A Review of The Walking Dead #167 – Andrea’s Fate

TITLE: The Walking Dead #167
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: May 3, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s always been a direct correlation between the quality of a Walking Dead story, and how real and relatable things feel. That’s what’s made this story different from typical zombie lore. We’ve had so much time with these characters, and seen them to do much more than run from zombies. The world they live in is obviously a fantasy. But we’ve seen them grow and change like real people.

That’s what makes issue #167 so impactful. To a certain extent, it feels like a real person has died. Furthering that point, it’s handled in a very raw and emotional fashion. This is unquestionably one of the best issues of the entire series. Maybe the best.

Andrea has been bitten. After having been with her for so long, Rick must once again say goodbye to a woman he loves. But can he bring himself to continue on without her? And how does her death impact Carl, Negan, Michonne, and the rest of the survivors? Especially now that the Saviors may once again be a threat…

I’ve never been any good at saying goodbye. Maybe that’s why this issue resonated so much with me. This is essentially one big goodbye to Andrea. They even forego the letters column this month, replacing it with a message from Kirkman about the character. It all may seem a little self-important. But The Walking Dead has such a passionate and devoted fanbase, that you can actually see the some of the reasoning behind it. Andrea has been part of the series since it’s second issue. She was one of the “originals.” So her death means that much more.

My favorite page in the issue is on a 16-panel grid, where we see major and minor characters alike pay their respects to Andrea. Each gets one panel. There’s a striking honesty on this page. You have some of the obvious, “we love you” and “if it hadn’t been for you” type stuff. But Heath, for instance, says: “We never talked much. I’m sorry for that. I’m not the best at making friends.” Carl’s love interest Lydia says, “I don’t think you like me, but…I’m not going to hurt Carl.” Then you have Negan, who puts his own little spin on a goodbye. And that’s not even taking the artistic quality of the page into account. It’s fantastic work by Kirkman, Adlard, and the entire team.

Kirkman uses Andrea’s death to talk about the human condition a little more directly. When talking with Carl about his relationship with Lydia, she tells him “People like to think there are people out there they’re meant to be with” but that “Anybody can love anyone if they want to.” He’s essentially trying to debunk the idea of soulmates, and asserting the notion that people make their own destinies. One might read that as Kirkman getting on his high horse. I suppose that’s true. But it’s his book, after all…

As one might imagine, much of the issue is spent with Rick and Andrea alone. He sits at her bedside in her final hours. It’s good stuff, but we get some odd repetition. Rick breaks down, talking about how he can’t go on, can’t stay strong, etc. In her last big monologue, Andrea tells Rick that he must continue, and how he’s made everyone else stronger. Then a few pages later, after Andrea has passed, Rick doubts himself out loud again. As he did just a few pages earlier, he says he “can’t do this anymore,” and that he just killed a woman a matter of hours ago. (It happened last issue. Long story.) The only real difference is that Andrea is dead in the latter scene. It’s a big difference of course, and Andrea’s monologue has all the appropriate power. I just wonder why the choice was made to have Rick repeat himself. In between those stretches of dialogue, we get four whole pages of silence, simply letting the art show us the final moments of Andrea’s life. I wonder if it would have been better to maintain that silence.

Charlie Adlard, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn work their usual magic here. I almost hate to use that term, as it seemingly lessens the gravity of what they’ve been able to accomplish on this series. It’s Adlard and Rathburn have been with the series since it’s early days. So it’s always gratifying to see them there when a long-standing character leaves the book.

There are a good amount of splash pages and two-page spreads in this issue. There’s a two-page shot of Rick at Andrea’s bedside that’s tremendous. There are a lot of deep black in the room, yet we get the sunlight coming in through the window. This is also a great showcase for Adlard’s character “acting” skills. He’s become absolutely amazing with the subtleties in human facial expression. Case in point, the splash page of Rick’s face after Andrea is gone once and for all, and the impact of what’s just happened finally sets in. Then you have the panel below, where Andrea has died, and Rick has to prevent her from turning…

Despite Andrea’s death, this issue is really about two things: Perseverance and hope. This is the most painful and most personal blow Rick has faced since he lost his wife and baby. But the issue ends not with more grief, but with an eye toward the future. The Walking Dead isn’t necessarily a series that’s known for it’s optimism. So often this world prompts its character to act on their darkest and most disturbed impulses. Going the other way was smart, given the emotional impact of what we’re seeing. It’s part of what makes this a landmark issue for the series.

One of the things Kirkman does very well with The Walking Dead is create a certain legacy for characters that have died. The deaths of characters like Glenn, Lori, and Herschel are still being felt in the series today. So as we move forward, the question becomes: What will Andrea’s legacy be?

