Monday, April 28, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, April 30th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As usual, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

New Avengers #40 (Marvel)

After the brilliant Mighty Avengers 'Secret Invasion' tie-in last week I know have high hopes for this - expect revelations!!

and... that is it really. Glamourpuss (previewed last week) and Crawlspace (previewed the week before) are finally out this week (apparently). Image are releasing the fourth TP of Bomb Queen in 'Suicide Bomber', and Wizard magazine reaches issue 200, and I'll be getting that.

Out of interest, Newsarama have an article keeping us up to date on who is who in Skrull terms here plus they make some predictions on who they think is part of the Skrull 'Secret Invasion' - it's an entertaining read.

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Review - The Mighty Avengers #12 (Marvel)

Wow - was not expecting a tie-in to the main 'Secret Invasion' title to be so good, but it really did confound my expectations. Basically this issue fills you in on the whereabous and actions of Nick Fury. That is all I am giving away, because it deserves to be read. It's all about Nick Fury, with a bit of SHIELD thrown in from the middle onwards, and of course, some skrullduggery....

The final page really sets up the main 'Secret Invasion' title with some tantalizing clues - or is it to put you off the scent? Brian Michael Bendis packs in a lot of suspense, action and espionage into one tightly bound issue. Can you tell I like this one?

Great cover as well, though maybe Marvel are overplaying their 'Iconic covers - remixed!' - first Marvel Zombies, now Skrulls getting in on the act??? The interior art, by Alex Maleev, is wonderful - it really seems to capture the determination of Nick Fury, and the action scenes are well staged.

A happy surprise this one - in a pretty slack week for good titles, this seems to be the pick of the bunch (and would stand tall in a good week).

Verdict - really strong tie-in to 'Secret Invasion', with Nick Fury taking centre stage and setting himself up as a major player in the drama that's being played out this summer. Really, really good. 8.5 out of 10.

Mighty Avengers #12 preview at IGN

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Walking Dead #53 Solicitation and Cover Art.

This is the most exciting thing that has happened to me all week - I stumbled across this today - - and amongst all the other Image solicitations for this July, we now know the cover art (it is very new, so it doesn't even have the title lettering on it) for The Walking Dead #53. Are you ready???? It is a beauty, and asks a lot more questions than it answers - which is great!


Written by Robert Kirkman, art and cover by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn.

To the rescue.

32 pages, black and white, $2.99, in stores on July 16.

So - speculation........are we being introduced to new major characters? Are they meeting up with Rick? Are they Military? Are we about to see the beginning of the fightback against the undead???? Shades of World War Z? It seems as if we could be moving away from the interpersonal relationship dynamics and moving into a period of ACTION with a capital A. It is a really striking cover - Adlards art just gets better and better in my opinion. At least it suggests that Robert Kirkman is wasting no time in expanding his cast of characters. Hope they are the good guys, judging by the weaponry. The fact that the solicitation says 'To the rescue' suggests so. Who are they rescuing? What from? So many questions!!

Could this be the start of Kirkman detailing the lives of other communities and how they are coping with the Zombie Apocalypse? Maybe we aren't in Kentucky anymore.....

On the other hand, it could be Rick & Carl on 'The Road' encountering new people....

OR....maybe they are what's left of the Woodbury community??

Once again, the best comicbook series ANYWHERE teases and tantalises and promises - and I doubt doubt that Kirkman & co will deliver.......

Monday, April 21, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, April 23rd, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As usual, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

Northlanders #5 (Vertigo)

Sort of lost interest with this Orcadian/Norse action adventure. It started off well. Will pick up this month to see if it can hold my interst. Nothing particularly wrong with it, it just doesnt really do much for me.

Mighty Avengers #12 (Marvel)

Part of the 'Secret Invasion' wider story.

Glamourpuss #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim)

From Dave Sim (Cerebus), an intriguing mix of parody and superheroism. The top of my list this week. If you are interested, you just need to check out the official site -


Advance preview of Glamourpuss #1

Official Northlanders site

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Review - Pigeons From Hell #1 (Dark Horse)

I was pleasantly surprised by this. The writer Joe R. Lansdale (who amongst other things has written for Jonah Hex and the film Bubba Ho-Tep) updates the Robert E. Howard tale of terror 'Pigeons from Hell' in a four part adaptation from Dark Horse.

