The premiere of Season 7 of The Walking Dead TV show on AMC has evoked some extreme reactions, as social media exploded Sunday night and into Monday with people talking about not just what happened, but how vividly and gruesomely it was depicted. I spent a good chunk of the day Monday discussing the episode with some colleagues at work, and I also spent some time actively not discussing it in front of others who hadn’t had a chance to see it. In that spirit, I should note there will be some spoilers in this essay, but they’re all contained after the front-page break. Please consider this fair warning for anyone who hasn’t viewed the episode in question — or even for those who might be way behind on their reading of the original comic-book incarnation of The Walking Dead or viewing of past seasons. Also, there are a couple of images (and some language) found after the break that will definitely prove to be too intense for some…
Die Kitty Die #1
Writers/Pencils: Fernando Ruiz & Dan Parent
Inks: Rich Koslowski & J. Bone
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Janice Chiang
Cover artists: Parent and Ruiz (regular editions)/Darwyn Cooke, and Ruiz & Parent (variants)
Publisher: Chapter House Comics/Astro Comix
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve been hearing about this project for a year or so, and I’ve been quite curious about it. It was originally released digitally, but I prefer comics on paper. Anticipating a print release, I waited, so I was pleased to find it on my local comic shop’s shelves this week. I hope Die Kitty Die proves to be a small-press success, because its commentary on comics publishing, pop culture as product and the poor treatment of creative forces, though a familiar refrain, merits further exposure and discussion. Archie Comics talents Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz not only offer a sendup of their usual employers and its characters, but also target the comics industry as a whole, even including pastiches/homages of little-used Harvey properties, such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Hot Stuff. One thing is abundantly clear from this comic: its creators really had a blast putting it together. There’s an exuberance evident here, one that flows, I assume, from the catharsis of expressing and letting go of their professional frustrations.
Like a lot of North American comics enthusiasts, my introduction to Steve Dillon’s art was in the pages of DC’s Hellblazer in the mid 1990s. I had just finished with my post-secondary education, and I was emerging into full adulthood. Relocation, independence and a burgeoning career. A real paycheque meant my love for comics could be indulged further. I remained (and still do) a fan of super-hero comics, but my eyes had already been opened to more mature fare exploring other genres. I’d discovered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman during my university years. I think it was in 1994 that someone at the comic shop I was frequenting at the time insisted that I look at Hellblazer. I wasn’t all that familiar with or enthralled by John Constantine, as I hadn’t been a reader of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which introduced the character.
I don’t specifically recall if it was the first Garth Ennis/Dillon issue I read or not, but the memory that sticks with me to this day was Constantine’s journey through a nightmarish American purgatory, guided by the grotesque, post-assassination form of John F. Kennedy. (A quick web search reveals it was the “Damnation’s Flame” storyline from Hellblazer #s 72-75). Though I’m not an American, I immediately recognized that the use of Kennedy, open head wound and all, as a key figure in the storyline would be practically blasphemous to my neighbors to the south. I was struck by the daring of it, by the sheer gall and bravery of the storytelling choice.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1
“Part One: Going Underground”
Writers: Gerard Way & Jon Rivera
Artists: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Clem Robins
Writer/Artist: Tom Scioli
Cover artists: Oeming (regular)/Matt Wagner and Brennan Wagner, & Bill Sienkiewicz (variants)
Editor: Molly Mahan
Publisher: DC Comics/Young Animal imprint
Price: $3.99 US
Of the three Young Animal titles to be released thus far, this stood out as my favorite thus far. While it’s still weird and mature, it’s probably also the most grounded and relatable of all of Gerard Way-led new titles. The fact that it’s far more rooted in the DC super-hero universe, with its inclusion of oddball characters and concepts, probably doesn’t hurt either, given my lifelong affinity for DC properties. Despite the obscurity of the characters here, Way and co-writer Jon Rivera don’t offer up a lot of exposition about their back stories, but the script is nevertheless accessible. One is able to piece together the relevant character bits pretty well from information that woven organically into the dialogue. Furthermore, there’s an air of mystery that’s fostered by the writers’ decision not to explain every little detail, not to offer deep background on the players in this drama. Ultimately, what drew me in was the character study of Cave Carson himself – not the mystery of his cybernetic eye, not the question of what the corporate EBX is plotting, but rather his sense of loss. That relatability really anchors a truly weird and even playful story.
