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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disney Buys Lucasfilm, “Star Wars” Franchise for $4 Billion



(Originally from Cartoon Brew.)



It’s not April Fools’ Day. The Walt Disney Company is acquiring Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise for $4.05 billion. The press release:



Global leader in high-quality family entertainment agrees to acquire world-renowned Lucasfilm Ltd, including legendary STAR WARS franchise.



Acquisition continues Disney’s strategic focus on creating and monetizing the world’s best branded content, innovative technology and global growth to drive long-term shareholder value.



Lucasfilm to join company’s global portfolio of world class brands including Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel and ABC.



STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 feature film targeted for release in 2015.

An investor conference call will take place at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 p.m. PDT today, October 30, 2012. Details for the call are listed in the release.



BURBANK, Calif. & SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.



Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.



“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”



“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”



Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and “evergreen” Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.



Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.



Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm’s legendary Star Wars franchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks. Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world’s top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney’s strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.



The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney’s very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company’s unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney’s portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company’s ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world’s highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders.

The Boards of Directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement has been approved by the sole shareholder of Lucasfilm.



Note: Additional information and comments from Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company, and Jay Rasulo, senior executive vice president and CFO, The Walt Disney Company, regarding Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, are attached.



Investor Conference Call:

An investor conference call will take place at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 p.m. PDT today, October 30, 2012. To listen to the Webcast, turn your browser to http://thewaltdisneycompany.com/investors/events or dial in domestically at (888) 771-4371 or internationally at (847) 585-4405. For both dial-in numbers, the participant pass code is 33674546.

The discussion will be available via replay on the Disney Investor Relations website through November 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM EST/2:00 PM PST.



ROBERT A. IGER, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY
REMARKS FOR ANALYSTS REGARDING DISNEY’S ACQUISITION OF LUCASFILM LTD., AS PREPARED


As we just announced, The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm and its world class portfolio of creative content – including the legendary Star Wars franchise – along with all of its operating businesses, including Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound.



George Lucas is a visionary, an innovator and an epic storyteller – and he’s built a company at the intersection of entertainment and technology to bring some of the world’s most unforgettable characters and stories to screens across the galaxy. He’s entertained, inspired, and defined filmmaking for almost four decades and we’re incredibly honored that he has entrusted the future of that legacy to Disney.



Disney has had a great relationship with George that goes back a long way – with Star Wars theme attractions in our parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo. This acquisition builds on that foundation and combines two of the strongest family entertainment brands in the world. It makes sense, not just because of our brand compatibility and previous success together, but because Disney respects and understands – better than just about anyone else – the importance of iconic characters and what it takes to protect and leverage them effectively to drive growth and create value.



Lucasfilm fits perfectly with Disney’s strategic priorities. It is a sustainable source of branded, high quality creative content with tremendous global appeal that will benefit all of Disney’s business units and is incredibly well suited for new business models, including digital platforms. Adding the Lucasfilm IP to our existing Disney, Pixar and Marvel IP clearly enhances our ability to serve consumers, strengthening our competitive position — and we are confident we can earn a return on invested capital well in excess of our cost of capital.



Star Wars in particular is a strong global brand, and one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with hundreds of millions of fans around the globe. Its universe of more than 17,000 characters inhabiting several thousand planets spanning 20,000 years offers infinite inspiration and opportunities – and we’re already moving forward with plans to continue the epic Star Wars saga.



The last Star Wars movie release was 2005’s Revenge of the Sith – and we believe there’s substantial pent up demand. In 2015, we’re planning to release Star Wars Episode 7 – the first feature film under the “Disney-Lucasfilm” brand. That will be followed by Episodes 8 and 9 – and our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years. We’re very happy that George Lucas will be creative consultant on our new Star Wars films and that Kathleen Kennedy, the current Co-Chair of Lucasfilm, will executive produce. George handpicked Kathy earlier this year to lead Lucasfilm into the future. She’ll join Disney as President of Lucasfilm, reporting into Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and integrating and building the Star Wars franchise across our company.



Our successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel prove Disney’s unique ability to grow brands and expand high-quality creative content to its fullest franchise potential and maximum value.