Set in the deep south, 'Pigeons from Hell', despite the unlikely title, tells the creepy story of an old house with a wicked past whose spirit of malevolence affects all who enter it. Ancestors of slaves who inherited the house come to claim the property and land with a few friends, and almost immediately we are pitched into a 'teens in peril' scenario in a haunted house. When one of the party injures themselves, their attempts at leaving the house and its land are ill-fated.

The art, by newcomer Nathan Fox, captures the mood of unease with a fairly rough style that works well. The only criticism is the drawing of the 2 characters who are 'inheriting' this property. They look about 20 years older than their friends, unless I am missing something....

Another top notch adaptation, folowing on from 'Evil Dead'.

Verdict - A solid creepy tale. Nice atmospherics. Worth seeing where this one goes. 7 out of 10.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scream! the Eighties British Horror comic mystery.......

Please Note- This is an expanded version of an article originally posted on Those We Left Behind

After the runaway success of the British Science Fiction comic 2000AD, IPC launched a series of short lived titles in its wake to capitalise on its popularity. However, the likes of Starlord and Tornado had a very short life before becoming integrated into 2000AD. In the mid eighties, a new title, 'Scream!' was their attempt to move into the relatively untapped Horror comic genre.

There may have been several factors as to why they chose horror as the theme, such as the popularity of Stephen King books and the novels of British author of James Herbert, who had seen success with the likes of The Rats and The Fog.

Another reason why IPC chose Horror as a good platform for a new comic launch could have been the greater access to horror movies due to the home video boom of the early eighties. Horror films proliferated in the early days of video rental, a situation that created the Video Nasties phenomena and its resultant legislation encapsulated in the Video Recordings Act. The controversy surrounding films such as 'The Evil Dead' and 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' only gave Horror greater exposure. Also, the theatrical and subsequent video release of Horror anthology 'Creepshow' introduced the world of EC horror comics to a wider audience, years after controvery and political pressure had killed off the likes of 'Tales from the Crypt'.

British produced Horror comics had been around in the 1970's, with the likes of Shiver & Shake and Monster Fun, but these had been played for laughs and were more Scooby Doo crossed with The Beano than Hammer Horror in tone. Scream was generally a serious attempt at a British Horror comic, though some times it could not quite decide what it wanted to be - more on that later.

Further back in time, British readers had been thrilled by the American imports of EC comics. In an event that preceded yet predicted both the backlash against 'Action'(see here for more), and the type of moral panic that enabled the legislation against so-called 'Video Nasties', the British Conservative Government introduced the 'Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications)' act in 1954, becoming law in 1955. The american horror comic imports were almost immediately removed from sale. For more information on this subject, Martin Bakers definitive account 'Haunt of Fears' is a must. There is a link to the google book at the bottom of the post.

By the late Sixties and early Seventies, the publisher Warren was re-introducing the British public to horror with the likes of Eerie and Vampirella. There was also the smaller Skywald Publications with their Nightmare and Scream anthologies. There was an obvious appetite amongst the British for a serious Horror title, and IPC aimed to fill that gap in the market.

Issue #1 of Scream! was released on the 24th of March 1984, with its end coming abruptly on June 30th of the same year. 15 issues in all. Screams demise was so unexpected that issue 15 carried preview captions for the aborted issue 16, the one below from the 'Monster' strip;

Why was it cancelled? There are some theories that stick when googling, such as;

1) National Union of Journalists action in the Summer of 1984 helped kill off the title as production was affected

2) The sales figures simply were not good enough

3) Due to the comics content, IPC executives were quick to avoid any repeat of the controversy that ruined the Seventies boys comic Action, another IPC comic, and therefore pulled the plug on Scream!

Here is an extract from Graham Kibble-Whites book on the history of British comics as he summarises the reasons for Screams failure;

"As for why the axe fell, rumours still persist to this day. Was the comic just too gruesome for the IPC bigwigs? Or was it just another victim of the hard financial realities of the Eighties? Whatever; with those fifteen Scream! comics now considered collector’s items by latter-day fans, it’s achieved some sort of life after death - which is entirely appropriate when you think about it."

