Review – The Walking Dead #98 (image/skybound, 2012)

SPOILERS. Please do not read if you are not up to date with the single issues, specifically, if you haven’t read Walking Dead #98, and you do not want it spoiled, then do not go any further.








We approach #100 rapidly, what with the 3 week release schedule, and the pace really picking up. Issue 98 absolutely whizzes by, with a momentum that is gripping and a reading time of mere minutes. But there is an event within the first few pages that is truly shocking and relatively unexpected. Yes, its MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH TIME in The Walking Dead. It’s one of those story arcs. This one, I got to admit. I would not have predicted. Notice I am not saying his name. I would not have predicted its (ahem) execution, which is done with a black humour and a certain amount of sadness. But more importantly, I really did not want this character to die. I will not say his name. He was probably the only one with any humour and vitality, and anything approaching a personality, while the rest of the characters either got locked into soap opera dialogue or were reduced to snarling dogs. I cannot say his name. IT’S A WASTE OF A BLOODY GOOD CHARACTER.
While there is no doubt that the latest arc is threatening to match the body count (and death = excitement, right?) of The Woodbury Prison siege all those years ago, this latest issue is still hard to swallow, where it feels that Kirkman is simply tossing away a great character, with lots of untapped potential, for the sake of shock value. I am not sure how ‘Letter Hacks’ is going to read in a couple of issues time when the reaction to #98 most likely gets published, but I get a sense that this issue will be a polariser. For me, this was a needless death. Shame. Shame!
When Kirkman didn’t give Carl the death that we all anticipated, it felt like a mistake, a bad piece of sensationalism with an outcome that made no sense (I know, we are talking comics here, but still, even by this logic where the dead roam the Earth – Carl should be dead). With this latest twist in the tale, it just feels like a cheap shot. He didn’t deserve to go just yet. I doubt many readers were tired of him. And in the final panel, you see Rick – lost and unsure of his next move. Well, that may be mirroring the emotions of reader reactions to #98. Still, I will be there next time. 
In tribute

Flexipop!

Flexipop was a unique contributor to the 80’s glossy music press. A magazine competitor to Smash Hits, it had interviews, photo stories, full page pictures etc – but they also had a cover mounted flexidisc for each issue. Issue 1 came with The Selector on the disc, issue 2 had The Jam and issue 3 had The Boomtown Rats. As you can see, they aimed high, and the fact they managed to attract so much talent to record special one-off tracks ensures it has a special place in British Pop History. By issue 4, they had Adam & The Ants,  approaching the peak of their massive commercial success, recording a special version of Village People’s ‘Y.M.C.A’, entitled ‘A.N.T.S’.

Here is a selection of covers – and for complete scans of issues of flexipop, try here;

http://musicmags70s80s.blogspot.com/2008/10/flexipop-no1-to-no.html

(all following images courtesy of http://musicmags70s80s.blogspot.com/)




Links!!!


http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/feb/04/flexipop-tim-lott

http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/weekly_article/disposable-pop-a-history-of-the-flexi-disc.htm

Dance Craze shopfront and instore promotion at HMV Oxford Street (1981)

These are photographs of the HMV Oxford Street, promoting the ‘Dance Craze’ album. The photographs are assumed to be taken circa winter / spring 1981. Only 3.49 for the album!

Images courtesy of a brilliant blog called ‘Voices of East Anglia’;

‘Dance Craze’ was a documentary film capturing the 2 Tone phenomena at its peak, and comprised of live concert footage of the main bands of the movement. .

Here is the first part of the documentary;

Also, to accompany the film, a soundtrack was released, comprising many of the songs played in the film. The album contains 15 tracks, as opposed to the films 27 tracks. Notable absentees from the soundtrack include ‘On My Radio’ (a chart hit for The Selector) and ‘The Prince’ (the first single from Madness).