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

Advertisements

A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 27 – Negan Rises, Lucille Falls

TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #157#162
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED:
March 1, 2017

***WARNING: Minor spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The biggest thing I took away from The Whisperer War? That the Saviors were a tough act to follow.

That’s not to say they aren’t interesting in their own way. It’s hard to not be interested in a group that wears zombie flesh and rejects the idea of civilization. But the Whisperers are to The Walking Dead what Bane was to Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. On his own merits, Bane was pretty damn evil in The Dark Knight Rises. But the Joker left such an impression on you in The Dark Knight that anyone else paled in comparison. Like the Joker, Negan made a very violent, vile, and personal impact on our heroes. But he was also uniquely charming. That’s why in many ways he’s become the star of the book.

More than two years after their war with the Saviors, Rick Grimes and our network of survivors are once again prepared to fight. But this time the enemy is very different, and the heroes have far more resources. But the Whisperers have something at their disposal  that could destroy everything Rick and the survivors have built: An army of the dead.

The most interesting aspect of this series since the time jump in issue #127 has been Negan’s quest for redemption. But we aren’t exactly sure if that’s his true motivation, or if he’s playing some kind of long game. Either way, we’ve gotten to see him from a few different perspectives. First as a prisoner, then an unlikely confidant for Rick, now a sort of comrade-in-arms.

Negan’s famous baseball bat, Lucille, is unexpectedly shattered in this book. It’s actually sad, in a silly sort of way. More endearing is the burial and eulogy he gives it in issue #162. As many of us know, it’s not really about a damn baseball bat. But seeing his personification of it come full circle is a neat little window into his heart.

On the subject of matters of the heart, Maggie has a great character moment. One of the newer characters, Dante, has been crushing on her for quite awhile. In this book he puts his cards on the table, but Maggie says she’ll only ever love Glenn. When he presses her on being alone for the rest of her life, she simply says: “I’m happy when I think of him. I’m not asking you to understand. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense to you.” I love that. It’s unconventional, and it’s a great moment for fans who miss that relationship.

Artistically, the strongest issue is #162. Penciller Charlie Adlard, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn give us a gorgeous two-page spread of the largest herd of walkers we’ve ever seen (shown right). But I also love the faint smile Adlard draws on Negan when he apologizes to Lucille for naming “a stupid f***ing baseball bat after you.” He also gives Rick a tremendous terrified look when he realizes the big hoard is coming.

The fire sequence in Issue #161 is also particularly strong. After an attack by the Whisperers, the Hilltop is burning. We see Carl nearly die after rushing back into a burning building. And for pure badassery, it’s tough to top Lydia kicking a zombie as the flames roar behind them.

The Walking Dead also shifts to a 16-panel grid for this volume (shown right), giving the book a much more dense feel at times. If you’re not used to seeing this layout, it can take some time to get used to. I once heard Gene Ha say it’s best to read a comic book twice, once for the story, and a second time just to absorb the art. That’s certainly the case here. I can’t imagine how much extra work this creates for Adlard, Gaudiano, and Rathburn. The books don’t suffer for the change, though. That’a a testament to the talent at work here.

I don’t know whether Negan is playing the long game. Be we know one person who is: Robert Kirkman. The Whisperer War is clearly a smaller piece of a larger puzzle he and this crew have been assembling since issue #127. Thus far it’s not quite as thrilling as what’s come before. But you can’t always judge an image until you can see the whole thing.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Review of The Walking Dead #163 – The Value of Context

The Walking Dead #163TITLE: The Walking Dead #163
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $0.25
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With its 25-cent price tag, The Walking Dead #163 is theoretically a jumping-on point for new readers. Given what a global phenomenon it’s become, it’s almost hard to imagine The Walking Dead needing new readers. But if you’re someone who strictly reads the trades, only picks it up here and there, or are indeed among the uninitiated, the Undead Express has stopped and opened its doors for you.

In the spirit of new readers, the plot is pretty straightforward: A bunch of zombies are headed toward Alexandria. As in, thousands upon thousands of zombies. Literally the biggest hoard we’ve ever seen in the pages of TWD. Andrea takes a group on horseback to try and divert some of the hoard away. But Rick, Negan, and the people of Alexandria cannot escape the inevitable. Alexandria is about to be flooded by an ocean of the dead.

the-walking-dead #162, two-page spreadWe learned about this giant hoard last month in The Walking Dead #162. The revelation came with one of the best spreads penciller Charlie Adlard has ever done (shown right). With aid from inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn, he gives us an image of a seemingly endless sea of walkers. And of course, you have that one looking out at the reader, which gives it a tremendous punch.

