50-Word Review: Deadly Class #10

Releases___Deadly_Class__10___Image_ComicsI don’t read comics for laughs, expecially Deadly Class. Issue #10 keeps a frenetic pace, but still manages to add a scene that had me laughing big time. It’s not all laughs though and again I’m hanging for the next instalment.

More than a must-read.


Image Goes Mail Order

12_Issue_Subscriptions_–_Image_DirectWell here’s a bit of news I didn’t expect. Image Comics have gotten themselves into the direct subscription and mail order business big-time, offering dozen of titles with multi-title discounts of up to 35%.

However don’t get excited at this stage if you live anywhere but the USA – they only ship to continental US although they’re inviting feedback from the rest of us to gauge interest in expanding the service.

On the face of it I like what I see. Hell, those of you with cash to throw around can even subscribe to all titles on offer for subscription as a bundle. So currently, for US $1117.99 (usually $1719.36 if the 35% discount isn’t applied) you can get all 42 titles on offer for 12-months.

Price-wise, if you’re subscribing to multiple titles I can see it being cost-efficient, although that assumes everything you want to subscribe to you’ll love for at least 12 months. For those who like to sample titles off a shelf or who like to change their pull lists every month or two will find this offering less appealing.

CBR have some exclusive details as well on the announcement, so go have a read.

Over to you: is this a service you’re likely to take up if it’s ever offered in your country / location?

50-Word Review: Deadly Class #9

DeadlyClass_09-1This title’s been personal for Rick Remender and from reading the letters pages it’s personal for many others as well.

Issue #9 continues the dark and very violent story that never lets its grip loosen. Craig and Loughridge’s art remains brilliant. Still a must read in my books.


Deadly Class: Heavy And I Like It

DeadlyGridFinal I have an evolving monthly pull list of only four or five titles, and one of them for the past six months has been Deadly Class. Co-created by Rick Remender and Wesley Craig, this is very much a comic for over 18s and it’s one of the reasons I plan on sticking to the end.

Set in 1987, it follows a bunch of kids from some pretty dysfunctional backgrounds who end up together at a ‘school’. It’s what happens from then that forms the story, and what a story it is. Rick Remender has been pretty forthright in the letters column of the sixth issue about how a lot of the events are based either fully or partially on his own life experiences. It brings a further edge to an already knife-sharp creation. Even some of the best comic writing can dip into stereotype, but Remender mostly manages to avoid that trap, although the racial divides within the group veer pretty close to that territory. Wesley Craig’s art is superb, bringing the extreme changes in pace and emotions into sharp focus. I also love the page at the back of each issue showcasing Craig’s drawing process. A huge hat-tip to Lee Loughridge’s colours on this title as well, they are stupendous.

Deadly Class is not for the faint hearted and definitely not one for those squeamish with violence, drug use and full frontal nihilism. What it is though, is a great story – all the more powerful for its partial foundation on Remender’s own life. If you can scratch up the first six issues from somewhere, do so. If not, get your order in for the second story arc that’s due to start in September.

I know I’m counting the days.

50-Word Review: Deadly Class 1-3

DeadlyGridFinalNot for the young or faint-hearted The first issue nearly lost me, but the second and third have me firmly tied on board.

Remender’s writing is tight and tense, Craig’s art is edgy and Loughridge’s colours play a central role in a dark series.

A classic in the making.


The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episodes 10/11 – “Inmates” & “Claimed”


As if there wasn’t enough horror in TWD – we now have The Mullet

There is nothing more terrifying than imagination in horror. Letting the audience fill in the gaps of what might have happened, rather than explicitly stating, is far more effective and ultimately more disturbing. The Walking Dead knows this – the baby carriage in “Too Far Gone” or the murder/suicide room in this week’s “Claimed” elicit a stronger emotion than any literal subject. The writers also know when to show their hand, and the reveal in “After” that baby Judith had in fact survived is a welcome one. But while “Inmates” included many reveals and hints at what to come, the intertwining storylines ultimately fell flat. In contrast, “Claimed” returns to the usual storytelling, and pulls back the scope to a smaller scale. The Walking Dead works best when it focuses on less, and these two episodes prove the shows strengths – and weaknesses.

