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Robert Kirkman

Invincible: Volumes Eleven & Twelve

This is it! There are some spoilers in this review, but frankly if you have read this far, then you are familiar with the Invincible series and can properly geek out with me over the reveals in these concluding volumes.

Volume Eleven:

Mark and Eve have settled somewhat uneasily into life on the planet Talescria, and when he and Oliver are helping keep Thragg and his soldier children at bay, Mark is sucked into a deep cave and meets a strange entity. In a deus ex machina plot device, he is thrown back into his past on Earth as a teen but with his current memories. With his hard-won knowledge, he is able to keep his father from killing the Guardians of the Globe and helps the various heroes (good to see Rex Splode again!) prevent mishaps that save millions of lives. However, he knows by remaining in this timeline, he will never have his baby girl Terra so he makes the hard decision to return to his original life, erasing all the good he was able to do in the past. Going between dimensions, the timelines don’t sync and he returns five years later finding Terra a child. Just wanting to reunite with his family he declines to help Allen fight Thragg, but Thragg and his children don’t care what Mark wants. More battles, more betrayals, and then a devastating death that I felt was unnecessary.

This volume has Ottley do the art in the first half, and Walker in a more cartoony format illustrates the second half. I’ve noticed that Kirkman and Ottley are always ego-boosting Walker in the sketchbooks that conclude each book, so I wonder what was going on behind the scenes between them all. But I am looking forward to seeing how the three of them conclude this entire series in the next volume! 

Volume Twelve:

The end of all things! We open with Oliver’s funeral…I am still salty about this. We’ve had some hard deaths in the past, especially Rex Splode, but this death hurt. We find out Allen had him spying on Thragg and pretending to betray Mark, because I didn’t believe for a minute Oliver would have gone to the dark side. But that left me hating on Allen, who used the philosophy of sacrificing the one for the many. Mark even understood this, but still. (Aside: The Viltrumite genes are supposed to be so strong than any child will look humanoid despite the alien species they are mating with. But it was a big stretch that insectoid Thraxan mothers would not pass down any of their characteristics to their children- like Oliver and then all of Thragg’s offspring. I could even accept that, but when Oliver has children with a lobster-looking alien, his twin children still look like him!)

Thragg and Mark have their final battle, but at a great cost to Thragg’s children. At one time he seems almost loving to his twin daughter Ursaal, but then he reveals his true colors as he admits he has bred his children to be fodder in battle. He views them as inferior and doesn’t care they are dying by the thousands for him. Mark’s last fight with him was very talky, as Mark is explaining how his cause is better, and thus he has more to fight for. While Omni-Man survives the battle, he takes a hit that proves to be too much for him. He is able to have some last poignant words with Mark, but I was very upset that Debbie was a few minutes too late to be with him. As a wife and mother myself, that upset me, because I have really bonded with her character. (Another aside: I have enjoyed getting to know many of the heros and villains that dip in and out of stories over the course of the twelve volumes. But where did Tech Jacket and Wolf-Man disappear to?)

With Thragg dead, now Mark can finally deal with Rex. Rex has had absolute power, but that power has absolutely corrupted him. He was given a pass for far too long, with Nolan even accepting him, but Mark knows the good can’t last. Finally the two of them have it out, and Mark is able to neutralize Rex but still harness his intellect. The story can now conclude, as Mark steps up to lead the Viltrumites and meets Annissa’s son, Markus. We see Markus and Terra age (Terra is such a brat!) with Debbie as a loving Grandma. A few threads are left open if the story is ever continued with Mark or with his children, but the series is brought to a close in a neat bow.

Invincible has been an amazing series! It took familiar superhero tropes and twisted them in unusual and bloody ways. Kirkman, Walker and Ottley told a story from beginning to end and were able to offer fresh commentary on issues going on in our own world but adapted into the Invincible universe. I am amazed that Kirkman was creating and writing about The Walking Dead at the same time, with a fifteen year overlap. In fact, as much as TWD has been heralded, I feel Kirkman’s Invincible was the better of the two. And in a graphic novel the art work is as important as the writing, if not more, and both Walker and Ottley contributed mightily to the series. Their illustrations defined the books. I’m loving the animated series, and look forward to many years of watching future episodes, and seeing how similar or dissimilar it will be to these graphic novels, so I’m happy that I have more Invincible in my future!