We don’t have an image like that in this issue. One that demonstrates the immense magnitude of the threat our heroes are facing. We see big groups of zombies, and we see the ginormous hoard from a distance. But there’s nothing like this, where we can really see  how massive and all-encompassing the threat is.

I’m not greedy enough to expect Adlard and the artistic team to produce a two-page spread of this quality in back-to-back issues. However, issue #163 is not only the most widely printed in the book’s history (as editor Sean Mackiewicz notes in the letters section), but comes at an almost irresistible price. So if I have the choice of putting that spread in this issue or the one immediately before it, I’m putting it here. For readers who didn’t pick up issue #162 it would offer valuable context, along with a great taste of Adlard’s brilliance.

the-walking-dead #163, 2017, Charlie AdlardIf there was ever an issue to up that zombie gore factor, it’s this one. What we get on that front is decent. There’s lots of crushing and squishing going on. Zombies being cut apart as they’re pushed through Alexandria’s front gate (shown left), bodies being impaled on spikes, zombies walking over each other, etc. It’s good stuff, but without that context of just how big the threat is, it’s lacking something. That extra fear isn’t there.

Rick’s relationship with Negan has been one of the focal points of the series in the last few years. What does Negan have to do to earn his trust? Can he earn his trust? Can he ever be forgiven or redeemed? In this issue, he gets to flat out ask Rick about that after saving his life. This comes moments after Rick calls the other survivors to follow Negan’s lead in going on the defensive against the walkers. What kind of personal hostilities would Rick open up with Maggie if he forgave the man who killed her husband? As it stands, things aren’t exactly peachy between Alexandria and the Hilltop.

Michonne has a tremendous character moment here. After trying in vain to divert some of the zombies away from the main group, she jumps off her horse and simply starts cutting them down one at a time. She and Jesus then opt to take turns. Every little bit helps, and based on the solicitations for upcoming issues, Rick and his crew are going to need all the help they can get. Not just from zombies, but from those they thought were their allies. Allegiances are about to change.

I’m curious to see how many new readers jump in with this issue. They didn’t necessarily structure it to be noob-friendly. It was essentially business as usual. But when it comes to The Walking Dead, business is booming. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see them sink their teeth into a few new readers.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Hadrian’s Wall #1 Review – Where’s the Love?

Hadrian's Way #1, 2016, Rod ReisTITLE: Hadrian’s Wall #1
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel
PENCILLER: Rod Reis
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis had a hell of a showing in last month’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Annual #1. In Hadrian’s Wall, they’re still firmly planted in the space age. We don’t have any swords or witches, but there’s enough drama for everybody!

It’s 2085, and Simon Moore is a divorced detective who’s addicted to painkillers. When his ex-wife’s husband suddenly dies in space, Simon is brought aboard the vessel Hadrian’s Wall for the investigation. But neither the crew nor his ex-wife Annabelle are particularly welcoming. Simon is about to face potentially insurmountable obstacles, both from within the ship and within himself.

What we have here is, in Higgins’ words, an “’80s sci-fi murder mystery,” which also happens to be a break-up story.  It’s not entirely clear, but it seems like Annabelle cheated on Simon for her now-dead husband Marshall. We even learn that at some point Marshall shot Simon four times. What’s more, Annabelle is openly hostile to Simon. Naturally, this should cast him as our sympathetic hero.

Hadrian's Wall #1, opening page, Rod ReisExcept he isn’t. Annabelle is no prize, but Simon isn’t much better. He comes off very bitter, and almost as mean as his ex-wife. We’ve seen few redeeming qualities from him, outside  of him being a detective. Even in that case, it’s established he’s largely taken this case for a big payday. The case can obviously be made that this is only the first in an eight issue story. But we don’t have the entire story in our hands yet. A more likable lead would have given us that much more incentive to come back and buy that next chapter.

In many ways, the real star of this book is Rod Reis. His color palette sets a dreary and bleak tone, which very much fits with how Simon sees the world. The only exception is a one-page flashback where we see Simon and Annabelle together. Both of them are smiling, they’re bathed in the pinkish orange glow of a sunset. It almost looks like a different book. But in the grim aura of present day, you can very much believe in outer space homicide.  There’s also a gorgeous two-page spread of Hadrian’s Wall.

