The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 5 – “Internment”

walkingdeadWarning: full spoilers for the episode follow

I always took Rick as the foil to Carol’s less empathetic form of leadership. It made logical sense, as she was the only other person who produced any discernible leadership qualities to date. However, after the events of “Internment” I’ve finally realized that it is in fact Hershel – who is the yin to Carol’s yang – a leader who focuses on hope and individuality, rather than the good of many.

It also helps he’s pretty badass too.

“Internment” is indeed Hershel’s show, and he holds his own very well. His insistence at keeping up morale (his “sad soul kills faster than any germ” line was a standout moment) even when everything looks at its worst is an incredibly noble moment. Living at the end of the world must be an incredibly heavy burden to bear, and less reminders of what is actually happening can serve to help rather than hinder. It is in direct contradiction to how the lack of security failed the survivors early on in the season, but it does appear that the writers are siding with Hershel this time around, in the mere fact that his deeds were rewarded with not everybody dying.

That’s not to say that he hasn’t come out unscathed – this is a man who once believed that the zombies could be saved of course, so his hesitance when forced to kill one of his patients felt natural. Also equally powerful was his speech to Rick about God’s plan, even when confronted by Caleb’s reminder that he can’t save them all, he feels this is all still a test of faith. Scott Wilson handles this all fantastically, his confident and kind manner undercut by a subtle sadness at how much work he still has to do.

Action was surprisingly prevalent for an episode based around Hershel, as we were treated to two large climactic set pieces. Rick and Carl’s fight was fairly par for the course as far as zombie mow downs go, but Hershel’s escalating action with only a handful of zombies was fantastic. Tension kept on mounting, as disaster after disaster compounded into a frantic attempt at saving anyone they could. This is punctuated by the final scene of Hershel breaking down in his own cell, acting like a father who has been strong for the people he loves, and when he is finally alone gives himself time to mourn. It was all a fantastic scenario and highlighted how, as Daryl put it, Hershel is one “tough sumbitch”.

Rick’s story was much more subdued this week, if you can call putting down a herd of zombies with automatic weapons subdued. It’s a culmination of Carol’s insistence that Rick can’t just forget the end of the world is happening, as he slowly is beginning to fall back into a position of power. As he calls his son to help kill the horde, there’s the realisation that he can’t protect his son from violence like a normal civilized society can. What he can do is remind him of those values, and the shot of the peapod juxtaposed with his pistol is a realisation of that line of thought.

One last thing that I usually leave relegated to the observations at the end of the review, is the moments where the audience is forced to suspend their disbelief, and this happens fairly regularly. It has become a bit of a joke how many dumb decisions these survivors have made. Simple things like the sick only being locked in their cell much later than they should have been, or the lack of more protection from the horde beyond a fairly poor fence line are all things that are set up to manufacture these climatic events. There isn’t any inherent problems with the events themselves – they are often exciting and well produced – it’s the journey to get there that needs to be addressed. A show shouldn’t have to force the viewer to sit down and rationalise the steps these people take, and that has been tiresome for quite some time.

Despite this problem, “Interment” really highlighted how society hasn’t failed yet, and that good things can still happen to very good people. It did border on very grim at some points, but in the end it does still leave hope for these people at the prison.

Some observations:

  • Despite being certain Glen wasn’t going to die this episode, his almost dying was still fairly emotional and I’m glad he is on the mend
  • Speaking of dying, I’m going to make a prediction here so I’m going to slap on a minor spoiler warning. I have watched enough television to know that once a character realises their purpose or fulfills that purpose, is usually when they depart the show. Hershel has had his biggest characterisation yet, and I have a feeling the next time we have an episode focused on the man is when we will lose him.
  • The Governor is back! While his reveal was cool, it will be interesting to see how they pull him out of his villain mould, or whether they will at all
  • The whole “leave me and my son alone” schtick wasn’t suspicious at all Papa Redshirt. Not at all.

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 4 – “Indifference”

twd-s4e4Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

The Walking Dead has always been a show about the human aspect of the apocalypse. While it may have stumbled quite a lot in this area during its run, it has always been a soap-opera set in the zombie apocalypse – and that is a good thing. Rather than following George Romero, and turning the undead  into a political statement, Robert Kirkman and team have always focused on how people react when faced with the end of the world. “Indifference” embraces this  as it continues to explore of the most interesting dynamics this show has seen in a long time, and despite a less than stellar sub-plot, provides one of the slower, but probably the best episode of the season so far.

Lets get the big point out of the way – I am glad they made Carol the culprit of the Dave and Karen killings and not Lizzie. It brings much more depth to her character, and unless we find out later on that Carol was covering for her, provides a much more plausible scenario. That’s not to say that their conversation at the beginning of the episode wasn’t any less dubious – Lizzie’s mental state is obviously deteriorating, and an inability to understand that the walkers are in fact dead is troubling. Now that Carol’s out of the picture, it’s not looking good for anyone who is going to be shacked up with her.

