The Unread Canon #12: The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life

As a beginning note, this may be my last installment on The Walking Dead, at least for now.  While I do have “The Calm Before” and “Made to Suffer” (they’re the last volumes of my collection) and I am enjoying the series, it doesn’t lend itself terribly well to this sort of critique, or at least it doesn’t the way I’ve been doing it.  The flaws remain the same: the forced, stilted dialogue in particular is something I doubt Kirkman is going to get over after 36 issues, nor his tendency to overexplain character’s motives.  Meanwhile, the story has slowed down considerably and looks to be going in a slightly more traditional path.  I’ll make my final decision in the next two weeks, after reading “The Calm Before”, but rest assured – should The Walking Dead be removed from the roster, it won’t be forgotten.  I fully intend to keep reading, and may jump in should I notice a particularly large shift in tone, some interesting new themes, or anything along those lines, I might jump in with an Unread Canon Interlude sometime.  And in the meanwhile, I’ll be taking some suggestions for what to follow next: right now, front runners include Ultimate Spider-Man and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Have any thoughts on the subject?  Chime in in the comments.

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The Unread Canon #9: The Walking Dead: The Best Defense

“The Best Defense” is the fifth volume of The Walking Dead, and it’s pretty different from what’s come before.  Previously, each volume was a solid stand-alone story.  Yes, each one built off of everything that came before, and did so VERY, very well… but they were nonetheless essentially standalone stories.  You could conceivably read, enjoy and understand “Safety Behind Bars” without having read “Days Gone Bye” or continuing on to “The Heart’s Desire”, and while you’d miss out on some interesting and important character development, I think you’d find each story enjoyable in its own right.  But while “The Best Defense” is an engaging, enjoyable read, it’s also almost purely wrap-up from the previous arc and set-up for the next one.

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The Unread Canon #6: The Walking Dead: The Heart’s Desire

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon: The Walking Dead: Safety Behind Bars

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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The Unread Canon: The Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us

Everyone has a set of entertainment by which they’ll swear, the ones they’ll eventually convince every friend to watch/listen to/read.  Sometimes, those suggestions are echoed time and again all over the place, and even the most jaded, world-weary or dirt-poor fan of the medium has to get curious about just what all that fuss is for.  That’s why I’ve started The Unread Canon, my attempt to experience a great deal more of comics than I already have and take a look at the books that, over the past few years (or, in some cases, decades) have achieved passionate, vocal critical and fan supporters that have nevertheless managed to slip by me and to try and look at how they grew, how they aged, why they work, or why they might not work so well anymore.

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Top 5 Best Comics of November 2009

I read 19 comics in November, and these were the best.

5. Astonishing X-Men #32

Yeah, that’s a badass sentinel, a badass, brood-shooting-from-fingertips sentinel, the bastardization of Beast’s theoretical research. It’s Ellis being Ellis, writing pitch-perfect X-Men. Each issue is episodic, building a plot as it goes. This chapter involves the aforementioned sentinel, with lines like, “We don’t need weapons. We have science!” It’s glorious fun.

4. Fantastic Four #573

Hickman’s Fantastic Four is even better than his Secret Warriors? How’d that happen? But it’s true, even when Dale Eaglesham takes a break, and we’re left with a “filler” issue. Neil Edwards fills Dale’s shoes, and it’s a fine fit, with Edwards’ post-Bryan Hitch style and Paul Mounts’ colors, you’ll hardly notice the difference. But Hickman’s distinguished voice is the star here, penning a done-in-one adventure that could’ve easily sustained a four-issue arc. Hickman plays with, and adds to, Millar’s toys, exploring a black hole-ravaged Nu-World. This is a dense, grand adventure, and the new letters page, hosted by Franklin and Val? Absolutely adorable.

3. Invincible #68

The regular art team is back with a vengeance, allowed the opportunity to create Kirkman’s zany, new Dinosaur villain. This is about as playful and unique as villain dialogue gets. Kirkman then continues to show off his dialogue skills when he gives Atom Eve’s father the scariest monologue Mark could ever imagine, concluding with one hell of a funny sight gag. The issue concludes with a few classic Kirkman twists. All in all, this is one hell of an Invincible issue.

2. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #8

Another Hellboy chapter concludes, and Alice sums it up best, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.” Mignola embraces Hellboy’s entire mythology here, Alice herself being the baby from the beloved “Hellboy: The Corpse.” What occurs within these pages has been a long time coming, and it unfolds unpredictably, yet resolves with the doomed conclusion we all knew was coming. Every major Hellboy player progresses, even poor Gruagach, who’s almost as tragic a character as “Big Red” himself. A stunning effort from Mignola and Fegredo.

1. Detective Comics #859

Since Rucka & Williams’ run began, almost every issue of Detective Comics has made my “Best of the Month” list. This issue is the best of the run, so it’s only natural that Detective finally tops my list. We’re still taking a trip down Kate’s memory lane, this issue containing another episode of her life. We learn of Kate’s rise and fall at West Point, her utter loss of purpose, how that leads to trouble with the love of her life, and what finally makes Kate’s life whole again. And there, making it all epic poetry, is Williams and Stewart. And as you can see in the above scan, when Kate’s Mazzucchelli-styled life clashes with Batman’s rich, painted aura, it’s beautiful and profound.

-Bruce Castle

Review: Invincible #65

Writing: The Conquest commotion has calmed down. This is, as it says on the cover, an aftermath issue. There is absolutely no action to be found here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. Kirkman takes a minute to check in on the building threats, and remind us that Cecil is still a bit of a bastard. At its core, this issue is about Mark and Eve’s relationship. What are the ramifications of the event taking place on the cover? And what effect does the Conquest-inflicted trauma have?

Art: Ottley has been bringing us the gore and partial nudity in the last few issues. The former is absent, but there’s still a bit of the latter here. Ottley also gets to render some welcomed comedic moments. Just check out the preview. That bit of saliva flying from Mark and Eve’s mouths is classic.

Final Word: This is a transitional issue, for sure. It lays the groundwork for future events, and leaves us wanting more. It’ll be very interesting to see Mark’s actions after his epiphany on the last page.

Grade: B+

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