Category Archives: cliff rathburn

Review – The Walking Dead #106 (image/skybound, 2013)

2 things worthy of note;
1 – Charlie Adlard celebrates his 100th Walking Dead issue, which is probably not a record for an artist on a title but is absolutely something to cherish. He gets a glowing appraisal in the ‘letter hacks’ section, and in it we learn that;
2 – because of Charlie Adlard’s singularly superhuman appetite for the work, The Walking Dead has been monthly (and sometimes even more regular) for around 3 years. As I can remember the days when 1.5 / 2 / and even nearly 3 month delays were a semi regular occurrence for the single issues of this title, it would not be hyperbole to suggest that it is because of Adlards dedication and craft that have helped propel this IP to the fame it currently enjoys.

Next up is the review of the issue itself, there is some plot reveals so please be aware SPOILERS from here on in;

As for the issue – well, the cover is a classic. One of the best of Adlards tenure, a suitable work of art to celebrate his centenary, and his art inside is not shabby either. The guy is consistently good, in my opinion, with his own style. It is one of the better pairings of story to artist that the comic medium has produced, up there with Miller & Jansen, Lee & Ditko, Lee & Kirby, Simonsons time on Thor, and Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four.

The storyline this month has the requisite sub-plots; Kirkman throwing in an interesting development revolving around Spencer, and Eric voicing his doubts to Aaron on the security of the community since the arrival of Negan. The reveal of cracks in the community is not surprising, as there has been that underlying threat of dissent in the ranks for a few issues now. But the Spencer reveal, while only getting a few panels, is probably one to watch. Jealousy can drive a man insane…

There is more Negan, who reminds us all that Carl, now minus face bandage, and despite having sung a song to Negan, is still up for a suitable punishment. Which leads us nicely on to the cliffhanger of a nicely paced issue with enough storyline to satisfy and enough unfinished business to make the 4 week wait a bit painful;

It goes like this – Rick is desperate to find Carl. Jesus turns up in the middle of the night (after a brief scene showing that, yes indeed, he is still absolutely kickass – it’s like he is really trying hard to get a more central role in this title). Jesus tells Rick that he knows where Negan is based. Despite having been on patrol the best part of the day searching for Carl and some perfunctory zombie slaying (see the cover), Rick gathers Andrea and Michonne, and along with Jesus they head off towards Negan’s. I will not say any more about the plot, but I will mention Ricks attitude / approach regarding how he wants to deal with Negan. Rick has quickly adapted to the enforced change in dynamics, and being a generally smart guy, knows when to play it cool. Michonne, on the other hand, seems to favour a more direct approach to solving the Negan problem. I wonder if that is going to cause her some grief in the near future? Anyway, Negan and Rick meet up, Rick wants to know where Carl is, and Negan, with his best shit eating grin, tells Rick he cannot wait to show what he has done to his (Ricks) little boy…..ugh. More than a little worrying, and slightly disturbing.

Finally –  I am still not 100% sure about Jesus. How did he find Negans hideout? We didn’t see how he did it, we just know he did it. Is he fooling us as well as Rick? Is he deep cover? And what has Negan done to Carl? Until next month!!!

Review – The Walking Dead #105 (Image / Skybound, 2012)

Capping what has been a fascinating and rewarding year to be a Walking Dead fan (what with the excellent Telltale Games series, and some very good TV episodes), issue 105 is further proof that Negan is here for the long run, Carl is moving more centre stage, and Rick? No Rick to be seen.

What we get is an exploration of the Saviors, the Sanctuary and Negans rule. To call him ‘hard but fair’ would be an understatement, as he is a conundrum. His methods of punishment can be cruel, barbaric, yet he also strives to look after his subjects. They respond with almost complete loyalty, but again Kirkman shows that Dwight may well be the weak link, one way of Rick being able to strike back at Negan. We learn that Negan took Dwights wife/partner into his own harem, and when she cheated on Negan, with Dwight, the punishment was the dis-figuration of Dwight.