Yes, I do believe this is goodbye for Carol, which is a shame. Her character has been one of the strongest on the show for quite some time now, and Melissa McBride has been carrying the bad guy torch in absence of any typical villain figure within the show. That’s not to say she has become a villain herself, in fact she could not be further from it. She has become the yin to Rick’s yang, becoming an embodiment of what happens when the leader drops empathy in favour of a more realist approach, as shown when she was happy to put the new kids to good use. She made a choice in killing Karen and David, and had she succeeded in her intent would we be singing her praises? Or would we have ended up in the same position we are in now?

This doesn’t mean that Rick’s decision to exile her was any more right. Both these characters acted in an ultimate form of leadership, and Rick’s choice only highlighted the hypocrisy further. Neither character consulted with the others in their incredibly major decisions – and Rick punishing Carol in this manner is hypocritical, but ultimately incredibly human. People act act on emotions rather than the facts, and although Rick may be hiding from his leadership, he still makes leadership decisions. Carol also falls victim to this, in her insistence for Lizzie to not call her “mom” only to plead with Rick to let her take them with her is contradictory but believable. This show has been trying to accomplish this a few times with both Lori and Andrea, but only now have they really succeeded.

Daryl’s expedition fared less successfully however, as it really couldn’t live up to the same standards as the other story. Tyreese began acting a little melodramatic, but in the end was willing to let the anger go – which is welcome if not a little rushed. Letting go was a key point throughout this story, as Michonne was able to realise that her hunt for the Governor wasn’t doing her any favours. Stookey’s  alcoholism was brought up again, and his standoff with Daryl was good, but the rest of this storyline just felt like it carried a lot less impact than the more major events happening to the other group.

“Indifference” was thought provoking and incredibly well written for the most part. Despite a B-story that paled in comparison to the main event, it was a fantastic episode. Saying goodbye to Carol for now will be tough, but Rick has made great strides in characterisation this season, and if this episode is any indication hopefully it won’t prove to be that major a loss.

A few observations

  • Sorry about the incredibly late review again. Life gets in the way, but I will be on a more punctual time schedule from now on.
  • “You can be a farmer, but you can’t just be a farmer” “It was a nice watch” – Carol was full of some great lines tonight
  • It’ll be sad to see Carol go, as Melissa McBride has really held her own so far this season. She’ll be back, but I hope it will be sooner rather than later.
  • I wonder how Daryl and Tyreese will take to this news…
  • Michonne smiled again!
  • Keeping the events focused on only the groups outside the prison was a smart choice, as precious screen time has been spread too thin so far this season.
  • That couple was much too friendly, and her leg was very cleanly severed. I have a feeling Rick will be seeing his watch again very soon.
  • Infected zombies are an awesome way of adding extra danger to the routine of putting them down.
  • Rick’s speech about remembering Lori was incredibly sad, and his insistence on remembering her was a great counterpoint to Carol’s. I could have written an entire essay on this episode alone

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 3 – “Isolation”

walkingdead-isolationWarning: full spoilers for the episode follows

“It’s always better to be safe.”

Who would have thought the lengths to which Carol was willing to follow through with those words, especially considering the timing. What had appeared a simple lamentation of the unfolding events, only intensified as the episode went on. This Carol is completely unrecognisable from where she began, and in a smart route for the writing team, has at the very least been a part of a necessary evil, rather than actually becoming evil herself. While it feels like we’re not getting the full picture here, it does feel that it is a completely plausible direction for the character to be heading to.

“Isolation” was full of moments like this, where necessity to do what you believe is right is one of the only things people can do at this point, as the survivors in the prison find it is not all that it is cracked up to be. The group is starting to look a lot like it did at the beginning of last season, as the plague begins to whittle down the number of red shirts remaining. Logical choice would be to abandon the prison, as it can be hardly sanitary at this point, and as witnessed by the serene moment between Carl and Hershel, the outside world doesn’t seem all that bad, as a healthy colour green acted as a strong contrast to the drab palate back in the prison.

Hershel continues to be a real beacon of kindness throughout, as his scene with Maggie and Rick really drove home that there really isn’t much time left for anyone inhabiting this world, so it becomes what you do with whatever time you have left – especially when loved ones are involved. It feels like they may be building to a natural end point for this character (read: death), considering that he may not have much more growing to do in the series.

Rick and Tyreese however still have a ways to go, as both characters featured in their own kind of meltdown this week. The main difference between the two was that Rick’s actions made sense. There has been a running theme in his character throughout the series, with the seeds being placed in the very first episode – that he may not inherently be a good person. Troubles in his relationship before the outbreak, coupled with bursts of rage, over-controlling, and tendency to act violently suggests that the only thing holding him together is societal morals and the presence of others. So when Tyreese lashed out like he had, Rick’s rebuttal was understandably troubling, but made complete sense. it can be so easy for the man to become like the crazy lady in the first episode, that if something truly devastating should happen to the group, he may just end up there.