We have a hell of an opening page (shown above). It’s got a nice Gravity vibe to it, with the camera pulling away from Marshall, revealing him floating in the emptiness of space. And dear God, his helmet is cracking. That lower left panel makes my stomach tighten. Look at Marshall’s face, and then look at all the darkness around him in the very next panel. This isn’t even a horror comic, per se. But THAT is comic book horror.

Hadrian's Wall #1, Annabelle, Rod ReisQuestion: Is the design for Annabelle based on WWE’s Eva Marie? Because this girl is basically Eva Marie, with the red stuff swapped out for green. I’m not complaining. As a wrestling fan, it’s cool. It’s certainly a distinct look.

Hadrian’s Wall is a toss-up for me at this point. The concept is a lot of fun, and it’s very well executed. But I need more to latch on to from a human perspective. You wouldn’t think that would be the case in a break-up story. But for many, the art alone will be worth the price of admission.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Glitterbomb #1 Review – When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

Glitterbomb #1, 2016, Djibril Morissette-PhanTITLE: Glitterbomb #1
AUTHOR: Jim Zub
PENCILLER: Djibril Morissette-Phan
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 7, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Glitterbomb may not look like a book about purity of spirit, overcoming society’s preconceived notions, or the parasitic nature of the entertainment industry. But it covers all of that, with some tentacles thrown in for good measure.

Farrah Durante is a middle-aged, out of work actress and mother desperately on the hunt for her next part. But neither Hollywood nor her agent have anything for her. They’re not exactly kind about it, either. But when Farrah is at her lowest, she’s possessed by an otherworldly monster. She then abruptly wakes up with no memory of what’s happened. The world hasn’t been very nice to Farrah Durante. Now, she and her new “companion” are going to be not-very-nice right back. And blood will be spilled.

What we have here is a good ol’ fashioned cathartic revenge story. There’s certainly no shortage of either catharsis or revenge here. In Jim Zub’s indictment of the entertainment industry, Farrah has committed the unforgivable sin of aging in Hollywood. Her desperation and her struggle to keep up with the needs of her young son, who is so little and naive, are heartbreaking. People also say things to this woman that are almost impossibly mean. Normally it’s considered a bad thing to get possessed by a sea monster. But for Farrah, it’s an improvement.

Glitterbomb #1, 2016Zub’s concept and his intentions make for a good comic. But the issue really belongs to penciller Djibril Morissette-Phan and colorist K. Michael Russell. The sheer despair and hopelessness injected into Farrah make her almost immediately relatable as a character. Look at her body language, the bags under her eyes, the complete lack of anything remotely resembling contentment. Delightfully complimentary are Russell’s dreary, muted, gloomy colors. This issue feels like it takes place in the middle of an L.A. heatwave. I read Farrah as being constantly sweaty and dirty. Except, of course, when she plunges into the ocean. We get a gorgeous two-page spread, and a little hint as to the monster’s motivation.

I’ll also credit Glitterbomb with actually giving me a fright. At the bottom of page 26, Farrah’s son takes a fall. Then on page 27, she leaps to catch him as he’s about to hit the ground. Before you can process the entire image, there’s brief moment where you wonder if he’s actually going to complete the fall. Definitely one of the more jarring moments I’ve seen in recent memory, as it’s so much more reality-based than someone being killed by a monster. Though to the issue’s credit, if you’re picking it up without having seen any previews (as I did), that first kill is a big surprise. Did not expect that at all…

Post-story, Holly Raychelle Hughes also contributes a heart-wrenching prose essay about how awfully she was treated in the film industry. Frankly, it’s worth the $3.99 on its own.

Glitterbomb #1, 2016, FarrahI can’t say I expected a story like this from the author of Skullkickers. But Jim Zub and this team have something good here. There’s a satisfying moral to Glitterbomb as well. One might be distracted at first by the blood and gore. But one can certainly appreciate the message about how to treat people, particularly those down on their luck.

After all, karma can be downright monstrous.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Review of The Walking Dead #156 – True Psychopathy

The Walking Dead #156, 2016, Charlie AdlardTITLE: The Walking Dead #156
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 7, 2016

***WARNING: Major spoilers lay ahead for The Walking Dead #156.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When reading The Walking Dead, I always try to keep in mind something Robert Kirkman wrote in the letters column for issue #100:“A good indication that we’re not going to do something is if hundreds of people predict it. If it’s obvious, we’ve probably already decided not to do it…because it’s obvious.”

So with all signs pointing to a Negan/Alpha romance, we probably should have realized a swerve was coming. And it’s every bit as bloody and graphic as you’d expect from Negan.

