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Saga: Volumes Seven-Nine

Here concludes my Saga saga (for now!) as volume nine came out in 2018 and author Brian K Vaughn and illustrator Fiona Staples took a hiatus from putting out new volumes until an undetermined future time. A quote from the series to set the stage: “Anyone can kill you, but it takes someone you know to really HURT you. It takes someone you love to break your heart” -Hazel

*Some Spoilers Ahead*

Volume Seven

Hazel has been reunited with her parents and they couldn’t be happier, especially as they are also expecting another child. A former prisoner, transgender Petrichor, has joined the family, as she slipped through the portal when Klara chooses to remain in the detention center with her new loved ones. Along with Izabel and the Prince Robot, the group needs to refuel their spaceship and their brief sojourn to the planet Phang ends up lasting for six months. The Will tracks down Gwendolyn and Sophie, but Sophie and Lying Cat remain with Gwen, despite The Will’s plea to join him. War comes to Phang and the family needs to leave quickly, leaving behind some friends they had made, and Alana gets hurt during their sudden departure.

Volume Eight

This volume was HARD to read. Known as a controversial series, I have to admit the opening page was a gut punch and it shocked and disturbed me. While I am 100% pro-choice, the picture seemed flippant, but of course, as you read on the narrative was nuanced and I hope it pushed readers to think critically about their beliefs.

This story had a lot of character development as it took a brief break from action (although of course there is some) for Alana, Marko, Petrichor, Prince Robot and The Will. Even little Hazel gets some poignant scenes with her ghostly brother. The volume ends a sweet note, but I know what that means- we are being lulled into complacency so we can be devastated in the next volume.

Volume Nine

Groups are converging for a show-down, as the lull in the action in the last volume was just setting the stage for this narrative. While some families have been reunited, and some couples are deepening their connections, other characters are so caught up in their hate that they can’t see the humanity in others. I felt like I was watching a horror movie, and wanted to yell at some of the characters to not do that, go there, or trust that person. And I was right- as there were additional deaths and betrayals. Then there was that ending- NO!!!!!!!

Now, I join all other Saga fans who are waiting and waiting and waiting for volume ten. With such a cliff-hanger it is almost cruel for Vaughan and Staples to make us wait so long. I read that they consider the series halfway done, so we are to expect another nine volumes in the future- but when will it start up again????

To wrap up, I noticed on these three volumes that artist Fiona Staples was given first credit, and I applaud that because in graphic novels it is often the ART that makes the story. Staples’ visuals are top-notch and while Vaughn’s storytelling is superb, it would not be the same story if not for the illustrations (I feel the same way about Locke & Key). I now impatiently wait for Saga to continue, as I wipe away my tears from the heartbreaking last page.

-Nancy

Catch up on previous volumes: Volume One, Volumes Two-Three, Volumes Four-Six

Saga: Volumes Four-Six

After taking two years between reading the first epic volume and then volumes two and three, I decided I will take a page out of how I read Harrow County and read and review the entire series (thus far) in close succession. *Some Spoilers Ahead*

Volume Four

Marko and Alana are hiding in plain sight while raising Hazel to toddlerhood on a remote planet Gardenia. Alana has improbably become an actress for a soap-opera type series called Open Circuit, leaving Marko and his mother to the day-to-day parenthood duties.  While the family might be disguised, they are taking incredible risks, and can’t risk making friends who might discover their secret. The luster is off their marriage, both parents are stressed, and they find out some of their choices have dire consequences. Prince Robot IV misses the birth of his son, and because of his oversight, the baby is kidnapped by a disgruntled janitor robot who feels the royal house has taken advantage of the populace during the war. When the kidnapper also grabs Hazel, the two feuding fathers need to band together to find their children before its too late.

Volume Five

All the various groups are separated- Alana and Klara are trying desperately to escape from Dengo the janitor who is holding Hazel and the baby robot hostage, Marko and Prince Robot IV are trying to find their children, plus The Brand, Gwendolyn and Sophie are trying to find an elixir to heal The Will. The Last Revolution, a radical anti-war group, gets added into the mix with shifting alliances and betrayals that lead to the death of several characters. While there are family members reunited, other family groups remain splintered.

I love how the character’s motivations are layered and deep, and not everyone makes the best decisions. Some people start with the best of intentions and then make cowardly decisions, and on the flip side, some weak characters end up standing up strong when needed.

