Friday, February 27, 2009

Review - The Unknown Soldier #5 (Vertigo -2009)



Warning - Spoilers!

The back story of 'the unknown soldier' is explored

The balance of intrique and action is well maintained in another absorbing installment of Johsua Dyart's African based adventure. We learn more about Moses' past, some of which we only glimpse at, but what we see gives clues as to his mindset, and his ability to unleash ferocious but calculated violence and killing. He also encounters Agent Howl, and we go back to the early 1960s and see Howl as a young CIA operative in the thick of Western machinations in African politics.

There is a broad scope but Dysart stages all these elements in such a way that he manages to maintain an exciting and thoroughly readable issue, with a thrilling final few pages as the forces of the LRA close in on their target. Their target, however, is aware of their presence and is already fighting back....

If you have not read this title yet, I am sure that back issues can be found on ebay etc. Either that or wait for the trade paperback, but I urge you to invest some time in this fascinating and exciting title.

Verdict - One of the top 5 titles of the year so far, and this issue combines the political with the personal and plenty of action and adventure. Highly recommended. 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An appreciation of Unknown Soldier (Vertigo) (2008 onwards)

Another bold and brilliant title from DC Vertigo



To some, portraying the grim reality and horrors of war in a comic book may seem glib or trivialising the subject. Joshua Dysart, in his powerful new title 'Unknown Soldier', is addressing the dreadful situation in parts of Africa where children are expendable, used as soldiers in civil wars and cross border disputes. The setting is Northern Uganda, in 2002, when the Ugandans People's Defence Force has just executed Operation Iron Fist against the LRA.

The central character in 'Unknown Soldier' is Dr. Moses "Patrick" Lwanga, pacifist, medical doctor and a philanthropist, who travels back to Africa and encounters the horrors of war. It essentially deals with the exploitation of innocents in war and is fantastic. It does not draw away from the terrible and the bloody and does not hide from the truth. It is both a thrilling adventure and a potent political scream of anger. The writing is accessible, resolutely angry at this situation while maintaining a tight and focussed script. The art, by Alberto Ponticelli recalls the style of Eduardo Rissos work on 100 Bullets, as it captures the stark reality of war and death and the heat and dust of Africa. It is surely destined to be looked back on as a classic title, worthy of mention alongside other great Vertigo titles (The Invisibles, 100 Bullets etc.

You can get a preview of the first issue here.

Issue #5 is due to ship today, February 25th, 2009.

http://www.unknownsoldiercomic.com/ - This is a companion site to the comic and is filled with extras and fascinating detail, and as such is highly recommended.

http://www.comicsbulletin.com/vertigo/121772268614990.htm - Writer Joshua Dysart talks about 'Unknown Soldier'

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=18519 - CBR article on the launch of 'Unknown Soldier'

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Line Up - The 5 best covers from 'The Walking Dead' (2003-08) (Image Comics)

'The Walking Dead', the Image Comics opus concerning a Zombie Apocalypse, generally delivers on cover art, with some of the forthcoming covers being amongst the best yet, as seen here, here and here. However, this list is concerning itself with celebrating the best cover art up to the current published issue (#58). So here we go, this is the line up from no.5 to no.1 of the best of 'The Walking Dead' cover art;

5)Issue 36. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn



What is unusual and interesting here is the perspective this cover takes, an aerial approach shot over the Prison where Rick and his fellow survivors had taken refuge. It contrasts the emptiness of the prison compound with the teeming undead filling up the periphery, crowding around the fences, seeping into the edges of the cover itself. They are juxtaposed with the solitary humans inside the 'safety' of the yard. Although not as overtly 'dramatic' as a lot of Adlard covers, this understated piece works well in highlighting the sense of the survivors isolation, and of being outnumbered, despite the relative safety of the Prison.













4)Issue 25. Art by Tony Moore, Colours by Cliff Rathburn



Tony Moore was the original artist on The Walking Dead, and illustrated the first six issues, to be then replaced by Charlie Adlard, who continues on the title to this day. Moore did continue to provide the covers for the series until this issue, which is a great way to say goodbye. A bold, bloody statement, Moore transforms the survivors, with the aid of newly acquired prison riot armour, into Gladiators cutting swathes through the undead hordes, their blood splashed against the warriors shields. The placing of the title - in the centre of the cover - is another bold move and it works, as it highlights the stature and intent of the characters striding forward, almost pushing the title into your face as they do so.
















