Friday, December 19, 2008

Review - The Walking Dead 56

Rick and Sgt Ford lock horns as the struggle for control of the group breaks out into the open

Although this issue lacks the WOW factor of issue #55 (and does not have the startling cliffhanger conclusion of that issue), issue #56 is a slow burner. It took me a re-read of the issue to really get it. My first impressions were that it was a let-down after the high drama of the previous couple of episodes. Reading it again, I realised that this was a more subtle drama.

The main interest lies in the increasingly fractious relationship between Rick Grimes and Abraham Ford. Where previously Rick seemed content to let Sgt Ford take a firm grip on leadership of the survivors, he is now reasserting himself, and there appears to be an impasse developing. An impasse that looks likely to result in a bad outcome. We learn a little more about Ford towards the end of the book, and it is not in keeping with the previous 'action hero' persona. The new characters suddenly become a little more than saviours - more problematic and possibly posing more danger than previously thought. The battle for leadership of the group is beginning to break out into the open, with no reassurance that it will end peacefully.

A slow burner of an issue, but by the end of it the tensions and drama are beginning to boil. As they head on towards Washington DC, you get the sense that this group will have a hard time remaining united.

Verdict - moody, tense and bleak. After the amazing quality control of the last few issues you may feel that this issue is a slight downturn. Read it again. There are a lot of subtle power plays going on, broken hearts trying to find reassurance, new alliances being forged. Robert Kirkman just gets deeper and deeper into the fraught psychology of these survivors. Oh, and Adlard's art is, as always, superb. As this is the 5th Anniversary issue, it is also worth remembering that this is a title with astonishing quality control. Looking forward to when it reaches 10. I give this issue 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Young Liars no.10 - a review

Fairly linear story shock! Doesn't make it alright.

David Lapham has taken us on a bewildering journey over the last few episodes, but suddenly, and jarringly, we are back to something that is almost normal by the eccentric and almost halluciogenic qualities of this title. Dealing pretty much exclusively with the fate of Cee Cee, it plots her empty and tragic life, filled with grisly (yet touching) memento mori, the grief of loss and how sex becomes a way of numbing the pain and a weapon to use against men.

The problem for me is, as much as I want to like this title, and sometimes I do, I just find the narrative too disparate. How have we got to this part of the story? I am aware of all the characters, but I only really know their names. I dont know what if anything motivates them, and then we get to this issue, and we find out that Cee Cee got rejected when she was pregnant, had a miscarriage and went off the rails in a big way. I dont get it though. I dont understand why we find this out now, when it bears no real connection to issue 9, 8 or 7. Are we back to flashbacks and retrospective storytelling?

As a standalone issue it is fine. I dont know how sensitively the miscarriage and its aftermath are handled (a gratuitous amount of blood is depicted). I dont get it. I am lost as far as trying to orientate myself with the plot of Young Liars.

Verdict - its more confusing when its trying to tell a linear story about one of the cast of characters. It is not working for me anymore - none of it adds up. The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. 5 out of 10.

Crossed #2 - review (2008)

Is there worse to come?

There is something very, very unnerving about the Garth Ennis / Jacen Burrows ultra-horror title 'Crossed'. Reading issue no.2, it was the equivalent of watching a horror film through your fingers, your hands up against your face, waiting for the inevitable and very bloody pay-off.

After the gruesome, blacker-than-black humour of issue no.2, where I sounded my reservations, I actually think I am beginning to understand it now. Ennis and Burrows are showing that in the terrible world they are creating, anyhting is possible, and the depravity unleashed is beyond some peoples comprehension. However, just because they can show it laid bare in its primal, evil squalor does not mean that they are going to show it.

Economy is the key with issue no.2, and it works magnificently. You go through the issue fearing the worst, and in that sense, you are almost in the experience with the survivors who aren't 'crossed'.

The characters who make it through to the end of the pages feel like survivors, and are actually starting to feel more rounded and less like devices with which Ennis and Burrows can work out their sex and gore mojo. Maybe that's the plan and next issue Ennis will throw it back in our faces, giving them all unimaginable deaths......

We reach the 'end of the first year' according to one of the characters, at the end of issue 2. It will be intriguing to see what Ennis and Burrows produce next time. What was looking tired, formulaic, survival horror, with an emphasis on the outre horror that mainstream comics probably haven't dared publish before is now looking like it has more substance and a more immersive quality than I gave it credit for. There are still some ridiculously gross moments, but they don't seem as bad as before. I am looking forward to issue 3 - and I never thought I would be thinking like that a month ago.

Verdict - thrilling, frightening, a queasy, unsettling thrill. 8 out of 10.