-Nancy

Start at the beginning and read the first volume at Image Comics!

Read my reviews of previous books:

Volume One, Volumes Two-Four, Volumes Five-Six, Volumes Seven-Eight, Volumes Nine-Ten

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Nine & Ten

I’m nearing the end of the series, with only two volumes to go after these two, and the action, humor and pathos never stops!

Volume Nine:

In the first half, Mark regains his powers, so he checks in with Dinosaurus who he left unsupervised. Big mistake! This dinosaurus plotline fell flat for me- it was just so talky about right vs wrong just for Mark to learn a lesson about understanding Cecil’s decisions better. So it’s ok that a million people died, so long as Mark realizes life is not always black or white. Plus, it has bothered me to no end that we never learned what turned mild mannered David into an insane dino/human hybrid. At least there was some amazing artwork with some very cool one or two-page spreads, as the various heroes dealt with the chaos that Dinosaurus caused, with all the faces of characters reacting to Mark’s “death” being a favorite. Another significant plot was that Nolan was revealed to be the Viltrumite royal heir and all of a sudden Thragg is overthrown. Eve reveals she is pregnant and won’t be able to use her powers as it could hurt the baby. A little joke with Mark attending a comic-con about hitting the 100 issues is appreciated, as Invincible was hitting 100 issue at this time IRL.

Angstrom Levy pops up again and he and his multi-verses of different Invincibles worries Mark, and despite Eve seemingly talking sense into Levy after he threatens them, Mark is concerned about what Levy could do in the future. We also get worrisome windows into what Battle Beast, Rex and Doctor Seismic are up to. Rex, especially, is unraveling and reveals his true nature to Mark.

Although Ottley is credited for all the art in this volume it seemed off. Eve and Debbie’s faces seemed different, and I double-checked that Walker wasn’t part of the art team in this volume. Speaking of art teams I should mention that Rathburn (inks) and Rauch (colors) always hit it out of the park.

Volume Ten:

Often in the Marvel & DC comics, heroes make decisions that are always for the best, but in this series Mark is always making mistakes. He often learns and grows from them, but chaos and death often follow him. His determination to kill Levy drives a wedge between him and Eve, and he has to figure out how to get out of a dimension that Rex stranded him in. Months go by, and Eve is nearing the birth of her child when he returns. Mark tries to warn people that Rex has gone insanely evil, but his pleas come too late, and Rex attacks all the heroes resulting in many of their deaths. In the midst of all this, the Viltrumite Anissa assaults Mark, demanding he father a child with her. She rapes him in a very uncomfortable scene. He understandably is reeling from her attack, and it throws him off his game while he deals with all that is happening around him. That his and Eve’s baby daughter is born is a bright spot in this grim volume.

Battle Beast and Thragg get into a fight to the death when they encounter one another, as Thragg has settled down on a familiar planet and has worked VERY diligently at increasing the Viltrumite ranks. The planet he picked is actually brilliant and his children will be ready soldiers in no time. Speaking of other planets, Mark & Eve with their baby daughter Terra leave Earth as they can’t cope with Rex’s betrayals and how everyone is looking past his choices. They meet up with Oliver, who due to his mother’s bloodline, has aged rapidly and they are now are about the same age. We meet Oliver’s girlfriend, Haluma, who looks like a giant lobster but turns Oliver on (love the mandibles joke).

As we now move towards the conclusion, some threads are being tidied up. We see Mark’s first girlfriend with a new boyfriend, and some bow ties are added to Art the superhero’s tailor, Eve’s parents and William & Rick’s character arcs. This was a more poignant story than usual, although you can’t have an Invincible volume without battle scenes throughout. The last page was a gut punch for what it symbolized, and in the enjoyable sketchbooks at the end of each book, artist Ottley said it was rough to draw.

I’m now ready to head into the last two volumes and see how everything gets wrapped up!

-Nancy

Who will win this epic battle?

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Seven & Eight

Invincible remains strong in these middle volumes! Sometimes a series can get wobbly in the middle, but instead, I feel the plot threads are tightening up as we move closer to the conclusion.