Negans treatment of Carl is fascinating. The issue explores their growing relationship, and with Carl scared and vulnerable, Negan probes for information. On 2 occasions Negan inadvertently reduces Carl to tears, by forcing him to remove his eye bandage, and by singing a song and recalling his mother? More disturbing was the images of Negan swinging Lucille during Carls rendition of ‘You are my Sunshine’. Was that another scare tactic? Was all of it a way of breaking Carl down?

A slower paced issue. But there was more than enough talking points. Next time, Dad comes looking for Carl. Looks like it could be the perfect start to 2013.

Review – The Walking Dead #104 (Image / Skybound, 2012)

The cover is a fair indication of some of the contents this time, which is split into several plots that flit around nicely. There is so much going on at the moment, and it is all very very positive. This is without a doubt shaping up to be a great run, with the action and plotting in this issue an indication of how far things have come over the last few months. The arrival of Negan and the Saviors has really got this title fired up.

For a summary of the latest issue, go here;
http://www.roamersandlurkers.com/topic/6361-issue-104-synopsis-and-review/

From here on in, it is SPOILERS, so you have been warned….

Random thoughts on issue 104

1) Carl is the major focus in this issue, and it is handled really well. His stowing away in Negan’s convoy is completely in character – impetuous, brave – and his arrival at the Saviors base is explosive and, again, believable. The kid has the guts but his limitations are also apparent. The outcome was not what he planned, and now Carl is a ‘guest’ of Negan, so what happens next is going to be fascinating. His actions in issue 104 are going to have major ramifications for the near future. I cannot wait to see how Kirkman plays this one.

2) Negan is fascinated by Carl and Negan (no doubt) knows the possibilities he has to use Carl in his favour. My feeling is Negan will try to win Carl over, while having him as a devastating weapon / hostage/ bargaining  tool against Rick.

3) And with his son hostage, Rick’s reaction is likely to be swift and brutal. The long game that Rick planned against Negan is most likely going to be forgotten now. That cover to issue 106 could well be indicating a rescue operation.

4) Which leads me onto the Saviors HQ, aka ‘The Sanctuary’, which had an imposing building reminiscent of a power station. It also had the zombie barrier / zombie scarecrow defence that Crawford has in the latest episode of The Walking Dead Game (Episode 4 ‘Around Every Corner’). It was a suitably imposing first look at the base camp of the enemy. Great work from Charlie Adlard on that.

5) There was more of Dwight this issue, and more Negan, and when they shared some time together, it was apparent that there is no love lost between the 2, which came as a (nice) surprise. Dwight is a character that I think could play a major part in the downfall of Negan. There is a comment that Negan makes about having ‘ample time to throw the wood in at least a couple of wives’. This rather repulsive comment is further fuel to the fire as far as Dwight is concerned, as the look on his face is one of complete contempt toward Negan. Why? There is more to this to be discovered. The comment also serves to further highlight how much of a dick Negan is. It is going to be really great when he finally gets payback. He is a bully, a braggard and, although he has intelligence, he has a loathsome character. Kirkman knows how to push the buttons to get the readers reaction on Negan. As I said in a previous review, he is so pantomime its ridiculous. And I mean that in a good way.

6) Jesus! He is so cool. He is the sharper, deadlier Abraham (R.I.P). Long may he live and prosper. And I seriously doubt he is a Savior now. Don’t kill him off please!

7) ‘I’ve seen the weapons you use. I know you don’t have a lot of guns’ is such a fantastic line from Carl. Is it also an indication that The Saviors are not as well equipped as we assume?

8) ‘Think we’ll get one of these mattresses?’
‘I fucking hope so, but who knows what we’ll have to do to earn one’
This small exchange between 2 of the Saviors suggests that, alongside the ‘wives’ comment, Negan treats all those within the Sanctuart as servants and playthings. A post apocalyptic Feudal Lord, with a sense of outrageous entitlement and a very dirty mouth.

9) Alexandria appears to be a fragmented, divided place now, with mutiny a possibility.

10) Did I tell you how good this issue was? It’s a 9.5 out of 10. The best one of the year, and the best one of last year as well.

Review – The Walking Dead #103 (image / Skybound, 2012)

Needless to say, this is a review, so there are SPOILERS.

