Some Thoughts on Death in “The Walking Dead”

October 31, 2015

(This was going to be the intro to the January edition of “Image Previews Picks,” but it ran a bit long and things got a bit late.  Sooooooooo…)

A little over 13 million people tuned in live to see Glenn get ripped apart by zombies in the latest episode of “The Walking Dead” last Sunday.  At least that’s what the people who make the show really want you to think.  I think it’s likely that about a hundred thousand of those viewers went, “Hey, that’s not how it happened in the comics!” and noticed that Nick fell on top of Glenn.  Thus providing an insular buffet of blood and guts for the zombies that will likely save Glenn’s life.  While also showing that Nick turned out to be far more useful in death than he ever was in life on this show.

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Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta vol. 2: A Vast and Unending Ruin

October 30, 2015

It’s interesting.  My main concern with the first volume was that the intimate, character-driven horror story was going to clash with the biblical, potentially “end of the world” plot that Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta were setting up.  With this second volume, it’s clear that the main plot is on a slow burn and is going to be built up over what appears to be quite some time.  I feel better about it now, but this comes at the pace of this story.  The efforts of Kyle Barnes and Reverend Anderson to find out more about the former’s abilities, how many demons are out there, and just what an Outcast is proceed at a snail’s pace here.  That’s not to say nothing happens here.  We see the fallout from Sidney’s encounter with the Reverend, Kyle and his partner visit other suspected cases of demonic possession and track down a missing girl in the process, and Kyle deals with family matters both mundane and otherworldly.

Despite all this, it feels like very little progress was made by the end of the volume.  Kyle and the Reverend are still very much in the dark about how to properly exorcise these demons and what the consequences of these acts may be.  Fortunately “A Vast and Unending Ruin” has other virtues that lead me to believe that sticking around will be worth it in the end.  Azaceta’s art continues to be extremely effective at delivering a creepy mood just perfect for the story and allowing the characters to express themselves in ways that draw you in.  Main plot aside, Kirkman has set up some compelling story threads with his characters here.  Reverend Anderson’s crisis of faith is haunting to watch unfold, as he tries to push Kyle to use his powers for good even as he’s coming undone after his encounter with who he believes to be the devil himself.  Kyle is slowly starting to warm up to his responsibility, but he also has a lot of family drama to work.  This drama is rendered in heartbreaking fashion as Kyle visits his ex-wife and daughter and things slingshot between good and bad times.  That’s the kind of thing that’s drawing me in right now.  Maybe next time I’ll have a good reason to be enthused about what role Kyle’s abilities will play in this story.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Comic Picks #196: Batman — Eternal/Endgame

October 28, 2015

Two entertaining Bat-projects that will really test how much you've been paying attention to Scott Snyder's run on the main title.

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Assassination Classroom vol. 6

October 26, 2015

Things kick off with a two-parter about how one of Class E’s star students, “Magnificent” Meg Kataoka, deals with a vindictive co-dependent who can’t swim.  With some help from Koro-sensei and co.  It’s a predictable story with an on-the-nose message, but the absurd touches, like having the cast dress up as fish-people to convince the student in question that this swimming lesson is all a dream, make it worthwhile.  The meat of this volume comes from the arc in the middle as Shiro-sensei and Itona make their dramatic return!  While this establishes them as “recurring villains” it’s Terasaka who winds up benefiting the most from their return.  After being present since the very first chapter as a generic “bully” character, mangaka Yusei Matsui uses his time here to flesh out Terasaka into something more interesting.  Terasaka may be set up as an easy dupe by Shiro-sensei, yet he manages to turn the tables on his manipulator by showing that he’s the kind of person who only shines when following orders.  This may sound bizarre and somewhat contradictory.  However, the fact that Matsui manages to make it work regardless of that fact is one of the things I love about this series.

Afterwards, things head full-speed into the next arc which revolves around the first semester finals.  While Principal Asano served up a nasty twist that kept Class E at the bottom of the school rankings, Koro-sensei has a plan to raise his students’ self-esteem and get them the respect they deserve.  Problem is that the principal’s son, Gakushu Asano, has his own agenda here.  Though it involves the complete subjugation of Class E through a series of contract clauses, he also wants to know what his dad isn’t telling him about this class.

So we’ve got a conflict on multiple fronts here and that works to raise the drama and excitement in a welcome fashion.  While some may say that the introduction of Gakushu disrupts my “Lex Luthor” metaphor for Asano, these people clearly don’t remember the time Luthor faked his death from cancer brought on by his kryptonite ring and came back as his (Australian) son with a full head of hair and beard.  Then again, that may be for the best.   Even though the way this next arc is set up should lead to a satisfyingly predictable outcome.  Elevating it right now is the personal connection Matsui has forged for the reader with the students of Class E and the evolution of his test-as-monster visual metaphor.  Yes, I can see where this arc is headed, but it happens to be in a direction I like.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

DC Previews Picks: January 2016

October 25, 2015

Was anyone crying out for a collection of comics featuring DC’s 80’s vigilante Wild Dog?  If you were, then I have some bad news for you.  While never formally announced in their solicitations, a “Wild Dog” collection was being advance-solicited to booksellers only to be recently cancelled.  It’s not the only loser in this situation. A fifth “Showcase” volume for “The Flash” and a first for “Blue Devil” have also been given the axe, while a complete collection for “Injustice:  Year One” will also never see the light of day.  Same goes for collected editions of stories from the 80’s featuring “The Omega Men,” and something just titled “Bad Girls.”  Also of note here is the short-lived “Manifest Eternity” series from writer Scott Lobdell and artist Dustin Nguyen.  It hails from the latter days of Wildstorm and featured a sci-fi vs. fantasy war setup and lasted all of six issue.  I imagine that its proposed release was meant to capitalize on the recent high-profile work of its creators.  So if having Lobdell and Nguyen (the real draw here) as creators couldn’t drag this out of obscurity, it’s likely a complete “Manifest Eternity” will only exist for those who bought it in single-issue form.