Volume Seven:

The first half dealt with the Viltrumite War and took place almost exclusively off-Earth. Nolan reveals himself to Debbie and Oliver, and while Oliver is thrilled to see his father, Debbie is justifiably distraught to see the man who betrayed her. Nolan takes his two sons to fight his kin and there is a funny Star Trek: TNG joke (although at their expensense- please don’t mock my beloved TNG!) and soon enough they encounter the Viltrumites. Epic war scenes that had six awesome two-page spreads to convey the chaos of space fighting. They finally reach a stale-mate as the two sides can’t seem to win- but the Viltrumite retreat does not mean Invincible and his allies won. A Sophie’s-choice is made in the end to Mark’s sorrow. But they are alive, ready to battle another day…

Now that the Viltrumite invasion is on the back-burner Nolan tries to reconcile with his estranged wife, whose heart he broke and Debbie seems open to it, so they both leave for outer space to see if they can salvage their relationship and also to visit Oliver who is recovering from the war. This leaves Mark & Eve to work through their issues after Mark’s long absence, and Mark learns of a hard decision that Eve had to make while he was gone. Mark had previously been furious at Cecil for making hard morally-grey decisions, but now he too makes certain choices with villains that may pay off in the long-term, even if it doesn’t look good in the short-term.

Robot (now called Rex) and Monster Girl return from the Flaxans dimension they transported to and come back grown up and are obviously reeling from some trauma that occured to them while there. Mark & Eve visit married couple Immortal and Kate who are now parents, and I have to say Kate is a b*tch! What does Immortal see in her? There is an odd side plot about Eve gaining weight and we find out that William and Rick are now dating.

Volume Eight:

Allen the Alien is now the leader of the Coalition of Planets and wants to take a hard line with the remaining Viltrumites on Earth, much to Nolan and Mark’s dismay. Oliver, who feels no love for Earth, sides with Allen but everything comes to a stalemate when Thragg learns of their mission. But Mark gets hurt in the melee and has his powers dissipate which then ties into Bulletproof having to wear Mark’s costume to keep up appearances on Earth. Mark utilizes Dinosaurus in some long-range plans but underestimates how they can truly work together. Nolan and Debbie have reconciled, and they reconcile over & over & over again if you get my drift. Poor Oliver gets an earful one night and there is a funny visual of him covering his ears the way Nolan had to in a previous book when staying at Allen’s.

However, the most epic storyline is Robot and Monster Girl’s as we finally find out what happened to the duo when they went through the portal during one of the semi-regular invasions by the Flaxans. On Earth, they were only missing a few months, but in the Flaxans dimension, they were there 700 years and led a coup against the corrupt government there. When they came back they told team members they were there 12 years, but so very much happened while there including love, betrayal and trauma. A nasty surprise is revealed during the next Flaxans invasion on Earth, surprising the pair who thought they left the planet in a peaceful state. But that surprise is nothing compared to the last page that divulges an ugly secret and what you thought about one character’s motives is completely upended.

Ottley’s and Walker’s art is better melded in this book, as Ottley draws the Earth scenes while Walker drew the Flaxans scenes. Amanda (Monster Girl) has a cool Queen Amidala vibe going, with elaborate hairdos and outfits while she is the Queen Consort with Rex. Awesomely drawn fight scenes and weird monsters, villains and aliens remain a strong suit in this series.

-Nancy

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Five & Six

I’m half-way through the entire Invincible series! Mark has proved to be a flawed but very appealing superhero and the action never stops!

Volume Five:

This fifth volume has the theme of- who can you trust- as Mark grapples with Cecil Stedman, the leader of the Global Defense Agency. Mark has always followed Cecil’s commands, but Cecil’s use of the Reanimen and the looking past of Darkwing’s murderous past, show that he is morally corrupt. Another example is when Mark teams with the Wolf Man who has been wrongly accused of a crime, and Cecil won’t help out, because he feels he can not gain anything from him like he can from Darkwing. During this time Mark’s younger brother Oliver has acquired his powers and wants to start fighting villains, so Mark steps up to teach him how to utilize them, but Oliver himself makes questionable decisions, as he admits that he is not human and not subject to their morality. A bright spot is his deepening relationship with Eve and that the former Teen Team sides with him as they too realize that Cecil can’t be trusted. And in a parallel story, Allen the Alien and Omni-Man team up to break free of the spaceship they are imprisoned in and a secret is revealed about the Viltrumites. But what is Angstrom Levy planning…

Artist Ryan Ottley has really hit his stride with the illustrations. I liked the costume change (although the yellow was iconic) so he wouldn’t clash with Oliver’s new costume, which paid homage to Robin’s (DC) costume. Loved the 16-panel grid showing Invincible’s look in other multi-universes! 