(from The Ultimate Book Of British Comics by Graham Kibble-White)

Scream was absorbed into another IPC comic, the revived Eagle (aka Eagle Mk II) from the middle of July 1984 until March 1985, when its name was dropped from the title. Naturally, due to limitations on the amount of pages in comics, very few of the strips from Scream! made the transition. Only The Thirteenth Floor and Monster made notable appearances in Eagle. The fact there was no mention of the merger in the last issue of Scream, coupled with the delay in Scream appearing in Eagle (a matter of weeks as opposed to a seamless handover) suggests the cancellation of the title was an abrupt one.

I have all 15 of the original issues - I may even have one of the summer specials. My memory of it was of a good read, especially The Dracula File and The Thirteenth Floor. Despite a lot of it being fairly credible, with some great artwork by the likes of Jesus Redondo, there were some problems with it. In terms of consistency it did suffer - the attempts at humour, with the likes of 'Fiends and Neighbours' were lame. That strip ('Fiends..') looked like a throwback to an earlier time, and it was in fact a reprint from the archives of Cor!! and Buster comic (see here). Also, the typical IPC device of having someone/thing other than a normal human editing the comic was present with this title. Whereas 2000AD had Tharg and Starlord had, er, Starlord, Scream had Ghastly McNasty. Ghastly was a Grim Reaper type figure, in what you can assume to be a reference to the EC Horror Comics such as Tales from the Crypt where characters like The Crypt Keeper acted as the host to the stories. However, Ghastly did not have the humour or personality of the Crypt Keeper, and if anything was rather bland and one-dimensional. Some of the stories didnt quite convince either - 'Terror of the Cats' seemed to be a nod to previous 'animal horror' works. These had proliferated in the Seventies, with novels like James Herberts 'The Rats', Peter Benchleys 'Jaws' and films such as Spielbergs adaptation of 'Jaws' and other producitons such as 'Orca Killer Whale' and the low-budget 1976 horror 'Grizzly'. However, 'Terror of the Cats' really failed to convince. Whereas predators such as Sharks and large animals such as Grizzly Bears are inherently fearsome, domestic cats are not. Large dogs would have made a much better subject matter. As you can see from the opening page of the first part of this tale, it really is not very convincing or frightening;

'Monster', which was one of the better strips had its first issue written by Alan Moore, though he did not contribute any other material to Scream.

'The Thirteenth Floor' was actually a collaboration bewteen 2000AD stalwarts Alan Grant and John Wagner, writing under a pseudonym of 'Ian Holland' (according to the Wiki entry for this strip). The artist was Jose Oritz (who drew the magnificent Tower King for the revamped Eagle comic).

'Dracula Files' was probably my favourite strip, about the ubiquitous Count in 80's Britain. It was written by Gerry Finley-Day (author of Rogue Trooper & Harry 20 on the High Rock at 2000AD) and drawn by Eric Bradbury, who also drew Doomlord for Eagle.

My memory of its end was like this - I went to get issue 16 on a Saturday, along with my 2000ad, and it wasn't there. After a few weeks of being told by the newsagent that it hadnt turned up, I got the message that it was not coming back. I didn't follow it over to the Eagle when it was merged into that title in the July of 1984.

Scream! was a brave attempt by IPC to produce something other than a war or science fiction comic. I do not know the exact reason why it was pulled, but it could have been due to the variety of reasons that have been mentioned here. Maybe it was a combination of all those factors. One thing that is apparent is the fan base who today still regard it with warmth and fondness, and this is really well represented at the fan site
where there are plans afoot to produce further issues of the comic. I wish them well.

I wonder if there is a copy of issue 16 anywhere??? Anyone know? There must have been surely?

The sites and resources I used for this post are;

Back from the Depths - Brilliant fan site dedicated to Scream! with issues 1, 15 and a Summer Special reprinted in full

Short piece on Scream! at 26pigs

Scream! at Wikipedia

First 4 issues to view at The Manchester Morgue site

I used the excellent Toonhound site for some of the research - a great site and well worth your time.

