After a summer of waiting to see who gets killed, the season premiere of “The Walking Dead” came off pretty badly by most accounts. From the extreme violence of the deaths in the episode, to the allegedly manipulative way in which they were revealed, and the general “misery porn” approach taken to most of the material there, I can understand why people would have a problem with it.
Not me, though. I was actually amused by how the producers held off on the reveal of the deaths. Their trolling of the fanbase by making them wait just a little longer to find out who died amused me when I thought about all of the people who were losing their minds at this. As for the deaths themselves, all I have to say is this: Well played. I have a friend at work who was convinced that Abraham was going to die, while I stuck to my guns and believed that Glenn was going to meet his maker here just like he did in the comics. It was quite shocking to find out that we were BOTH right, and that the producers had treated Abraham’s death in the comics at an earlier point than this as a savings bond of murder to be cashed in at the appropriate time. Then you had the look of sheer terror and hopelessness on Rick’s face as it looked like he was going to have to chop Carl’s arm off… Well, that was some incredible acting from Andrew Lincoln, who had the difficult job of depicting Rick “breaking” over the course of the episode and sold it in a heartbreaking fashion.
Still, I think the comics did this whole sequence better and it comes down to one thing. The promise of a way out. When Negan made his presence known to Rick’s group and killed off Glenn in the process, it was a devastating moment in the comics. You really felt that things were hopeless for them and this new villain had them over a barrell. Then Eugene comes up to Rick at the end of the volume and reveals that he knows how to make ammo. Which means they’ve got a way to fight back and that hope is not entirely lost. With the TV show, the ammo reveal has already been done, so it looks like we’re in for several episodes of Rick getting used to being Negan’s bitch — undoubtedly involving some deliciously black humor courtesy of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s pitch-perfect take on the character — before the fightback begins.
As for the comics, “The Whisperer War” wraps up in these solicitations. I’ve already heard that there’s been one significant casualty in its pages so far. Now I just have to avoid finding out who it is before the collection arrives.
Curse Words #1: A wizard has shown up in New York City and is making life radical for everyone! The only problem is that he’s actually an EVIL wizard and he’s just setting up his EVIL plan for conquest! This new series comes to us courtesy of Ryan Browne, who previously gave us “God Hates Astronauts” and sounds like the perfect person to serve up this premise in an absurd, tongue-in-cheek way. However, he’s just providing the art. Charles Soule is writing it. While Soule isn’t a bad writer by any means, he’s never really struck me as the person who can let his imagination run riot in the same way that Browne has done with “GHA.” Best case scenario is that we get something where Soule goes full-tilt into the soap-operatic ridiculousness of his own “Letter 44” and Browne takes us the rest of the way with his art. The creators have done enough good stuff over the years that I’m inclined to pick up the first volume to see if that scenario pans out.
God Country #1: Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, writer and artist for “The Paybacks,” step away from superhero comedy to give us the story of an old man suffering from dementia in Texas. His violent outbursts make life hard on everyone around him, so when a tornado levels his home it would seem that everyone’s problems have been solved. Not quite. The storm deposited a magic sword that has left the man with a clear mind, and the ability to fight off the monsters that are now being drawn to the blade. I was happy to hear that “The Paybacks” was picked up by Heavy Metal and is currently in the middle of its second miniseries. However, it clearly wasn’t selling well enough to keep Cates and Shaw from trying a new series to find bigger success. This setup doesn’t sound bad, but it comes off as a whole lot more generic than the premise for the title that helped make their name. Speaking of which…
Dante (One-Shot): Take a shot for every trope you can spot in this setup: The title character is a family man, who is also an assassin, and he wants out of the business. He’s then betrayed and accidentally kills an Asian kid, an act which curses him with tattoos. Now he has to solve this mystery, get revenge, and find his now-missing family. I liked writer Matt Hawkins’ work on “Think Tank,” but the solicitation text makes it sound like he came up with this premise by filling out some “Mad Libs.” It’s going to look great, because Darick Robertson is providing the art, even though the artists deserves better than this.
The Black Monday Murders vol. 1: All Hail, God Mammon: Even though I picked up the first issue of this series (in order to make use of a discount coupon from ComiXology), I haven’t bought any more. That’s not because I didn’t like what I read, but because the first volume is going to be a mammoth 240-page collection. While the solicitations have promised that there was going to be exclusive material for the individual issues, the charts writer Jonathan Hickman provided didn’t really strike me as really necessary to the story. So I’ll be trade-waiting on this story of high finance and higher sorcery.
Kill or Be Killed vol. 1: The latest from Brubaker and Phillips is their deconstruction of vigilantism by way of a man who feels compelled to kill bad people. I don’t really have much to add beyond that. “From Brubaker and Phillips” is as solid a recommendation as you can get in my book. Especially after their return to form with “The Fade Out.”
Renato Jones: The One %, Season One: A vigilante for our times. The title character is out to make the titans of big business pay for their misdeeds in bloody and demented fashion. I’m all for that. While I haven’t had that many encounters with creator Kaare Andrews’ artwork, I’ve liked what I’ve seen. This will be my first time reading anything he’s written himself and I’m optimistic given that it sounds like it would be pretty hard to screw up a title where its protagonist goes around killing all the rich people who have it coming.
The Autumnlands vol. 2: Woodland Creatures: Now here’s something I’ve been waiting for. The best new Image title from last year finally gets a new volume. All the solicitation text tells us is that the Great Champion — actually Master Sgt. Steven Learoyd, formerly of a military sci-fi universe, currently part of this magical talking-animal universe — and young dog-wizard Dusty are stranded in the mountains where they encounter a colorful cast of characters and secrets that may help them save the world. Not the clearest picture of where this volume is going to go, but I don’t mind. The worldbuilding and characterization from writer Kurt Busiek were so solid that I’m looking forward to just getting more of that, along with Benjamin Dewey’s fantastic art, come January.
Chew vol. 12: Sour Grapes: The final volume. With the buildup as good as the title has ever been, I’m expecting great things from this finale. Which also contains the final Poyo story in “Demon Chicken Poyo.” I may be worried for how things will turn out for Tony Chew at the end of this volume, but I think everyone’s favorite cyborg chicken is going to do just fine even if he’s stuck running Hell after having chased the Devil out.
Thief of Thieves vol. 6: Gold Rush: In which master thief Conrad Paulson encounters some thieves who may be as good as he is. While the story will likely be about having him show these people why he’s the best there is at what he does, I’m actually a little concerned about that. Vol. 5 gave us a Conrad that put his arrogance and self-centeredness front-and-center in the narrative. This suggests that, rather than a series of breezily enjoyable crime capers, the series going forward will focus on the master thief getting what he deserves. If that’s the direction writer Andy Diggle will be going in, then I’m not sure if I’ll be following this series after this volume. Unless my sister likes it — she couldn’t get enough of the first few volumes.