Tyreese’s anger problems felt forced however. He has known this woman for, at the very most, 30 days, and while the end of the world would have a certain bearing on one’s psyche I’m sure, for him to sit in the car at the end of the episode felt unnecessary. He had just promised his sister Sasha (for who I will be sorely upset if she dies) that he would help her get through this, so to then almost throw not only his life away and potentially the others, her only chances at survival, feels incredibly dumb. Yes, it does provide an opportunity to have a parallel for the particularly cool gym battle in the comics, but even the scene provided was a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t help that Coleman’s performance felt too one note this week, and I will definitely be looking for a less brooding Tyreese as the series moves on.

Besides the melodrama, the zombies continue to impress. It’s clear that the series budget has increased, as we were treated to not only a herd, but also more uniquely designed zombies as well. The herd provides a nice “oh shit” moment, but the real star is the moss covered zombie in the forest, who was expertly crafted, and reminded me of the human mushroom farm from the Hannibal TV series. The monsters continue to be the more consistent characters on the show, and seeing that this season so far has given us iconic versions of them, we can only wait to see how they top it next.

“Isolation” continues the upward curve of this season, and while the writers continue to struggle with charcterisation, the show has never looked better. Besides, we still need to find out who was feeding the zombies, and who the voice on the radio was, so there is plenty of mysteries to keep this show running for the foreseeable future.

Couple of observations

  • Again, I neglected to write more about Glen and Maggie this week, but they both seem to be relegated to the background – more-so than the others. But please don’t die in there Glen!
  • I also have noted that many people across the internet seem to think it was the crazy girl who killed Karen and David. Despite her overacting, her character could conceivably do something like that. Interesting to see how it plays out.
  • Why haven’t they locked everyone in their cells yet? People are dying then re-animating! It always amazes me how stupid these characters can be.
  • It wasn’t Stookey who burned the bodies like I had thought. Still don’t trust him though.
  • Someone else pointed out to me that there were no onscreen deaths this week. Beth can happily change her calendar now.


The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 2 – “Infected”

Careful with that, you'll have an eye out

Careful with that, you’ll have an eye out

Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

In the world of The Walking Dead, the zombies aren’t your biggest problem – it’s empathy. Caring for others will get you hurt, will get you killed, and considering the entirety of last season was dealing with the ramifications of not caring enough, “Infected” begins to answer the question of what happens when people care too much.

“Infected” picks up right where the last episode left off, with another decent horror film-like sequence continuing the trend from last week. Zombie-Patrick is let loose upon the group, and while it does force the audience to have a certain sense of disbelief, it does highlight how much of a false sense of security the survivors have gained in their new home. The apocalypse is still happening outside, and the people inside just got reminded of that.

Rick was also forced to take a reality check this week, as he was pulled out of his farming retirement to begin making decisions again. It’s great to see Rick finally having to deal with the fact that this world is suited to how he handles things, and that Farmer Rick is merely a fantasy that he will never really be allowed to live during the zombie apocalypse. Yes, it does look like he may be walking back down the path he walked last season, with all the close ups of Rick looking suitably wild and angry as he puts down the zombie horde, but it was also nice to see the sadness in his realization that was who he needed to be, as he sacrificed his pigs for the greater good.

Carol, however, seems to be the only one in the apocalypse who actually has her head screwed on the right way. Her tough love act with the two girls is the standout moment of the episode, especially when she tells them very bluntly that they are weak. She understands through the loss of both her abusive husband and her child that empathy doesn’t work for the dead, or the dying, and the best way to deal with them is a swift death. Carol’s acceptance of the way things are is only augmented by Mellisa McBride’s delivery , as she scolds the children with the same intensity a mother would when her child runs with scissors.

But Carol’s not the only one dealing with loss. This episode also gave us the biggest hint into Michonne’s life before the infection began. I was worried that this plot line would devolve into Michonne sulking for the remainder of the episode, but her reaction to the baby crying was a welcome surprise, as it gave depth without destroying her mysterious persona. A daughter? Niece? We probably won’t find out and I hope we never will.

Outside of character moments, we once again were treated to more disgustingly amazing blood and gore. The zombie dragging its intestines around was suitably gross and it’s surprising it wasn’t done earlier. Karen, who I was certain was going to get killed in the pre-credits sequence, ended up completely immolated, which was incredibly disturbing. It’s bad enough that the survivors were split between infected and uninfected, but for one of the only people to show symptoms to be burnt alive? That does not help with the already rock bottom morale, and it is sure to create a split in future episodes. It seems directly tied to the person who was feeding the zombies rats at the beginning of the episode, and is beginning to sow the seeds of mistrust throughout the group.

