Category Archives: Robert Kirkman

Review – The Walking Dead #116 (Image / Skybound, 2013)

Really not sure about these new style covers. This one in particular looks wrong, with Holly sort of plonked in the middle there. Glad to say that the art inside, with the inks of Stefano Gaudiano giving Charlie Adlards art a bit more polish and a vibrancy, really stands out. It’s like Adlards art has gone from SD to HD.

The art is the highlight of the issue as things begin to heat up in the ‘all out war’. Lots of battles, lots of zombies, and characters being moved to the forefront of the action (Holly, Dwight) who seem to have important parts to play in issue #117.

It zips along, there is nothing to really bog it down, its part 2 of a 12 issue series so its hard to give much more of a review than to say its shaping up to be interesting, but the new art is the highlight here, I really hope this continues beyond ‘All Out War’.

Review – The Walking Dead 115 (image/Skybound 2013)

10 years is a real achievement for any comic title, and The Walking Dead is a true against-the-odds success story. This is in no small part down to a strong story and great art (from both Tony Moore in the early days  & then the phenomenally consistent run from Charlie Adlard for the past 9 years). The TV series that it spawned is arguably more successful and certainly better known to the general public, but it all started 10 years ago with Rick Grimes in a shoot out, then waking up in a hospital bed…

However, I would argue that issue 115 is not a great choice to mark the anniversary. First of all, the montage cover – which tries to give a cinematic sheen to proceedings – is wrong. Why mess around with a cover format (that being a single image, pertaining to the events in the issue itself, regardless of how tenuous that link is) that has worked so well for 10 years? It is part of the character of the comic. That is not to say the cover is particularly bad – it is not – but it is not classic TWD. I thought that would be worth celebrating?

The story in issue 115 is ‘chapter 1 of 12’, as it proclaims on the cover. So don’t get too excited, as this is typical Kirkman ‘calm before the storm’ writing. So you get lots and lots of talking, where Major Characters get to extrapolate and vent and where the plot is set up for the next issue where things generally turn a bit nastier. Rick makes a rousing speech to the armies of the 3 communities, across a double page spread. Rick turns up outside Negans community and gives another speech / threat / warning. Negan counters (with words). That’s your lot. As a ‘jumping on point’ it doesn’t work as we get no real idea of the motivations behind this ‘All Out War’. For me it was The Walking Dead and its most turgid and banal. There used to be a time when even the slow-burn issues held an interest, but now they seem to parody the tropes of this comic (the Rick as the True Leader trope, the Rick as Saviour trope) and the conversation can border on banality (though there was 1 funny piece about a tiger and a bathtub).

In summary, it felt like a bit of a flat way to mark 10 years. I am sure that things will pick up over the next few weeks (they always do). But when the comic falls flat nowadays, it falls flat hard. Shame.

Random musings

Carl is starting to look really grown up now. I guess it must have happened in the last 2 or 3 issues? He doesn’t look like a little boy any more.

Who was the guy that Negan dragged out in the last scene? Any clue?

Father Gabriel in one panel, Eugene in a small cameo role – it’s just like 2009 again!

The art, with Stefano Guadiano, on inks, looked smoother and fuller. I liked it a lot.

Review – The Walking Dead #114 (image/skybound, 2013)

Needless to say – Spoilers…

As this is the one before ‘All Out War’, you would be supremely optimistic, and no doubt prone to disappointment, if you expected earth shattering events in this issue. This issue simply wrapped up the foreplay before we head out into all out combat.

Good things –
Jesus getting the upper hand on Negan. That was a very sweet moment.
Adlard’s art at times was superb. The way he staged the attack on Negan and The Saviors was very cool.

Bad things –
the cavalry arrived in the form of Jesus, but I think the arrival of an attack Tiger really pushes this story into the realms of parody.
Another bloody scene where someone tells Rick he is the Messiah / the one true God / the man who will save mankind. Please, change the record.

All in all this was relatively entertaining fare. it had to tread water to an extent because (hopefully) there will be lots of twists and turns in the forthcoming ‘All Out War’ arc.

Review – The Walking Dead 113 (image / Skybound, 2013)

Needless to say, this review contains spoilers for issue 113…

Though it is not something I have covered on this blog, if you are a fan / follower of The Walking Dead comic book then you will no doubt be aware of another ‘event; coming up in a matter of weeks. Maybe event fatigue has set in, maybe this title does not generate the same excitement in me as before, but, for whatever reason, I have not made mention of ‘All Out War’ until now. The event title is self-explanatory, so I do not need to go into any great detail. Go and google it and you will get the teaser images, the cover art (new artist doing covers alert!) and the teaser interviews by Kirkman. The lead-up to these things can be the very best thing about The Walking Dead (and I am thinking of the Prison siege way back in 2007/2008), and so it proves with issue 113. In a series of increasingly tense scenes, there is now no way back for the Negan and Rick-led groups. War looks inevitable in The Walking Dead (and not just because we are being told that in the media).