Volume Six

Time has gone by and Hazel is now kindergarten age as she and her grandmother are being held in a Landfallian detention center. Marko and Alana are finally reunited and determined to find Hazel and Klara so they blackmail a certain someone to help them onto the Landfall prison. The Will has made a recovery but no longer has his sidekick Lying Cat, instead, he has his sister’s dog-like creature, Sweet Boy. He has become heavy and mean, and hallucinates frequently. Meanwhile Hazel and Klara have made the best of their detention and both have acquired some allies who help them when Marko and Hazel make their brazen rescue attempt. Nothing ever goes perfectly, and the family’s reunion is bittersweet.

Wow, although I had a slow start with this series, the storytelling keeps amping up and I am now devouring the volumes. Staple’s art remains strong, with additional crazy aliens and planets, yet it all remains relatable. Expect reviews for the next three volumes to drop next week!

-Nancy

Saga: Volumes Two and Three

Although I was a big fan of the first volume of Saga, it has taken me almost two years to start reading further into the series! An epic sci-fi adventure with liberal doses of violence and sex, this series is a favorite of many but also criticized for the illustrated depictions of said violence and sex. Author Brian K. Vaughan jokingly described the series as “Star Wars for perverts.”

Volume Two

Marko’s parents showed up at the end of the first volume and it is immediately established that they don’t approve of their son’s marriage to Alana, who is of an enemy species. But within minutes Marko and his mother Klara need to leave to rescue Isabel, the babysitter who was just sent into another dimension by Marko’s mother on accident. And right away we see why this series is so controversial, we get an extreme close up of a giant’s privates (and I do mean giant). During this time Alana bonds with Barr, Marko’s father and as he tries to make items that will protect his extended family, and we learn a sad truth about him.

There is some important backstory to how Marko and Alana met, which is crucial, as in the first volume the reader was just dropped into the story and expected to pick up what was going on. We also learn of Marko’s upbringing and start to see a more nuanced view of why the different alien species are at war. Interestingly, a key reason why Alana was open to a romance with a warring species was a pulp romance novel that she was crazy about that showed interspecies love in a flattering light. Saga has a huge cast of characters and we also get some backstory on the Prince Robot, The Will and a certain someone from Marko’s past. Plus, there is a lot of chaos natch.

Volume Three

Marko and Alana’s family is reeling from their recent tragedy and take refuge in an unlikely ally’s home. The ragtag family has a brief time to recover and bond, but soon enough they are on the run again. If you think there is a large cast of characters- think again, as even more are added. Now we have two journalists who are following the scandalous story of Alana and Marko’s marriage and their infant Hazel, while the government wants to cover up that a child has been born of their union. The Will is joined by another morally ambiguous assassin and a six-year child they saved from prostitution.

Snappy dialogue and great art are trademarks of this series. Artist Fiona Staples has created an authentic universe with a myriad of different aliens and varied planets. I’m amazed at how much background she fits in, as many artists would simplify the panels, as the aliens themselves are a lot of work, but Staples doesn’t skimp. She also very ably shows emotion, and thus the whole cast of characters seems more authentic because of how she draws and colors them.

On a side note, I have this series at the library I work at and had the most recent Volume Nine up on display with all the other newly bought graphic novels. I was in my office when one of the circulation clerks came to get me to report that one of our library patrons was lodging a complaint against it. When I came out to speak to her she said the book was pornographic and we should not have it in our library. I explained that as a library we offer diverse reads and can not dictate what our patrons read. I said that we kept it in the adult section, and it had a Mature label on the back that lets readers know of the adult content. While I agreed that the content was indeed mature, we would be keeping it on our shelves as we do not ban books. She calmed down, and while she was not happy, she did not ask for the paperwork to formally lodge a complaint. I took that as a win.

Once again, I enjoyed this series, and I hope I can catch up on the remaining volumes (thus far) soon.

-Nancy

In-jokes abound, as Vaughan makes this sly dig against writers (like himself!).