We’ve leveraged Pixar’s terrific characters and stories into franchises across our company – from feature films to consumer products online games, major attractions in our theme parks, and more.



The 2006 Pixar acquisition delivered more than great Pixar content — it also delivered the means to energize and revitalize the creative engine at Walt Disney Animation – which was crucial to our long term success. Animation is the heart and soul of Disney and our successful creative resurgence will be on full display this weekend when Wreck-It-Ralph opens in theaters across the country.



Our acquisition of Marvel three years later combined Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and an integrated business structure that maximizes the value of creative content across multiple platforms and territories. Our first two Marvel films – Thor and Captain America grossed a total of more than $800 million at the box office. This year, Marvel’s The Avengers grossed more than $1.5 billion to become the world’s third highest grossing movie of all time – and an important and lucrative franchise for us.



We’re looking forward to a robust slate of new Marvel movies – starting with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World next year, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014. And, as we announced previously, Joss Whedon is writing and directing Avengers 2 and developing a Marvel-based series for ABC.



Pixar and Marvel both fit our criteria for strategic acquisitions – they add great IP that benefits multiple Disney businesses for years to come, and continue to create value well in excess of their purchase price. The acquisition of Lucasfilm is in keeping with this proven strategy for success and we expect it to create similar opportunity for Disney to drive long-term value for our shareholders.



We’re clearly excited about this move forward. We believe we can do great things with these amazing assets….we have a proven track record of maximizing the value of our strategic acquisitions…. and we’re poised to do the same with this one.


JAY RASULO, SENIOR EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CFO, THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY
REMARKS FOR ANALYSTS REGARDING DISNEY’S ACQUISITION OF LUCASFILM LTD., AS PREPARED


Lucasfilm, and more specifically the Star Wars franchise, fits perfectly within the Disney portfolio of intellectual properties and the strategic and financial implications of this acquisition are compelling. Our team has spent a tremendous amount of time evaluating this deal and we have concluded we are uniquely positioned to maximize the value of Lucasfilm’s IP in a manner that can generate substantial value for our shareholders above and beyond the purchase price.



In this transaction we will acquire rights to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, a highly talented and expert team, Lucasfilm’s best-in-class post production businesses, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound, and a suite of cutting edge entertainment technologies. Our valuation focused almost entirely on the financial potential of the Star Wars franchise, which we expect to provide us with a stream of storytelling opportunities for years to come delivered via all relevant platforms on a global basis.



There are a number of ways our company will derive value from Lucasfilm’s intellectual property—some of which can be realized immediately while others will accrue to us over time. George and his team have built Star Wars into one of the most successful and enduring family entertainment franchises in history, as well as one of the best selling licensed character merchandise brands in the U.S. and around the world. However, we believe there is great opportunity to further expand the consumer products business. Today, Star Wars is heavily skewed toward toys and North America. We see great opportunity domestically to extend the breadth and depth of the Star Wars franchise into other categories. We also plan to leverage Disney’s global consumer products organization to grow the Star Wars consumer products business internationally.



Let me note that in 2012 Lucasfilm’s consumer products business is expected to generate total licensing revenue that is comparable to the roughly $215 million in consumer products revenue Marvel generated in 2009, the year in which we announced our acquisition. With renewed film releases, and the support we can give the Star Wars property on our Disney-branded TV channels, we expect that business to grow substantially and profitably for many years to come.



We also expect to create significant value in the film business. We plan to release the first new Star Wars film in 2015, and then plan to release one film every two to three years. These films will be released and distributed as part of our target slate of 8-10 live-action films per year, and will augment Disney’s already strong creative pipeline for many years to come. Lucasfilm has not released a Star Wars film since Revenge of the Sith in 2005. However, adjusted for inflation, as well as growth in both international box office and 3D, we estimate the three most recent Star Wars films would have averaged about $1.5 billion in global box office in today’s dollars. This speaks to the franchise’s strength, global appeal and the great opportunity we have in the film business.



We also expect to utilize Star Wars in other businesses including Parks & Resorts, in games and in our television business. These initiatives were also considered in our valuation.



