Category Archives: cliff rathburn

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.

Review – The Walking Dead #95 (Image/Skybound, 2012)

This is a review of issue 95 of The Walking Dead, and contains mild SPOILERS!

There has been a paucity of really great issues of this series over the past 3 years, but in terms of what this issue did, I think it ranks with the last truly great episode (which was out a year ago)  in issue 83 (and you can click here for a synopsis of what happened in that issue) ;

The Walking Dead tends to stick to a cyclic plot progression. Rick & co. meet new people, new people have own community, Rick & co. unsure / wary of new community, eventually all hell breaks loose, and their may be some zombies thrown into the mix (just to remind you that though the living are the real threat, this is generally marketed as a ‘Zombie’ comic). Rick & co. regroup, and the whole cycle starts again.

Issue #95 (or ‘part 3 of A Larger World’ if you prefer) is no exception to this tried and tested formula. Rick & co. have been taken to the gates of a walled community (aka ‘Hilltop Colony’), to be introduced and welcomed into it. Several issues have led up to this particular moment, as we have seen Rick struggle with his natural instinct of distrust and finally come to an understanding with ‘Jesus’ (aka Paul Monroe), the advanced scout / lead recruiter for this new community. We are given a snapshot of life within the walls of ‘Hilltop’ thanks to Adlard’s great pencils, showing bored sentry guards, rows of trailers, a fantastic Stately building and scores of people going about their business.

So far, so the-usual-Walking-Dead of late. Slow paced, but with a little less exposition and a lot less word balloons fit to burst with Kirkman’s dialogue. But then something great and unexpected happens. Without wanting to give too much away, we are introduced to a leader / elder called Gregory, and in quick succession, another resident, Ethan, comes back from a mission that has gone wrong. There are other names, of victims, captives and potential aggressors. Then all hell breaks loose, and Rick is right in the middle of it, as usual. It really reminded me of this, for some reason;

That’s a good thing by the way.

These final pages left me really impressed, especially the final shot of Rick and his apparent nonchalance to the events that had just occurred.

For the first time in ages, I really do not know where this series is going next. Again, that’s a good thing, as the unpredictability of issue 95 left me with the distinct impression that Kirkman is planning something superb for his centenary celebrations on The Walking Dead. I really hope he can deliver on the promise of this current instalment.

Solicitation for The Walking Dead 97 (Image/Skybound, 2012)

Written by Robert Kirkman, art and cover by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn.
Two issues in one month! The start of a new storyline, leading up to our monumental issue 100! After nearly 100 issues, Rick and the other survivors finally have “Something to Fear.”
32 pages, black and white, $2.99, in stores on May 9. 

Review – The Walking Dead #92 (image, 2011)

Needless to say – SPOILERS!!!

The ‘letter hacks’ pages have a comment from Sina Grace (Editor) noting that there were 12 issues shipped in 2011, which I believe is testament to Adlard and Rathburn’s professionalism and dedication. Kirkman managed to get 12 issues of story out but sometimes (especially in the middle of the year) it felt stretched a bit thin, meandering, nothing to really move the story along.

It’s good to see that the final issue of the year comes good, with some sharp dialogue, some movement in the story, and some action – both against undead and living.
This issue marks the build up to the ‘larger world’ storyline that is due to kick off in the next few issues, and is probably initiating something that will roll into the landmark issue 100.
So what was good about this issue? In order;
The Abraham / Michonne team-up.
The fact that Abraham & Michonne got some decent scenes – they have been sidelined too long.
Some decent action sequences, well realised by Adlard and Rathburn.
The dialogue – snappy, sometimes funny, but it was always to the point and gave the issue purpose.
Less Rick, less Carl, less monologues.
An interesting new character introduced, with a great nickname.
A fantastic cover – one of the best yet.
Issue #92 ends the year in fine style, and sets up 2012 in a good way. I am more excited now about this series than I have been for months.

Review – The Walking Dead #91 (Image/Skybound, 2011)

Needless to say, SPOILERS (for this and previous issues). If you aren’t reading the single issues, and waiting for the trades, it’s probably not a good idea to read on.

Nice cover. That’s a good start.