Blackbird (Book 1): The Great Beast

Nina Rodriguez has known her whole life that there was magic in this world, ever since she was thirteen and a great beast saved Nina and her sister Marisa from being crushed to death during an earthquake. She’s spent her whole life trying to find the magic again, against her family’s wishes. They call her “Crazy Baby” and tease her, but Nina knows what she saw. Ten years later, she’s struggling with panic attacks, addiction, joblessness, and still struggling to find the magic in the world – until the great beast reappears and takes Marisa away. Nina has to pull it together if she’s to save her sister. It’ll take a little help from Nina’s childhood cat and a mysterious boy who is a Paragon – who has magical powers. What if, in her quest to save her sister and uncover the truth about magic – Nina realizes her entire life has been a lie?

I didn’t know I’d been itching for some good ol’ urban fantasy until I read this. And in graphic novel form! I was in heaven and now I want more! It does have some classic urban fantasy and straight fantasy tropes: spunky, outcast, loud-mouthed female lead who doesn’t realize she has powers, knowledgeable love interest she doesn’t need, and so forth. But it was put together so charmingly I didn’t mind.

The setting is what grounds this graphic novel. It takes place in Los Angeles in the modern day. We get detailed backgrounds of the city with some recognizable landmarks. We get the glitz and glamour of the City of Angels. But we also get a parallel world, the magic world, which peeks through Los Angeles’ seedy veil every now and then throughout… making you believe that maybe, just maybe, there could be a magic world underneath. Though the overall palette is neon, the real world tends toward darker colors, and the world of magic towards pastels.

While overall the art was solid, especially in the colors, I found the characters a little stiff. Their poses and expressions seemed lacking to me, even during times of high tension or stress. It’s mostly in the writing and Nina’s inner dialogue where the emotional impact comes from, and not her expressions or her actions. The scenery, the details, the colors, and the worldbuilding and atmosphere are all so solid – but it’s lacking much of it’s emotional depth because what we’re reading and what we’re seeing in the characters’ facial expressions and body language don’t always match.

Overall, however, this is a great start to what is sure to be a hit graphic novel/urban fantasy series. I eagerly look forward to more!

-Kathleen

Humphries, Sam, and Jen Bartel. Blackbird (Book 1): The Great Beast. 2018.

Spawn Kills Everyone!

I recently took a trip to Georgia for a girl’s weekend with my college friends when I saw a comic bookstore named Mountain Man Comics, so I slipped away from them so I could properly geek out in peace. While browsing, I came upon this humorously titled graphic novel and I spontaneously purchased it for my library, thinking the patrons (and I!) would like it.

In 2016 there was a Spawn one-shot comic that spoofed the villain by having him portrayed as a potbellied child attending a comic-con and then going on a killing spree. Wanting a movie deal like the Marvel or DC heroes, he struts around killing anyone he views as a threat, although they in actuality are cosplayers. There is a tongue-in-cheek moment when he meets Todd McFarlane, his creator, but McFarlane is dispatched quickly. This storyline reminded me incredibly of Skottie Young’s 2017 FCBD I Hate Image comic, but Young managed his narrative and art better, as this story just seemed crass. Nevertheless, this was a popular story, with several printings to account for the demand.

So two years later, a second story about baby Spawn was issued with another artist. The story remains the same, Spawn wishes to kill everyone but this time he is able to create little minions to help him- turd babies! Yes, he creates evil little babies on the toilet! Do I even need to share much more about the narrative than that? There actually are some clever moments in this story, especially about how he kills Captain America and the Hulk. Often the names of the heroes are not mentioned and their costumes are a bit different to get away with using copyrighted heroes from other companies in an Image publication. At the end of this story Spawn goes to bed happy that his kill count was so high, and is so very proud of his little turds.

Artist JJ Kirby established the chibi style of Spawn with exaggerated child-like features in the first story. His anime-inspired art was darker, with cluttered panels and a black border. The second artist, Will Robinson, had cleaner looking art with a better panel flow. Plus, he got to draw the adorable (but insidious) turd babies! Both artists had fun with the story, as obviously that’s what attracted me to pick up this graphic novel.

Overall, this was a disappointing read. The humor was too crude, with too much gore. I didn’t expect finesse in a story like this, but I still felt let down. Perhaps I should have spent more time looking at it before I purchased it as I guess my humor is slightly more mature than a teenaged boy…

-Nancy

McFarlane, Todd, JJ Kirby & Will Robinson. Spawn Kills Everyone! The Complete Collection. 2019.