After spending about two years as a prisoner in Alexandria, Negan has escaped and joined The Whisperers. But he needs to prove himself, mainly to their leader Alpha. As we come to learn, Negan’s way of life doesn’t necessarily mesh with his new cohorts. As a result, near the end of the issue he abruptly kills Alpha, and then beheads the corpse. We close with the line, “Wait until Rick gets a look at you…”

Alpha, TWD 156This is the issue where the emotionless and merciless Alpha finally breaks. So much of this series has been focused on what the apocalypse turns people into. But we’ve never gone the other way. In the our final scene, Negan destroys the psychological barrier she’s built around herself. Despite her status as a villain, it’s heartbreaking. Especially when she talks about missing her daughter Lydia, who we’ve come to know. Then, of course, Negan robs her of the chance to ever see Lydia again. Thus her story becomes even more tragic.

Negan is such a fun character that it can be difficult not to like the guy. Until he does something awful, and you’re kicking yourself for not remembering just who he is. Issue #156 is a textbook example. He saves a young woman from being raped, and then seems to show Alpha his own unique version of compassion. But we’re reminded that he is a psychopath in the truest sense of the word. He talks about losing his ability to feel a full range of emotions after the death of someone close to him (presumably his wife). This explains why he has such a difficult time when other people get emotional around him. We see it here with Alpha, and the scene with Carl from issue #106 comes to mind.

Negan and Alpha, TWD #156The line about Rick is obviously curious. The way Rick has come to him for guidance lately, my guess is Negan tries to use the murder of Alpha as a get-out-of-jail card. Now, as a free man who happens to have the leader’s ear, he’ll have a huge amount of influence, and perhaps the ability to chart a new course.

The praise for Charlie Adlard’s work almost goes without saying at this point. The scene where Alpha breaks down is fantastic. Strictly from a visual standpoint, we can see the cracks start to appear in her hardened demeanor until she finally loses control. The final page also lands really well. But my favorite moment in the issue can be seen above. Negan doesn’t know how to handle Alpha breaking down, and Adlard simply has his eyes dart to his right. He’s so obviously uncomfortable that it inevitably becomes funny. Of course, then he cuts her throat. Kind of a buzz killer.

So whose side is Negan really on? Is he about to take command of The Whisperers? Or will he show his loyalty to Rick? The only thing we can be sure of is that in the end, Negan will be on his own side. I’d be surprised if a reunion with Lucille isn’t far off.

Images from readcomics.net.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Snowfall #1 Review – Winter is Coming Back

Snowfall #1 (2016)TITLE: Snowfall #1
AUTHOR: Joe Harris
PENCILLER: Martin Morazzo
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 17, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo, the guys behind Great Pacific over at Image, have written a comic book about a world where it never snows. I’m not sure where these guys are from, but as a guy from Chicago, I think somebody needs to tell them a world without midwestern blizzards might not be all bad.

In the year 2045, the Earth has been forever altered by climate change. Due to atmospheric changes the Earth’s atmosphere has grown drier, and man has had to adapt to a lack of water resources. But when snow falls on upstate New York, it appears a weather-changing vigilante called the White Wizard has resurfaced…or has he?

Snowfall #1, 2016, interior, Martin MorazzoLike Great PacificSnowfall is somewhat politically charged. For the sake of neutrality, I’m simply looking at it as a quasi-post-apocalyptic comic. And as far as quasi-post-apocalyptic comics go, it’s pretty good. Harris makes the White Wizard a sort of fairy tale legend, giving him an added mystique within the story. The teenaged Anthony Farrow, more than familiar with the White Wizard’s exploits, seeks him out after many years in retirement. So we’ve got that returning hero vibe, which Harris and Marozzo put a nice twist on at the end. Early on we see the Cooperative States of America, i.e. the corporation-backed American government, have stormtroopers that can measure precipitation in the air. That adds nicely to the whole post-apocalyptic vibe.

Martin Morazzo gives us characters that are very expressive, if not realistic-looking. They convey emotion very well, particularly toward the end when the intensity cranks up. I would argue it’s not the prettiest stuff to look at, but it’s undeniably effective. We’ve got a great visual with the White Wizard, with the bright circular eyes looking out from the blackness under that hood. Morazzo also draws his snowflakes very large and detailed, as if they’re all those paper cut-outs kids make in school. It’s a little hokey, but it works with his style.

At this point, I’m not sold on the long-term potential of Snowfall. But I’m intrigued enough to come back for seconds. Harris and Morazzo have also proven themselves as a team with Great Pacific. The weather angle, whether we like it or not, is timely and current. If that’s what you enjoy, then Snowfall is worth a look.

Image from comicbookresources.com. 

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/