Under the terms of the agreement, Disney will buy Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, consisting of approximately fifty percent cash and fifty percent in Disney stock. Based on Friday’s closing price of Disney stock, we expect to issue approximately 40 million Disney shares in this transaction. We continue to believe our shares are attractively priced at current levels and therefore, we currently intend to repurchase all of the shares issued within the next two years– and that’s in addition to what we planned to repurchase in the absence of the transaction.



Our valuation of Lucasfilm is roughly comparable to the value we placed on Marvel when we announced that acquisition in 2009. Our Lucasfilm valuation is almost entirely driven by the Star Wars franchise, so any success from other franchises would provide upside to our base case. I realize it may be a challenge for you to quantify our opportunity given the limited amount of publicly available information. But to give you some perspective on the size of the Lucasfilm business– in 2005, the year in which the most recent Star Wars film was released, Lucasfilm generated $550 million in operating income. We’ve taken a conservative approach in our valuation assumptions, including continued erosion of the home entertainment market, and we expect this acquisition to create value for our shareholders.



In terms of the impact on our financials, we expect the acquisition to be dilutive to our EPS by low single digit percentage points in fiscal 2013 and 2014 and become accretive to EPS in 2015.



Our capital allocation philosophy has been consistent since Bob took over as CEO. In addition to returning capital to shareholders, we have invested, both organically and through acquisitions, in high quality, branded content that can be seamlessly leveraged across our businesses. Our acquisition of Lucasfilm is entirely consistent with this strategy, and we’re incredibly excited by the prospect of building on Lucasfilm’s successful legacy to create significant value for our shareholders.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Crisis on Infinite Earths






Title: Crisis on Infinite Earths



ISBN: 1563897504

Price: $29.99

Publisher/Year: DC, 2000

Artist: George Perez

Writer: Marv Wolfman

Collects: Crisis on Infinite Earths
#1-12



Rating: 3/5





Most fans have at least heard of DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths,
the maxi-series that reinvented the "reality" of the oldest
consistently publishing comic book company. At long last (well, at the tail end
of 2000) DC released the epic in a trade paperback for those who missed it
either in its original serialized format, or in its pricey hardcover version.





I had never read the series. In 1985 comics were getting pricey (I had
no idea just how pricey they'd become, of course) and the great reads seemed
few and farther between. When DC announced it was overhauling its line with
Crisis, I decided it was time for me to go, too. Eventually I fell back into
reading comics and inevitably my curiosity led me to reading Crisis on Infinite
Earths. I mention all this just to put my opinion in perspective -- I read it
16 years after the fact.





The story has a mysterious villain destroying whole universes,
whittling away at DC's multiverse -- wherein earths existed in parallel
dimensions, each with its own superheroes. An enigmatic, omnipotent being,
Monitor, is determined to preserve as many of the universes as possible and
gathers together heroes from various universes to help. Eventually the heroes
triumph, but the end result is that reality has been remade as a single
universe where all the characters either co-exist...or no longer exist.





Crisis was, obviously, an awesome undertaking, a story that attempted
to throw in almost every character in the DC catalogue. There probably isn't
another artist who could have handled the task as well as George Perez --
certainly not who was working at the time. He crams each page with tiny panels
and crams the panels with little details and finely drawn, impeccable figure
work, all laid out with edgy panel composition. For pure quantity, you get your
money's worth. Writer Marv Wolfman holds up his end by providing lots of
dialogue. Sometimes the panels are so small and the dialogue so much that
letterer John Constanza has to spill word balloons into neighboring panels.
It's a 12 issue series that, in other hands, probably would've been 24 issues.





Is Crisis a good read? Well, yes.





It's a big spectacle that can be fun just for the sheer number of
characters, featuring (literally) an earth-shattering menace, and buoyed by
Perez's art, aided by inkers Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo, and, mainly, Jerry
Ordway (an overwhelming inker, admittedly -- sometimes you can find yourself
forgetting it's Perez's pencils underneath Ordway's inks). For older readers,
the story evokes all those old Justice League/Justice Society team ups that
were an annual event in the Justice League of America comics throughout the '60s,
'70s and early '80s.





Is Crisis a great read? Well, no.