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Eight + Nine

These last two volumes bring this series to a close! Read on to find out if I found the entire run wicked or divine!

Volume Eight: Old Is The New New

This volume proved to be very atypical…it doesn’t continue with the big reveals from the previous volume…instead it is an interlude of historical specials that had been released at different times during the five year run of the series.

455 AD- You think you know how Rome fell to the German Vandals? Think again! Artist André Araújo drew great historical backgrounds but was not as precise with his humans.  Color by Dee Cunniffe and Matthew Wilson.

1373 AD- Lucifer and Ananke have a battle of wits, as Ananke reveals she has brought the plague to Europe and beyond which resulted in the Black Death. There are religious overtones to this story as Lucifer is a mix of demon and nun. Art by Ryan Kelly and colors by Dee Cunniffe and Matthew Wilson.

1831 AD- Love this one- it features the Gods as Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelly and Claire Claremont during their famous retreat in Geneva in which the novel Frankenstein (for a beautiful retelling of the real Mary Shelly’s life read Mary’s Monster) was started. The art by Stephanie Hans was dark, lovely and appropriately Gothic looking.

1923 AD- This story read more like an Agatha Christie novella for it was very text-heavy with limited illustrations. Previous visits to the past cycles were but vignettes, but this story was very fleshed out and had direct connections to the modern-day cycle. By the time you read this story, you can catch Ananke’s manipulations that will crop up again. The Art Deco type illustrations by Aud Koch were outstanding and really added to the story.

We then have the uneven Christmas Special that included some vignettes of the Gods before they were chosen and some afterward- let’s just say there was a lot of sexy time. Then there are the Funnies- that included other artists making fun of the series with the Scooby-Doo parody being my favorite.

Volume Nine: Okay

This is it! Can Gillen and McKelvie bring this series to a satisfying close? Since Volume Eight was basically an interlude (although two of the previous historical stories will tie-in to this one), we basically are picking up from Volume Seven’s action.

Woden, Minerva and Baal are planning a concert to suck the energy of the Gods and concert-goers to supposedly prevent The Great Darkness, although Baal is but an unknowing pawn in the first two’s evil plan. Sadly, Baal’s justification for this mass-murder is due to Ananke’s previous manipulations of him.

Persephone has clued into Ananke’s manipulations and who she is masquerading as. She rallies the remaining Gods to stop the concert…but things don’t go as planned (of course). There are some more reveals, some deaths, some rebirths and a lot of fighting and chaos that occurs as the remaining Gods group together for the final showdown. As I don’t want to spoil the ending or let on who survives and who doesn’t, all I can say the final confrontation is epic. Many puzzle pieces are finally joined together, with connections to the past, but ultimately it is our advanced, modern technological world that finally thwarts Ananke. An epilogue ends the series on a somber note, and its slower pace lets you reflect on the nature of how we perceive others and how we let other’s perceptions of us color ourselves. As Laura, formally Persephone, wisely states, “Dreams aren’t real”.

The art in this series was absolutely divine. For a huge cast of characters, each God was inked with attention to detail and was so incredibly distinctive. The colors added maximum visual impact -with certain hues matching each God’s personality. There were unique panel configurations and the story always flowed. McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles have a partnership that rivals any other artist teams out there, for their style, colors and lettering can’t be beat.

This contemporary fantasy skewered celebrity obsession and media culture in a truly thought-provoking way…and yet, it was so damn confusing at times! There were several times I almost gave up on this nine-volume series, yet I persevered because the unique narrative and outstanding art kept pulling me back in. Ultimately, this series proved to be more divine than wicked, and I’m glad I finished it.

-Nancy

Catch up on the previous volumes:  One, Two + Three, Four + Five and Six + Seven 

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Six + Seven

This series has been both fascinating and completely exasperating. It’s been a LONG time since I read volumes one-five but once I heard the volume nine would wrap up the series, I figured I might as well finish it, as I was already halfway in. Is that a ringing endorsement or what?

Volume Six: Imperial Phase Part 2

An opening page gives you a quick summary and a who is who of all the Pantheon, as Gods cycle through the ages in a perplexing manner every ninety years. Some of the Gods are trying to understand the bigger picture around them, and are making alliances with their surviving brethren, while others give themselves to anarchy and extreme hedonism.

