Category Archives: cliff rathburn

Review – The Walking Dead #68 (Image, 2009)

Warning – Spoilers!!

A fine way to end the ‘on time in ’09‘ initiative. Kirkman, Adlard, Rathburn & Wooton have all collaborated to bring 12 issues on the promised solicitation date, and the quality has always been high (sometimes more so), with Adlard especially excelling himself over the year. This issue is a lead in to the new storyline that will see Rick and the others begin a new start in a ‘safe’ community in Washington DC. Their first encounter with one of the community, a guy called Aaron, is tense even though Aaron is at all times relaxed, trusting and keen to get them on board. Not surprisingly, following Woodbury and the recent encounters with the ‘Hunters’ and Eugene’s revelations, Rick, Andrea & Abraham are much less trusting. However, common sense prevails and by the end of the issue we have a consensus among the group that this community idea could give a purpose to their lives. Doubts about the trustworthiness of Aaron, and his partner Eric, remain, however.

This issue gave a few more characters a chance to step up to the centre of a few panels – Michonne, for instance, talked a lot of sense and even got to wield her Katana. Glenn was in the thick of the action, and showed his natural trust in people. Andrea had a brief scene with Rick that made sense but the pay-off felt a bit scripted (“I’d follow you people straight into hell” just seemed a bit awkward and melodramatic…)

We get some zombies! Quite a few of them, and we get to see who can handle themselves when the undead lurch out. Michonne, Carl, Glenn, Rick, Abraham, Andrea, Carl and (is this a hint?) Aaron all show themselves to be more than able. Morgan however, really needs some practice.

We get a very real sense that the likes of Rick, Andrea and Abraham are like coiled springs, just waiting for one false move from Aaron and Eric. We are being shown that the community they will soon join is going to have to handle a bunch of desperate people who are suspicious of everyone and willing to main and kill to protect themselves. This should be very interesting indeed….

Review – The Walking Dead #67 (Image, 2009)

The brakes are being applied in this issue as our group of survivors resume their daily mundane existence, the ‘Hunters’ barely merit a mention. Rick & Carl get to do another father & son heart-to-heart, and while I am usually a fan of them, this time I just felt that Carl was speaking in the exact same voice as Rick and it did not really work. Carl was speaking the words of a man, and no matter how much he has had to grow up, his reasoning behind why he had to kill Ben was too lucid and too sophisticated.

The need for food plays an important part in Walking Dead #67, and it has been touched on before, but I liked the way it dominated the early part of this issue.

True to the solicit, we do find out the truth about Eugene, and I was quite surprised when it was over within a couple of pages – no long lyrical explanations, no soliloquy, just a rather mundane man with a mundane excuse. It rang true, as did Abraham’s reaction, which was far more interesting.

The art is, as ever, pivotal to the success of this book, as much as the writing is. Charlie Adlard gives some of the cast a more unkempt look this issue, especially Rick who is now sporting longer hair and a beard. These subtle changes Adlard introduces also gives a feeling of momentum,of moving on from the ‘Hunters’ arc.

This issue felt like it was over too soon, but it was essentially a holding installment for a big reveal at the end, which is going to lead into a whole new set of variables into this most brilliant of dramas / zombie soap operas. Speaking of the undead, there were a few around in this issue, but only in the distance, an indication, if any is needed, that although the title speaks of them, zombies play less and less of a role in these recent installments. What I am trying to convey is this – ‘The Walking Dead’ does not actually need the walking dead as a focus. The human drama effortlessly grabs your attention, leaving you wanting more.

Review – The Walking Dead #66 (Image, 2009)

Warning – mild spoilers.

“What we’ve done to survive….sometimes I feel like we’re no better than the dead ones”
Rick Grimes, Walking Dead #66

Walking Dead week is a great week. I get to read one of the best pieces of contemporary fiction but I also get to write a little review on my little blog and it is a real highlight of the month for me. It’s the little things….Since Kirkman laid down his manifesto for ’09 – to get his titles out on time, every month – I have been even happier. Walking Dead has made its shipping date every time this year, without any sign of fatigue or quality control issues. In fact, looking back on this concluding issue of ‘Fear the Hunters’, and looking back over the arc as a whole, I can now say I was wrong if I ever doubted what Kirkman was doing with this storyline. I just didn’t understand. I take it all back, as issue 66 actually sits up at the top as one of the best, if not the best, of the series so far, and the arc……well, more on that later.

First up, issue 66.

So much happens, yet so much of it is not what you would expect. Understated, moving, tense – this issue has all of these qualities. The Hunters confrontation is not what you would expect – it is a testament to Adlards creativity and confidence that he would produce so many splash pages, double page spreads and quick fire panels that deal with violence without actually showing any of the acts that were perpetrated. He does not have to show the explicit details – this is an artist so in tune with his subject matter and characters that all he needs to do is show the anger or despair in the characters faces, accompanied by a few stark images of the aftermath. It is excellent.