There are too many characters. Admittedly that's the point: to squeeze
everyone in. Almost everyone gets a line, true, but very few get a lot of
lines, or very good lines (even A-list heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman have
just bit parts). The plot unfolds a little too linearly -- despite the fact
that it leaps around from the far future to the distant past, jumping from
reality to reality. Wolfman basically comes up with his premise...then sticks
with it for 350 pages. There are some questions that keep us turning pages (who
is Pariah? what is the Monitor's plan? etc.) but considering the saga's size,
unexpected plot turns are few. There's repetition, particularly in the first
half, with too few moments that gel into memorable scenes in and of themselves.
The "action" tends to be a lot of scenes of mass fisticuffs.





The use of the god-like Monitor, and some subsequent characters, helps
push the story along, but it reduces the familiar heroes too often to being
kind of unthinking props who just go where they're told. Considering this was
the swan song for some of the characters, it's disappointing. Wolfman also
introduces brand new characters, spotlighting them sometimes at the expense of
the established heroes. The irony is that most of the original characters
introduced have long since faded into obscurity!





The saga is better in the last half than the first, and a couple of
double-sized issues (#7 and the concluding #12) stand out, the greater pages
allowing Wolfman and Perez to shape more well-rounded chapters.





There are technical lapses, as is probably unavoidable when dealing
with the warping of time and space and reality -- spots where you find yourself
going, "hey, that don't make sense", or where Wolfman glosses over
plot points. And at one point Captain Marvel Jr. refers to Mary Marvel as his
"sister" and the Golden Age Superman is more powerful than I
remembered. And since this was a "crossover" epic -- one of the first
-- there are a few annoying spots where characters wander off and we're advised
that their adventure continues, not in the next issue of Crisis, but some other
comic entirely.





In the annals of mass slaughter depicted in comics, the hundreds of
billions cavalierly wiped out in Crisis is unmatched. To make matters worse, it
was not done out of any artistic desire, or to tell a great story, but simply
because DC Comics wanted to clean house. I don't want to get too metaphysical,
but when the heroes rage against the villain it's hard to get swept up in their
indignation. After all, he didn't kill billions...Marv Wolfman did. Likewise,
in the series’ most notorious twists -- the deaths of the original Supergirl
and the Silver Age Flash (not to mention Dove, Lori Lemaris, Aquagirl, the
earth 2 Huntress, and so on) -- there's some of the same ambivalence. It's hard
to be entirely moved because it was an editorial more than an artistic
decision. Supergirl and the Flash evince an atypical ruthlessness in their last
moments, too, which is curious.





Admittedly, all that's from the perspective of reading it years later,
when all of this is ancient history. At the time, it might have been more
powerful.





There's a little too much of the "Iconanism" that seems to
have become prevalent in comics. Where the Marvel Age was all about emphasizing
a superhero's humanity, the modern Iconic Age (as I think of it) is more about
Wagnerian chest beating, defining superheroes by their being superheroes. Even
when Wolfman tries to squeeze in character bits, it's mainly characters
reflecting on superheroism. If I read one more character musing what a
"true hero" another character was, I was liable to throw the comic
across the room. When Supergirl dies, we're treated to a half page eulogy
delivered by Batgirl at her funeral -- it's heavy handed, it's expository,
it's...Iconic! Far more affecting is a later, understated scene where Brainiac
5 is embittered because of Supergirl's death.





With that being said, #7 (with Supergirl's death) and #8 (Flash's
death) are among the better stand-alone issues -- not because of the deaths,
but the stories are more focused. Wolfman also shows an unusual sensitivity for
continuity by having the Golden Age Superman -- the hero that largely begat the
DC Comics empire in 1938 -- take a pivotal role in the climax.





The series was intended to redefine and clarify the DC Universe -- it
did neither. Even how the series ends (with the heroes remembering the
pre-Crisis) was instantly contradicted by the regular comics (where even
Supergirl went unremembered -- this despite Superman vowing to "miss her
forever"). Once DC opened the door to "redefining" its universe,
new editorial regimes have done so at least twice, so that even hardcore fans
aren't really sure what is, or is not, continuity. There's also an
uncomfortable tendency to brow beat. Knowing what they were doing was bound to
be controversial, Wolfman has the only character who bemoans the changes be a
raving lunatic in an asylum. A not-very-subtle way for Wolfman to get in a
pre-emptive swipe at his critics.