Just to let you know, you can read Martin Barkers book, 'Haunt Of Fears' as a Google book

Lew Stringers wonderful blog has some detail on a new book that reprints pre-comics code Horror titles in a new book - read it here.

There is another useful google book on Warren, called 'The Warren Companion' by Jon B Cooke and David Roach - check it out here

The Manchester Morgue site has some scans of the Warren title Eerie

Finally, this is the final issue cover (Scream 15)- this and all the other issues covers, front & back, are at the Back From The Depths site;

and if you are interested in getting your hands on the real, physical copies of Scream, you will, of course, find them on ebay..........

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On the advance list....

Just put my pre-orders in for a couple of exciting Image titles on top of my usual pulls;

War Heroes (Image)- this title comes to us from Mark Millar with art by Tony Harris. It is described by Image as;

"In an America not too far off from our own, terrorism has scorched the Earth. Our once great nation has shattered into a bastardized, third world version of its previous self. When traditional tactics prove obsolete in this new country, America's military force turns to the last weapon with any hope of - superhumanity."

Always worth giving his work a look (as Kick-Ass is proving), so looking forward to this title.

Preview of War Heroes at Newsarama

Link to the press release on War Heroes

Red Mass For Mars (Image) - Brought to us by the man behind the excellent Transhuman & Pax Romana, Johnathan Hickman, with art by new Image artist Ryan Bodenheim. The solicitation goes like this;

"In a world that has survived every catastrophe imaginable, a new threat from the beyond stars looks to be the end of all humanity. "A Red Mass For Mars" tells the story of the last days of Earth and the one man who could have saved us all - but didn't!"

Sounds super-intriguing, lets hope this post-apocalyptic tale lives up to Hickmans other work - I have got a feeling it will do.

Links for this;

1 page preview at deviantart

Interview with Hickman on Pax Romana & Red Mass For Mars

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Monday, April 14, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, April 16th 2008

This is going to be a regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As before, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

Captain Action #0 (Moonstone) - I just like the name of it. Giving it a go.

Crawlspace #4 (Image) - Well, I have stuck with it, and that is about all I can say at the minute. Over the top and very, very sick, but not neccesarily in a good way. Final issue.

76 #3 (Image) - So far this has been pretty underwhelming. Has anything really happened in these stories? Hoping for something better this month.

Infinite Horizon #3 (Image) - At last! The Odyssey continues. So far this title has been fantastic and I dont expect this issue to be any different. An absolute highlight on any week, even more so in a pretty dull week of releases.

The only slightly disturbing caveat to all this is that Crawlspace #4 and Infinite Horizon #3, though listed with Diamond, are not on the Image site as being released this week. Ho-hum, we shall see.

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Reaction to Criminal 2 #2

Here are some other views on the latest issue of Criminal 2;

CBR review

IGN review

Comics Bulletin review

Review - Criminal 2 #2 (Marvel/Icon)

I loved the first series of Criminal, aka 'Coward'. There was space to tell the story, and the story was good. I must admit I have not read the second volume, aka 'Lawless' yet, but intend to get the trade soon. Therefore, I have jumped straight in with Criminal 2, which is a series of single issue stories as opposed to a multi-issue arc. Having not read 'Lawless', I have a disadvantage of not knowing the back story, and I also know that this is an issue detailing past history as opposed to present. Still, producing these one-off stories presents problems. The main player is Teeg Lawless, a Vietnam vet who, to escape the memory of that terrible experience, relies on gambling, drinking binges and relentless violence to blot out the horrors. He also has a young family, with 2 sons (who are the main characters of 'Lawless'). The gambling habit has caused a problem, as he had a debt outstanding to some very dangerous people, and a spell in prison has only made the problem worse - a debt in the low thousands has spiralled into a 15k nightmare. The scenario played out to Teeg by 2 heavies is simple - pay the debt off very soon or his sons die.

Teegs attempts to get the cash quickly appear to be resolved when he is tipped off on a way to get his hands on dirty cash. What follows is a series of set-ups and double-crosses and Teegs attempts to put things right. This is the problem I have - it is all over too quickly. What could and should have been detailed over 3 or 4 issues gets resolved in 20 or so pages. It gets a bit bewildering.