The art really distinguishes a lot of the Walking Dead, and here it is again on a par with Kirkmans plotting and dialogue in creating a fully rounded piece of art. I have just been re-reading a scene with Dale and Rick, where Dale is lying on a bed, close to death. The art captures the man as a broken old man, his stubble resting on his double chin, his eyes weary of the fights, but Adlard also manages to infuse a nobility about him, which, when coupled with Kirkmans redemptive dialogue, provides a highlight of this issue. But I could go on, as there are so many highs – like the father / son reunion, Abraham about to go psycho on the reverend, Ricks cold killer stare, completely devoid of feelings – and the final panels between Rick and Carl which are absolutely stunning – between them, Kirkman and Adlard manage to portray a dam-burst of emotion with a few well chosen panels and few words. Adlard can draw a child quivering on the edge of tears like no other artist. Stunning.

So, what of the arc overall? Well, I had my reservations up to last issue, but the fact is that this arc is probably better enjoyed as a trade – the pieces fit together in a way that is quite remarkable, whereas those of us who buy the singles maybe don’t get the bigger picture with the piecemeal offerings. Whatever – the ‘Hunters’ arc was not going to be another ‘No-one is safe’, and is all the better for it. ‘Fear the Hunters’ opens up so many possibilities beyond issue 66, with new revelations, a new mindset amongst some of the group, and an overall sense of urgency brought about by dwindling food supplies. There was no whole scale clear out of the cast, and again, the title retains its integrity and quality by constantly managing to sidestep what the readers expectations are, and give them something so much better. The ‘fear’ in the arc title retains a lot of power throughout this arc – ‘fear’ of the future, ‘fear’ of what the individuals are becoming, the fear of loss and losing loved ones (and for a while there was a fear of the Hunters – and subsequently who are the Hunters? etc).

My Walking Dead week is nearing its end. I would like to thank Kirkman, Adlard, Rathburn, Image Comics and whoever else is responsible for producing this shining light of a comic every month. It gives me immense pleasure to read it, to write about it, to speculate on it. Thank you.

One more thing – is Kirkmans position as an elevated member of the Image board influencing the content of Walking Dead? More and more often, after ‘Chew’ was previewed in it a few issues back, The Walking Dead now hosts preview pages of upcming titles on a regular basis. Not really a criticism, more an observation, though to be honest, more pages of The Walking Dead itself would be more welcome than bolted on previews.

Review – The Walking Dead #65 (2009)

Just read issue #65. I don’t know now. Maybe I was expecting something more – but with ‘Fear The Hunters’ approaching its climax, what is there to ‘fear’? Nothing, it seems.

This is no ‘No-one Is Safe’ – there is no Governor here. Just a collection of tired, miserable people, driven to do what they need to do. Rick and co take the fight to these wretches, with Rick going in and attempting to ‘negotiate’, and this allows time for some back story and exposition – the Hunters explaining their motives. All rather drab it is too – it reminded me of the Bill Hicks monologue about Saddam and ‘The Republican Guard’, who were believed to be (if you believed Hicks) something like 12 foot tall warriors, until the Allied forces got to Baghdad and found normal Iraqis in Uniform. Well, this group of Hunters are even less spectacular. Then, in a neat scene reminiscent of Jensen using the power of his mnd to floor security guards (with a little help from sniper fire) in an early issue of ‘The Losers’, Rick takes the fight to them Hunters….

I liked the last page. Rick looks feral nowadays, a yin to the yang of Sgt Fords Military style neatness. The last 4 or 5 pages nearly made up for the middle section, which was saggy and made me wonder what the fuss was about with ‘The Hunters’ all along.

There were some other nice touches – Eugene being useful, Andrea being altogether useful, caring and a crack-shot, and Charlie Adlard drawing the rack and ruin of Suburbia in such a way that the misery seeps out of the page at you. The death of nearly everything – Charlie Adlard can summon up that vista for you in a few panels of black and white art.

I still enjoyed this issue by the way, but the Hunters seem such an anti-climax.

The Walking Dead #65 is out now from Image.

Review – The Walking Dead #64 (Image, 2009)

Warning – Spoilers!!!

If you haven’t read the 5 page preview, then you will not know that Dale, held by the Hunters, reveals a big secret to them.

He has been bitten by one of the undead, and was walking out to die when he was caught.

The way this is handled, with Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn showing Dales grief / madness / bitter laughter developing over several quick fire panels is really cinematic. And it really works well. Back at the Church, where Rick and the other survivors are holed up, try to come to terms with the loss of Dale. Andrea, in particular, delivers a very moving piece on her relationship with him.

