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Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Walking Dead Volume 24: Life and Death

Title: The Walking Dead Volume 24: Life and Death

ISBN: 9781632154026

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image, 2015

Artist: Charlie Adlard

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: The Walking Dead #139-144

Rating: 3/5

“Life and Death” did start out a bit slow, with the three communities still planning for the big fair. The one part that confused me a bit was the fact that Michonne is now apparently part of a fishing crew; that, combined with her sudden backstory reveal, didn’t sit very well with me – it felt like awkward, forced storytelling, though I suppose it was nice to find out why she ran off and was avoiding Ezekiel and her relationship with him. The only thing that balanced out the bad in this particular scene was seeing so much interaction between Rick and Michonne, including being reminded that they’re basically “best friends”. Things are still messy in the world of TWD – and Michonne is one of the messiest people of all in terms of relationships – but her and Rick, and Rick and Andrea, are some of the positive things I look forward to in every new installment of this comic.

Meanwhile, Negan is still locked up in a basement…sort of. The fact that his cell door popped open and he remained where he was and didn’t wreak any havoc is interesting, but at the same time I kind of just wish he would go away. I won’t pretend that I don’t swear from time to time (okay, maybe too much), but reading his language gets old really quick. That, and the whole Negan story was already drawn out long enough. Just stop already.

Things aren’t exactly perfect at the Hilltop, either. In my Volume 23 review I mentioned that Gregory’s assassination attempt was so bad as to be almost funny, but I was still surprised to see him pleading that he hadn’t done anything at all. Honestly, I think that this whole Hilltop arc between him and Maggie was weak. With every appearance, Gregory seemed more and more like a joke, and while I’m not totally on board with Rick’s rules about not killing people anymore, Maggie deciding to hang Gregory seemed forced and out of character, regardless of the reasoning. That said, perhaps they’ll use this situation to make Maggie into a harsher, less forgiving character, so I’m going to avoid too much judgment until I see how she handles the new threat of the Whisperers.

Speaking of the Whisperers, I kind of have to repeat myself here and say oh, Carl. Carl, Carl, Carl.

He was really starting to grow on me in recent volumes, but Kirkman clearly wanted to perpetuate the idea that all teenage boys lose their minds along with their virginity. And he also can’t let Rick catch a break – even after Rick allowing Carl to move to the Hilltop, Carl still has plenty to hold against his dad – and everyone else who isn’t Lydia, apparently. Of course it seemed too good to be true that Alpha would just allow Lydia to leave the Whisperers, especially when she has a zombie horde to play army for her – but is that just me being jaded from having read this series for too long?

Granted, Alpha had the “last word”, if you will, by killing many prominent (and not-so-recognizable) members of the three communities – including Olivia, Ezekiel…and Rosita. Who’d just announced that she was pregnant. But if there’s anything The Walking Dead has taught me, it’s that there’s usually something just as bad – or worse – lurking around the next bend in the road. Needless to say, I’m already impatient to read Volume 25! (Though not impatient enough to start reading the issues one by one. I like my larger dose of TWD, thank you.)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Walking Dead Volume 23: Whispers into Screams

Title: The Walking Dead Volume 23: Whispers into Screams

ISBN: 9781632152589

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image, 2015

Artist: Charlie Adlard

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Collects: The Walking Dead #133-138

Rating: 3.5/5

Not much time has passed between the end of Volume 22 and the beginning of 23, but there is some serious lack of transition, especially involving some of the new characters who arrived in Alexandria in “A New Beginning”. One moment they were mistrustful of Rick & Co. and trying to undermine them, but now they’re suddenly hanging out with Andrea, picking veggies, and being curious about Eugene’s apparent depression? On top of that, other than those brief scenes, the rest of “Whispers into Screams” focused on the Hilltop – and above all, Carl.

And oh, Carl. Carl, Carl, Carl.

