1. Walking Dead #100 (Image comics)
With a hit television series; a great video game; a table top game; action figures; statues; t-shirts; novelizations; and the news that this anniversary issue has become the best selling single issue of 2012, the Walking Dead really doesn’t need any more hype. Still, it’s one hell of an achievement that Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (and Tony Moore) have come this far with their little zombie book. The remarkable feat of reaching one hundred issues isn’t what’s most noticeable about the latest issue though: It’s the strong character driven plot and the emotions it evokes in readers.
This anniversary issue is a real stomach turner. I won’t spoil anything specifically, so rest assured and read on. In the last couple of issues Rick Grimes and his little community of survivors have reached out to a larger community not far from them. When they learn that this Hilltop community is being extorted by a man called Nagin and his gang of enforcers, Rick offers to deal with them. At first it seemed to work, twice Rick and his people encountered Nagin’s followers, and twice they killed most of them, sending the survivors back to tell Nagin that the Hilltop is now under their protection. In this issue, we get an idea of the size of Nagin´s gang as they retaliate and randomly choose one of the main characters to make an example of.
Again, labeling this book as merely a zombie book is doing it a huge disservice. Sure there´s some zombies getting their heads chopped off. And, sure the story is set in a world gone to hell because of the dead rising with a bad apatite. But really, this is a story about survival and the strains that such extreme situations put on relationships and society as a whole. It´s because of Robert Kirkman´s choice to focus on character interaction, instead of mindless zombie whacking, that the gruesome horrors that fictional characters inflict on each other drive straight home with a sickening emotional sucker punch. Case in point is the death in this issue. Here we see a character that was introduced in the first couple of issues having his or her head brutally bashed in, right in front of his or her loved ones. A character that, time and time again has proven him or herself as crucial to the survival of Rick and his people. A character that had just found some happiness in this post apocalyptic wreck of a world. The character that just a couple of pages before his or her death utters the phrase: ‘I can’t stop thinking about tomorrow. I never used to do that.’ A character that was built up so strong that readers will miss him or her like a real person. Heck, I couldn’t stop thinking about that scene the rest of the day. My mind kept going back to all the good memories about the character and the five pages that show the horrific last moments in shocking detail.
On that last note, this issue isn’t just an issue filled with horror for horror’s sake. It sets up Nagin as a villain that makes The Governor (remember him?) look like Mary Poppins and changes the status quo of the series: Just as everything seemed to be looking up for Rick and his people, they now find themselves in a new bleak situation, which I can’t imagine they can easily get out off. Still, I can’t wait till Rick gets his hand on Nagin.
I’m not sure what to say about the art. It was as fantastic and dire looking as can be expected from Charlie Adlard. Although I have to wonder what his reaction was when he first read Robert Kirkman’s script. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to render some of the stuff in here.
Art: 9 Writing: 10 Overall: 9.5
2. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Century 2009 (Top Shelf Productions)
The art by Kevin O´Neill looked better than last issue. Actually, both the writing and art in this were very strong, however I’m just not feeling it. Perhaps I’m oblivious to 90 percent of all the metatextual subliminal messages and symbolism. But there’s also the point that I didn’t particularly like the original two volumes of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; didn’t read the Black Dossier; and besides the League haven’t got the slightest idea about characters like Allan Quatermain or Orlando. Good ending, to a good book, but I’m just not giddy about this. Also worth noting: Harry Potter shoots lightning from his cock.
Art: 8 Writing: 8 Overall: 8
3. Astonishing X-men #51 (Marvel comics)
I have a nostalgic soft spot for the X-men, and have fond memories of the wedding of Scott and Jean. So, despite all the hubbub surrounding Marvel’s mutant same sex marriage, I dove head first into Astonishing X-men, a series I haven’t read since Joss Whedon left. That being said I had no problem picking up the plot. This is a pretty good jumping on point, so congratulations on that go to Marvel and especially writer Margery Liu. If you’re a fan of weddings then this is for you, otherwise it’s just wrapping up the last story arc. It shows some hectic snippets of the wedding preparations, and of course the wedding of Canadian speedster North Star and lastly a cliffhanger that falls back on the last issue. Overall, I found this issue pretty mediocre: nothing good; nothing bad. Liu has the character voices down perfectly, but writing wise that’s all that stands out. I had high expectations of Mike Perkins on art, but this did not look like his work on Steven King’s The Stand adaptations. Frankly it looked a bit rushed (some of the faces look somewhat… …disfigured). But even rushed Perkins looks pretty good. Ending on a good note, I really liked the soft crayon-like colors.
Art: 7 Writing: 7.5 Overall: 7,3
4. Avengers VS X-men #6-7 (Marvel comics)
I was pretty much down with Marvel’s big summer block buster event… …until Matt Fraction got his hands on it. I’m loving the art by Olivier Coipel. It’s not his best work, but even on an off day, this guy is brilliant. Now Fraction though, that’s a whole other story. He seems to be ticking off all the same boxes he used on Fear Itself (remember Marvel’s last cluster fuck of an event?), alternative magical suits, bad characterizations, disjointed (and too many) subplots… I can’t wait till the next writer takes over.
Art: 8.5 Writing: 6 Overall: 7.25
A dynamic panel from Nick Fury.Agent of Shield, by Jim Steranko
5. Strange Tales #156-163 (Marvel comics, 1967) 7
I keep on plowing through the trade paperback of Nick Fury. Agent of SHIELD. The stories in here are being told in 12 page installments, because the original issues were split between Nick Fury stories and Dr. Strange stories. Issue 156 finally wraps up the first big arc, in which Fury is after Baron Wolfgang von Strucker or the Head Hydra as he was mostly known around then. I was glad to see this long winded rat race come to an end, and welcomed some shorter stories. But sadly writing wasn’t Jim Steranko’s strong suit. Regrettably, the art also took a bit of a dip, when Steranko stopped inking himself. I know that Bill Everett is no slouch either, but it just doesn’t look the same. As far as I have read now, without his own inks Steranko sadly devolves into a Kirby clone (was it the times, or just Marvel’s house style?)
6. ACE #2 (DROP comics) 6.9
And now for a little Dutch flavor. ACE stands for Action Committee Extraordinary, a pan European security agency with national branches. This series shows the adventures of the ACE team designated to the Netherlands. After a zero issue and the number one issue, writer Gert-Jan van Oosten is still setting up the team and the characters, but in this issue we get a gleam of the overall plot direction of this series. In this issue, we follow new recruit John Rock, who can copy knowledge and skills of the people he’s close to. We see Rock get recruited and initiated in the agency. But his welcome turns violent as he gets to fight ACE’s local martial arts expert and gets off on the wrong foot with another new recruit, who seems to be having a secret agenda of his own. Reading this issue, it felt like Van Oosten’s love letter to the classic Chris Claremont X-men. We have a bit of a danger room analogue, a quite physical welcoming ordeal, a team consisting of members with exotic powers as well as exotic ethnicities, fun banter between the characters and of course there is a Madrox the Multiple Man analogue. I love how subtle he manages to get these references in there, without it standing in the way of telling his story. The series’ artist is Ranjit Dommisse, a guy clearly channeling J. Scott Cambell (though a bit more cartoony), I love the way he portrays his women and the visual style he manages to set forth throughout this series. However, I have some issues with his linework and the lack of details (both in faces and backgrounds). Still, this issue’s got a beautiful two page spread introducing all the characters and a wonderfully choreographed fight scene.