Volume Six:

I am now halfway through this series, and it has hit its stride- Mark is no longer a new superhero, instead, he is an established warrior grappling with moral decisions of whether it is right to kill a villain or not. Levy sends dozens of Invincibles from other dimensions to attack Mark and the entire globe so every single Image hero is called into action to combat them. Two important heroes make the ultimate sacrifice to fight them, and cities across the world are left in ruins with millions of innocent bystanders killed during these battles. If that’s not bad enough, the Viltrumite Empire sends one of their deadliest soldiers, Conquest, after Mark. Their fight was excessively long and bloody. In another part of the universe Allen and Omni-Man team together after their escape and make plans to prepare weapons and allies for the impending war with the Viltrumites who want to take over Earth and breed with them to strengthen their dwindling numbers. In the aftermath of the two earlier battles the little pink aliens from Mars are planning their own conquest- poor Earth is just always under siege!

The illustrations style shifted a bit in the last half of the book, as original artist Walker drew parts of the story, but I have to admit I much prefer Ottley’s work now. Walker’s Omni Man and Eve’s faces were especially different and not to my liking. This series pulls together so many different plot threads and themes- it can be a bit much. It can veer between gore, campy fun and poignant emotional moments in just a few pages or even panels, giving me whiplash sometimes. Nevertheless, this first half of the series has been a romp and I look forward to the last half.

-Nancy

Sixteen different versions of Invincible!

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Two-Four

When I read the first volume of Invincible back in 2016, I loved it! Yet, it took the awesome new animated series on Amazon Prime Video for me to dive back into the series. Cory Walker, who was the co-creator with Robert Kirkman and did the illustrations for the first ultimate volume, was replaced with artist Ryan Ottley for all the remaining volumes and this change was pretty seamless. So expect me to go through the rest of the 12 ultimate volumes in the next few months! Some spoilers ahead.

Volume Two:

Mark aka Invincible and his mom are dealing with the fallout from the reveal that Mark’s father, Omni-Man, was actually a bad guy who was planning to take over Earth for his alien planet. His disappearance has left a void and Mark is struggling with his grief as he also tries to keep up with his senior year of high school, a girlfriend and of course fighting villains. There is a lot of character development as he struggles with balancing everything and keeping his identity secret. There are many many plot threads- the underwater duel ceremony (so ridiculous but so flippin’ funny), the Mars mission, an evil scientist on his new college campus, the multi-verse of Angstrom, the anti-hero Titan, and a love triangle with Eve and Amber. Sometimes the stories could become confusing, they’d drop a storyline, pick it up again unexpectedly, and then drop it again. This volume concludes with a story about Allen the Alien and gives some interesting backstories to Monster Girl, Rex Splode, The Immortal, Dupli-Kate and Atom Eve. I’m still digging the art and loving the font they use for explosions, with all the interlocking O’s.

Volume Three:

Mark is settling into his new role as a superhero and adjusting to the loss of his father, but wait- an alien comes looking for help and brings Invincible to his insectoid planet, and guess who is there! Mark is a hella lot more forgiving than I would be, as he suddenly has to adjust to being introduced to his baby half-brother and helping fight off Vitrumites who come to collect Omni-Man. But that’s not all! Once he’s back on Earth with his brother in tow, he has to deal with the multi-verse of the villain Angstrom (I love all the dimensions that Mark was thrown into- with some digs at Marvel & DC heroes and an obvious Walking Dead dimension), the mad scientist at college and a scheme between Robot and the Mauler Twins. To top it off, he’s trying to keep his romance with Amber going, but all his adventures pull him away from her. It’s hard to be a superhero…

Volume Four:

There are so many plot threads that run in and out of these volumes, but the evil scientist who has created the Reanimen and the Mars mission get some significant storylines. But the fact that Mark is half- Viltrumite is always an issue, so the Viltrum Empire is an underlying concern especially when they send Anissa, a woman soldier to scare Mark and give him a warning. Allen the Alien also gets mixed up with the Viltrumites, letting himself be captured so he can meet Omni-Man who is in jail awaiting execution. Those are significant storylines, but that’s never enough, as Mark has some additional curve balls thrown at him. His mother has agreed to raise his half-brother Oliver who is growing quickly and his romance with Amber is floundering. Mark is never there with her since he’s always on some mission that Cecil, who leads the shadowy government agency, is always sending Invincible off to. Their relationship ends realistically, with Eve waiting on the sidelines.