The story itself has a little zombie action to whet the appetite, and then there is no further zombie action for the rest of the issue. Just a little tease.

We have a supply run, that is partially successful, but there has been some emphasis lately on the fact that food is in short supply, that tinned food may not last forever, that other solutions may need to be formulated. Farming, the very thing that made us rise above our primitive nature and forge civilizations in the past, is proposed as a way forward. I like the fact that there is a real tension over the dwindling supply of food. It has been gradually introduced as an issue, and now it seems to pose as great a threat as the undead. There are hints that the community is currently existing on a diet of very little. This adds to the fractiousness between individuals that has been seen recently. In terms of the visual representation of this, and its effect on individuals, there is little evidence. Adlard is still drawing people with the same build as they have had since whatever issue they debuted. Even Eugene still seems well fed.

The lack of supplies also throws up the odd little conspiracy. There is one involving a bottle whiskey that is nicely played. It shows humanity with honesty. I think its my favourite scene in this issue.

There is a lot of focus on the children, Carl and Sophia. Sophia is still childlike, vulnerable and sweet, having to pretend to herself that Maggie & Glenn are her real parents in an effort to preserve her sanity, it would seem. Carl, on the other hand, is a realist, embittered by his experiences, and now openly challenging his Father. With more emphasis on the anger in Carl, I almost forgot that he should be DEAD, and by the next issue, I may even welcome the fact he is still around.

Sophia, in all probability will die soon. Carl will live forever.

Now, do you want to know what happens between those star crossed lovers, Rick & Andrea? Well, it seems that Rick has realised the unpalatable truth that anyone he loves usually ends up dead, so he advises Andrea to back off, in an interesting spin on the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech that signals the end of a relationship. Andrea deals with this by talking to Dale’s hat. Just when I thought I was going to put down this issue in disgust at the recycling of the Rick / Phone / Hotline to dead Lori plot device, Kirkman pulls me back from the brink with a very neat pay off. It even raised a chuckle.

Sometimes the tedium of this title being set in the community over the last few months has really made me wonder if I want to carry on reading it. This issue just about started to make me see that, in the grand scheme of things, this period is a period of rebuilding. Not only that, it’s a time for Kirkman to lay down plots for when the next shitstorm hits. Dwindling supplies, a community divided, a potential battle for the leadership, a son railing against his Father, spurned lovers. It is all in the mix. Add to that a new plot development on the final page, and the next few issues promise to be interesting, and maybe even a little exciting. I mean, check out this cover for issue 92, and how can you not get excited?

Review – The Walking Dead #83 ( image, 2011)

I was not so sure about this current arc, doubting it, thinking it a retread of the woodbury prison siege, an echo of the high point of this great comic.

Then issue 83 happened, and this current arc stands alongside that prison massacre as the pinnacle of this gripping, human drama. Providing, that is, that Kirkman doesn’t screw it up in the final chapter ( issue 84 ). There is potential for that, as the final shocking pages are not definitive events, there is the possibility that one central character, who is surely near death, could be saved. But that would spoil what Kirkman has achieved in this issue, in a way that I think would tarnish the series and damage it’s reputation as a no holds barred portrayal of the end of days.

There is a real sense of panic, confusion and terror throughout this issue, as Rick formulates a plan (based on earlier adventures with Glenn) to get his small group out of the besieged community. This is powerful, raw storytelling, where the hard-earned experiences of Rick, Carl and Michonne are in stark contrast to the way those in the walled community handle this terrifying reality. There are some panels in these pages that literally made me gasp, Kirkman and Adlard pulling no punches. A lot of people die in this issue.

While the situation of Rick and his group takes precedence, there are brief interludes where the fate of some of the other cast is far from resolved. Indeed, no-one is safe, the ghastly rolling waves of undead, insistent and single minded in their objective, make this arc the one where Kirkman delivers an epic zombie tale, as opposed to an epic human drama. This arc is truly all about the dead, and death, and dying. It is shocking, moving and absolutely brilliant. One of the five best issues of the series. If the finale of No Way Out delivers the way issue 83 has, then the series has truly been altered in a way unimaginable a few months ago.