Review – The Walking Dead #101 (image / skybound, 2012)

Needless to say this is a review of issue 101, so if you haven’t read it, or issue 100, or the issues before that, or the trades, then do not read, as there are spoilers from here on in.

Issue 100 was, on reflection, and with a few weeks between now and the initial hype and excitement, probably as good as The Walking Dead could be for its anniversary issue. It was a game changer, in the sense that we had Rick, previously built up as the Conqueror, suddenly becoming the Vanquished. Humbled, and with the very real threat of death hanging not over him, but those who he has strived to protect, Rick is no longer the Alpha Male that he was in issue #99. But he does not give the impression of being entirely beaten. As the issue progresses, you still get the sense that this is a man who could regain control of the situation.

The manner of death of Glenn was shocking and emotionally charged, and the immediate fallout of that is dealt with in the first few pages. It is dealt with in a believable way, but the resolution, with both Carl and Sophia acting in threatening and violent ways to end the situation, merely illustrates again the broken and violent children that are being raised in this new world. No doubt prepared for a future with little hope, Carl has developed an instinct over the past couple of years to answer questions with the barrel of a gun. It is, however, a new development to see Sophia react so savagely to the threat of death, but depressingly inevitable, as she has gone through unimaginable loss and has been witness to a lot of it. This is one of Kirkman’s strengths, just dropping in subtle (and not so subtle) shifts of character in an explosive (but blink and you miss them) short sequence of panels. It works really well here, and it was one of the highlights of this issue. As Maggie makes the decision to remain with Sophia at the Hilltop Colony, maybe this is Kirkman’s way of showing the readers that Sophia could be following a parallel path to Carl, becoming as damaged and dangerous as he undoubtedly is.

We still had the small matter of the community that Rick had left behind. In issue 100 they were a mere footnote, and you could have assumed that issue 101 would have told that story. The assumption would have been that the forces of Negan would have attacked Andrea and the others left behind, literally holding the fort. You may have expected another Governor-style attack on the compound, much like the Prison siege. You may have expected Kirkman to top issue 100 with more violence and death. But he doesn’t, and in a great ‘didn’t see that coming’ moment, all we get to see is the aftermath of the attack. The news is better than expected as well, with Andrea and co. having repelled the attack, and for bonus points, on the last page cliffhanger, they have got a hostage. The clue is on the cover, as they have the Two-Face lookalike Dwight, looking a bit forlorn. Poor Dwight – first he gets his crotch bitten by Eugene until the blood starts seeping through his jeans, then he ends up tied up to a chair at the mercy of Rick, Michonne and Andrea.

I feel quite sorry for him. And I think I see a pool of blood collecting round one of his feet. Didn’t he get that bite seen to? Ouch.

Minor point #1 – Jesus / Paul decides its best to accompany Rick and the rest back to Alexandria. I wonder if this is part of Negans plan. Is Jesus / Paul working for Negan? Or is he going to be a very useful ally in the fightback against Negan? Because there is no doubt that someone is going to be initiating the fightback against Negan. It may not be Rick, but one of those main characters is going to be taking matters further.

And finally…. Some great art from Adlard in #101. Loved the aftermath of the Saviors attack on the Alexandria Safe Zone, and the departure of Negan and his army in the first few panels of the issue. Great stuff.

The Boys #72 – the final solicitation. (Dynamite, 2012)

BOYS #72 (MR)
(W) Garth Ennis (A/CA) Darick Robertson
THE FINAL ISSUE! The long day closes on the Brooklyn Bridge, as our hero finally meets his destiny. There’s one last deal to be done, As Stillwell finds out the real cost of doing business, and one last surprise for Rayner too – as she begins her long-dreamed of political career. The Boys’ story comes to an end in this final issue containing 24 pages of story! Contains 5 pin-up pages of brand-new art as well as a complete cover gallery!

My Gaming Timeline Part 7 – Operation Wolf (Taito, 1987)

A game that got me back in the arcade. Back in 1987 I was working at a theme park (Drayton Manor) that had an arcade bang in the centre of the park, and after all the rides shut down, the canny Arcade operator used to keep his establishment open for 30 minutes or more, to mop up any pennies not already spent by punters. And invariably, one or two of the staff would wonder in to either blow their meagre earnings (this was pre-minimum wage and a lot of us were Sixth formers or college / University students who would take whatever pay we could get). Some would go to the shove penny contraptions or the fruit machines, but I only had eyes for the video games. When Operation Wolf arrived in the summer of 1987, I was only interested in standing at that cabinet, cradling the fixed swivel mounted light gun, that looked like an Uzi, and attempting to free the hostages from the 6 stages of concentration camp war madness.

So many great elements in this game; the way the gun gives force feedback to simulate recoil each time you fired the gun, the relentless barrage of enemy hostility, the constant search for ammunition as your depleted stocks begin to become a threat to your mission. The little static cut scenes that move the story on with economy and purpose. The Arnold Schwarzenegger / Dolph Lundgren super-soldiers.

The graphics, for their time, were fluid and exciting. The controls on the gun were responsive and the on rails gaming experience immersive. And that cabinet looks marvelous doesn’t it?

When you eventually completed a level, it was with a real sense of achievement, such was the well pitched difficulty setting.

Death was a common experience in the game. I do not know how much money I put in that machine at Drayton Manor, but for every 10 minutes of Operation Wolf, I probably had to work a couple of hours to afford to play it. But that was okay. Operation Wolf was a classic arcade game that made the light gun / on-rails game relevant and exciting. Even 25 years later, its a perfectly playable game. You can see for yourself as you can play it online. You just don’t get the light gun experience.

Even the home conversions were good (and there were plenty of them, including a good CPC464 version, a C64 version and a top notch Amiga conversion. It also spawned 3 sequels, one of which, Operation Thunderbolt (1988) nearly cost me as much in 50p pieces as its predecessor.