In the end “Infected” continues to show the viewers what happens when the group dynamic of last season is completely reversed, and while it continues to strain on audience acceptance of how these events occur, it still manages to maintain the solid start to the season.

Couple of observations

  • Maggie and Glen have been relegated to the background for these first few episodes, but their small sub-plot is providing the much needed levity to the main events so far this season. Hopefully it gets expanded in future episodes
  • I know I said it last week, but Carl is really shaping up to become a more solid addition to the cast. Chandler Riggs has really grown into his role. His adversity to using the gun felt believable, and it genuinely felt like he was acting like Rick’s son.
  • I find it incredibly hard to believe they went thirty days without an incident, considering how bad it has been over the last two.
  • No matter how many times they show that blonde woman crying over her husband, I’m just not going to be able to care. I cared more about the death of the piggies than that woman’s plight.
  • Why aren’t there internal guards/ precautions against this kind of incident? Especially considering they took on the Governor’s people, and he’s still out there. This show strains too much on believability sometimes, and can really pull the viewer out of the experience.
  • The girl upset over the death of Nick the Zombie was creepy, if a little over-acted. Hopefully the girl’s state of mind is brought back in later episodes.
  • Biting the man’s neck so he wouldn’t scream? C’mon.

The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 1 – “30 Days Without Accident”

Not even the zombie apocalypse stops Workplace Health & Safety

Not even the zombie apocalypse stops Workplace Health & Safety

Warning: full spoilers for the episode follow

For the first time that I can remember, Michonne smiled. She probably has smiled before in the series – but not like this. As Daryl is being grilled by one of the red-shirts (Brad?) about his past life, surrounded by the corpses of hundreds of dead, hunting for supplies, Michonne allows herself a laugh and a smile, which sets the tone for “30 Days Without Accident”. Yes it’s the end of the world, but not everything is all that bad. Until it is.

Lets get to the biggest plot point, which is the inclusion of the “big bad” that the producers had been teasing. A deadly disease has come to the prison, and as one would expect, probably will be around for a while. Patrick, one of the many red-shirts the Woodbury citizens will provide, falls ill, gets a fever, and promptly dies within the course of a single day. It is a bit far fetched that this would (a) not be noticed, and (b) be able to kill him as quickly as it has, so it does ask for a certain sense of disbelief. What is interesting about this whole ordeal is how the episode provides multiple “Patient Zero” for audiences to question: was it the sick pigs? The fact the children hung out with Nick the zombie all day? Or was it because of the wonderfully meta moment where Patrick has a fanboy geek-out over Daryl? Providing multiple explanations only helps to deepen mistrust within the prison ranks, and could potentially lead to a great The Thing--like standoff.

The episode otherwise splits neatly into two separate story threads. Daryl and the gang’s expedition to the supermarket was definitely the highlight of the episode, as we were treated to a particularly awesome sequence with zombies crashing from the ceiling, providing a definite horror movie moment. It also gave us another of the more memorable zombies in a long time, as one of the poor things was hung from the ceiling by its guts. As mentioned before, the scene where the gang were guessing Daryl’s previous occupation was a nice touch, and will do well for building up to the moments where things aren’t going quite to plan.

The other story, Rick’s encounter with the crazy lady, felt a bit too familiar. While it’s always nice to catch up with the world outside the prison, it felt too reminiscent of his excellent re-encounter with Morgan last season. Coming across a character who reminds Rick of what he could become is a bit stale right now, especially considering this is a woman who we have zero investment in, and really only serves to highlight the three questions that Rick asks new survivors.

“30 Days Without Accident” sets up the season well. While times have been okay for a month now, it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead if everything didn’t go wrong all at once. Now all we need is a hint at what the Governor is up to. Then everyone would be in trouble.

Couple of observations

  • Carol has enjoyed an excellent arc throughout the series, and the tough mum act really suits her well. I hope they expand on this in further episodes.
  • Speaking on Carol – are her and Daryl a thing now? I really hope not, as I have always read their relationship more as a familial one.
  • This episode also has the introduction of Bob Stookey, who people will remember from the comics. His battle with the alcohol was a nice touch, considering it was the choice not to fall back into that hole which almost got him killed.
  • Fans of the comics will know to keep an eye on Stookey. Fans of the show should do so too.
  • Carl is definitely much better than where he was in season two. It’s interesting to see how these events are really messing with his childhood.
  • The council eh? I wonder of Rick’s a part of it, or whether he wants to sit out considering the Ricktatorship.
  • Finally, sorry about the late review. This week got busy outside of the site, and I plan on being more prompt with the reviews in the future. Look for episode two’s review real soon

The Walking Dead – What I Think So Far

michonne-walking deadWarning: Spoilers for The Walking Dead TV series, as well as minor spoilers for the comic series follow

Starting this week, The Comics Herald will be reviewing the new episodes of The Walking Dead television series. Being a fan of the series, throughout its iterations in comics, games and of course the television show, I thought it be best to bring readers up to speed with my thoughts on AMC’s zombie hit before I began reviewing the latest season. This will include spoilers of course, as will all my reviews for the series, so you have been warned. Twice.