The art (both internal and the marvellous cover) suit the mood of the piece perfectly. The way that Teegs alchohol induced blackouts are rendered is superb. Sean Phillips really nails the noir style, and that cover (see above) is the best one I have seen this year. The dialogue is tough and note-perfect. Some of Teegs observations, particularly on the relationship he has with his sons, is both poignant and insightful. The family dynamics, in both the nuclear family and the bigger 'criminal' family are played out with with a care and attention to detail that demands your attention. The whole package is worth your time and money, despite my reservations on the single issue story format Brubaker is currently pursuing.

They (Brubaker, Phillips and the rest of the creative team) care about this work, and that is apparent in the little things - as a bonus there is an article by writer Jason Aaron ('Scalped'), who details his favourite "TV Cops and Television Tough Guys".

Overall this is another quality work that adds to the 'criminal' universe that Brubaker is creating. It is just a shame this tale seems over too quickly.

Verdict - 'Criminal' is one of the greats. The failings in this issue are outweighed by the great writing and art. A worthy addition to the Criminal universe. 7 out of 10.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Review - Evil Dead #4 (Dark Horse)

This is the final installment in the Dark Horse adaptationof the Sam Raimi low-budget horror classic from 1981. The film is notorious for its extreme violence and gore, and it is also a very effective scary movie. The video release in the United Kingdom became infamous as it was one of the first films to be labelled a 'video nasty'. You can find out more about that controversy here. The comic adaptation is pretty faithful to the source material, but updates the story to the present day (I assume) judging by the clothes the characters wear. Either that or this comic got a bigger clothing budget than the original film....

This last part of the series sees Ash battle his former friends, now possesed by the reawakened spirits, becoming the 'evil dead'. The art, by John Bolton, is top notch and really captures the flavour of the film, even if it does lack the low-budget scuzziness of Sam Raimis work. The script, which zips along, has a nice vein of humour running through it.

I only have 2 niggles;

1) the 'ending' in the comic is not the ending in the movie, and seems to ruin a lot of the suspense and scares that the creative team have worked over 4 issues to create. I find it a puzzling way to end the series.

2) The comic cannot generate the same scares or rattling tension of the film. The final battle between Ash and the dead, as he desperatley tries to grab the book of the dead, lacks the visual and aural impact on a printed page. This has been true throughout the series - a horror movie has the devices (audio and video/visual) to give the audience shocks. Seeing a horror movie laid out like a storyboard doesnt create that same atmosphere.

This series has had a lot to recommend it though, especially the art and some of the writing has enabled some of the story to flesh out (we know a bit more about what Ash is about). Shame about the ending.

Verdict. The end ruins it for me. The art is fantastic, the script funny and lively. If you like the film though, the 4 issues are probably worth your time. 6 out of 10.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bullet - the rough tough British comic

(Note - this is a revised version of a recent post on my other site

For no apparent reason the other day, I began trying to remember the name of a comic that I bought a few issues of in the 1970s. All I could remember about it was the first issue having a red sports car on the cover, and there was some sort of free gift.

Checking the various British comic sites, it wasn't long before I got my answer. The comics name was 'Bullet', and its first issue was February 1976. The free gift with the issue was this rather lovely ring with lots of stickers to put in the centrepiece;

and there was indeed a red sports car on the cover;

To be honest I have no real recollection of this comic, unlike the brutal and bloody Action from the same era. I have already written about Action in the past, and you can read it here. 'Bullet' certainly got the better title though. It sounds like a title that could only come from the era of 'The Sweeney' and 'Dirty Harry'. It sounds tough and no-nonesense, and it is unlikely you would get a British comic off the ground today with a name like that.

They had all the requisite elements for a boys comic of the era. Football story?


War Story?

Check. Wonder if all the action took place in the jeep........

Robot story (think Robot Archiefrom Lion comics)???

Oh yes indeed.

After reading a couple of excellent sites today, I have learned that DC Thompson (publishers of The Beano) put 'Bullet' out on the same day that IPC released their new comic....'Action'. Whether it was a publishing ploy from one of the companies to spark a circulation war, or whether it was a coincidence, one thing is certain. That certainty is this - Action has become a more celebrated (and infamous) comic, and its legacy is still felt today (without Action proving their combination of violence and thrills worked, would IPC have risked 2000AD and Judge Dredd??).

