mean), who has big experimental masers he wants to use.

The issue follows the standard Godzilla set ups and tropes, including the inevitable appearance of a second creature.  It’s a very nice looking comic; Stokoe continues to work his usual magic, and that ensures that I’ll be back next issue for more.

The Li’l Depressed Boy #13

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace
How long can a series survive on charm alone?  Really, were this book able to keep on schedule, I would have dropped it a while ago, but when I was putting in my pre-orders, the series was still enchanting me.  There are two or three more issues left before I’m done, so there’s always hope that it will pick up enough to lure me back.

Truthfully, I like this comic, but it’s way too decompressed and slow-moving to keep my attention.  In this issue, the LDB has a dream, goes on a date, almost gets promoted at work, and is given news that is mildly annoying about his blossoming relationship with his boss, which appears to completely devastating.

A big part of what is turning me off of this book is the ambiguity of it.  When a popcorn popper mishap causes the LDB to be kicked off the concession stand, I was left with no understanding of what he did wrong.  When Spike tells him that he can’t be open about his dating her, we see a full-page picture of him maybe looking sad, but I don’t know why.

Also, since I’m complaining so much, I’m totally worn out by the way that ironic, pop-culture referencing is used in the place of conversation between characters.  Joss Whedon can pull that off.  It seems that S. Steven Struble can’t.

While I’m complaining a lot about this comic, I do enjoy it.  I think the problem is formatting – if this was a nice, thick (300+ pages) manga-sized book that came out every couple of years, I’d probably love it.

The Revival #3

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton
Revival opens with a scene that excited me like few have in comics in the last few years.  The scene has the series’s main character, Dana, visiting her sister Martha in her dorm room at university.  On the walls of Martha’s room are posters advertising Doomtree’s No Kings, and Dessa’s Castor, The Twin.  I am a huge Doomtree (the hip-hop collective that is home to the immensely talented Dessa, among others) fan, but usually think of them as ‘my band’, despite them selling out shows every time they play here in Toronto, and being huge in the Midwest.  It makes sense that they’d be big in a school in Wisconsin, since they are based in Minnesota themselves.  I don’t know who among the Revival crew is a fan, if Tim Seeley specified this in his script, or if Mike Norton drew them in of his own accord, but it made my day.

The good news continues, because after that, there was a whole great comic to read and enjoy!  Revival is a very cool ‘rural noir’ comic, involving a region of Wisconsin where the dead have been coming back to life, and are clearly showing signs of being emotionally disturbed.  It’s creepy and strange, as we see people reacting to their loved ones behaving in ways that are radially different from normal.

We’re three issues in, and Tim Seeley is still introducing new elements to the story.  We get a plotline involving an older Hmong woman who thinks she understands what has been going on, and wants to give the exclusive to a young Hmong reporter.  We also see young Martha continuing to act bizarrely, as her sister is put back onto the police revivalist task force, newly paired with a doctor from the CDC.

There’s a lot going on that Seeley is not explaining yet (such as the appearances by an alien-looking creature in the woods), and that is why I keep coming back.  This is an interesting series with some incredible Mike Norton art, and it’s worth checking out.

The Unwritten #41

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The last arc of The Unwritten was set some time after Tom Taylor’s big showdown with The Cabal, and Tom only appeared at the very end of it.  Reading that last issue, there was a sense that many things had happened to Tom in-between appearances, and that is what this issue sets out to explain.

It opens with Richie Savoy, the vampire journalist, bringing an existentially wounded Tom to Villa Diodati, the Taylor estate in Switzerland where the series more or less began.  Tom spends most of the issue in a near-coma state, leaving Richie to look after him and to converse with the various ghosts who suddenly appear all around him.  These are the ghosts of the series – the writers who were slaughtered in the Villa, Tom’s ex-girlfriends who were killed by The Cabal, and Miriam Walzer, Wilson Taylor’s lover.  Mme. Rausch also makes an appearance, which helps to explain why Richie later went to visit her.

Richie is the focus of this issue, and through his experiences in it, he comes to a few realizations about just how Tom’s powers work, and what happens to the people around him.  As always with The Unwritten, it is very well-written and marvellously illustrated.

Quick Takes:

Avengers Academy #37 – A decent but unremarkable issue, as the team finishes their fight with Jeremy Briggs, and one of the team makes a questionable decision, and Jocasta suddenly has new, unexplained abilities.  I’ve liked this series, but as with many comics that are reaching their end, I find myself losing interest.

Batwoman #0 – Reading this issue, I was struck by how far JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman had come as writers.  This zero issue recaps much of Kate’s origin and journey to becoming Batwoman, as seen through the lens of her relationship with her father.  It relies heavily on the ground laid by Greg Rucka, but it is a very effective story, and a great jumping on point for a new reader.  It brought out Kate’s likeability in a way that is sometimes absent.  Of course, the entire book is frigging beautiful, but when Williams is handling the art, that goes without saying.  I’m sure some people will make much of the fact that Batman is shown with the traditional blue costume and yellow oval on his chest, which probably doesn’t line up with ‘New 52′ continuity, but to me, this is a gorgeous and almost perfect comic.

