Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Review of The Walking Dead 55

The best issue yet?


In the letters pages,('Letter Hacks'), at the end of this book, Robert Kirkman expresses his, and his teams, satisfaction at this issue. The fact that it has come out a mere fortnight after issue 54 is a cause for celebration - the fact that it is so bloody fantastic and brilliant makes me incredibly happy - all this, and Batman #681 (ie the end of 'Batman RIP') to follow.....glorious. A lot of people will be happy with this issue of 'The Walking Dead', and it will, no doubt, get great reviews. All fully deserved.

Back to the book in hand - what is it that makes this issue so amazing? It is simple - Kirkman is starting to peel off plots and drop them all over the pages, which are again gloriously drawn by Charlie Adlard. If anything, Adlards art looks cleaner and fresher in this issue, and the emotion he manages to portray on these drawings of people is a high point for me issue after issue. In this single issue we got a further exploration of Ricks mental anguish, via a disturbing dream and his ongoing 'long-distance' relationship with Lori. We get an insight into his fears, especially with the dream. You can feel the man starting to break up, bit by bit. Be thankful then, that Sgt Ford is the new protector/warrior. There is a section where Sgt Ford gets to work out his action-man mojo on some 'roamers'. On top of that, you get a new perspective on the undead - a startling new avenue of exploration that neatly dovetails with the arrival of the new characters and specifically Dr Eugene Porter. Alongside that, there is a sense of fatigue and agitation amongst some of the group. Finally, to say that the ending is shocking.........I gasped. I never really gasp when reading comics, but this ending - it made me gasp. Kirkman, as I have said before, really seems to put a lot of energy into ending the issues on a cliff-hanger. This one is one of the best. Trust me.

After the bloody denouement of the prison siege and the relative calm of the following issues, 'The Walking Dead' has now begun a trajectory that is near impossible to chart - but it is certainly going upwards and onwards, and it is managing to be exciting and consistent and credible. The shocks and revelations are believable whilst being exciting and they genuinely move the story on. Lets hope (please!) we get one more before the end of the year. I cannot wait to find out what happens next.

Verdict - I never get tired of praising this book - the best title out on the stands this year, any year. 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Young Liars - and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? (Vertigo, 2008)

David Laphams 'Young Liars' is proving to be an amazing experience - not always entertaining, sometimes confusing, but amazing indeed. The plot is not linear in the slightest - it hops, skips and jumps around time until, frankly, I am lost.

But it is the only comic book out now that can make me gasp and laugh at the same time. In fact it is the only book ever to make me laugh and gasp at the same time.

In this issue, we learn that, maybe, the invasion of the spiders from Mars is really just Sadie’s delusional dream -- but only “maybe” as Sadie’s confrontation with her mother and half-brother suggest that it could be real. Except that Danny knows she confuses reality and this delusional dream of hers, and has somehow worked to influence it, to change his role in it from the father/invader to hero Danny Duoshade. We’re never told how Danny accomplished this, but the idea is very intriguing.

As is Sadie’s continual failure to stop this invasion. Danny narrates that she always fails and always somehow lets five spiders escape, suggesting that this delusion is some sort of psychological defense, a reason to live in a way. Or, those five spiders actually keep escaping the same way villains continually escape the hero after being foiled in superhero comics. Lapham purposefully references superhero comics as Danny calls the manic, violent, excitable Sadie “Superhero Sadie,” the survival persona of Sadie who hunts the spiders and saves the world... but not quite.

What’s amazing is that the story Lapham is telling could turn out to be something as simple as a messed up girl with a bullet in her brain who is delusional, or it could be a full-out invasion by spiders from Mars with this Martian spider-princess as the only line of defense. Even Danny isn’t totally convinced that one possibility is the true one, and Lapham is brilliant at making both seem equally likely. There’s even the hint of questioning why they both can’t be true.

I cannot begin to summarise, and do not advise any newcomers to do anything other than, if they wish to join in on Laphams fun, then start with issue #1. You will still be confused within a few issues, but still, start at issue #1 or you will never ever understand.

Ostensibly about a group of 20-somethings from New York, all potentially treacherous, mainly psychotic, self serving and messed up, lurching from one disaster to another, their lives constantly in danger.

However, it is funny, energetic and vibrant. There is a lot of love going into this book, and it really deserves to be read by anyone with a love for comic books. Lapham, who writes and does the art in the book, and it is a great achievement.