3)Issue 6. Art by Tony Moore, Colours by Cliff Rathburn



Another Tony Moore classic, with brilliant, vivid colours from Cliff Rathburn (whose use of colour on these covers to dramatise, set moods and define themes is a boon to the title). Obviously an inspiration to Charlie Adlard when he rounded off the 'No-One Is Safe' arc with the sombre issue #48, Issue #6 has a haunting quality, with the silhouette of Rick and the makeshift cross especially effective. The lurking danger in the background is quieted in this moment of sorrow and reflection, almost as if the undead themselves are paying respect to the fallen.














2)Issue 47. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn



All of the 'No-One is Safe' cover art is a treat, framed by the vivid red backgrounds courtesy of Cliff Rathburn, but this one, issue 47, is a magnificent and dramatic cover. Although the cover arts relation to the actual storytelling is tenuous (and that comes as part of the territory with this title), its all part of the fun. Taking it at face value, what you have is a very striking and effective cover. Lori, who is Ricks wife, is on the ground in a defeated pose, clutching her newborn daughter tightly while appearing to scream / cry in anguish / anger, while the helpless infant reaches out to her mother for comfort / reassurance. Over the pair stands a mysterious figure, holding a gun that appears to point at the mother and child. It a scene of death, of an execution, with the last few moments of the victims captured in chilling detail. In the background we can see that the once impenetrable defences of the prison are now broken and accessible. The danger and despair are palpable, with the despairing Lori framed against a harsh red background the colour of blood.















1)Issue 9. Art by Tony Moore, Colours by Cliff Rathburn



This is just genius, and shows that despite how great Charlie Adlard covers are, it would be great if Tony Moore would contribute a new one every now and again. This cover is just so well designed and delivered, taking a unique perspective but making it easily recognisable and accesible. It shows Rick, posed as if taking a break / exhausted, seemingly unaware and in danger, from the perspective of the approaching undead, as we look straight into the eye of the zombie from point blank range, targeting its potential victim. The fly adds additional detail (maybe the dead do not blink?) but does not dilute the power and menace of the piece, with Rathburns colours understated around the edges to give clarity to the piercing blue eye of the revenant. One of the best comic covers I have seen.







There were plenty of covers that nearly made it, such as the suspense of issue 33, the iamge of the apocalypse that is issue 4 and the 'all out action' of issue 54. For a great overview of the cover art of this title, try here - http://www.comicvine.com/the-walking-dead/49-18166/ - a full spread of Walking Dead covers, up-to-date and with detailed information on each issue. If you are a fan of The Walking Dead then this is a truly great resource.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Walking Dead - another teaser image - 'The Dead Do Not Watch' (2009)



More spoilers and teasers from The Walking Dead, courtesy of this new image on the IGN comics site. A follow up to the 'The Dead Do Not Stalk' and 'The Dead Do Not Track', this poster art gives us some further clues on the identity of the mysterious figures. It seems that 'they' are human, and part of some military organisation (indicated by the way they are dressed and their weapons), and that all the current survivors are under threat, as we see Rick Grimes and Abraham Ford in their sights. This suggests that the shadowy figures may have tracked the survivors back to their base camp. Are they after the Dr. Eugene Potts? Sgt. Ford? Are they getting too close to Washington DC and are seen as a threat? Are 'they' the remnants of the Woodbury community? Are 'they' hunter-killers? Cannibals? Given the bloody and transient nature of life in 'The Walking Dead', the old adage (taken from a previous story arc) 'No-One Is Safe' applies here. However, this is all speculation and those that are currently following Rick, Abraham, Andrea etc could be non-threatening, and merely observing the group to determine their intent.



The above image, and a small article on the teaser art, can be found at IGN. Apparently more information will be made available on the site in the coming days - and TWLB will report on it thereafter.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Walking Dead #61 Solicitation (2009)



THE WALKING DEAD #61

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

Salvation?

