Category Archives: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead Comic Series – 2014 in Review, Part One (Jan – June)

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The first half of the year for the ongoing comic book series The Walking Dead was full of noise and drama…..and a story progression that no-one could have probably imagined. In hindsight, I believe that the point of ‘All-Out War’ was to get Kirkman to a point where he could launch issue 127 – ‘A New Beginning’ – on his readership. A clearing of the decks, if you like, and a whole new jumping-on point. It was brave, and was, to an extent, divisive amongst the readership. But before we get to the surprises in issue 127, let’s first of all deal with ‘All-Out War’….

Though I was never a fan of this 12 issue arc, the introduction of Negan and the Saviors (way back in issue 99, in the late Spring of 2012) certainly gave the series a new focus and, in Negan, produced a Villain larger than life (physically and in personality) and whose deeds were never purely evil. There was method to his madness, and a real purpose to his existence in this post-apocalypse. That being said, the inevitable confrontation between Rick and his allies against Negan and the Saviors promised much but only intermittently sparked into life. The ‘All-Out War’ the arc promised was not much more than a series of skirmishes and a final dust-up between Rick and Negan.

So the war-that-wasn’t didn’t live up to the hype, but there was still some great moments to be enjoyed, such as the is-he/isn’t-he-on-Ricks-side activities of Dwight and the reveal that Jesus was gay (Jesus aka Paul Monroe just in case you were wondering – the other Jesus may have been too much of a revelation in a regular comicbook). Also worthy of mention was early on in the ‘war’ Negan’s use of Holly as a weapon was most inspired and a highlight in his attempts to destroy Rick.

Though the majority of the first half of the years Walking Dead releases concerned the battle between Rick and Negan, there was enough time to kick-off a whole new chapter of the series. Issue 127 heralded a new era, with a new logo straddling the top of the page, with the previously larger lettered ‘Dead’ of the title now being the same size as the rest. But it was much more than a logo change that makes this issue significant.

A jump into the future, roughly 2 years after the events of ‘All-Out War’, heralds ‘The New Beginning’, with the communities of Hilltop, Alexandria (and presumably) The Kingdom enjoying a period of stability, security and peace. The question of what happened to Negan is quickly answered (he is the main resident in the cell(s) at Alexandria) and we are introduced to a new group of survivors, of which, a girl called Magna appears to be the leader.

What the new situation allows is a short-cut to see how established main characters have developed and grown. Rick is now less able-bodied following his battle with Negan, but is more of an established and revered leader – a true statesman. Carl is a teenager bursting with life and needing to cut loose from his Fathers protection and seek a new life for his self. These changes seem organic and not jarring. A risk for the creative team certainly, but one that appears to be paying off.

A jumping-on point for new readers, a brave new direction from Kirkman, a new perspective on established characters, a new society to explore…see how this new beginning unfolds in Part 2 of The Walking Dead 2014 review, coming soon…

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;

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.