“Inmates” splits its episode four ways, each running concurrent to the other, producing a series of vignettes. Picking up right where the midseason finale left off, it follows four separate groups as they reclaim their bearings. Beth and Daryl get the opening segment, fleeing from the prison. The sequence, while short and fairly inconsequential, is the most hopeless. Stumbling upon what they believe is the remains of the girls, they end up heading in the other direction. Both heartbreaking and frustrating, it helps to flesh out the world around them – instead of the usual everybody finding everybody by some weird television destiny, its great to see that these people won’t be finding each other anytime soon.

By far the most important sequence of the episode is the Carol/Tyrese/Girls/Judith one. Confirming the fate of Judith was welcome, but re-introducing Carol, and setting up a forward trajectory for the rest of the season was also surprising. Sanctuary comes to the forefront, and also presents an end goal for our band of heroes. Where this sequence became controversial was in its handling of Lizzie. In the shows attempts to build Lizzie as some form of  psychopath, the character has seemed to found itself in a violent streak – killing rabbits and almost suffocating Judith. Look, I’m all for Lizzie to fulfill the role that was similarly brought forth in the comics, but infanticide – especially shown infanticide – is almost where I switched off. There are some lines in TV that I do not want crossed.

Regardless of content, “Inmates” doesn’t exactly impress with its storytelling. Glen’s segment starts strong with a lone survivor vibe, but when more survivors are introduced it feels like a retread of Maggie’s, which also feels weak. Beth and Daryl’s intro is marred by a melodramatic narration from Beth, and Carol’s segment would be incredibly dull without any of the reveals. “Inmates showcases that smaller and less dense stories aren’t the shows strong point.

“Claimed” returns to focusing on the 2-3 story-lines typical to the show. Rick finds himself under house invasion, with Michonne and Carl out bonding, while Glen and Tara, with newcomers Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita deciding on the next plan of attack. Bringing the focus back allows for the stories to breathe – the Michonne/Carl bonding would have felt rushed had it not had the time “Claimed” allowed it.

Abraham and Co. are given decent screen time for their debut, and they feel fully realised already. Abraham, while visually stereotyped as the macho, Rambo-esque character has a surprising amount of depth for the short time on screen, empathizing with Glen, and not even being the first punch in the subsequent fight. Eugene and Rosita aren’t given much more than a few moments screen time, but should they move on the same trajectory they could be a welcome addition to the cast.

Rick’s home invasion was the source of tension this episode, but it would have fared better had it not been interrupted constantly by  the other stories. The tonal shift between Michonne/Carl’s game and the intrusion is odd, and the home invasion could have been better suited as its own standalone episode. That’s not to say the game wasn’t welcome – humanizing Michonne is some of the best moves made in the show this season – but another place and another time would have been better.

The countryside roaming wasn’t going to last forever, and as Rick finds the sign at the end of the episode, it becomes clear that all roads lead to Sanctuary. Lets just hope it doesn’t drag on like the prison.

A couple of observations

  • What happened to the person feeding the rats at the start of the season? It sure seemed like it was going to go somewhere.
  • The Eugene, Abraham and Rosita introduction was mighty silly at the end of “Inmates”. Looked like a group of power rangers.
  • “Hitchhikers may be escaped inmates”. We got that the first time.

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 9 – “After”

walkingdeads4e9Welcome back to our weekly The Walking Dead coverage! Having missed the final episode of the midseason, I’ll be doing a brief look at that episode at the end of this review, but for now lets take a look at the midseason premiere “After”

Following the events of “Too Far Gone” its nice to take a step back and focus on a much smaller cast. The Walking Dead often shows its strengths when dealing with only a few characters (see last seasons’ “Clear” or Season 2’s “18 Miles Out”). Allowing the viewer to get into these character’s heads following the tragedy at the prison was a smart, if not a risky choice. Training up viewers on high tension action for the first half of a season does provide a thrilling show, but it does mean that the slower moments, for better or for worse, stand out.

