Category Archives: cliff rathburn

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.

Review – Walking Dead #77 (Image 2010)

The cover is a bit strange, and having read the issue through. I do not really see how it relates to what is going on in the ‘safe zone’, but apart from that, this issue is ON FIRE. It is absolutely brilliant, from Rick’s initial confrontation with Carl (see the 7 page preview post from a couple of days back on TWLB), through to a budding romance between Andrea and Spencer, the death of Scott, and the storm-is-approaching that is Peter Anderson. It is the last 2 of these events, that meet head-on in a believable, explosive confrontation, that provides the fuel for an amazing finale. I will not spoil it, because to read it is to appreciate the bloody genius of Kirkman, Adlard and Rathburn (but especially Kirkman’s knack of producing tremendous final pages in TWD). So, as I often say, go read it. I will say though, that a chain of events have been brilliantly constructed, with plot threads being pulled in from over the last few issues, and they are conspiring to create the perfect storm. That perfect storm is called ‘No Way Out’ and we are 2 more issues away from when it all kicks off at #80.

Mild spoilers;

3 deaths in this issue. But that is probably just the start of it (re: ‘No Way Out’)

Rick is a set in stone, cold-eyed killer, his descent into a world where there is only black and white is pretty much complete. His single-minded determination to keep surviving is now just ruthless.

Douglas’ relationship with Rick is fascinating. I wonder – Is his political past serving him well in manipulating Rick to do is dirty work?

The last page is pure Adlard greatness, with an ensemble poised for action. We even get to see a zombie attacked! Hurrah!

Finally, there is a wonderful opening letter in ‘Letter Hacks’, that brought a tear to my eye. it may well do the same to you. No shame in that.

Cannot wait for issue 78!

Upcoming….’No Way Out’ – The Walking Dead arc that begins from issue 80 (2010 / 2011)

Looks likely that that community spirit will be going down with that wall. It’s a potential clear out of Walking Dead cast members! It’s another ‘No-one is Safe’! It even has ‘No’ in the tagline! Let’s hope it lives up to the hype better than ‘Fear the Hunters’!

Does it excite me? Of course!

And that’s all the exclamation marks I have for this week, used up in one post.

Review – The Walking Dead #76 (Image, 2010)

WARNING – SPOILERS!!!

My passion for this series was ignited by the trades. Specifically, trades 1 through to 7, and then hopped over to the singles (from #43) when The Governer was about to take Rick and the prison compound apart. What the trades gave me was a real page turner, well over 100 pages of human drama, action, death, gore, and even a few zombies (it’s an old joke that The Walking Dead is a ‘zombie comic’ that actually contains very few zombies). Recently, being a nerd and being a bit of a completist, I went back and doubled up on my singles collection of Walking Dead and bought the trade counterparts. I read Volume 8 – ‘Made To Suffer’, a few months back and found it almost suffocating in its pull towards its downbeat ending. It is one of the most nihilistic, emotionally draining comic book experiences you will read. I would not compare it with Safe Area Goradze because that would be inappropriate – those horrors were real and happened in the 1990s and once you get to the middle section of the book, and the full horror of what went on is exposed, it is not easy to forget it. I would not compare it to Maus, because again, this was an attempt to tell a true story, with a different convention to ‘Safe Area Goradze’, but it was telling a history, demanding that as long as we remember the atrocities of the past, there is a chance that we can learn from that, become better and wiser from it. Maybe. I digress. Volume 8 of The Walking Dead is an immense achievement, a poignant, terrible story. I think it is Kirkmans & Adlards best work. I do not even know if Kirkman will ever better that run of issues from around 40 to 50, and specifically the ‘No-one is Safe’ arc.

After reading Volume 8, I have recently read Volume 9, 10 & 11 in quick succession. 12 is in a small pile of books to be read over the coming weeks. What surprised me was the amount of coherence and great writing in the immediate aftermath of the events seen in ‘Made To Suffer’ – both 9 & 10 (aka ‘Here We Remain’ & ‘What We Become’ are great reads, that stand up better as collections than the jerky, episodic nature of the single issues. Having read volume 11 (aka ‘Fear The Hunters’) I was surprised how quickly it was over, and how the threat of the Hunters seemed a little tinny and hollow compared to the sheer force of evil that was The Governor.

Anyway. What I am trying to say is that I really do think ‘The Walking Dead’ works better as a 100 page plus collection. Why? Well you get to issue 76, for example, as I have done tonight, and I just know that these pages will work better sitting alongside around 100 other pages. I like what Kirkman is doing with Rick, and it was good to see the phone make a reappearance, and I get it, i really get it, Rick is going mad – I know! And it is being handled with Kirkman & Adlards usual great qualities. But there is another trend becoming more apparent over the last few issues. It’s the verbosity. Some panels are full of Kirkman words that Adlards art is a footnote. And some of the dialogue feels like it could be a try-out for a screenplay. It feels stilted. The exposition just flows and then I find myself getting to a plot development amidst all the chat and realise that the plot has taken us round the houses and back to where we were before Rick went off his head in issue 75. Sorry if that is a spoiler, I may just be saving you the time to trudge through some of this to realise that very fact.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not straying from the orthodoxy. I still love this comic. But this issue is just too wrapped up in Kirkman digging the look of his voice as words on a page, through the medium of Benjamin & Rick. It will make more sense in a trade. But I can’t shake the feeling that if I read this at least one more time I will still be left with the same impression. And that is that there are too many words in issue 76 of The Walking Dead. Too much talk, not enough doing.

Review – The Walking Dead #73 (Image, 2010)

Game of two halves – the first half continuing with Rick & Glenn’s subterfuge, amongst a few interesting plot threads being drawn out -including….. a love interest for Andrea? Some of it is a bit soap-opera (and maybe neccesarily so – Kirkman drawing us into this false sense of Suburbia?) and, apart from the Rick and Glenn shenanigans, it merely meanders. The second half is something else though, and it’s time for our cover star, Sgt Abraham Ford, to shine. Caught in a desperate situation involving a supply run and a zombie ambush, it is balls to the floor FUN. Whoever gets to play him in the AMC show is going to have to brush up on his Stallone / Willis / Statham attitude. Sgt Ford ROCKS in that American Action Hero way – and Kirkman uses that side to Abraham sparingly, so when he does get to strut his stuff, it just puts a big smile on your face.

If I may, I want to return briefly back to Rick, and a telling comment he makes to Glen as they plot to distribute their ‘insurance policy’ to ‘their people’;

“…if there’s ever a situation where people start taking sides we can’t assume all our people will stay loyal…”

just shows what a few years in that world has done to that man. Trust no-one. Especially Rick Grimes.

Oh……..Art seemed a little bit below par this month though – some of the faces seemed to be melting – or was that the brown acid I took? *

And was #73 of The Walking Dead any good? Yes it was, absorbing without being outstanding, gripping without being melodramatic. It just did it’s thing.

* I didn’t take any brown acid during the production of this post. It was mescaline.