The storyline about Gods Morrigan and Baphomet, the underworld couple with an unhealthy dynamic broke my heart.   Morrigan, previously as a human and now as a God, excused Baphomet’s behavior in the name of love, but now has become abusive and controlling of him. These two can’t escape from another and bound together in agony. Persephone, aka The Destroyer, continues to be a confusing and complex character as she seems to want to fight for good yet gives into temptation over and over again. Several Gods are murdered, and while I won’t spoil who dies, I was glad to see that the God that I absolutely hated, die. A twist with Woden ties in with Ananke, as the concluding pages shows that Ananke (who we all thought was dead) is an even better manipulator than anyone guessed.

As always, the art is beautiful with swirling vivid colors by Matthew Wilson. Artist McKelvie managed to fit in his numbered panels again. Some interesting variant art covers by guest artists are featured in addition to some behind the scenes storyboards which shows how the story and art are carefully choreographed.

Picture from Gizmodo article that includes an interview with Gillen and McKelvie

Volume Seven: Mothering Invention

What the hell is going on? I’m beyond confused! Basically what it comes down to is that two sisters duel it out over the ages- and who are the two sisters? Why it’s Ananke and Persephone!

The dates have always been confusing to me, especially with my big gap between reading volumes, but now we have non-linear flashbacks dating back thousands of years to when this mess of 90-year cycle of Gods began.  I was fascinated with the pages that showed Ananke every 90 years in different parts of the world when she is shown hugging a God, destroying a God or being killed herself. While I had no clue what was going on, I loved looking at the panels, for the clothing of people through the ages in their region of the world was fascinating (but what was up with the clothing in 1738 North America?). I applaud the artists for all the research they did to reflect all the different cultures beautifully.

There was a heartbreaking conclusion to Morrigan and Baphomet’s relationship with absolutely outstanding visuals during their fight, and my favorite God Baal had a fall from grace that came out of nowhere.  The remaining Gods, who are pop-culture saturated enigmas, are in chaos as this story starts it’s wind-down.

I hope to get to volumes eight + nine soon and put a bow on this unique series!

-Nancy

Catch up on previous volumes: One, Two + Three, Four + Five

The Walking Dead: Compendium Four (Volumes 25-32)

Kirkman, Robert, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn. The Walking Dead: Compendium Four. 2019.

After fifteen years, this epic dystopian zombie series wrapped everything up in Volume 32!  I’m sad to see it come to an end, but it went out on Kirkman’s own terms and I was (mostly) pleased with its conclusion. There will be some spoilers throughout, but mostly in the review of the last volume.

Volume 25- No Turning Back: The residents of the three linked communities are out for blood once it is revealed to them what Alpha and The Whisperers did. The victim’s loved ones want immediate retaliation and don’t understand Rick’s reluctance in doing so. Rick and Maggie fight over their different leading styles and come to blows, and Paul shows he has Maggie’s back at all times. Rick goes to Negan and asks for his advice on how to handle the volatile revolt against his leadership. Let me repeat that, Rick asks an evil tyrant what to do next. Doubtful this is going to go well…

Volume 26- Call To Arms: This was the best volume in a long while! There were some great storylines followed up on, with room for growth. The militia begins their training, and Dwight continues to show leadership potential, although he claims to not want to be a leader. This reminds me of an earlier volume when Andrea tells Rick he is a better leader when he doesn’t want to be. Eugene makes contact with an unknown person on his shortwave radio. While he tries not to give away too much info and put the community at risk, I don’t have a good feeling about it. I’ve watched some of the TWD spinoff, Fear The Walking Dead and their radio interactions with another group did not end well for them. The best part of this volume was Negan’s escape (we all knew he would eventually!) and what he does afterward. As soon as you think he might have a tiny spark of humanity left in him, he destroys you. The ending was epic!

Volume 27- The Whisperer War: Another strong volume- it picks up with Negan bringing home his “trophy” to show Rick his intentions. Negan claims that Rick and the residents of Alexandria should trust him, as he has dealt a hard blow to the Whisperers, and willingly came back to face them. Beta discovers what Negan did and vows revenge. Rick tries to bring all his allies together to fight the horde of zombies that the Whisperers are hiding among, but not all the outposts are willing to send their members to join Alexandria’s militia. The militia plans their strategy, but of course, things never go well out in the field. Negan’s continued evolution is fascinating, with a few hints as to what Lucille represented to him. Beta hasn’t seemed like a strong villain compared to the Governor, Negan or Alpha, but the references to his face never having been seen intrigues me. Is he someone we know from the past? One aside about the artwork- it was much too busy. There were several two-page spreads that had too many panels that were hard to follow chronologically.