What I Like:

The Zombies

Yes. It’s a show about zombies. On cable television. I continue to be amazed that this show even exists, and pulls massive numbers in the ratings, prompting it to have the largest cable audience ever. But I digress.

The creative team really have come into their own in the overall aesthetic of the show. The zombies have their own look, which is masterfully created through continually impressive prosthetic make-up, and there always manages to be a few standout individual zombies that really set the tone. From the little girl and the bicycle girl in the premiere, to the creepy Governors Daughter, the show has continued to outdo itself in creative ways to show the living dead. Spattered with a healthy dose of blood and gore of course.

It takes liberties with the comics

This is a major problem I have with other shows that decide to stick closely to the source material. Game Of Thrones did not hold my interest for purely because people who were watching it with me knew exactly what was going to happen and when. It takes the fun out of watching a show week-by-week when there are people who will know how it is going to end. The Walking Dead overcomes this problem by using the source as a basis, rather than a bible. It allows for expectations to be subverted – characters who were alive in the comics are dead, and vice-versa. It’s having the cake and eating it too, having the pure fan service of seeing these characters on screen, while at the same time being legitimately worried for them. It keeps it both familiar and fresh.

The Characters

In taking liberties with the source material, some of The Walking Dead’s best characters have spawned from the deviations. Norman Reedus is obviously excellent as Daryl, and this newer, more charming version of the Governor, is handled excellently by David Morrissey. Other standouts include Carol (who has enjoyed a really intriguing character arc), Hershel and of course Glen, each of which have enjoyed some of the more consistent characterizations throughout the series. As for the deceased, I was a huge fan of Shane too, especially considering he too outlived his comics counterpart. On occasion The Walking Dead gets its characters right, and when it does it’s a treat.

What I Don’t Like:

The Characters

You did notice the “on occasion” didn’t you? When The Walking Dead’s characters are firing on all cylinders, it does so excellently. When it isn’t, the engine begins to stutter and act in ways it really shouldn’t. Andrea and Lori are the main offenders here, despite the former beginning promisingly, and the latter offering a small amount of redemption in the end. I’m willing to include Dale here too, especially as towards the end he began grating on my nerves. At times it’s a small niggle, with characters making small mistakes that make me raise an eyebrow, but other times it is downright infuriating. It also doesn’t help that when a character becomes unlikeable enough (Andrea, Lori), or when the writers really don’t know what to do with them (T-Dog), they tend to be killed off. It’s the fact that there seems to be a large disconnect between these and the well written ones that often makes me scratch my head.

It often gets stuck

See the entire middle section of the second season. Too often the show finds itself spinning its wheels, as characters meander about repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This could be a problem with the genre, as consistent tension and action can be too overwhelming, but the moments where characters sit around moping about the end of the world, however realistic, get old quickly. I also imagine staying in the same place for too long perpetuates this,  which is a worry going into the fourth season when they remain at the prison. Hopefully this changes, and the writers manage to squeeze more life from their home.

What I’d Like To See

A Deeper Rick

While Rick Grimes doesn’t fall under the “bad character” category, he exactly doesn’t fit under the good one either. Rick is incredibly flat, often reacting to events around him, rather than truly taking charge. I’d like to see more of the Rick we saw at the beginning of season three, where the “Ricktatorship” took point, but eventually fell apart anyway. No matter how many times the other characters tell us how important he is, we really need to see it. Take him out of the equation for a while, and show us how important he is.

Bigger Threats

While we already know the producers have teased something big coming to the survivors, I’d like to see a better defined antagonist. The Governor is definitely set to return, but I felt the whole Woodbury army was underused, and considering how quickly the remaining members of that community defected to our heroes, I would love to see some good old fashioned deceit and sabotage from these new members.

Bigger Smiles

I know this is a show about the end of the world, but having characters regularly hitting just the one note (read: depressed) gets old quickly. Michonne is the biggest offender here, as her brooding has gotten old quickly – crack a smile, tell a joke. They may be surrounded by zombies at every turn, but for their own sanity, and ours, just act a little lighter. The more upsetting events will have more impact if the lighter moments are just that little bit lighter.

As I am writing this, the premiere has aired already, having snuck up on me without me realising, so the review will be up not long after this post has. Otherwise reviews for the episode should be up on the site the following day.