Issue 113 kicks off with Jesus/Paul & Aaron heading out on their mission toward the Savior outpost. If you remember, this was the one that Dwight told Ezekiel of. Very quickly we learn that this has somehow not worked well, as Jesus stares in horror or disbelief and exclaims ‘oh damn’. Has Dwight, or Ezekiel, proved to be working against Rick?

We then cut away to the brutal and brilliant focal point for this month. After the failed attack on The Saviors, Negan wants his revenge. Things escalate very quickly, and the relationships between the core characters come to the fore – Rick and Negan, Rick and Carl, Negan and Carl, Andrea and Rick. What is interesting is that it’s Carl and Andrea, at different times, trying to protect Rick, a reversal of the usual dynamic. Andreas insistence that ‘we don’t die’ is (maybe) a foreshadowing of something dreadful to come later, but for now, her intent and desperation are all too obvious. Carl, meanwhile, is fearless and deadly, almost killing Negan, and doing something far worse to the resident bad guy in the process. By the end of the issue we are at a familiar junction – Negan, with Lucille in hand, preparing to use his tried and trusted method of dispatch. It is a fantastic cliffhanger, with Rick in the firing line, but with Carl and Andrea still a threat to the leader of The Saviors. And we may yet have the cavalry appear in the form of Jesus and Aaron. It is breathless stuff, I found myself turning to pages at a furious pace, the fantastic layout and art from Charlie Adlard propelling the action. It gives a good reminder of how great this artist is at fight and battle scenes, as you get the sense of pace, the smell of fear and desperation, the struggle.

A top notch issue, a reminder why this title, when on its best form, is peerless.

A couple of points;

There surely has to be a point during the ‘All Out War’ event where either Rick or Negan die. They cannot keep dancing around like boxers squaring each other up and one of them NOT land the knockout punch. Negan is an entertaining villain (and I would say the most entertaining presence in issue 113), but it is getting close to the point that his potency as the man you love to hate is lost because of too much familiarity. I just hope there is a suitable and satisfying conclusion to this, because 12 issues of ‘All Out War’ spread over 6 months is a long time (or ample time if you are feeling generous) to tell a tale.

There is a physical attack on Andrea that seems unnecessarily brutal and lasts too long. Or should I say, lingers too long on her beating and physical distress. It seemed gratuitous. I understand it was important to show her peril and the outcome of that, but the depiction of the violence was a bit too much.

Finally, I expect (or rather, hope) that we shall see the body count increase next issue – it teased and teased imminent death in #113 that if we don’t get some pay off next month then this issue will have felt like a prelude to an empty promise. Some deaths need to occur to bring matters to a head, and the inevitable violent resolution to all this.

Review – The Walking Dead #111 (image/skybound, 2013)

The one where the cover does not lie;

SPOILERS!!!

A nippy episode this one, with the ‘rebel alliance’ having ones of its better days, as the Jesus – Ezekiel – Rick axis comes to together as a (seemingly) formidable whole, with an army of around 70. They even have a plan of attack – to take out Negan’s outposts first – that sounds credible. AND they still have Dwight as their inside man. At this point, you may feel it would be appropriate to shout ‘ GO TEAM GRIMES’ but I ain’t American. Being British by birth, I feel at this juncture, it is a good time to tell Rick and allies ‘jolly well done’. But the good feeling cannot last. The second part of this issue is dedicated to Negan.

Having turned up at Rick’s a little early for the supply / tribute collection, he wastes no time making himself at home, which is a polite way of saying within 5 minutes he is acting like a humongous TWAT. After propositioning Olivia (Negan Style) he then decides that the Community vibe in the community is just right for him, especially as there is a pool table. A little insight there. Negan probably spent a lot of time around pool tables pre-apocalypse, probably in bars. That’s as much character insight as we are probably going to get with him, so drink it in, readers.

Then he meets Spencer. Spencer cannot wait to tell Negan all about Rick, about his ego, about how he generally ruins everything and everyone. Remember that Spencer is a spurned lover, seeing Andrea with Rick is driving him crazy, and this is the moment, after several single-panel hints over several episodes that let you know that he was going to do something about it. And he does. He seizes the moment. But, you know, it is Spencer. The guy just cannot seem to catch a break. The result is that cover you see above.

One other thing worthy of mention – Gregory. We keep getting told he is an idiot, useless and a bit of a pervert. Is he going to be the weak link that destroys the nascent rebellion?

Plus – solid art from Adlard (as ever).

Finally – this episode was pretty good. TWD has found it’s feet again. Thank goodness.