But anyway, back to issue #9 -

Are these Spiders real? Who the hell is the guy who turns up at the end (this was the bit where I laughed and gasped at the same time)? What was going on with Sadies mom? and dad? The dad seemed fine a few issues ago, why is he dying now and what is with the dwarf and the prostrate??

My head hurts. They are collecting the first few issues in a trade and calling it 'Daydream Believer' - out Dec 2008. Relive it all in its gory, brutal, funny, weird beauty.

I am confused about Crossed

I am confused about Crossed (from Avatar Comics). I really enjoyed the first issue (which was a scene setter numbered as #0 and which I have written about here) but the second (i.e issue #1) left me with mixed feelings. I can understand what Garth Ennis (along with artist Jacen Burrows) wants to do here with this title. He wants to put a spin on the zombie genre by making those afflicted with the 'cross' the most depraved and insatiable savages imaginable. Or unimaginable. Probably unimaginable as there is one particular scene that happens towards the end of issue #1 that made my stomach churn and left me feeling very unhappy.

I read to be stimulated, and to be entertained, enlightened, moved, scared, even horrified. What Crossed #1 did was none of that. It just made me feel upset. I think I understand what Ennis wants to do - he wants to show what the end of the world could be like, a literal hell on earth. Those afflictged with the cross are a truly depraved bunch. I just dont know if I can stomach another issue of it. The title is essentially another zombie-type comic book. It does not deliver anything new - the plot mechanics are the same, in as much as there is an apocalyptic event and there are some survivors facing overwhelming odds to survive. It really doesn't look good for those trying to survive in Crossed. Maybe Ennis is trying to make a point about the inhumanity of man, the obsession with sex and horror ('are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?'*) and the appaling acts humans will inflict on each other - like the Nazis treatment of the Jews prior to and during World War II, the treatment of the Chinese at the hands of the Japanese aggressors when they occupied parts of China during that same war, and the more recent Genocide in the Balkans (to name a few). Maybe.

Maybe he just wants to see how far he can go. He has proved in other titles (including the excellent 'The Boys') that he is not afraid to portray sex, violence and death in unsentimental and disturbing ways. He has just excelled himself with 'Crossed'. There are a lot of questions posed - what is the significance of the cross on the afflicted? Is it an illness? Virus? If you can look beyond the outrageous and gratuitous sex and violence, you will probably get the answers. Maybe I will too, but whereas after issue zero I was firmly along for the whole run of the title, after issue one I am not too sure at all if I will be back beyond issue 2.

You can decide if future episodes are for you based on the solicitations of the forthcoming episodes (there are sceduled to be 9 not including issue #0). Have a look - this link shows issue 2 but there are others to look at;

Crossed solicitations at TFAW

*A Lyric from 'Two Tribes' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984)

Whatever happened to Infinite Horizon? AKA The frustration of the comic book reader and awry scheduling.

'The Infinite Horizon', an updating of 'The Odyssey' to reflect a modern day America and its troubled relationship with the Middle East, was given much fanfare and attention late last year by Image comics, who were to publish the 6 part series, and hailed by the comic community at large.
The initial episodes lived up to the hype, with both the story (by Gerry Duggan) and the art (by Phil Noto) being of a high quality and also inidividual enough to stand out from the ranks of superhero and zombie titles.

The first 3 episodes had been shipped by Spring 2008, but since then - nothing.

No news on the official creator site

Try googling for news - nothing, just the solicitations for #4 and onwards.

Considering this was a title that justified the hype,it seems a great shame that we may not get the chance to finish reading this story. Or maybe it will come out in another year or so. But will anyone care? You can expect delays
when it comes to comic book scheduling and releases. You need to be patient and allow a month or 2 of no releases on a title - but a 6 month delay? Longer than 6 months? It smacks of trouble, and inevitably there will be frustration, and ultimately this can lead to indifference, on the part of the reader, the person who has put it on their pull list. The person who has been led to believe a 6 issue
series should come out in regluar instalments. When issues fail to ship you lose continuity (which can always be remedied by reading the previous issues again I know), but more fundamentally, the reader can lose faith in the product.

I hope Image and the creative team behind 'The Infinite Horizon' can get the remaining issues out. I hope they still get a substantial readership. They deserve it for
such an interesting and innovative title. If they leave it much longer though, I think it may be too late. In that case, 'Infinite Horizon' may be an apt description on how shipping dates for #4, 5 & 6......

Can anyone update me on this?