Here’s the deal fellas, comic book sales are tricky. When the report from USA today comes out that says that Walking Dead 115 has sold 352,000 copies and is going back into second printings, I cock an eyebrow and wonder who is being served by this. The book came out on Wednesday and I can tell you with certainty that NOBODY is having trouble finding a copy. My shop ordered 40 copies of every cover. That’s 40×15. 600 copies of a single issue. How many of those 352,000 issues have actually sold at the retailer level? I can’t imagine that this is a scarce issue in any town in America yet. Going to a second print already is simply flooding the market.
On the other side of the spectrum, Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare’s Rocket Girl also sold out at Diamond and is getting a second print. I don’t have a problem with this, because I don’t think many stores ordered as heavily on that title. Folks might be finding the amazing word of mouth that’s spreading regarding the title online (like our review here, which Amy retweeted because she’s a goddamn sweetheart and an amazing person) or the little segment on the Pop and Schlock Podcast episode 2 where it made the “This Week In Pop Culture” segment.
I’m not going to say that the Walking Dead’s sales aren’t impressive, it is after all the best selling comic of the year now. But that is really only because it has fifteen different covers that retailers ordered in bulk. I’m sure many stores will be sitting on copies a year from now. Before issue 115 came along, the best selling comic of the year was Justice League of America # 1 which sold around 308,000 copies with their “One Variant For Every State” gimmick.
All I’m saying is, look at the smaller books that sell out at diamond. Stuff like Rocket Girl and Rat Queens, because those aren’t sitting on shelves. They’re getting reprints because they need them. I find myself confused by Walking Dead 115 going to a new printing this quickly. Sometimes I just don’t understand the comics business.
Sunday saw the mid-season finale of season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead. I am going to state outright that this little analysis is going to have HUGE SPOILERS peppered throughout so if you have no watched the whole of season two up to the mid-season finale I would advise against reading this entry until you have gotten yourself caught up. Or perhaps you realized half-way through that you couldn’t stand the show and just want to read this to see if the rest of the season is worth watching and you don’t care about spoilers. I don’t know you, but I want to warn everyone before I get into everything.
So we’re clear on the spoilers then?
Can I just say that, from a structural standpoint, Walking Dead season two was an unmitigated mess? Here’s what I want to get out of the way. I don’t have a problem with soap-opera level drama. If the acting is up to snuff and the events unfolding are handled in a way that follows the basic tenets of narrative structure, I don’t really have a problem with heightened or manufactured drama. The central conflicts of this season; Shane’s feelings of rejection and his decent into pure id driven savagery, the theme of secrets and their destructive effect on society as presented by Lori’s pregnancy as well as the “walkers in the barn” scenario, the anguish over a missing child and the decision on how much time to spend searching, all of these things are fine concepts to mine in a television show.
So why did these episodes leave such a foul taste in my mouth?
I feel that I should point out that I read the hardcover collections of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead before the season started. That series, for the most part, moves at a breakneck pace that essentially forces the reader to turn the page because things are happening so fast that you don’t have an opportunity to be bored by what is unfolding. The story beats are handled well and the pacing never feels off, with a few exceptions. If there is one thing that they did not translate from page to screen, it is the idea of acceptable pacing.
Walking Dead season two is essentially hobbled by the fact that the drama, as engrossing as it may have been, is stretched so thin in an attempt to pad out the series to fit its episode run that it borders on the edge of making the series a tedious bore. In just about every episode there are perhaps five to ten minutes of simply amazing television. But the rest of the episode is filled with instances of drama being repeated in different scenarios in an effort to fill time. I don’t know how many times Shane and Lori had the same conversation. This goes for Herschel and Rick as well. They keep repeating the same beats on the same element of the story so many times that, I’ll be honest, the episodes tend to run together in terms of identity. There is nothing in any of the episodes that makes them stand out. Usually you can isolate a turning point, or a moment where the story takes a dramatic shift. This season has had those moments, but they become overshadowed by the poor handling of the fallout. Carl’s shooting at the end of the first episode loses its impact when for the next two or three episodes we’re treated to multiple scenes of Herschel explaining how dire the situation is and Rick and Lori obsessing about it. Later in the season we’re subjected to multiple repeats of the same conversation between Rick and Herschel about whether the group will be allowed to stay at the farm. The same reasons presented by both parties seem to be repeated incessantly. It dilutes the effect of the drama as a result.