Crisis is arguably more craftsmanship than it is art, though it may
well be as good a version of the story as was possible given the parameters. Is
it the classic it is heralded as? Not really. It's a bit draggy in spots and I
can think of similar stories, both after and before, that were as good or
better. But it's still an enjoyable epic that reminds you when DC Comics'
reality was an interesting, diverse place to be.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In the beginning...

In the fall of 1984, my friend Scott lead me down the long, dark road I am on now when he introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons the day after my 10th birthday. At that time, TSR had "For ages 10+" on the covers of their materials... and for some reason, we adhered to that.



Starting in Basic and quickly moving my way through the ranks until finally getting to Advanced, I was hooked. I created characters based on movies I had watched. The Conan archetype was the first attempt, but wouldn't be my last. Here's some of the cast of TV and movie characters I remember making RPG characters for: [Mind you, this list is based on characters over the course of years and not just from D&D.]


  • Conan (The original movies, but I think I'd like to make one based off of the re-imagining staring Jason Mamoa.)

  • Madmartigan (Val Kilmer's character from the movie Willow.)

  • Gen. Kael (Another character from Willow.)

  • Bowen (Dennis Quaid's character from Dragonheart.)

  • Azeem (Morgan Freeman's memoriable character from Robin Hood, Prince of Theives.)

  • D (From Vampire Hunter D.)

  • Leon (The Professional)


The 80's also brought me visions of my first love: Tiamat. That probably sounds real wierd, but I've had a horrible appreciation for the 5-headed chromatic dragon since I first laid eyes upon her animated version in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. To this very day, Tiamat is close to my heart. Her's was the only D&D mini that I saved when I sold my collection and I have this printed signed and on the wall in my living room:



Thursday, October 25, 2012

1st post & mission statement

I go by many names:


  • Zanziber

  • Inking_zanziber

  • Wraith_Man

  • Starshadow


I've been playing roleplaying games since 1984. Dungeons & Dragons from TSR started it all, and now I am entrenched in White Wolf's classic World of Darkness; which I have been a fan of since 1992. I've been an active collector of RPG's since around 1997.



This blog is intended to post about my past experiences in gaming, my current struggles and observations on gaming and the gaming community, and thoughts on the future of the pen-and-paper format that has brought me so much joy and angst over the past several decades.



I have been a player, a dungeon master, a game master, a storyteller and whatever else you want to name the leader of the games. I hope to provide some interesting ideas to my readers and hope to help inspire a new generation of roleplayers.



Please don't think that the above statement makes me arrogant or egotistical. This is simply a hope that what I put out here helps someone in some, small way. In my own little way, I would like to continue the culture and experience that is the pen-and-paper RPG.



With the introduction of card games and online games, I see a decline in the number of people who actually gather to play traditional RPG's. I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory; "It runs on the world's most powerful graphics chip: Imagination." http://youtu.be/X1COk2tp7dg



I have also played a multitude of collectible card games as well, so I'll likely post about them as well. From Magic to Yu-Gi-Oh. I've had a little experience with miniature games as well, like Heroclix. I'll occasionally post about them, but they will not be a frequent source of material right now.



I welcome my readers to also join me on Facebook.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them








Title: The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them



ISBN: 9781607062547

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image,
2010


Artist:
Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard


Writer:
Robert Kirkman


Collects: The Walking Dead #67-72




Rating: 4/5





Any day where there’s a new
‘Walking Dead’ collection to be read is a good day indeed! Would that be the
case with this volume though...? ‘Life Among Them’ won’t go down as one of the
stand out installments in the series but it still has a lot going for it...



After what seems like a lifetime of wandering, our band of survivors might just
have found what they’ve been looking for all this time. A walled community
offers the chance to enjoy life as it was before the zombies came. Is it too
good to be true though? And are the secrets behind this new community any more
sinister than the issues brought inside by a group of traumatized survivors?
What will give first...?