Now I am far enough in the series to make some observations- Kirkman makes several uncomfortable jokes about being gay and is pretty damn sexist at times. The storylines can be hard to follow, as there is no transition between scenes and location, just bam, you’re somewhere new (The Walking Dead did this a lot too). There are Easter eggs and connections to other Image publications such as Brit or Savage Dragon showing up unexpectedly is some group scenes. At times there is a lack of consistency between panels- Allen was a completely different color at one time and sometimes his head is drawn at different ratios, and at one point Mark was inexplicitly the same color as Oliver. While I am still very much a fan of this series, I can’t completely fan-girl over it, due to some problematic issues.

-Nancy

Free Comic Book Day 2020

Free Comic Book Day had been scheduled for Saturday, May 2nd, and for very obvious reasons didn’t happen. I had brought FCBD to my previous library for several years and had big plans for my new library, but it had to be cancelled. With many of the issues already printed- what were the publishers and comic book stores to do? So, they decided to release the issues on a weekly basis from July 15th- September 9th. But I am resourceful and know that September 25th is National Comic Book Day, so my new library patrons will get comics after all on that day, albeit in a smaller outside the library (in a tent) event.

Here were some of my favorite issues this year, minus any DC comics that I had originally put in an order for since they pulled out of the event (boo, hiss!) since they no longer work with Diamond Comic Distributors.

Dark Ark: Instinct

This dark what-if tale was fascinating. Many of us have heard the biblical story of Noah and the ark saving people and animals for the future, but this tale speculates that a sorcerer Shrae builds an ark to save the unnatural animals. In this short story, a spider/human hybrid is about to give birth on the boat so her mate seeks nourishment for the forthcoming babies. But instinct takes over when she thinks she can not feed them and her mate discovers what she has done when he was briefly away and his actions doom them to extinction. The art was necessarily dark and sketchy with pink and red overtones. Cullen Bunn continues his excellent storytelling in this series.

X-Men/Dark Ages

The first story was about the X-Men with the second about the Avengers. I had no idea what was going on in the X-Men story although it had gorgeous art. Different universes, tarot cards, and ominous warnings were all I got out of it. The next story was centered around Tony Stark (whom I dislike) but at least I understood what was happening. When Iron Man’s powers are strictly based on technology, what happens when the world goes dark?

Spiderman/Venom

This issue contains two stories- the first about Spiderman and Black Cat and the second one being about Venom. In the first story, Peter and Felicia are battling it out with Vulture and working well as a team. The sexual tension is high and Peter questions what Felicity is up to, as she can’t always be trusted. In the next story, Eddie Brock is warning the Avengers team that the extremely dangerous villain Knull is readying to attack. His symbiote Venom is friendlier than I remember, and the two have to battle another villain, Virus. Both stories are good lead-ins to their respective future narratives.

Bloodshot, featuring X-O Manowar

The meh Bloodshot story was only a few pages long and didn’t even list the author and illustrator, although it did show Vin Diesel on the front cover as he portrayed him in a recent movie. I enjoyed the longer second story about X-O Manowar during his Viking childhood. It connected the mythology of his ancestors with his space-traveling future.

The Resistance

The evocative cover drew me in, and this story ended up being my favorite FCBD issue as it was a complete first issue of a new series, not just a taste like so many FCBD stories are. In fact, the narrative is eerily similar to what we are going through now, as a pandemic sweeps through the globe. In this tale, the pandemic is even more deadly, with a 95% fatality rate. But suddenly, the virus stops- as if a switch were turned off. The remaining world needs to regroup, with hints that there might be a mystical or otherworldly reason for what happened. The art is solid and was appropriately shadowy considering the storyline.

I also read Invincible by Robert Kirkman and The Boys by Garth Ennis, but they are simply reprints of their first issues to serve as lead-ins to new series on Prime Video that they wish to hype.