Review – The Walking Dead 110 (Image / Skybound, 2013)

If you haven’t read this issue or any Walking Dead over the past 5 years, then be aware that there are spoilers below.

All comic covers are there to entice and sell the product, tarted up, pouting out from the comic racks or online. The fact that the first glimpse of a new comic is usually via the ‘solicitations’ that roll out on a monthly basis. Solicitation, is, as any good dictionary will tell you, the offering of goods and services. The Walking Dead uses their cover space to build up the hype. Many issues have had covers that pertain to a certain event happening (and by that I mean something momentous) and then the contents do not fulfil on that promise. Take for example issue 49, where Carl is leading Rick by the hand. Rick pulls a very distinctive Zombie shape, and his face is, helpfully, obscured by shadow. My god, you think – it’s all over for Rick. Except it wasn’t. While i am at it, let’s look at issue 85, the issue after Carl had had half his face blown off in the climax of ‘No Way Out’. Issue 85 has a cover that is sombre and respectful – a grieving father – Rick – hunkered down in grief, a plain black backdrop framing the pain and loss. Except, as we all know, Carl somehow managed to pull through in a jump the shark moment piece of comic book logic that was barely credible and marks a low point in the series as a whole (According to me).

Anyway – the cover to issue 110 has Michonne and Ezekiel clashing swords and staffs and other stuff that all looks a bit like a close up of a section of a Rob Liefeld cover from 20 years ago. Great, you think, a battle! Or at least a fight. Alas, prepare to be disappointed. The cover image actually pertains to something much more mundane and is so outrageously misleading that when I got to that point in the book I couldn’t help but laugh. And groan. And shake my head sadly. Of all the covers that have took liberties with the actual contents, this is probably the cheekiest.

The contents themselves could be read and you could have made your tea and eat it by the time it has took you to read my preamble. It is a lightning quick read this time around, but the economy is to be applauded to a degree. It is lean (not mean), and you get to the end with a bit of a ? hanging above your head. There are 2 distinct plot lines, one involving Jesus and one involving Rick and a delegation meeting Ezekiel. This latter storyline intrigued the most. I really did not think that much of the new guy, and I thought the potential for ruining the book with overcooked characters was reaching a new level with ‘King’ Ezekiel. However, after this issue, I am warming to him a little, though I think the whole pomp and pageantry thing is a mistake and I don’t believe that survivors in a brutal post apocalypse environment would buy into this sub-Mad Max posturing. Saying that, the overall impression of Ezekiel is better than before, and it’s the highlight of an issue that moved things on so gradually that I don’t expect the cover for issue 111 to be anything more than Negan  preparing Sunday lunch for himself and his concubines;

Review – The Walking Dead #109 (Image / Skybound, 2013)

There will be spoilers of the contents of issue 109 from here on in.

It’s a sure sign that you are a lapsed comic purchaser when you only have 1 title on your pull list and you don’t even get that excited when that 1 Wednesday in the month rolls around and you had barely remembered that your 1 title was due to be released. Maybe it’s taken me longer than expected to get over issue 108 (not really – I managed to make it to work next day and eat and sleep etc). Maybe I just don’t have the enthusiasm for this title compared to 5 or 6 years ago (closer to the truth).

Anyhow – here we are with issue 109, which, by my calculation, will be part 1(of 6) of Volume 19. So lets not expect too many fireworks  – although I suspect this arc will involve some sort of challenge to Negans authority (him and his saviours will have been around for nearly 20 episodes by the time we get to the end of this arc, so you would expect events to reach a crescendo).

What I am trying to say is, not a huge amount happens in this issue.

For example;

Maggie grieves for Glenn. She gets commended by a woman who really talks too much about  how cool it is that she has a headstone for her deceased love (this scene goes on too long and is afflicted by the verbosity that causes word balloons to pop). Maggie visits the Hilltop Doctor (she is pregnant with Glenns child). Maggie meets the Hilltop Blacksmith. Jesus pops up and lets Maggie in on the big secret (ie Rick is going to beat up Negan). Jesus pops up all over the place at the Hilltop, very keen he is to spread the wonderful news that Rick is going to wait outside the school gates with his mates and give Negan a good kicking. The end result of this announcement to all and sundry is that one guy who Jesus thought he could trust – some Hilltop guard called Kal – appears to have done a runner straight to Negan to tell him the very same news. Jesus berates himself for being so stupid. Considering Jesus has not put a foot wrong so far in the comic, this moment poses the question that if he doubted the reliability of ‘Kal’, then why approach him with the news? Surely there would have been other useful people in the Hilltop community? Jesus seems to know them all anyway, so why go to the one that was potentially the weak link?