We’re twelve volumes in now and when you get this far along with a series you
find that there’s really only so much that you can say about an artist who’s
been there almost right from the start. That’s the position I find myself in
with Charlie Adlard, an artist who has produced consistently good work (so far)
on his run. I did wonder, a while ago, if the series might benefit from a new
artist to freshen things up. Looking at it now though, Charlie’s art is ‘The
Walking Dead’ and it wouldn’t be the same without him. What I will say though
is that Adlard seems to work a lot better in the smaller panels than he does on
the larger ones or the two page spreads. The more space he has the less detail
seems to go into it. I guess deadlines and stuff can really work against you in
situations like that.



As far as the story goes...



‘Life Among Us’ is very much a book that is all about setting things up for
some pretty explosive events in future books. You don’t know what you can see
coming but you just know that something big is looming on the horizon. The
exciting thing is that it really could go either way. Is there something
sinister behind this new community or will Rick’s group do something really
stupid because they can’t trust anyone anymore? I’m into this series for the
long haul anyway and it’s questions like this that have kept me reading for a
few years now.




What I found though is that Kirkman perhaps draws the tension out a little bit
too much. You’re waiting and waiting and waiting... but there’s no real payoff.
This isn’t like when they were living in the prison where lots of little things
were happening on a regular basis. This new community has a stagnant feel to it
that weighs at the plot and makes things drag... I’ve still got faith that
something huge will happen in the next book though and there is something to be
said for the contrasts raised between the two groups in the meantime.



This approach is even more annoying in that a long running question (an
intriguing one too) is brushed to one side without much fuss. Cryptic remarks
from Eugene promised much but the revelation was flat to say the least. It
almost felt like Eugene’s sub-plot was brushed to one side so Kirkman could
concentrate on what was going on in the new community. The problem here though
is that Kirkman doesn’t really give us a lot in its place, just the promise of
something to come...



Kirkman hasn’t let me down yet so a curiously flat installment here feels like
more of a ‘blip’ than a real problem. There was enough here to keep me
interested and certainly enough to have me wondering just what will happen in
the next book. I’m pretty sure the payoff will be worth it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Walking Dead Volume 11: Fear the Hunters








Title: The Walking Dead Volume 11: Fear the Hunters



ISBN: 9781607061816

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image,
2009


Artist:
Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard


Writer:
Robert Kirkman


Collects: The Walking Dead #61-66




Rating: 4/5




‘What We Become’ went a long way towards this with Kirkman’s willingness to
shock (without overplaying it) working well with Adlard’s artwork capturing the
raw emotion and savagery in black and white. While it wasn’t the best
collection so far (which has to be ‘Made to Suffer’), ‘What We Become’
certainly set a tough act to follow for the next collection in the series. The
good news for fans is that ‘Fear the Hunters’ exceeds those expectations and
then some! If you haven’t checked these books out, you really should…





The
journey to Washington continues (give em’ a break, they’re going as fast as
they can!) with Rick and his band doing whatever they must to stay alive. The
land is suspiciously zombie free but is more dangerous than ever before. Rick
and his friends must cope with a horrifying revelation within the group as well
as the fact that another group is following them with murderous intentions on
their minds. Everyone has to eat…





Every
time I think that Kirkman can’t possibly top the last book he comes right out
and smacks me dead in the eyes with some seriously messed up behaviour in this post-apocalyptic
world. The zombies are almost superfluous to what’s going on here, Rick and his
friends (along with others) are more than capable of plumbing the depths of human
savagery all by themselves.





Living
in the middle of a zombie holocaust as a child (who probably can’t remember
what it was like before it all kicked off) is the theme of the day here and
Kirkman looks at this through the eyes of two of the children in the group. One
is mad (or at the very least not thinking straight at all), the other…? Well,
you never really know but one thing you can be sure of is that the pressure is
beginning to show. There’s a bittersweet ‘innocence lost’ vibe that runs along
the slightly insane ‘innocence that adjusts to its surroundings’ and the result
will have you really feeling for those of us who have to grow up too fast.
‘Intense’ is not the word for what goes on around this subplot as we see people
having to confront hard choices that they wouldn’t have even dreamed of in the
past. After the first death, I was surprised that none of the characters
thought to stop the corpse reanimating though. Did this happen ‘off-screen’ or
have we found something that Kirkman won’t show…? I don’t know…