Jupiter’s Legacy #3 – Millar and Quitely

jupiterslegacy03FIThe long wait between issues two and three of Jupiter’s Legacy have paid off in a big way. Mark Millar has upped the brutality in this current issue while Frank Quitely contributes another off the chart visual performance. Even with the extended wait, it’s hard to believe we are only three issues into this story. It reads more like an event than an ongoing series when you consider the densely populated super hero universe and the sheer magnitude of power possessed by these two warring factions – you really get a sense of the scope and ambition of this book.

Bringing an air of realism to a super hero book is not a new concept – we have seen it many times from Watchmen to the more recent Invincible but there is a modern world pathos that Millar brings to Jupiter’s Legacy that is absent from some of these other works. The degradation of the family unit, the rampant drug use and tanking economy all touched on here by Millar lend more than a gritty realism when looked at through the lens of social criticism. It takes on a biting satirical edge in much the same way as Burgess did in A Clockwork Orange, however we are dealing with human society as it effects the super human, which is an altogether new and different perspective.

There is something voyeuristic about this narrative in that it feels like we are watching a family fall apart. On a much larger scale we are witnessing events unfold in the super hero community that will have ramifications reaching every corner of existence. The conflict here is like a presidential campaign on steroids – both sides have their own deeply held beliefs and motivations, some are more altruistic than others but in a world where might truly makes right, these ideals are only as strong as those who hold them.

Millar does an excellent job writing dialogue for these characters. Although these are new characters, he has given us a look inside them through his sharp, intelligent dialogue and made them feel familiar. Their interaction and collusion paint an accurate portrait of just who these people are and what drives them to do the things they do. The narrative is briskly paced to say the least – events happen in rapid fire succession, sometimes leaving us to wonder if there’s going to be a return to that plot thread later or are we to fill in the blanks ourselves – which can lead to confusion or a point being muddled where it should be crystal clear. This is a complex story full of subtext and sometimes that can get lost in the fast tempo. However, I think Millar is doing a fine job of balancing the fast pace of the narrative with the abundance of information presented – I would just recommend reading these issues more than once to really get the most out of the lush contextual landscape.

Frank Quitely is the perfect artist for the realistic super hero story. His clear and concise portrayal of anatomy is enhanced by his knack for dynamic perspective and posing within a panel. Quitely is a master visual storyteller – he employs the location almost as much as the characters as a conveyance device for the plot. Those of you who have read my reviews of his work know that I am an unapologetic fanatical fan of Mr. Quitely’s work, especially when he and a certain Grant Morrison collaborate to make comic book magic, so it should come as no surprise at all to hear that I was floored by his work in this issue. There are so many incredible pages but one of the gruesome highlights would have to be the splash page of Grace’s brutal murder.

She is twisted in pain and pierced multiple times by numerous weapons – swords and arrows obliterate her abdomen as her life blood gushes from the cruel wounds of her ferocious assault. The whole thing is a study in slaughter. Another such page shows Brandon astride his freshly murdered father surrounded by his new team mates while his manipulative Uncle Walter stands beside him with his misguiding hand upon his nephews shoulder. The once powerful and majestic Utopian lies lifeless, his face now a smoldering skull with two bottomless pits where his eyes, a father’s eyes, once beheld the world and all he held dear. Quitely expertly captures the emotion in this scene with subtleties like the inclination of Brandon’s head as he gazes up at his uncle and the consternation in Walter’s face as he looks to a future that he will shape from the shadows. Peter Doherty’s dynamic colors add a vivid depth and dimension that truly enliven these pages.

Millar and Quitely have fashioned a world where super heroes are not immune to the problems that tear families apart. Jupiter’s Legacy does not lack action, excitement or a compelling and engrossing narrative that keeps you wanting more – it has all of that. This is a world that is not hindered by past continuity conflicts or preconceived notions of how a character would or should act. This is a new world, but a world no less full of situations that shock and surprise by their very nature – not by juxtaposing behaviors or contrasting norms, but they are shocking simply by the brutal finality that result from them.

This is a comic book that doesn’t pull any punches however it does not need to be reined in for being gratuitous or needlessly indulgent. There is a balance here that is not so easily maintained – just look at a book like Crossed and you will see just how hard this balance is to maintain and how awful a book can be when it goes careening off the tracks and into the world of pointless violence and depraved sexuality. Jupiter’s Legacy is first rate across the board and for that reason as well as the myriad merits mentioned in this review. I give this issue my strongest recommendation – add this title to your pull list ASAP.

So until next time, see you at the comic book store.

Revival #12 Review – Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

Image_Comics_-_Revival__12Revival is a series I don’t find myself talking about very much. Not because lack of quality – Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s horror mystery is a slow burning scare, broken up by a solid family drama that hits all the right notes. No, I am of the firm belief that the best horror is experienced alone, left to your own imagination. But how can anyone experience the horror if you don’t tell them it exists?