Daredevil #18 – Matt Murdock’s time as a happy-go-lucky lawyer seem to be coming to a close, as his friendship with Foggy is over, and now his insane ex-wife comes to visit (or does she?).  Mark Waid is really putting Matt through his paces, in a story that is paced masterfully, and beautifully drawn by Chris Samnee.  This continues to be one of Marvel’s best books.

Dark Avengers #181 – I’ve gone from really enjoying Thunderbolts under Jeff Parker to finding Dark Avengers incredibly tedious.  This storyline (really a double-storyline) has gone on way too long, and I think that it’s time to let go.  Too bad I put the book back on my pull-list after the name change, when I saw how little it had changed.  Of course, since then, Neil Edwards has taken over the art, which was not a good thing.  I don’t see myself sticking with this after Marvel Now! hits.

Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum – Another month, another Mignolaverse one-shot that doesn’t add anything to the character.  This time around, the Lobster fights some Nazis in the skies above New York long before the war begins.  The plot involves poison gas and zeppelins, which means Tonci Zonjic gets to draw some cool stuff, but like all of these one-shots lately, I come away with nothing to remember about it.

Nightwing #0 – There are some things I don’t understand about this book, like why Tom DeFalco had to come in and help Kyle Higgins, who has been doing an admirable job with this title and character.  We get a retelling of the standard Dick Grayson origin, with some wise updates woven into the story, such as Bruce not immediately taking in Dick as his ‘ward’.  There are a few things that don’t work though, like Dick figuring out that Bruce is Batman because they both get stress headaches.  Batman may get headaches, but he wouldn’t stop to massage his temple through his cowl.  As well, Lady Shiva is shoe-horned into Dick’s first outing as Robin, simply because she’s going to be the villain in the next issue.  That’s lame.  I do like that Dick practiced parkour before his parent’s died.

Spider-Men #5 – This 616/Ultimate meet-up ends very satisfactorily, as Brian Michael Bendis has both Spider-Men, and the Ultimates, shut down Mysterio’s odd plan.  The best parts of the book involve Peter and Miles interacting, and the very last page is perfect.  Sara Pichelli gets most of the credit for making this series such a success – her character work is incredible.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #15 – As Americans vote for a new President, Captain America defies orders to lead the Ultimates into the new Western Nation when its leaders begin to execute American refugees.  The outcome of this issue has been obvious for a while, even if one has managed to avoid all the spoilers circulating the media, but the story is told very well.  Sam Humphries is doing good work on this title (although I’d rather be reading new issues of Sacrifice).

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #15 – Another great issue, as Brian Michael Bendis brings this book more in line with the other Ultimate Comics.  Miles is interviewed by the police in regards to his uncle’s death, and later decides to go joing the Ultimates.  What makes this book work so well is the strong character work by Bendis, and the wonderful art by David Marquez.

Wonder Woman #0 – Wonder Woman has been one of the most consistent and best New 52 books, but this zero issue is kind of strange.  Brian Azzarello is channeling his inner Stan Lee with this story of Diana’s education at the hands of Ares before her thirteenth birthday.  One issue that needs to be addressed with these books is Wonder Woman’s age.  One recent issue has her stating her age as 23 (which would make her 18 in Justice League’s first arc), and this issue shows her twelfth and thirteenth birthdays, but they look like they are set long ago (unless the Cretan Minotaur is really, really old).  It’s odd.  Still, this is a lovely issue, thanks to Cliff Chiang; it just doesn’t add much to the series, and feels like a filler.

X-Factor #244 – I don’t know if X-Factor is heading for a total relaunch, or if Peter David is just shaking up the status quo of the series, but he’s really working hard at clearing the large cast out of the picture.  He’s taken care of Guido and Rahne lately, mucked around with Lorna, and now wants Theresa out of the way.  Truthfully, it’s getting a little tired, and the big character changes she goes through now seem silly, and destined for retconning out of existence the next time someone wants to use the character.  I’m getting really tired of this series.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Avengers #30

Mighty Thor #20

Untold Tales of the Punisher MAX #4

Bargain Comics:

Astonishing X-Men #48 & 49 – Marjorie Liu has a pretty cool squad of X-Men here, with characters like Northstar, Warbird, Karma and Cecilia Reyes getting some much-needed screentime.  This collection of X-Men comes together naturally, when a bunch of villains like the Marauders show up (including Vanisher, who died in X-Force and used to have tattoos) and start causing mayhem even they can’t understand.  Mostly though, these two issues are used to build up Northstar’s relationship with Kyle prior to the proposal that comes with issue 50.  I like Liu’s writing, and always like Mike Perkins’s art, although I wonder about the editing that allows Northstar to be called Jean-Claude numerous times.

Worlds’ Finest #3 & 4 – This Power Girl and Huntress comic is not bad.  It has terrific artwork by George Perez and Kevin Maguire (one handling the part of the book set in the present, the other the flashbacks), and decent writing by Paul Levitz, aside from Kara’s strange need to make suggestive comments all the time.  Ultimately, this is a decent enough superhero book, but it’s not something that really stands out.

Album of the Week:

Spiritual Jazz 3: Europe – This series of European jazz from the late 1960s and early 1970s is incredible, and this newest volume is just as good as the predecessors.  I’m not much for spirituality, and the occasionally explicitly religious track does annoy me, but overall, this is a beautiful disc.

What would you like to know?