Volume 28- A Certain Doom: Rick, Andrea and their crew face the largest herd of zombies yet, heading straight towards Alexandria due to the Whisperers pushing them in that direction. The town is a well-oiled machine under Rick’s guidance and they no longer strictly react, they have a plan of action. That’s not to say things don’t get out of hand or verge on chaos, especially when a minor power coup occurs, but the team works well together. We even get some character development and some enlightening banter between Rick and Negan when they are stranded in a building together for some time. But a quip by Negan about avoiding being bitten is a foreshadowing about what soon happens to a beloved original character. The conclusion of the book gives this person a proper send-off and the chance for many to be able to say goodbye before the inevitable death. The death will be sure to reverberate in future volumes and will lay a heavy weight on the remaining character’s psyches.

Volume 29- Lines We Cross: This was my quickest TWD read ever! This story was definitely a bridge book between the action of fighting the large zombie herd in the last volume and whatever Kirkman has planned next. Lots of little things happen: Rick is still reeling from the devastating death of a loved one, Jesus and Aaron fall in love and a triangle is hinted at between Carl, Lydia and Sophia. Maggie is furious that Negan is on the loose, a spunky new character Juanita is added to the mix, and Eugene and others set out to find the people he has speaking to on a ham radio. We discover who Beta is and it’s incredibly anti-climatic.

Volume 30- New World Order: Eugene and Michonne’s group finally arrives in Ohio to meet the woman Stephanie that Eugene has been communicating by ham radio with. Instead, they are met by a large group of soldiers, decked out in Stormtrooper type of gear, and taken to meet Lance who wishes to interrogate the group. Turns out they are on the outskirts of The Commonwealth, a group of survivors 50K strong. We then meet Pamela, the governor, and find out this large group has based their new society on a class system built upon what you did before the outbreak. While the city seems to be thriving, there is an underlying issue of the haves vs the have nots. Michonne is shocked to meet someone from her past and decides to stay in the Commonwealth, while Eugene escorts Pam to Alexandria to meet Rick. This is a promising arc that could turn the series in a new direction. Now years out from the outbreak, how does civilization rebuild? How do scattered settlements of survivors unite when each group has had different types of leaders and coping strategies? I enjoyed this book, that had no Negan and way less zombie attacks than usual, plus the art was crisper with some great layouts.

Volume 31- The Rotton Core: In the last volume, we are introduced to the Commonwealth, a large settlement in Ohio that has rigid class structures but has managed to thrive. I thought it established a promising arc that could turn the series in a new direction, for now, years out from the outbreak, how does civilization rebuild? Last issue and this issue had less zombie attacks, for I would think that now that people know how to prevent more zombies from reanimating, there would be less and less zombies to dispatch as the years went by. That gives people more time to refashion their world, and there would be many different ways in which this could happen. With this being TWD, we are force-fed that Rick’s way is best (it actually usually is) and other settlements should adapt to the way Alexandria is governed. So we get a heartbreaking showdown between Rick and another certain someone who wants change fast and isn’t willing to take no for an answer. We also get a lot of character development between others with new romances developing, but the shifting scenes between different settlements and characters were abrupt with no visual cues that the scene had changed- you were just supposed to know who lived in what settlement to know where you were now. BTW- Carl is an asshole and he and Sophia had better not eventually get together.

Volume 32- Rest In Peace: Surprise! Kirkman unexpectedly brought TWD to a close in this volume after fifteen years of zombie madness! *Spoilers ahead*

I had enjoyed the story arc in the last few volumes of Rick and compony meeting survivors of the Commonwealth in Ohio that was 50K strong, led by a governor, Pamela. This large group has based their new society on a class system built upon what you did before the outbreak. While the city seems to be thriving, there is an underlying issue of the haves vs the have nots, and tensions arise as this new group sees how Alexandria residents are governed. As we moved away from the zombie outbreak there were fewer attacks, thus civilization could rebuild, and this was opening up new storylines but Kirkman was actually drawing the story to a close.

