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Stefano Gaudiano

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 

Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas

Where We Live is a riveting comics anthology to benefit survivors from the horrific shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more.

As with any anthology, this collection will not suit everyone’s tastes and pair that with a graphic novel format, and there are some illustration styles that will not appeal to everyone. However, this anthology included some big names such as Brian Michael Bendis, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Jeff Lemire, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Mignola and they all brought their A-game.

My Favorites:

Whoa, You’re From Vegas? What’s That Like? by Warren Wucinich

This opening story was a great choice to kick off the anthology- for it showed that Las Vegas isn’t just a tourist mecca, it’s a vibrant city that people live in, hence the title of the book.

All The Possibilities of Paper by W. Haden Blackman & JH Williams III

A powerful essay is shown on a splash page that hits you in the gut, especially if you are a parent and worried about school shootings.

Everything After by Justin Jordan & Tom Fowler

A poignant look at how everyday workers in the city, in this case, a female bus driver, can get sucked into a tragedy.

A Simple Twist of Fate by Jeff Boison & Tyler Boss

An almost wordless story about how careless remarks can be regretted especially when tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Ghost by W. Haden Blackman & Richard Pace

Can one parent’s anguish be enough of a voice for change? What if it’s many?

Biography of a Bullet by Scott Bryan Wilson & Cliff Chiang

This two-page story hit home with the message of bullets having their target’s invisible names written on them. I was already affected by it when I saw the word DeKalb at the bottom- one of the many locations of a mass shooting- which is a nearby town and the location of Northern Illinois University, my alma mater, which was the site of a shooting in 2008.  I teared up at this story due to the personal connection.

The Watershed by Gary Spencer Millidge

A ghostly girl starts to speak to a movie hero about the danger of glamorizing guns and how the Second Amendment was written at a very different time and thus shouldn’t be compared to today.

The Deadliest Man by James Robinson, Dean Kotz & Stefano Gaudiano

Two men from different eras, 1781 and 2018, are both hunting in the woods with guns of their time when they inexplicitly meet with deadly results.

Daddy’s Little Girl by Erica Schultz & Liana Kangas

This sad story details how mental illness can tie into gun violence and the role that concerned family might need to take if they suspect the potential for escalating violence.

Stains by Cameron Stewart

A comics artist is shown drawing ultra-violent scenes that are read by many. In the end, his hands are not just stained with ink but blood.

Stopping Power by Alex Paknadel & Chris Wildgoose

When school violence has become a norm, a parent takes extreme precautions to safeguard their child.

Several stories recounted survivor’s stories which gave it added authenticity and weight. There were also many stories about gun control that offered different viewpoints. Many of the stories include statistics and share the many factors that play into gun violence in the US. Many of the comics were powerful and made me tear up, or even better, made me think about the issues beyond that page.

I have read several excellent graphic novel anthologies that benefit different causes- Love is Love to benefit the Orlando Pulse shooting survivors and Puerto Rico Strong to benefit the island after the devastating back to back hurricanes in 2017- but this one is the best. Its varied artists and authors came together to create a nuanced anthology about a tragedy that was entirely preventable if only there were tougher gun laws.  While this is a strong collection, I hope there is not a need to create this type of graphic novel again.

-Nancy

The Walking Dead: Compendium Three (Volumes 17-24)

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Kirkman, Robert, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn. The Walking Dead: Compendium Three. 2015.

Here we go again. Some new villains come into play, and Rick and his crew continue to fight the living and the dead! Warning- some spoilers.

Volume 17-Something To Fear: No!!!! So did you think the Governor was bad? Well then, it’s time to meet Negan. Two fan-favorites bite the dust, with the second death being especially heartbreaking. Rule of thumb with TWD- if a volume ends on a hopeful note, the next one will devastate you.

Volume 18- What Come After: After the heartbreaking death in the last volume, Rick regroups. As Negan doesn’t know who he is dealing with, he thinks he has cowed Rick and the others. He has another thing coming. I love that Heath speaks some much-needed truth to Michonne. Enough of her man-stealing crap.

Volume 19-March to War: Leaders Rick, Paul, and Ezekiel along with the residents of Alexandria, The Hilltop Colony and The Kingdom decide they are going to take on Negan. This book is another bridge book, for it is setting up characters (I like the conversation between Ezekiel and Michonne) and scenarios as they prepare for war.

Volume 20-All Out War Part 1: Rick leads the united three communities against Negan. Although they have an initial first victory, Negan regroups and comes at them again. Negan shows some crazy morals, as he stops a rape and voices his long-term strategy, but yet then he does…

Volume 21-All Out War Part 2: I have to give props to Negan- he is a fantastic villain. While evil and misguided, he is much more believable than the damn Governor. So…we have more mayhem, needless death, and double-crosses. Rick reverses yet again on moral issues- in previous books, he said they must be better than their enemies and spare them,…then wait, no, we must kill our enemies to survive…ok now we must show mercy and be civilized in this book. Pick a stance Rick, and get control of your son who tries again to be judge and jury of whether a person lives or dies.

Volume 22- A New Beginning: Two years have passed since the war with Negan and the communities have thrived since then with community building and trade networks established. Negan has been neutered, but don’t count him out. I’m sure he’ll figure out a way to create some chaos in the future. A new band of survivors has been discovered and they are as wary of Alexandria as Rick and his crew were when they discovered it. As there has been a lull in epic villainy for awhile, a new threat is discovered at the end of this volume. A new beginning indeed.

Volume 23- Whispers Into Screams: A large contingent of survivors are found, living amidst the zombies, called The Whisperers. How they have survived is revealed, but many questions remain about their motives and standard of living. Carl falls for the daughter of the leader Alpha, and is incensed regarding some of their ways. Tensions mount at the Hilltop among the different factions, and a showdown is imminent.

Volume 24- Life and Death: Beginning: Welcome back Michonne! Interesting character development to explain where she has been and why. Middle: Alexandria trade fair. The surrounding communities and their residents come together to trade, network and hook up. Ending: No!!! OMG, the boundary line set up by Alpha to warn Rick to stay away from her and The Whisperers! The last few pages break your heart, as the panels are split up showing the newest victims, and the reactions of their friends and loved ones at the fair not knowing where they are yet. The feels!

These compendiums only come out every three or four years, so you won’t see another TWD review from me until 2019 or so (although I will keep up with the smaller volumes)! Remember- “In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living”. So…put down your phone and LIVE!

-Nancy

Read the others volumes at: Compendium One, Compendium Two, Compendium Four

 

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