“After” split its focus between Michonne, and Rick and Carl, in the fallout of the prison attack. Michonne finds herself back where we found her, complete with two zombies in tow. Her storyline is the more satisfying of the two, complete with a heavy handed (albeit cool) metaphor of a similar looking zombie. The Walking Dead excels when it lets the viewer draw the comparisons, rather than the many circling conversations that the show often finds itself in, and while the fear of Michonne’s humanity failing in the face of great loss is shown in an incredibly obvious metaphor, it is not an unwelcome one.

Where her storyline really shines is in her small dream sequence, which was an eerie and surreal trip down memory lane. Shot fantastically with strange jumps in time and logic, the dream sequence is (as far as I can remember) the first time the series has gone full blown surreal, and I would not be opposed to more. We also now know that Michonne had a son, lover and an extra friend, but that’s all that writer Robert Kirkman is willing to give us. Again, stories are made all the more better when they leave some details to the audience, so for now the details about her past are left murky – and may very well stay that way.

The real meat of the episode is Carl’s brief rebellion against his father. While Rick may have been unconscious throughout much of these events, it didn’t stop Carl from letting loose his teenage angst. This act of defiance is reminiscent of a standard teenage breakout – Carl thinks he’s old enough to look after himself, especially after his father’s lack of action as a farmer last season, and the act of trying to be his own man and failing is entirely the traits of the rebellious teenager. Chandler Riggs has come a long way from the first season, and while his acting may not be perfect, he’s certainly competent enough to carry much of the episode.

These two storylines all seem to be tying back into the theme of the season – what is worth living for? Michonne obviously found it in the company of the prison group, with her life as a penitent loner far behind her. Carl’s trajectory is less apparent – he wants to be self sufficient, but until he grows both physically and emotionally, this isn’t likely to happen. His need to be a better man than his father appears to be his reason for being right now – he is his father’s son more than he cares to admit – and time will tell if somewhere down the line Carl takes Rick’s place at the head of the group.

Decent direction, coupled with some decent character moments made for a solid premiere – if not one to truly remember. It appears that The Walking Dead may be playing the slow burn for the latter half of the season, and it will remain to be seen whether or not it plays in the show’s favour.

Some observations

  • Zombie of the week: The zombie who took Carl’s shoe made for an intense encounter, and I thought the zombie looked particularly menacing. Tense and claustrophobic, showing that even one zombie can be dangerous.
  • In the same vein, the encounter also gave way to some great visual storytelling. Who was Sam, and why did he have not only his name written on his door, but a ton of books? It’s the little touches, like this scenario and the diner with Joe that flesh out the world.
  • Danai Guirira really was given a lot more to do this episode, and she really was up for the challenge. She was almost unrecognizable in her dream sequence.
  • I looked up how much 112 oz was in litres for our metric-using readers. That’s over 3 litres. That’s bound to give you diabetes.
  • And finally a few thoughts about the last episode: I’m glad the Governor is gone. In fact, he should have been offed an entire season earlier. Hershel’s death was both poignant and heroic, and Rick’s decision to side with Hershel was a noble one, even if it meant losing the prison and most of his friends. It was a well shot and tense finale, and with the (potential) death of Judith, really rough. I really hope that the group doesn’t settle too long in one place in the future.


More 2013 Highlights and Lowlights

young-avengersTime for so more highlights and lowlights, this time from Sean Robinson


1. /Saga/

I could sit here and tell you what Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga is closest to in forms of other literature. I could tell you it’s Star Wars meets Game of Thrones, but that would most certainly not give it the recognition it deserves. Saga is more than an amalgamation of many science fiction and fantasy works. It is the fully realised story of two people on different sides of a war who fall in love, with more character development in a single panel than most series do in one issue.