The pressure brewing between the two factions comes to a head, with important members of the Commonwealth planning a coup when a large zombie herd puts everyone in danger. Maggie, Carl and others join Rick in fighting them back, and in the aftermath, Pamela publicity loses the support of her people. As the Commonwealth stands on the brink of democracy instead of a monarchy, Pamela’s son Sebastian is furious at his loss of power and comes after Rick. The fallout of his actions are huge, and the storyline seems poised to go in a new direction. But it was all a fake-out as Kirkman followed up with a concluding issue with a significant time jump.

Twenty plus years have passed since Rick’s death at the hands of Sebastian, and the story shows us a grown-up Carl married to Sophia with a daughter of their own. The zombies are almost completely eradicated with a younger generation having no experience of having to fight for their very survival as older generations had to. Carl travels around the territory and we get to peek in at the lives of many of our favorite characters and see how Rick’s vision led to a better and safer world for them all. In fact, Rick is viewed as a savior with shrines to his memory.

When this sort of epic story concludes, there is no way to make all fans happy and as such, there were a few quibbles I had with some character’s final developments in the future. Negan, Juanita, Michonne, Jesus, Aaron, Eugene plus others are given adequate concluding cameos; but Maggie as President was turned into a leader who could not mother her son adequately because of her commitments, which was an ignoble end for her and Hershel. But my major issue was that Carl ended up with Sophia. He was allowed to sex it up with Lydia, while virginal Sophia had to wait for him until he sowed his wild oats. Lydia in the future was shown poorly as a morally questionable woman as she had dared to be sexually active as a teen with Carl. What a double standard for females and I really resented those angles.

Yet, overall, I was pleased with this concluding volume. Fifteen years is an amazing run, and Kirkman brought it to an end on his own terms and on a timetable that allowed him to go out while on top. I also would be remiss in not mentioning the talented artists- Adlard, Gaudiano and Rathburn- who gave us amazing artwork that brought the story to life. Kirkman’s concluding message to readers was a treat and explained it from his perspective. I will miss TWD, as it was a groundbreaking story that changed comics forever, but I am glad that it ended on such a strong note. In conclusion, remember these wise words- “In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living”. So…put down your phone and LIVE!

-Nancy

Aside- Compendium Four won’t actually be released until early October, but I’ve always organized my reviews under these covers, but I actually read this series as volumes.

Last time I wrote a TWD review on this blog was in 2016- I had wondered if Kathleen and I would still be blogging next time a compendium came out- but we are!!  🙂

Catch up on previous volumes at: Compendium One, Compendium Two, Compendium Three 

Middlewest

Skottie Young, known for his fanciful stories, does it again with Middlewest! It is an intriguing graphic novel that is a mash-up of the classic hero’s journey, steampunk and The Wizard of Oz.

Abel is a young teen living with his single Dad in the town of Farmington, and is going through the usual stages of teenage angst. But when he gets caught up with some friends and makes a poor choice his father overreacts and kicks Abel out of the house for an evening. They have words and his father flies into a fury transforming into a powerful tornado. Abel and his sidekick animal, Fox, escape onto a train but not before the tornado grabs him leaving a strange mark on his chest. Abel and the wisecracking Fox meet a hobo wizard that helps them escape from yet another bad situation, and eventually, they end up joining a traveling circus. All the while, Abel’s father is searching for him, and a mysterious woman at the circus might be able to help when chaos looms.

Jorge Corona’s art is reminiscent of Young’s I Hate Fairyland series, yet it is all his own. Abel’s world is an interesting mash-up of steampunk, fantasy and Midwest reality. The people are drawn with an exaggerated style that matches the fantasy aspect of the story. Corona includes details that will make you do a double-take, as he juxtaposes the every day with the fantastic.  Containers of some sort of pink liquid are everywhere, and while you assume they are fuel of some sort, it is never explained. The colors that Jean-Francois Beaulieu add are eye-popping, as they can veer between subdued colors of the surrounding countryside, and then they become bold especially in later sequences at the circus.

I was pleased with book one of this new series and will be interested in finding out what happens to Abel and how the toxic masculinity that his father has modeled will affect him as the dangerous magic is beginning to transform him.

-Nancy

Young, Skottie, Jorge Corona & Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Middlewest. 2019.

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