Apart from all that excitement, Spencer makes his first passive aggressive move at Rick. It fails.And Carl has grown a floppy emo type fringe to hang over the abyss of his face. And his dad wants him fighting Negan, side by side, father & son etc. At least he won’t be whingeing about being left out of all the ‘fun’ now, or going all Scrappy Doo when he feels he isnt getting involved, and killing grown men with weapons bigger than he is as a result.

Ezekiel Watch – there was not one Tiger in this issue. Shame.

Cover Art for The Walking Dead #111 (Image/Skybound, 2013)

The Walking Dead Issue 111Release Date: June 12, 2013“Lucille is going to be so jealous.”

Well this does appear to be a bit of an ugly cover, both in terms of the subject matter, which looks particularly gruesome, and I don’t know what has happened to Negan’s face, but its like a Hall of Mirrors effect. He looks….odd. Anyway, looks like blood is going to be spilt, unless the cover is symbolic of something or other. Or maybe the cover relates to nothing at all. It’s still an ugly cover.

Review – The Walking Dead 108 (Image/Skybound, 2013)

SPOILERS!!! from here on in….

Issue 108 is the last of the current ‘arc’ – in other words this will be the last few pages you read when the next trade (volume 18) is released in June (currently scheduled for 11 June according to Amazon UK). What that means is, is that issue 108 gives you enough story without much being resolved. It whets the appetite but not much more. The major talking point is the arrival of Ezekiel and his Tiger. No, the Tiger is not stuffed. His name is Shiva (the name of a Hindu deity – Shiva means ‘auspicious one’). Shiva abhors violence apparently. Maybe that’s why ‘King’ Ezekiel is able to treat him like a pet. Yes – ‘King’ Ezekiel is actually the ruler of ‘The Kingdom’ another one of the pockets of Survivors that make up Kirkman’s ‘Larger World’. King Ezekiel appears to have all the affectations of a ruler of a past age, complete with men on horseback trotting out to meet visitors and questioning them with antiquated speech. It is all fairly ridiculous, and Kirkman knows this, so this is all a bit tongue in cheek. Ezekiel isn’t the first to go a bit eccentric in a post apocalyptic setting – Lord Humungus from Mad Max 2 not only gave himself a lofty title, but also liked wearing a medieval type Hockey Mask and not much else;

Back in the comic, Rick has been introduced to Ezekiel by Jesus. Rick does not like Negan (recap later) and guess what? Neither does Ezekiel, who finds his Negan’s style of leadership not up to his Royal standards. To add to the party atmosphere, there is a surprise appearance from Dwight (of The Saviors)! I think its fairly safe to say that his potential to betray Negan was apparent after we learned that not only had the potty-mouthed tyrant a) nicked Dwight’s wife but then b) burnt half his face of when poor Dwight tried to steal a few moments with his wife! Rick, however, was not happy to see Dwight and remains suspicious, and can you blame him. After all, not only have the Saviors been responsible for the deaths of 2 important members of Rick’s group (Abraham and Glen), but they also held Rick’s son, Carl, when he went all Scrappy-Doo and tried to do the job that his Dad won’t do right now (which is to KILL NEGAN). AND the Saviors want to come along to Rick’s walled community whenever they feel like it and take whatever they want. So you can see why there is some hostility. Hey, I am sure it will all work out fine. Kirkman is letting the readers know that there is an alliance of like minded communities and individuals forming here, with the express purpose of taking Negan down.

We had another peek into the world of Negan this week, when we learned that he has to win at Ping Pong. If he doesn’t, I assume ‘Lucille’ (that’s ‘Lucille’ the Baseball Bat) comes into play. So the lower orders of The Saviors (ie everyone who is not Negan) have to simply throw the match. I believe this proves beyond doubt that, alongside the awful language and general anti social tendencies, that Negan is one big bully and a sore loser. The sooner we are rid of him so we can go back to Rick having long dialogues with himself or any unfortunate who happens to be caught in his gaze, the better!

Speaking of which, there was too many words in the final few pages. Everyone caught a bug and the result was a wave of verbal diarrhoea. It’s pretty much mandatory to have at least a couple of pages of this sort of verbosity. I guess its something you just have to get used to.

I flagged Spencer as a problem a couple of issues back – see here. There is something in this issue that only reinforces that. A small scene, but it could be growing into a major plot point over the next few issues.

There was a little bit of zombie action, which was surprising only for how insignificant it felt, other than to give Carl a moment to be vulnerable. This isn’t  a comic about Zombies any more is it? They appear to be nothing more than an annoyance.

Michonne and Andrea had a few panels together. Michonne is refreshingly frank and sparing with her words in this issue. I wish Rick was.

Was it a good issue? Well, it wasn’t bad. It was faintly ridiculous (all that King Ezekiel stuff) and there was some forward momentum (the conspirators coming together against Negan).The cover is amazing, and is the very best thing about The Walking Dead 108.