I’ve been getting used to him, really, and in this volume I generally liked him…but that doesn’t mean that I care for the way the writers are handling his storyline. “Whispers into Screams” jumped right into his story with some panels where Carl is getting dressed, trying to find a bathroom to use, and then sitting down and reading a letter from a girl he left back in Alexandria. At first I thought this seemed sweet…until, as the volume wore on, there were also hints that Carl might end up being more than friends with Sophia.

Which was then topped by Carl losing his virginity to a complete stranger.

Listen, I get it, it’s a post-apocalyptic world and Carl is a teenager who’s lived through so much that him having sex is, at this point, really no big deal. My question is, was it really necessary for his first time to be with a girl he’d just met? A girl who was weird enough to stick her tongue in his missing eye hole? A girl who thinks it’s totally normal to dress up in the skins of dead people and wander around with groups of walkers? In my opinion that’s a bit much, even for this comic.

The more maddening story line, though, was the one involving the Hilltop kids who keep trying to randomly beat people up. In “A New Beginning” Sophia saved a friend of hers from being attacked by these hoodlums, and in “Whispers into Screams” Carl has to save Sophia from these same kids. And as much as I understand that the new rule is to live in peace, man did those kids get what was coming to them – though I agree that Maggie handled things well by first locking Carl up for a while and refusing to just let the fact that he almost killed those kids go.

Unfortunately for Maggie (and to just add a bit of frustration for us readers), the parents of those hoodlums refused to believe that their kids did anything wrong. The fact that this led to Gregory trying to poison her, though, was more than a little over the top – though perhaps the main problem there was that it all just happened too fast. It was very much “Oh we’re upset with Maggie – oh she sucks at being our leader – wait we never chose her anyway, she just started bossing people around – yup let’s kill her!” Put simply, a plot like that would have worked better had it been built up over a longer period of time. And as much as I don’t want Maggie to die, the fact that Gregory failed so miserably in his attempt was too sad to even be amusing.

I will say that I was interested to find out more about these “Whisperers” that were teased so much in Volume 22, and in that respect I wasn’t disappointed at all. As previously mentioned, I’m definitely glad that the network of the Hilltop, Alexandria, and the Kingdom didn’t just jump right into war with this new “threat” – which didn’t seem to be a threat at all once it was understood that the Whisperers simply want strangers to stay away from “their” land. Of course I’m still creeped out about a lot of what they’ve got going on – the fact that they wear the skins of the dead, for one, but Lydia’s confession that she basically has to have sex with whoever whenever whether she wants to or not is in my opinion far worse. Still, Carl is probably biting off more than he can chew, going after her, and I don’t see how his doing so can end well. I suppose we’ll find out in Volume 24!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape

Title: Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape

ISBN: 9781401212223

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2007

Artist: Tony Akins

Writer: Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges

Collects: Jack of Fables #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

Jack the Giant Killer AKA Jack-Be-Nimble AKA Jack of Tales has made a name for himself with Nimble Pictures, a movie production company that has a whole stable of films starring everyone’s favorite Fable. But when Fabletown finds out about Jack’s money and dealings, his billions and title are stripped from him and he’s sent on a road trip across the world of the Mundanes (normal people). When he gets abducted by a group of “librarians” who want to put him in a retirement community for Fables, it’s up to Jack to break out the imprisoned storybook characters from the clutches of the evil Mr. Revise.

Written by Bill Willingham and published by Vertigo, Jack of Fables takes one of Fables greatest characters and gives him a very deserved spin-off series. The humor and style of Fables is still present, but Jack of Fables is more of an action story right off the bat. Jack’s violent and hilarious tales always keep the pages turning and the panels popping, and the constant inclusion of storybook characters who might not have appeared in the Fables universe otherwise is a great opportunity to explore more of the world that they live in.

Jack’s character is the over-the-top action hero, but with his own smarmy charm added to it. The great thing about having a main character like Jack is that he could do anything at anytime, based on any reasoning he sees fit. He loves being selfish, but he always has these moments where he genuinely wants to help people. It’s this sort of trait and flaw that makes him such a fun character to follow. His dialogue is snappy, his presence is larger than life, and the fact that he’s hard to kill due to his immortality makes it fun to watch him mess up and bite it, hard.

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