Revival tells the story of a small Wisconsin town, which for one day found its dead brought back to life. These aren’t the usual zombies that we know, for these undead – known as Revivers – act like any other human for the most part. Known for incredibly violent outbursts, these Revivers cause the small town to become locked down by the US government. Revival follows Dana and Martha Cypress, two sisters, one a cop, the other a university student turned Reviver, as they deal with the enormous fallout, and the overarching mysteries of this new event.

Revival #12 is essentially an epilogue to the third large story arc, picking up right after the bloody and violent events of issue 11. One thing that can be said about Revival as a series is its incredible accessibility. Now is a great time to jump on to the series, as many character conflicts are resolved, but as always if you wanted to follow each and every detail of the story, head back to the beginning.

This issue, while having less gore than the previous ones, does instil the overarching creepiness the series is known for.Dana’s son Cooper writes his own comic inside a comic this issue, acting as a simple recap, as well as a solidification that not only the reader is aware that something is off. His representation of his Aunt as a monster confirms that these characters are beginning to notice something is off with Martha, rather than the reader becoming more and more frustrated at the idea that they are unable to see what is going on. Combined with Martha’s odd behaviour throughout the issue (and series in general), it makes the reader wonder whether this is something she is aware about.

Ibrahaim Ramin’s side story of the fallout with a racist farmer from last issue is also a great touch. From a town steeped in a strong Christian religion, and with many spouting the end of times, he deals with a religious crisis – both internally and externally. Seeley likes to explore any of the possibilities in this event that science can’t explain, and for religious fanatics to blame it on their heretics makes for an interesting turn of events that look like they will play a bigger part later down the track.

Norton’s art is great as well. While he doesn’t reinvent the wheel, his clean lines and great detail help with a sense of place, as well as his realistic looking figures help to make it feel real. I’m also a huge fan of Mark Englet’s colours, which help with the drab, cold, but colourful palate of small town USA. And while the cover this month isn’t done by the brilliant Jenny Frission, Skottie Young’s cover is both fun and asks an interesting question about the mysterious ghost stalking about the town.

Revival is a series best read alone, in a dark place, and at night. While it doesn’t throw relentless horror at you like recent attempts in not only comics, but film and gaming as well, when it does become violent and spooky it stands out. Throw in some great world building, and a cool art style and you have yourself a title that no horror fans should miss.

Review: The Walking Dead #112 – Kirkman, Adlard and Rathburn

Image_Comics_-_The_Walking_Dead__112The Walking Dead is unique in so many ways, but one of the most singular to the title is that there are truly no story arcs as defined by most other comic books. Instead what you have is one long uninterrupted narrative that progresses organically, driven by conflict and resolution – and within that paradigm characters are defined by their actions in much the same way people are in everyday life. This process makes The Walking Dead a viable, living story that has all but taken on a life of its own.

Each month we are afforded a glimpse into the lives of these characters that have by now become like old friends (or enemies). Robert Kirkman has not only carved out a niche in popular culture, he has transcended the boundaries that would fence many creators in. By making The Walking Dead more accessible than say the George Romero “Dead” films, he has broadened his audience to an amazing extent and tapped into a demographic beyond comic book fans. That said, he has not sold out by any stretch of the imagination – the comic has gotten grittier and more violent if anything. Not long ago, (SPOILER ALERT) one  of the main characters, Glen, was brutally beaten to death in one of the most graphic scenes of murder I have ever seen in a major published comic, so obviously Kirkman is not watering down his vision or compromising his ideals just to enlarge his readership. He doesn’t have to; in the case of the modern horror comic he has built the proverbial better mouse trap. The Walking Dead is the standard by which all other horror comics are measured and for that fact alone we are indebted to Robert Kirkman.

This issue picks up only minutes after Negan has killed yet another of Rick’s people, Spencer. Negan opened Spencer from throat to navel, spilling his guts all over the street when he dared approach the hot headed leader of the Saviors covertly about taking Rick’s place. Rick is out with a group of his people collecting supplies to give Negan in return for a continued if tenuous peace. Negan is the kind of villain you love to hate. He is sarcastic and vicious but somehow charismatic. Kirkman’s excellent dialog, although peppered with expletives, gives Negan a frightening appeal; he is compellingly reprehensible, like a charming serial killer.

In contrast Rick is a flawed but good man who is at his breaking point. Negan has pushed him over the edge and Rick formulates a plan on the fly which does not turn out as he and his group had hoped. The Saviors may have appeared to be less than prepared for the attack but as is frequently the case in The Walking Dead, things are not as they seem. The most recent encounter between Rick and Negan is thoroughly entertaining but frustrating to read. Rick finally has had enough but his ill-planned revolt does little but take him from the frying pan into the fire and for that the entire group is sure to suffer. The final page is classic Negan as he illuminates the terrain in which Rick currently finds himself all too hopelessly deployed.