I can see where Kirkman is coming from now, with his portrayal of Negan. He is going to be a real deal villain, like the bad guy in those black and white matinee movies, all twirling of his moustache and sweeping his black cape about him, and a resounding evil cackle  His entrance in #100 was suitably over the top, the terrible violence meted out was only part of the show. It was also his mannerisms, his choice use of language (does anyone really swear like that?), his tactics. He was clever, calculating, but also brutal, and most definitely a complete Dick with that captial D.

In #103, Negan returns, and now its clear what Kirkman M.O is here. Negan is so loathsome, that the title now has an adversary worthy of this great series. On a par with the Governor? Maybe, it is too early to tell. it depends on how Kirkman handles the story in the months to come. But the potential is there to make Negan the greatest villain that Rick Grimes has encountered. He has the swagger, the presence, the brain and the brawn. And the swearing.

So, Negan arrives – as promised back in #100 – to collect his ‘tax’ from the community. 50%, as he said. There is some resistance from Rick, when, with the big gate of the Alexandria Safe Zone separating him and Negan, Rick stares at him sullenly, there is a moment when you wonder if the fightback starts right there. The resistance lasts a few panels. Rick ends up looking more like a recalcitrant child. It’s a great little scene.

And while I am going off on a tangent, there is another great scene at the start of the issue, with Jesus (aka ‘Paul’) doing some covert tracking of Dwight and his eye drops (love that little bit of detail Adlard keeps ‘dropping’ in). Jesus is so kick-ass he can even fell a few zombies while doing his covert thing. Does this confirm that Jesus is actually on Ricks side? Or is he that deep cover that the deception extends to Negan’s men not knowing that Jesus is actually one of their own? There is still a lingering sense that Jesus is not all he seems, and Kirkman has fostered that. And that is a shame, because I want Jesus to be with the ‘good’ guys. His character is strong enough to be a worthy addition to the main cast of characters. With the loss of Abraham, we need some more Alpha males in the cast to be able to balance out Rick. Anyway, bottom line is – Jesus is following Dwight, as per the plan Rick devised last issue. We may get to know a bit more about Negan and his environment pretty soon. I hope that is going to be interesting.

One more interesting scene before I go back to Negan, There are a few panels where Carl and Rick share some time, and you can feel the disdain pouring out of Carl towards his Father. Adlard, again, conveys the emotion in the scene. Where this will go – with Carl clearly feeling like his Father has lost face, and control over their situation – is unclear. But this will be taken further, undoubtedly. Later on in the issue, Carl attempts to threaten Negan, but his ire is quickly dampened when he realises the threat he is up against. Again, how this feeds into how Carl is going to react to the whole situation is intriguing, and probably will be looked at further in the near future, if upcoming cover art is any sort of indicator.

So, Negan is at the gates. Rick is going to let him in – what else can he do? But it is important to note that Negan and the Saviors have actually been doing some community-spirited work, clearing out some walkers that have been lurking near the vicinity of the Safe Zone. Negan clearly has a code of honour and duty to those who he deems are under his protection, however warped this world view is to the reader. But this is post-apocalypse territory, the normal rules don’t apply any more.

Now we get to the meat of this issue, with Negan and the Saviors making their presence felt inside the safe zone. These scenes are handled so well, with Negan firmly in control. It is all in the detail – for example, Negan gives Rick ‘Lucille’ to hold. This is interesting in so many ways – it shows the powerlessness of Ricks situation. Rick is having to hold the weapon that killed Glenn. It is a weapon that could kill Negan, but Rick is powerless to do it, because the repercussions would probably lead to the death of all those he loves. It shows the balance of power has truly shifted, as Rick is no more than a caddy for Negan. Negan does not view him as a threat, and is making that clear to the widest audience possible.