The Clone Conspiracy #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Dan Slott, Jim Cheung, Ron Frenz & John Dell
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Amazing Spider-Man relaunch with Peter Parker as a global tycoon and philanthropist, so much so that I definitely feel I should have followed the Superior Spider-Man epic that preceded it. That being said, I’m quite surprised that Marvel has chosen to revisit the world of cloning (or whatever analogous scheme the Jackal is up to this time), given how the Spider-Clone saga of the 1990s continues to be mocked and viewed by many as a convoluted low point in the iconic hero’s long history. I’m also a little dismayed this wasn’t just published as the latest issue of Amazing instead of as a new first issue. This is a continuation of the storylines we’ve been following over the past year or so in that title, so a spinoff book seems like little more than a cash grab. That being said, I enjoyed this comic book for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how important Peter Parker’s status as an industrialist remains an important element in this new Jackal storyline. Slott wisely continues to build on the importance of Peter’s overdeveloped sense of responsibility for what happens to those around him.
Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils: Humberto Ramos
Inks: Victor Olazabo
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Humberto Ramos (regular edition)/Alex Ross, Mark Brooks, John Tyler Christopher, Jay Fosgitt, Rahzzah, Art Adams, Mike Hawthorne & Scottie Young (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Price: $4.99 US
I’ve been a fan of Mark Waid’s writing for a long time, but I have to be honest – what drew me to this comic wasn’t the creative talent, but rather the characters. Marvel’s new generation of teen heroes have been standouts of its line for a while now. Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man (formerly Ultimate), Viv Vision and Amadeus Cho as Hulk have all proven to fascinating additions to the Marvel Universe. Mind you, I was confident that Waid would make the most of these heroes and offer stories in keeping with the established characterizations that made them interesting in the first place. That confidence proved to be well placed. But what surprised me about this debut issue was the fact that it wasn’t these colorful teens who stole the show. Instead, it was a socially relevant message, one of hope and responsibility.
I happened upon the joke below in a freebie diner/coffee-shop newsletter at lunch today. I share it with you now, and I apologize for doing so.
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The Twilight Zone: The Shadow Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Dave Acosta
Colors: Omi Remalante
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artist: Francesco Francavilla
Editor: Joseph Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $15.99 US
Nostalgia for 1960s and ’70s TV shows has been a mainstay of Dynamite Entertainment’s publishing strategy in recent years, and while I don’t doubt there’s an audience for it (as Dynamite’s adherence to the approach would suggest), it’s not really something that interests me. That being said, the unusual pairing of The Twilight Zone and the Shadow struck me as inventive and potentially intriguing. Ultimately, the schtick is used to force the title anti-hero into introspection, and it’s an effective plot device, even though the results are a little clichéd. They’re still diverting and entertaining, though, and capably executed. The script hits the right beats (though with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), and the art conveys the concepts — from the mundane to the surreal — clearly. Though not mind-blowing (as the title might suggest), The Twilight Zone: The Shadow represents competent comics storytelling.
Blue Beetle #1 (DC Comics)
by Keith Giffen & Scott Kolins
I enjoyed Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1, which introduced a new status quo for two of DC’s Blue Beetle characters. Honestly, it struck me that Giffen and Kolins simply adapted the Firestorm schtick (young hero with an elder big-brain advising him along the way) for the Beetle property. Since DC isn’t doing much with Firestorm in its new Rebirth line, that seemed fine. That approach continues in this first issue of the ongoing series, but any interest the creators generation with the BB: Rebirth one-shot is lost here with an overly dense, confusing mess of dialogue captions. It’s difficult to discern who’s talking at times. Furthermore, the plot isn’t exactly crystal clear either. We know the Beetles are looking for a missing teen, but how Ted Kord came to know of the issue, why he’s consulting with a teen metahuman gang or how those guys got powers in the first place are never explored or explained. Now, one can’t accuse Giffen and Kolins (co-plotters here) of decompressed storytelling, but their galloping plot ignores the need for some exposition. I am intrigued by the Dr. Fate subplot, but again, it seems to forge forward without laying the proper groundwork to build tension.
There were two main elements that drew me to this Blue Beetle relaunch: the return of Ted Kord to the DC Universe, and the artwork of Scott Kolins. Kolins has a great, insectoid take on the title character, and he conveys the youth and energy of Jaime Reyes quite well. The designs for the metahuman teens at the end of the issue are inventive, unusual and striking as well. He seems to have a strong sense of the community in which the action unfolds, and it’s always a pleasure to see the previous Beetle’s Bug ship again. The verbose nature of the script really adds a lot of clutter to the visuals, which are already dense and busy to begin with. I also didn’t get a strong sense of the villain’s actions in this issue. I get he has shadow powers, but it was hard to tell what was going on at times between him and the young hero. This issue marked a major misstep for this burgeoning relaunch, but I’m willing to give it another issue or two before deciding its fate (no pun intended), given my affection for the artist’s work and one of the main characters. 4/10