Combined with Staples’ glorious art and design and we have a series that is one of the best, and I hope will keep on going for years to come.

Favourite issue:  #14 has my favourite page in a comic this year too.

2. /Rachel Rising/

I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of this horror series written and drawn by Terry Moore. I haven’t had a chance to review it just yet, only having discovered it not too long ago, but this has quickly jumped up to being one of my most anticipated series each month. A slow burning horror series centred on the resurrection of the title character Rachel, it is probably most impressive in what Moore doesn’t write, letting the images speak for themselves for pages on end, creating a truly creepy world. A masterpiece of horror in any medium.

Favourite issue: Seriously the entire run is fantastic, can’t pin a single issue down.

3. /Young Avengers/

I never read the original Young Avengers run that people held so dear, so I can’t speak to the quality or the legacy which that series holds.  What I can tell you is that the second volume of Young Avengers is awesome in its own right. Sure, it’s creepy that Loki is a kid again, but a hilariously told tale from Keiron Gillen about growing up as a superhero, with all the awkwardness of being a internet-age  teenager, completed by a brilliantly designed page layout from Jamie McKelvie. It’s coming to an end soon, so you best be getting on the train while you still can.

Favourite issue:  Issue #7, complete with Loki’s newsfeed. Great stuff.

Lowlight of 2013

/Joker’s Daughter #1/

This issue is a travesty – a mess of storytelling and sub par art work. A character that doesn’t need to exist, who has the most tenuous ties to the Joker. Regardless, could work with an able writer, but Ann Noncenti messes it up so horrifically that I never want to see or hear from this character again. Shame on you DC.

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 7 – “Dead Weight”

walkingdeads4e7Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

This season has had a fairly defined message that seems to plague each of the characters: how far are you willing to go – and at what cost? The Governor found himself in a position where he had pushed this notion to the limit, killing many of his own people in cold blood. “Live Bait” seemed to bring The Governor back from the brink, giving him purpose and family. But it seems that the past can’t be righted – or forgotten – as we find ourselves with a man not just where he began , but more focused and meaner.

This failed retribution story is a fascinating one, and one I wasn’t sure was going to play out. Sure we got the eye-patch reveal a few episodes back, but that could have just as easily proved to be a red herring. The Governor seems to have found his drive again – first it was revenge for his daughter and now it seems to be the protection of his new family that has forced him back into the brink. It’s an interesting theme, and one that tries to force the sympathetic villain hand, but two episodes were definitely not enough time to flesh this out. Despite the obvious time skips – and, yes, to point out this definitely would prove to be enough in universe time to have this family bring “Brian” in- it hasn’t given us enough time to care about these people at all.  Not enough show, and too much tell.

That’s not to say the little moments in this episode don’t work. Brian’s initial resistance to leadership was also a great moment, particularly when he dragged Martinez kicking and screaming into the pit, yelling about how didn’t want it. Combine that with when he tried to get away from becoming leader, and was only held back, and it paints an interesting picture. The Governor knows he is somewhat deranged, and despite his best attempts to run away from this, he can’t. So the only way he knows his family is safe is when he is in charge.

Taking charge is what this man does best, and when he realises that the only way he can do so is to remove the weak pieces from the board, you see some key moments. Picking off the old leadership is smart – it’s just a shame it wasn’t handled by the writers with the same equal planning. As the old leadership is picked off one by one, there is no conceivable way that  these killings would take place so that no one would notice, or that no one would question these newcomers, especially Mitch (played by early season Fringe star Kirk Acevedo, who should prove to be a good addition) who should be more upset at his brother’s death at the Governor’s hands.

In the end it seems that this was really the only logical conclusion to this two episode story arc. The writers should be commended for attempting a breakdown of a character who really hasn’t been given anything besides being a one-note villain. It’s just a shame it wasn’t given more time.

But hey, at least next week we get to see that tank in action right?