Bullet actually outlasted Action by a couple of years, eventually merging with another of the DC Thompson titles, 'Warlord'. The story of Bullet is brilliantly told on a couple of great sites, one of them I have mentioned before (sevenpennynightmare) and another one that is well worth giving your time to ( Here are the links;

Action Vs Bullet at Lew Stringers blog

sevenpennynightmare article on Bullet

also, these sites have a little information on 'Bullet';

The British comics site '26pigs' entry for Bullet

TV Creams tribute to the comics of the past include an entry for Bullet

I did go on and buy issue 2 - I remember the free gift;

but beyond that, I have no memory of the comic. Just the freebies. I don't think I made it to issue 3, because I don't think the free gift excited me as much as the previous 2......

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, April 9th 2008

This is going to be a regular feature where I look ahead to what I will be receiving from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for their shipping news.

I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated);

Evil Dead #4 (Dark Horse) - The final issue in this faithful adaptation of the 80's horror classic.

Criminal 2 #2 (Marvel) - More goodness from Ed Brubaker.

Resurrection #4 (Oni Press) - Really, really getting into this - finally caught up with the first 3 episodes over the weekend, so expect a review of this later on in the week.

A fairly quiet week (and inexpensive!), but some goodies up there, especially Resurrection....

Resurrection at Oni Press

Ed Brubakers page on Criminal

Dark Horse previews Evil Dead #4

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Kick-Ass #2 (Marvel/Icon)

The initial forays in the debut issue of the novice, no-powers superhero, were, to put it mildly, disastrous with some very black humour injected into the scenes. In Kick-Ass 2 we get to see the aftermath, and the slow, painful rehabilitation of our 'hero', David Lizewski. The pace is slow, but well-written allowing the reader to experience the time it has taken Lizewski to recover from the beating he took from the graffiti sprayers. We also get to learn of his turmoil, and there's a scene where he is in tears about the trouble and cost he has put his father through.

Despite vowing never to don the costume again, and even burning the comicbooks he blames as the root cause, it isn't that long before he has recanted. By the final pages, the green and yellow ski-suit is back in action. The violence is full-on, with lots of close-ups of faces being pummelled and blood spraying and leaking all over the panels.

It is a book that is easy to pick up and enjoy. The only criticism at this point is the fight scenes at the end of this issue. This 15 year old has been through a major trauma in the recent past, and his previous fighting skills were negligible. Bearing this in mind I find it hard to believe how he gets up off the floor and begins fighting back against a gang of big Puerto Ricans who look like gang-bangers. If this book is to have any credibility with its claim of having a 'real-life' superhero as its main character, will it not be a whole series of 'ass-kickings' for Dave before he gets to start succeeding in the role???

Verdict - Another strong issue, with great art and solid writing. Not the usual comicbook fare, and for that I recommend it. 8 out of 10.

Reaction to Kick-Ass #2 (Marvel/Icon)

Some views on the latest Kick-Ass issue....

IGN review of Kick-Ass #2

Comic Book Bin review

Comic Vine summary and review

Views on Kick-Ass #2 from the Wizard Universe forum

....and my review is up next......

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Reaction to The Walking Dead #48

Nearly 24 hours later, I am still reeling from reading the most amazing piece of comic literature. The Walking Dead #48 has managed to do what hardly any other comic series has managed - kill off most of the major characters over a few issues. I know that Suicide Squad did it in the Sixties......but this is for real. These characters are not coming back. Even reanimating them into the living dead would be a crass move that I believe Kirkman will avoid. He is moving the story on now.

Not surprisingly, the fall-out has begun, and reaction to this bold move is, as you would expect, varied. There is a lively, intelligent disceussion over at the Newsarama board for The Walking Dead - I am linking to the page where the discussion turns to the latest issue - be warned though, there are spoilers;

Newsarama Walking Dead Board.