32 pages, black and white, $2.99, in stores on May 13.


Another strong cover from Charlie Adlard with a suitably enticing byline. 'Salvation?' Probably not! Is this man a Preacher who is bringing with him the hunters seen in 'The Dead Do Not Stalk' and 'The Dead Do Not Track' teaser posters? Or is that another plot thread altogether? I love the fact that he (the Preacher) is walking serenely amongst a bunch of roamers (including on the right hand side of the cover - something quite bizarre and moving - what looks like an undead mother and her young son). Are the revenants following him, as opposed to hunting him? Why are there undead lying immobilised on the floor - especially as they seem to have their heads intact? What is going on with that fire in the foreground of the picture? These covers always pose lots of questions. It is good to see Kirkman continuing to bring in new characters and scenarios. This is shaping up to be a classic period for a title that is consistently providing quality entertainment.

Image solicitations for May 2009 can be found here

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review - Young Liars #12 (Veritgo) (2009)


Warning - Spoliers!!!!

Danny Noonans world has become an extremely confusing place to be. Not just for Danny Noonan, but also for the reader and anyone who gets caught in its wake. David Lapham invites us to watch the horror show.

Gosh. I have been reading this from the start, and as the title approaches its first anniversary, I am very happy to say that this is well on it's way to becoming a truly fantastic title. All the confusion and ??? that permeated the issues from the autumn onwards has been clarified. We are still no nearer the truth, but at least the lies and deception have been given some clarity.

Let me explain.

Issue #12 of David Lapham's rock and roll odyssey is no jumping on point. You need to read this title from #1 and work your way through it. However, for those of us who have been at times exhilarated, at time frustrated and at other times really frustrated, issue #12 brings everything full circle, back to the start, and Danny Noonan is back at the centre of things. It is his world, after all......even if it is all in his head, or is it? etc.....

The best things about this issue? The way that Lapham completely tears down the 'truths' of Danny Noonans life. Like the fact that those that Noonan believed to be his friends and lovers, in particular CeeCee and Sadie, may not be after all. The 'truth' is, that his 'reality' may be much more complex than the one he imagined. He could be a former rock star who goes by the name of 'Danny Duoshade'. He could be a rapist. Maybe Danny Noonan is lost and confused. The readers certainly are. The crucial fact here is that despite the bewildering twists and turns, the last 3 issues have been fantastic with a logic that makes each issue coherent.

In summary - a real success. Well done David Lapham for getting this title to its first birthday and making it a potentially classic book. Extra points for recommending a Spacemen 3 track on the first page. 9 out of 10.

Friday, February 13, 2009

ALL NEW WALKING DEAD TEASER!!!!! (2009)

IGN finally got around to releasing this yesterday after last weeks 'The Dead Do Not Stalk' teaser, comes this........



.....so this really whets the appetite. Maybe a quasi-military organisation. Maybe the remnants of the Military? Maybe some sadistic hunters????? The mind boggles...they just keep us hanging on a string with this stuff. 'It's all maybes' - and I love it. What we know is that the group (or some part of the current cast) are in for a whole lot of trouble in the coming months.

More info (though not a great deal more) can be found at this link to IGN;

http://comics.ign.com/articles/953/953866p1.html

with more images to come sometime in the next week and maybe even an interview with Robert Kirkman to add more mystery / excitement to the upcoming events. Another fantastic piece of art from Adlard and Rathburn, as the Walking Dead series keeps upping the ante and ramping up the anticipation - how can other titles compete??

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review - Crossed #3 (2009)



Ennis and Burrows continue their shock tactics, though there is less awe this time around

Warning - Spoilers!

This is a late review - this was actually released a couple of weeks ago, but I only got to go through it yesterday. By coincidence I got to read this directly after The Walking Dead #58, and so, while maybe a bit unfair, I did make a comparison between the 2 titles. This is not going to be me eulogising Robert Kirkmans title, however - I do that enough elsewhere on this blog. I think Crossed has a fear factor more intense than The Walking Dead, and there is a real intense feeling of all pervasive dread and terror that the more character driven Kirkman title cannot match generally speaking.