A couple of observations

  • Tank! I really hope they don’t squander it.
  • Pete (Enver Gjokaj) was really great this episode, and that actor isn’t given nearly enough time. I would have liked to have seen more of him.
  • So Tara is probably the first homosexual character on the show? I can’t recall any other.


The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 6 – “Live Bait”

The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMCWarning: full spoilers for the episode follow

Let me preface this review by saying I think David Morissey is a fantastic actor. I love every scene he is in, and even when the writers painted him into the one-note villain he had become, I still enjoyed seeing Morissey handle the reins. He gives the show one hundred percent, and is clearly loving it, so anything I have to say about The Governor (or Brian now I guess) is purely down to the writers. Because this episode has pushed the character in a direction I didn’t think he could be taken, and because it does so in little over 42 minutes, it will have to be judged once this particular arc is over, making this a particularly hard episode to review.

When we saw The Governor last, he had killed a lot of innocent people just because they pissed him off. In most shows, this would be the point of no return, as the my-way-or-your-dead approach is a fairly reprehensible act. But the writers here have been keen on asking the “how far can you go before you lose your humanity” question for a while now, so the attempt at humanising the character once again makes sense in that regard.

That’s not to say that it is necessarily the right choice to make, but it remains to be seen whether it will pay off in the end. Too much happens in this episode to allow the viewer to accept that this a changed man – but maybe that’s the point. Maybe The Governor has gone too far that he cannot truly return to being a person who represents any form of humanity, that this brief moment of affection for a family is going to end as quickly as it started. A show usually would subtly push this character change over many seasons. Lost’s Benjamin Linus (handled by the brilliant Micheal Emerson) comes to mind, but The Walking Dead has never been particularly subtle.

As mentioned before, David Morrisey is a great actor. He handles the brooding, self punishing character well, jumping from anger as he burns down Woodbury, to an almost dead man walking before he meets with the Chalmers family. It invites a certain calibre of actor to pull off the man who is both self-flagellating and trying to move on, and his scene with Meghan explaining what had happened with Penny  was fantastic. At one point I could not tell whether “Brian” was laughing or crying, and to this point I’m still not sure. It’s subtle, yet effective

The Governor’s new family were serviceable in the end. Tara’s fake bravado came off as a bit much for the actress to convey, but she calmed down towards the end of the episode, and Lily seemed to really only be there for The Governor to shack up with. Meghan was really the obvious tie to The Governor’s humanity, and while the actress had a hard time sometimes, her look was just close enough to Penny to be an overt reference to his humanity.

On the zombie front, the retirement home scene was fun and tense, and reminds me of the similar location back in the first season, and the amputee zombie in the bathtub was heartbreaking, but the herd scene at the end was my favorite zombie kill this season. Pulling the head back of the zombie was brutal and vicious, and highlighted how much The Governor cared/cares for Penny/Meghan. That’s probably no easy task to accomplish, and was excellently handled on the special effects front.

One thing that really stood out this episode was the direction. There was a lot of dream-like shots that lent themselves well to the idea that this family life may very well be only a fantasy that The Governor is living right now. The sound design in the final pit scene was great, as the sound of assault rifle fire was there but it took a while to notice them.

Any judgement of where The Governor is going will have to wait. While this episode does push the boundaries of where the writers can take this character while still making sense, it remains to be seen if it pays off. There is still at least one more episode of this standalone arc, so it will be very interesting to see how we get to the point we see him outside the prison. Lets just hope they can handle it right.

A couple of observations

  • Possibly current day The Governor is more “Brian” than evil? Could be an interesting direction to take him in.
  • The cut from killing the father with the oxygen tank to burying him was great and simple piece of editing, that was enough to convey that the zombie he was killing was a man he had respected. Another example of the solid direction this episode.
  • Still going to be another week until Daryl’s reaction to Carol’s departure, folks.
  • My girlfriend, who is a make-up artist, informed me constantly about how badly done crazy-Governor’s wig was done. I just thought he looked like a discount Kurt Russell