If
that wasn’t enough, the ‘hunter’ sub-plot sees us say goodbye to one of the
longer term characters in a way that tugs at the heartstrings as well as making
you laugh as you see him have the last laugh on the people who put him in that
spot. Again you get to see just how low people will go in order to survive and
it leaves you wondering just how far you would go to do the same thing. Cold
logic papers over the cracks of insanity while giving in to your rage only
hastens that particular journey. At the same time, you also get to spend time
with characters that fight to keep their humanity no matter what and this shows
the reader that there is hope yet. The downward spiral may seem inevitable but
it’s not a path that you have to take.





The
final showdown is brutal, just as brutal as you would have come to expect from
both Kirkman and Rick Grimes himself. These are desperate times and you know
what they call for… Adlard’s art though, as excellent as it is, failed to keep
up with what Kirkman was trying to get over to the reader. It’s good but the
‘aftermath shots’ didn’t quite capture just how apocalyptic things just got…





That’s
such a small niggle though, so small that I’m almost ashamed to have it there
(although it’s staying!) ‘Fear the Hunters’ is a marked step on in quality from
‘What We Become’ (you know how good I thought that was!) and it promises great
things for the next collection. The very last pages, in particular, just
encapsulate what’s great about this series.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another way to support this blog




Link embedded in above image.




I have a wishlist on Amazon.com specifically geared for graphic novels and trades. Please add some sort of note so I know who to thank for the help.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Walking Dead Volume 10: What We Become










Title: The Walking Dead Volume 10: What We Become



ISBN: 9781607060758

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image, 2010


Artist:
Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard


Writer:
Robert Kirkman


Collects: The Walking Dead #55-60




Rating: 4/5





Catching up
with Rick Grimes’ continuing struggle to survive in a world newly populated by
the living dead was a New Year’s resolution that didn’t really need making a
big deal of on the blog. ‘The Walking Dead’ is one of my favorite series. I
appreciate my LCS (Tony’s Kingdom of
Comics
) for keeping me up-to-date on these trades.





Rick and his
band of survivors are making their way towards Washington and a possible
solution (or at the very least a reason) for the sudden uprising of the living
dead. It’s a long way to Washington though and there’s plenty that can go wrong
along the way. As always, the zombie threat only comes second to humanity can
do to itself when it has been beaten to the ground and has nowhere else to
turn. Again, as always, the threat can be found not only in the obstacles that
Rick and his friends will face but within the very group itself...





‘What We
Become’ is very much a ‘transition piece’ along the same lines of the earlier
episodes in the prison. New characters have been introduced and are in the
process of bedding into the group and slowly beginning to show what they’re all
about. Hard case Abraham is very much the man to watch here with his flying
rages hiding a terrible secret that will gain your sympathy. The title says it
all here, we get to see what the survivors are becoming and there’s a mixture
here of people aspiring to rise above their circumstances while others will
embrace their rage and do whatever it takes to survive... As is typical with
Kirkman by now, not only do these scenes pull no punches but their sheer
intensity leaves you wondering what you would do in similar circumstances.
Sometimes, the only way to fight an animal is to become an animal yourself and
Kirkman leaves you in no doubt as to what this really means.





Seeds are
also being sown for events further down the line. What can constant exposure to
the living dead do to a young mind? Especially when it’s clear that death isn’t
the final obstacle that it has been in the past... Kirkman leads his readers
gradually into this one and is setting up something quite nasty for the near
future.





There’s not
a lot more that I can say about Charlie Adlard’s artwork that I haven’t said
already; the bottom line is that I think it complements Kirkman’s sombre tale
almost perfectly. I was wondering though if it might freshen things up to have
another artist to have a crack at it, just for an issue or two. On the one
hand, why would you mess with a winning combination? On the other hand
though... It might make for an interesting change to see someone else’s interpretation.





That’s just
me daydreaming on my first day back at work though. Kirkman and Adlard might
not be doing anything new but when it’s all being done so well it almost
doesn’t matter. Roll on volume eleven...

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