But this is the problem that Crossed #3 has for me - there is a lack of the 'crossed' and so the focus is on the survivors and the way the world has tilted so far that they do unspeakable things in order to survive. Ennis is a great writer, but the issue didn't really draw me in like #2 did. I prefer the human cast when they are being hunted to be honest,as opposed to being the hunters, as they are here. I am not really engaging with many of the cast either........it may take a few more issues for that to happen, I don't know. The shock value is there though, and children are again involved in some truly awful scenes. I guess you can rely on Ennis to provide that controversy, though in this case you couldn't really engage with the victims as they were never really 'fleshed' out in the story - within a few pages they had been dispatched- you'll know what I mean if you read it. The art is very good, and Burrows can rely illustrate these little pockets of hell, and larger 2 page spreads where the madness of the infected makes you feel sick in your stomach. The covers are suitably sick and perverse, especially the Santa one....

There is an excellent review here that encapsulates my feelings about 'crossed' to a great extent.

I will still be with it for #4. It still has its hooks in me.

Verdict - great art, but the absence of the 'crossed' leads to a dissipation of the tension and terror that has been so effectively built up in the last few issues. 6 out of 10

Review - The Walking Dead #58



Kirkman explores the darker side of Rick and Abraham, while others plan to break away.

WARNING - SPOILERS!!!!

Sometimes, reading 'The Walking Dead' is a bitter-sweet experience. You can gallop through an issue - an issue you have been waiting roughly 4 to 6 weeks for - in around 10 minutes. With issue #58, I felt as if I had read 2 issues in 1. This time around Robert Kirkman has packed in so much drama, incident and plot developments that it does feel like a super-size edition. Believe me when I say there is no drop in quality either.

Essentially this is a comic book in 3 acts. The first part deals with the tense relationship between Abraham and Rick, and what seems to be a resolving of their differences in their often tense encounters. As they both discuss what they have had to do to survive, and what they have been prepared to do in order to protect their own interests for the sake of their loved ones, you see the two of them finally come together as equals. This could be a big turning point in the story for Abraham Ford - is Kirkman moving him centre stage as a good guy and Ricks ally?

Just when you think that this issue is going to be taken up with the exploration of Rick and Abraham's characters, a second act begins as we cut to some of the group back at their temporary base. There are cracks beginning to show in the solidarity of the recently reunited group, with Dale wanting to break free with Andrea and some of the children. He is concerned with Rick, and what he perceives as a change in his character, a change for the worse that leaves Dale scared. Andrea, however, remains unconvinced. There is even time for a brief discussion on the Mullet hairstyle that involves Dr. Eugene Porter. At face value this looks like a brief and humorous interlude, but when it is Andrea asking the question, who along with Michonne are 2 of the most capable and strong characters in this series, then maybe that is a hint that Dr Porter is not all he seems. Maybe.

Finally, in the third act, we are finally reunited with Morgan Jones, who along with his young son Duane, were the first living people Rick encountered in The Walking Dead after the Zombie outbreak. Their meeting starts off badly and gets worse. I will say no more other than this ties in brilliantly with the exploration of what it is to be a man and a father in the wretched world that Rick, Abraham and Morgan inhabit. The ending is moving and surprising. No big cliffhanger this time - just pure Robert Kirkman class.

Kirkman is essentially asking a big question throughout this issue. That question is, as I understand it, 'how far would you go to protect / avenge your own?'. This follows on from last issues encounter with the 3 bandits and Ricks response, and is expanded on in acts 1 and 3 of this issue. The writing is understated or believable, and you understand the conviction of each character.

Kirkmans writing just gets better, and his long term vision should be commended. The fact that he has waited nearly 5 years to re-introduce a couple of characters, and then when he re-introduces them it is what he does with those characters that makes him stand out as a comic book writer of some distinction.

Finally, let me just pay some attention to Charlie Adlards art which is superb as ever - particularly on the change of appearance in Morgan since the last time we saw him.

No matter how many times I say it, it doesn't diminish the fact one bit - The Walking Dead IS the best comic book around, and Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn make an amazing creative team.

Verdict - The best issue in months, and that's saying something when the quality has been so good recently. There feels like there is more than 22 pages in this one. Packed with drama, emotion and shocks. 9.9 out of 10