The soundtrack album listing was as follows;

Side One
“Concrete Jungle” – The Specials
“Mirror In The Bathroom” – The Beat
“Lip Up Fatty” – Bad Manners
“Razor Blade Alley” – Madness
“Three Minute Hero” – The Selecter
“Easy Life” – The Bodysnatchers
“Big Shot” – The Beat
“One Step Beyond” – Madness

Side Two
“Ranking Full Stop” – The Beat
“Man At C&A” – The Specials
“Missing Words” – The Selecter
“Inner London Violence” – Bad Manners
“Night Boat To Cairo” – Madness
“Too Much Pressure” – The Selecter
“Nite Klub” – The Specials

The album chart statistics for ‘Dance Craze’ are below, courtesy of http://www.chartstats.com;

Artist: Original Soundtrack
Title: Dance Craze
Type: Album
Entered chart on 14/02/1981 at #7
Most recent chart entry on 23/05/1981 at #61
Chart Appearances: 15
Highest Position: 5

Solicitation for The Boys #69 (Dynamite Entertainment, 2012)

THE BOYS #69

32 pages FC  •  $3.99  •  Mature

Written by GARTH ENNIS

Art by RUSS BRAUN

Covers by DARICK ROBERTSON

The third bad day: as Hughie reels from the events of last issue, the trail leads him to the home of an old adversary thought long dead. Butcher gets in touch with a few details no one’s yet considered, and Frenchie gives our hero a brutally honest rundown on his chances- before a lethal attack at the heart of the Boys’ operation shatters the status quo forever. Hughie finally discovers exactly what he’s doing, in part four of The Bloody Doors Off.

3 issues till the end!!!

courtesy of http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/05/15/half-of-dynamites-books-for-august-possibly-the-best-half/

Review – The Walking Dead #97 (Image / Skybound, 2012)

We have reached a point in The Walking Dead where Rick’s decisions are leading the main cast of characters into uncharted territory. If the turning point for these people was ‘Fear The Hunters’, where they turned the tables on a group of Survivalists with a taste for Human flesh, then the journey from survivors to aggressors is now complete. In ‘Something to Fear’, they meet force with force. In a quick and brutal mid-section, issue #97 is a game-changer. After confronting and eliminating a small group of ‘Negan’ foot-soldiers, there is no way back from a confrontation, unless ‘Negan’ acquiesces to the demands Rick is setting out. Rick has been through so much, and at this point in the story he is a man desperate; desperate for hope, desperate to keep his son and   by extension those he keeps closest to him alive. He is desperate for the working relationship with the Hilltop Community, which will probably guarantee some measure of safety and comfort for his own community. He is desperate enough to take on the unknown threat of Negan. But a desperate man can make bad decisions, and this issue seems to pulse with the threat of violence and death.

And then there is Eugene.

Eugene, largely forgotten over the last couple of years, comes back into focus, teasing and cajoling Abraham into a mission outside of the walled community, for ammunition supplies. You get the sense there is more to this. Is the real motive to get Abraham away from the safety of the community? And to what ends? It is clear Eugene has feelings for Rosita that are not reciprocated, and the weight of her past relationship with Abraham is maybe too much of a burden for Eugene. By the end of the issue, there is probably a lot more for Eugene to worry about, in a great cliffhanger, promising some unpleasant consequences in issue 98.

One throwaway moment towards the end was the appearance of a zombie in advanced stages of decay. I am sure this will be revisited in the future, but what is its significance? An indication that the undead do eventually decay to the point that there threat is negated? That the undead do have a limited ‘life’ span?

Lots of action, some plot development (Maggie pregnant – probably not a good portent for her or Glenn), and a fantastic cliffhanger. Some great splash pages from Adlard, although some of the smaller panels felt rushed (but considering the time constraints he is working under, his consistency is amazing). All in all, this is The Walking Dead back to its best. ‘Something to Fear’ is promising to be a real event. I really hope its promise is fulfilled.

My Gaming Timeline Part 4 – Astro Blaster Handheld (Hales / Tomy, 1982)

                               (image courtesy of http://retrobrothers.hubpages.com/hub/Astro-Blaster)

The phenomena of the early handheld gaming devices is easy enough to understand. Arcades, and their arcade machines, were our portal into a multitude of exciting, futuristic worlds and scenarios. Any device that could even try to capture the essence of the thrill of the arcade, and bring it to the home, was an attractive proposition. If the handheld devices build design was a miniature facsimile of the arcade cabinet, all the better.

Cast in bright red plastic, Astro Blaster, which was a Scramble clone, was a great example of table top gaming. In 1982, this was as good as it got for arcade home gaming. It gave me hours of challenge.Not only was it a fair representation of the game it emulated, but its build and presentation gave a great overall package. And it had settings for Pro (Professional) and Am (for amateur), to increase the longevity.

Addictive, with multiple stages of gaming, giving variety and challenge, it remains a fond memory and earns a deserved place in my Gaming Timeline.

Links!!!

http://retrobrothers.hubpages.com/hub/Astro-Blaster

http://www.handheldempire.com/game.jsp?game=2437