Negan surveys the Safe Zone, and clearly admires the set-up, so there is a threat established whereby the Saviors can decide to either co-exist in the Safe Zone or evict the current dwellers and take it for themselves.  Then we get to the food and medicine supplies. Negan does not want to take any food, as hungry people are no good to him. Another example of his tactical thinking. He wants people fit and healthy, so he can take what he wants from them. He wants productive people. He is again clearly establishing that he does not view these people as a threat. Then comes the master-stroke. When the Saviors take their cut of the medicine supplies, they take less than the 50% they are entitled to, but what they do take is the morphine and oxycontin and anything else that can be used  (presumably for ‘recreation’ purposes and as an incentive and a bargaining tool). They leave the cold medicine, aspirin and penicillin. They leave the community at risk if there are any serious health issues, presumably leaving them at the mercy of Negan, having to go to him to request those supplies. This scene again shows Rick lack of options. He has to talk Denise out of shooting the Saviors taking the supplies, and try to reason with Negan so that they can retain some of the morphine and other medicines. His plea to Negan falls on deaf ears. Rick has no bargaining power.

The one pointless scene of the week, and the one part of this issue that just did not hold up well at all, is Andrea and Ricks lovers tiff. What was that all about? I took this summary from the Walking Dead Wiki, as they explain it so well, and shows the scene up for what it is – pointless;

Andrea is about to move out of Rick’s house because she isn’t satisfied with his decision of letting Dwight go back. Rick stops her in the last minute and tells her about his plan, how he is pretending to be scared so they can strike back at Negan. Andrea wonders why Rick didn’t tell her earlier, and he says he didn’t want everyone to know.

This is the issue 1 of the new arc and is, as yet, untitled. Well thank goodness for that. Too many of these recent arcs have been labelled and packaged. it feels like each 6 episode run is overtly worked purely for the trade reprint, which feels like a constraint to story. That may be so, but by giving a name to every arc, you also make it an ‘event’, it gets expectations too high. I like The Walking Dead just as much when there is no arc title blazed across each issue.

In summary, a great issue, so many exciting possibilities. The cover art is not a direct commentary on the action in the issue, but is an expression of the way the balance of power has shifted in this comic. Negan holds all the power now. How Rick reacts to that is now the driver of the plot. If he makes a wrong decision on this, it could cost many lives. I get the sense that any move against Negan, even if successful, is going to come at a heavy price.

The title is really back on track, where the next issue cannot come quickly enough. This, coupled with the fantastic Walking Dead game that is out now on various plaforms, and the soon to be aired Series 3 of the TV show, means it has never been a better time to be a fan.

Review – The Walking Dead #102 (Image / Skybound, 2012)

For a final arc episode, #102 is low-key, with much of the pages taken up with Kirkman manoeuvring plot pieces into place (something I feel he is pretty good at. He sows the seeds and then walks away for a few issues before returning on some occasions. It shows he has a regard for his audience, that they can pick up plot points from weeks before). This time, we have the return of Eugene and his bullet manufacturing proposition, the sense of guilt felt by Rick & Michonne, Andrea’s anger at Ricks current position regarding Negan, the role of ‘Jesus’ in Ricks planning for the future.

And Carl. Carl, the product of the apocalypse. Carl, who now swears in front of his Father, who actively discusses planning and strategy. Whose answer to any threat is simple. He wants to shoot at it until it goes away. I get the feeling that Kirkman is moving Carl further forward, right to the forefront. Carl is decisive, Rick is hesitant. Carl wants to kill, Rick wants to bide his time. Already we have seen the divide between Father & Son, and Kirkman keeps opening it up a little more.

What feels like a mid-Trade issue actually says a lot more about the current direction of The Walking Dead. It is open to all possibilities, and in the meantime we get a closer examination of some of our favourite characters, that feels fresh and purposeful (I really liked the piece about Michonne and her image of herself as a ‘weapon’ for the group). And Negan fans – hate to have to disappoint you, but there is no sign of the Big Man. Which means that Negan is probably going to be around for a while, as Rick plans for the long haul. Biding his time. But is Jesus really such a good ally to have? I guess that is going to be answered one way or another in the next few issues.

Issue #102. Solid entertainment, without being spectacular. The Walking Dead is in fine form without being amazing, but that’s okay. The title is in much better shape than this time last year, or 6 months ago. I am a happy reader.

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.

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