I have been a fan of this book for quite some time now and it has yet to disappoint me. Sure there are better plots than others but right now the book and its creative team are at the top of their game. There is a lot going on and plenty of well written characters to love and to hate and as always tons of bad situations getting worse long before they get better. That seems to have become the trademark of a good Walking Dead story – see how much a given character can take and push them far beyond that point before reaching a resolution. Robert Kirkman has taken us on a 112 issue thrill ride so far and there are no signs of it slowing as yet.

Visually, Charlie Adlard is as solid as ever. His style has become the defining look of these characters, including the zombies, even more so than the television show. His work is moody and emotional bringing a feel of perpetual cloudy skies to the page. Adlard has come to know these characters intimately and that comes through in the detailed way he renders their expressions. Cliff Rathburn’s gray tones add dimension and emotional depth.

Over all this is an absolutely entertaining issue full of all the elements we have can to expect from Kirkman and company. The lightning fast pace speeds you through to a final page that leaves you anxiously waiting for the next issue.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.

Jupiter’s Legacy #2 – Millar and Quitely

jupiterlegacyEven super-heroes are not immune to dysfunction in the family. Mark Millar explores the depths of that dysfunction in his new series, Jupiter’s Legacy. Utopian is the patriarch of a family of super-beings –  to call them super-heroes would imply that they are somehow virtuous and that cannot be said for most of them. He struggles to maintain some semblance of morality in this clan of deficient principals, however his struggles seem to be overwhelming even for one who possesses the powers of a “superman”. Besides his drug-addled celebrity children, Chloe and Brandon, who make Paris Hilton and Marilyn Manson look well-behaved by comparison, Utopian has a back-stabbing, power-hungry brother named Walter to contend with.

Chloe has just found out that she is eleven weeks along in an unplanned for and unwanted pregnancy when she is rushed to the hospital to recover from yet another drug overdose. Her “boyfriend”, Hutch just happens to be the son of a super-villain. Brandon looks more like a rock star than a super-hero and he behaves more like one as well. He begins this issue by recklessly and drunkenly using his telekinetic powers to transport a huge cargo ship through the air. The ship is full of containers which start to fall overboard when Brandon loses his concentration. A number of the containers plummet dangerously toward the ground. It is only Utopian’s timely intervention that prevents any loss of life not to mention millions of dollars in property damage. Father and son have a heated exchange full of some very well written dialogue –  Millar is quite adept at giving his characters believable voices. Frank Quitely’s awesome visual story telling really shines in this scene as well.

Next we go to Long Beach where Hutch, Chloe’s paramour, makes his first appearance. He is a shady reprobate who has absconded with a shipment of heroin, neglecting to pay for said narcotics. His weapon of choice is something called a “power rod” but he also has the ability to transport anyone foolish enough to annoy him to some rather inhospitable surroundings. For instance when he is approached by a pair of super-powered henchmen representing “The Big Man” whose heroin Hutch pilfered, he simply says the words “shark-infested waters” and bingo! Next thing you know the unlucky henchmen are shark food. This is one of the issue’s highlights – the nonchalance of Hutch just makes this such an awesome moment and Frank Quitely’s cinematic style brings it to life so brutally yet so stylishly.

Utopian finds his brother, Walter in a Cabinet Office meeting with some government advisors. He barges in, making Walter look and feel inferior in front of the government big-wigs. This does not sit well at all with him and makes for a very devious and dubious alliance that begins to unfold on the final page of this issue. I dare not say more suffice to say a knife is looking for a back to call home.

This book has everything I love about good comic books. First of all it has long-time Grant Morrison collaborator, Frank Quitely, who is in my humble opinion the very best comic book artist to grace the printed page. His style is so unique; no one can match the emotion and command of anatomy he wields over his characters. His work is clean with an elegance unrivaled. He lends a sense of humanity to these characters simply by the limitless array of facial expression in his artistic arsenal.

Next there is Mark Millar, who has written Jupiter’s Legacy at a break-neck pace thus far, glossing over some vital history that I hope he gets around to in later issues. That is my only complaint and it is a minor one. This book has come out of the gate firing on all thrusters. I love Millar’s” take no prisoners” style of writing, I have been a fan of his for quite some time. His seminal work on The Ultimates, his groundbreaking Wolverine story, Old Man Logan, the significant Kick Ass trilogy are all examples of the genius of Mark Millar and there are so many other works I could add to that list. With Jupiter’s Legacy he has created a work that will be compared to Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Mark Waid’s Irredeemable for its very human portrayal of super-heroes, their flaws and strengths there to be observed. The plot is intriguing and full of scandalous characters who threaten to bring down a good man who only wants his children to live up to the potential he believes exists within them.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

If you are a fan of superb writing and just phenomenal artwork this book needs to be on your pull list. So until next week, see you at the comic book store.