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Dark Horse Previews Picks: January 2016

October 24, 2015

The most significant news for Dark Horse coming out of the New York City Comic-Con is that we can expect a lot more of what has been the company’s bread and butter since its founding:  licensed titles.  This is by no means a bad thing, as the company has done a lot to raise the standards of these things over the years.  On that note, expect comics based on “How to Train Your Dragon,” “The Legend of Korra,” and James Cameron’s “Avatar” by the end of 2016. While it remains to be seen whether or not the sequels will re-ignite the frenzy for the original film, Cameron actually filmed a video announcing the deal for the company which was certainly a nice gesture on his part.  There’s also going to be a new American “Lone Wolf and Cub” series.  It’s actually a rebooting of the “Lone Wolf and Cub 2100” series the company did about a decade back and the first issue is solicited here.  Also, we’ll be getting an “Aliens” maxi-series from writer Brian Wood and artist Tristam Jones called “Defiance.”  I believe this is the second “Aliens” maxi-series from the company after the ten-issue “Colonial Marines” from the mid-90’s.  That was originally going to be a twelve-issue series, but lost its original writer and had two more in succession before reaching its end.  I don’t know if Wood is aware of that series, but if he is I’m sure he’s hoping that history doesn’t repeat in his case.

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B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth vol. 11 — Flesh and Stone

October 23, 2015

Everyone likes Howards, right?  In case you’ve forgotten, he’s the B.P.R.D. member who fell into a coma after touching an ancient sword and started living out the life of a Stone Age warrior fighting against the forces of darkness.  When he woke up, Howards wasn’t the same man anymore but he brought enough fighting skill to make him a one-man army and a portable “win” button for the title organization.  This latest arc centers around him as his standing in the B.P.R.D. undergoes a significant change.  Yet it’s one that succeeds not by making the character more interesting, but the world around him.

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No Mercy vol. 1

October 21, 2015

Throwing unprepared teenagers into horrible, life-threatening situations has been a reliable source of entertainment for at least a couple centuries now.  Writer Alex De Campi and artist Carla Speed McNeil’s take on this concept has a group of privileged American teens fighting for survival in the fictitious south-of-the-border country of Mataguey.  I was worried that this setup would descend into a depressing slog as the teens have one disaster upon another heaped upon them.  That is kind of what happens, except that De Campi and McNeil hit the right exciting and over-the-top tone to make it a thrilling ride!

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Vinland Saga vol. 6

October 19, 2015

At long last!  You all bought your copies too, right?  If you haven’t, then know that this volume continues the title’s ongoing standard of excellence.  Even if there’s a good deal of setup going on for the inevitable conflict.  You see, Canute continues to grow into his role as king, taking even more underhanded measures to bring about his goal of Heaven on Earth.  We even see that his methods are endearing him to his late father, King Sweyn, in death and a particularly inspired touch at that.  This forthcoming conflict that I mentioned stems from Canute’s need for funds to keep his standing army together in England and his plan to appropriate the necessary farmland in order to do it.

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The Fade Out, Act Two

October 18, 2015

The rabbit hole of depravity and sin that is Hollywood, circa 1948, just gets deeper in this latest volume from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  How bad are things there?  The best decision in Act Two appears to be former child star/current jazz trumpet player Jack Jones’ statement to screenwriter/very amateur investigator Charlie Parrish that he wants to stop talking about the history of murdered starlet Valeria Sommers because “That’s some depressing shit.”  This is as Charlie gets romantically involved with Val’s replacement, Maya Silver, starts arguing with his partner Gil Mason, and comes face-to-face with the horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing producer who may have had a hand in Val’s death.  None of these things are good for the character, but being a writer he can’t help but be drawn in by the story unfolding here.

Same goes for me as well.  This second volume doesn’t offer any major revelations or insights into the core murder mystery, yet that’s not really a problem.  “The Fade Out” continues to offer a rich noir world fully realized by its creators.  All of the characters are compromised in some way, it’s just a matter of how they deal with it that matters.  Charlie has this mystery to solve. Studio security chief Brodsky has an interesting way of rationalizing the violence he uses to keep the talent in line.  Maya may have forsaken who she was in exchange for stardom, but it’s a decision she’s committed to.  Then there’s Gil, brought in on this mystery in a moment of weakness by Charlie.  He’s determined to bust it open in the tradition of a private investigator fighting against the system -- with unwitting help from Dashiell Hammet, no less.  The volume ends on a note that has the potential to make the relationship between Gil and Charlie combustible and let the bad guys know exactly who’s onto them.  It’s a development that should kick the final act into high gear and with the potential to make the final volume a must-read when it arrives next year.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com