As is Kirkmans way, a Walking Dead issue can be packed with dialogue and the dynamics of a group of survivors trying to get along as well as get by. This issue, though not packed with action, delivers plenty of human drama, little scenes of heartbreaking humanity – like Glenn and Maggie tucking Sophia into bed, Carl crying in the chapel (there is no need for words to elaborate on why he is crying – Kirkman lets you make up your mind). Pretty much all the group get some time in this issue. We also get a glimpse into the lives of the Hunters (and they seem startlingly normal).

The action, when it does happen, is sudden and happens towards the end of the issue. Rick has a handle on the situation, and there is a great final panel, full of pumped-up dramatics and the most ‘comic book’ splash page I have seen from Charlie Adlard (when you see it, you will understand what I mean). It looks great, and really sets up part 4 of ‘Fear The Hunters’ as the issue when it all really kicks off.

As usual, an absorbing read, well worth the money and time. The only criticism was that I wanted more (though with the pairing of Viking #1 on the back of this issue, like they did with Chew #1 last issue, those of us who buy the monthlies are getting a treat of a double feature).

The List – The Top 5 Walking Dead Covers (2003-2009)

The Walking Dead generally delivers on cover art, with some future covers being amongst the best yet, as seen here, here and here. However, this list is celebrating the best cover art up to the current published issue (#58). Here we go, from no.5 to no.1;

5)Issue 36. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn


What is unusual and interesting here is the perspective this cover takes, an aerial approach shot over the Prison where Rick and his fellow survivors had taken refuge. It contrasts the emptiness of the prison compound with the teeming undead filling up the periphery, crowding around the fences, seeping into the edges of the cover itself. They are juxtaposed with the solitary humans inside the ‘safety’ of the yard. Although not as overtly ‘dramatic’ as a lot of Adlard covers, this understated piece works well in highlighting the sense of the survivors isolation, and of being outnumbered, despite the relative safety of the Prison.

4)Issue 25. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn


Tony Moore was the original artist on The Walking Dead, and illustrated the first six issues, to be then replaced by Charlie Adlard, who continues on the title to this day. Moore did continue to provide the covers for the series until this issue, when Adlard took over the covers. This is a statement of intent – a bold, bloody statement, as Adlard transforms the survivors, with the aid of newly acquired prison riot armour, into Gladiators cutting swathes through the undead hordes, their blood splashed against the warriors shields. The placing of the title – in the centre of the cover – is another bold move and it works, as it highlights the stature and intent of the characters striding forward, almost pushing the title into your face as they do so.

3)Issue 6. Art by Tony Moore


Another Tony Moore classic, with brilliant, vivid colours from Cliff Rathburn (whose use of colour on these covers to dramatise, set moods and define themes is a boon to the title). Obviously an inspiration to Charlie Adlard when he rounded off the ‘No-One Is Safe’ arc with the sombre issue #48, Issue #6 has a haunting quality, with the silhouette of Rick and the makeshift cross especially effective. The lurking danger in the background is quieted in this moment of sorrow and reflection, almost as if the undead themselves are paying respect to the fallen.

2)Issue 47. Art by Charlie Adlard, Colours by Cliff Rathburn


All of the ‘No-One is Safe’ cover art is a treat, framed by the vivid red backgrounds courtesy of Cliff Rathburn, but this one, issue 47, is a magnificent and dramatic cover. Although the cover arts relation to the actual storytelling is tenuous (and that comes as part of the territory with this title), its all part of the fun. Taking it at face value, what you have is a very striking and effective cover. Lori, who is Ricks wife, is on the ground in a defeated pose, clutching her newborn daughter tightly while appearing to scream / cry in anguish / anger, while the helpless infant reaches out to her mother for comfort / reassurance. Over the pair stands a mysterious figure, holding a gun that appears to point at the mother and child. It a scene of death, of an execution, with the last few moments of the victims captured in chilling detail. In the background we can see that the once impenetrable defences of the prison are now broken and accessible. The danger and despair are palpable, with the despairing Lori framed against a harsh red background the colour of blood.

1)Issue 9. Art by Tony Moore


This is just genius, and shows that despite how great Charlie Adlard covers are, it would be great if Tony Moore would contribute a new one every now and again. This cover is just so well designed and delivered, taking a unique perspective but making it easily recognisable and accesible. It shows Rick, posed as if taking a break / exhausted, seemingly unaware and in danger, from the perspective of the approaching undead, as we look straight into the eye of the zombie from point blank range, targeting its potential victim. The fly adds additional detail (maybe the dead do not blink?) but does not dilute the power and menace of the piece, with Rathburns colours understated around the edges to give clarity to the piercing blue eye of the revenant. One of the best comic covers I have seen.

There were plenty of covers that nearly made it, such as the suspense of issue 33, the iamge of the apocalypse that is issue 4 and the ‘all out action’ of issue 54. For a great overview of the cover art of this title, try here – http://www.comicvine.com/the-walking-dead/49-18166/ – a full spread of Walking Dead covers, up-to-date and with detailed information on each issue. If you are a fan of The Walking Dead then this is a truly great resource.