I appreciate that FCBD was not scrapped and adapted so readers could still pick up free issues. The comic book stores and publishers made the best of the situation with the unforeseen pandemic and DC pulling out of the event. It builds goodwill, drives people to comic book stores and thus increases sales at both the stores and for the publishers.

-Nancy

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 

Here’s Negan!

The Walking Dead’s favorite psychopath now has a backstory! This slim volume shows us Negan before the zombie apocalypse and in the days following, and we learn what shaped him into the charismatic villain that we love to hate.

When I bought the book it was shrink-wrapped in plastic, so a casual shopper couldn’t flip through it and find out more about Negan without actually purchasing the book. The book is much shorter than I would have expected, and was a quick read.

The book begins a few months before the world goes to hell, and we meet Negan who is a foul mouthed gym teacher who has a nasty quip for everything. He seems to respect his wife Lucille, until we see him cheating on her, despite her recent cancer diagnosis. Negan has a parallel with Rick, as the zombie’s attack while he and his wife are in the hospital. I do not want to share anymore than that, because the point of the book is to show Negan’s journey from being a regular asshole kind of guy to the monster we know him as.

But I will say- I was highly disappointed in this story. It’s hard to share why without giving away too many plot points, but Negan’s arc wasn’t as complete as it should have been.  There was more character development of Dwight and Sherry and the the group that will evolve into The Saviors, than with Negan. Plus, there seems to be a discrepancy between this book and a conversation he and Rick have in Volume 28.

I also had been intrigued that Negan seems to have an aversion to rape, although certainly not killing, and I was curious if they would address some of his contradictions. While they dance around the subject, it wasn’t truly answered. So I ended up feeling the plastic wrap was to prevent shoppers from backing out of the purchase once they discovered this book doesn’t quite pass muster. Some of the ingredients for a good narrative were there, but they were not fleshed out enough. Borrow, do not buy this book (that’s what libraries are for!) to get your Negan fix.

-Nancy

Kirkman, Robert, Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn. Here’s Negan! 2017.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Featuring Zombies!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This month’s T5W topics center around Halloween, and when asked to pick my favorite type of scary creature, I knew zombies was it!

Revival is a favorite of mine, and I have written a lot of posts about it. In this now completed series, twenty three people inexplicably come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. The series is being developed into a movie through Shatterglass Films.

Deluxe Edition One

Deluxe Edition Two

Deluxe Edition Three

Deluxe Edition Four

The Walking Dead is the grand-daddy of all zombie series.  A fascinating premise, that is getting a bit long in the tooth now, but is still beloved by many. I list the three compendiums I have reviewed on my blog, but I have also been keeping up with the smaller volumes as they come out, and putting reviews up on my Goodreads account.

Compendium One (Volumes 1-8)

Compendium Two (Volumes 9-16)

Compendium Three (Volumes 17-24)

This book must be listened to on audio…it was beyond good. The story covers the history of the world wide war against zombies, and the narrative covers a reporter getting first hand accounts from survivors that tell about the beginning of the epidemic, the resistance, and the aftermath of the zombie catastrophe.  Some of the standout characters/stories were Todd Wainio, the Redker Plan, the North Korea speculation, the female Russian soldier, the pilot of the downed plane, and the family at the Manitoba campsite. A tiny criticism, is that I figured out every supposed surprise in the stories, and the connections between the world-wide characters strained credibility. The actors voicing the characters in the audio edition were perfect- Mark Hamill! Nathan Fillon! Denise Crosby! Jeri Ryan! Common! Alan Alda! I will definitely be listening to this story again and again.

Negan has been a prominent villain in the long running The Walking Dead series, and is a perverse mix of monster and savior. The question of how he became so twisted and his backstory during the zombie apocalypse is explained in this book that just came out the same week of Volume 28.

After is a strong collection of nineteen short stories about life “after” a catastrophic event. As with any compilation with various authors, some are stronger than others. One of the standouts was  After the Cure by Carrie Ryan. It  took the zombie story trope and subverted it. Vail is a teenager that was previously a zombie like creature but was given a cure to rehabilitate her. Society has a hard time accepting those rehabilitated people back into their communities, and the people themselves still feel some degree of hunger and a need to be back with their undead packs. Despite the melancholic nature of this story, there was a nugget of hope built into the end.

Who would have thought that zombies could be so appealing, but my reading list doesn’t lie!

-Nancy

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