I know I am repeating myslef, but I am still in shock after reading #48, but full of admiration for the writer, Robert Kirkman, and the artist, Charlie Adlard. They have delivered a work of tragedy that leaves you emotionally drained. I do not believe, with all the hype surrounding 'No-one is safe', that they could have delivered anything other than a big body-count. They have done that, but it is the way that it has been handled that is testament to the creative teams skill. It is the most intense 22 pages I have ever read, even surpassing the likes of the death of Jean Grey and DCs Vigilante taking on paedophiles in the 1980s;

Some links below, giving you a flavour of the opinion out there on this landmark issue.

Kirkman discussing the 'No-one Is Safe' story arc

Robert Kirmans site, where the Kirkboard is full of reaction to the latest issue

IGN review of Walking Dead 48

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Walking Dead #48 (Image Comics)

I am not sure what general reaction you would get from people if you told them you were crying after reading a 'comic'. Having just read the most draining, dramatic and tragic comic book I have ever experienced, I have no qualms in admitting that I cried. Sadness is imbued in every panel of this amazing issue. There are some scenes that make your heart race. You feel anger and pain and ultimately sorrow. If this was given the cinema treatment, you can imagine the action happening in slow motion, with 'Barbers Adagio for Strings' swelling up in the background. Without the added pathos, this comic gives you the horror and pointlessness of violence with no frills. It makes you confront what people do to each other. People kill each other. People do hideous and evil things for reasons that we do not really understand. People can be duped into doing these evil acts. People get hurt and get killed. People fight to gain something and find that they question why they are fighting, and ultimately there are no victors. The prize that had been fought over can be tarnished or destroyed by the violence of man.

In a typical Kirkman dramatic convention, all is not what it seems after last issues cliffhanger. Once that scene is out of the way, we are pitched into 20 pages of the most intense comic drama you will ever read. Seriously, I know that the comic industry trades on hyperbole, but I doubt that I will ever read a more shocking series of pages. Death occurs on virtually every page, and 'no-one is safe'. Kirkman certainly lives up to his word. Characters you cared for, you had followed for the duration, are brutally cut down. I felt quite numb as the body count piled up. There are some heart-breaking scenes, and in particular there are scenes of fathers and sons that are incredibly moving.

Kirkman really finishes off this story arc. There is a feeling of resolution about this series of issues, as if the creative team needed to clear the decks and begin again. The series is about to take on a whole different perspective. Kirkman mentioned in issue 47 that the team were very excited about what was coming up, and once you read this work, you will understand why he is enthusing.

A special credit has to go to Charlie Adlard. His art again captures the drama, emotion and horror of the prison siege. His facial drawing is superb, really getting the anger, sadness and fear from the characters. His action staging is also very good. The way he captures Herschel and Billy as they flee the bullets is some of the best poetic and beautifully realised comic art. I could continue to enthuse, but needless to say that anyone with an interest in comic books, tales of the human condition, survival stories, action stories, even zombie stories - you need to read this comic. Start with the trades and get caught up. You will not believe what happens in issue 48....

The final page of this extraordinary comic leaves us with a scene that I believe is the essence of this whole series. The end of this issue brings no cliffhanger, just a picture of people cherishing what time they have together, bonded by blood, sadness, joy, need, whatever. In the brutal world Robert Kirkman has created, life is cheap, which only intensifies that need to hold dear every moment you have with those you love.

Verdict - Can a Comic Book make you cry? This one can. Probably the greatest single issue comic I will ever read. Perfection. 10 out of 10.

Listening for the letterbox - April 2nd 2008

This is the start of a regular feature where I look ahead to what I have coming from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for their shipping news.

I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated);

Secret Invasion #1 - The kick-off of Marvels big Summer crossover. In summary, some heroes are really Skrulls. Could be worth it, though I doubt I will stray far from the main title.

The Twelve #4 - we get to read about the origin of one of the more tragic figures, the Rockman. So far this series has been a really good read.

The Boys #17 - starts the 'good for the soul' arc. Hughie seeks out The Legend.

Kick-Ass #2 - A promising start for Marvels new superhero. Looking forward to this one very much. Reviewing soon.

The Walking Dead #48 - I just cannot begin to explain how much I want this comic in my hands NOW. The climax to the 'No-one is safe' arc. There will be a review as soon as I have read it.