This technique of repetition smacks of the high school student writing an essay and constantly repeating his points with slightly altered wording in order to pad his paper out to the teacher’s required length. It doesn’t make the paper better, it just makes it longer. That’s the nutshell problem of Walking Dead season two. The key elements of the show that actually worked could have cut the episode count from seven down to four. There are literally HOURS of runtime that amount to nothing more than unnecessary padding. I understand the need to build drama. That is not the issue here. The issue is the technique in which they attempted to foster tension that actually had the opposite effect.
Walking Dead is a good show that is smothered by bad elements. It is easy to understand the desire to stretch the material for television. The producers would have you believe it is because they want to exploit the ability of television to slowly build things over an extended period of time. I have no opposition to that idea. Other shows do it quite well. But you don’t get the sense of wasted dialog and padded narrative structure from shows like Breaking Bad. The mid-season finale ended on an excellent note, which is very smart because if they hadn’t hit a home run in the last few minutes of the episode it is doubtful that most of the audience would return next spring for the second half of the season.
On Sunday evening I, along with every-fucking-body in the world, watched the AMC premiere of The Walking Dead. The small screen adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic hit was everything you would expect out of a TV show helmed by Frank Darabont. It’s like Boardwalk Empire over at HBO. Did anyone expect a show masterminded by Martin mothereffing Scorcese to not knock it out of the park? The same principle applies to The Walking Dead, as it’s a masterful translation, with the finely tuned raw grit that made The Mist so gutwrenching back on display here. The man has a well developed sense of what makes horror scenarios so intense. The zombies themselves here, which are really some top of the line practical effects by the way, aren’t what’s scary. It’s the sense of overwhelming change. The sense of loss. The sense of distrust between the survivors. Darabont slathers on that sort of attention to detail and gives us an unrelenting drama.
The show itself is obviously amazing, but the turnout for the show is what is truly spectacular. It garnered the highest ratings for a cable premiere this year and it’s the best debut AMC has ever had. Don Draper can go suck a veiny zombie dong because The Walking Dead is a certified hit. In the weeks leading up to the event I figured that the comic nerds of the world would tune in, but I wasn’t sure it would find a mainstream audience, what with the fact that the previews that AMC was running for the show didn’t really show off much beyond it being a generic zombie apocalypse drama. But it looks like we’ll be getting a long healthy run for the series and I’m hoping that it will make it long enough to get to the prison arc. If the conclusion to that particular story doesn’t make for some of the best TV on record I’ll eat my hat.
And for those of you wondering, the reason I used the above image is because I wanted to see if anyone noticed the corgi in a lobster costume someone photoshopped in.
This was not a huge week as far as comic books go. Thank god, because my wallet needed a break after the companies seemingly unleashed every major title in their arsenal on me last week, a volley I was not prepared with and was nearly washed away by. This week however, we got a different sort of approach. A few books came out that I was downright looking forward to, and some new titles launched that I was able to pick up because the rest of the week was so slim. Touche marketing department, touche.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #630 2.99
ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN WOLVERINE #1 3.99
BATMAN AND ROBIN #12 2.99
BOYS #42 (MR) 2.99
BRIGHTEST DAY #1 2.99
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #35 TWILIGHT PT 4 (OF 4) 2.99
IZOMBIE #1 (MR) 1.00
JSA ALL STARS #6 3.99
MANY LOVES OF AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 3.99
RED ROBIN #12 2.99
SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN TP VOL 07 (C: 0-1-2) 19.99
SECRET SIX #21 2.99
SUPERMAN WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #1 (OF 4) 2.99
UNCANNY X-MEN #524 XSC 2.99
WALKING DEAD HC VOL 05 (C: 0-1-2) 34.99
It took a lot of willpower not to throw aside this week’s books and just read Walking Dead, as I’ve been waiting for that book since…well, for-fucking-ever. But you people need to know what I thought about Brightest Day, so I have restrained myself.
I love Jason Aaron. I think he’s one of the fresher talents that Marvel has and I love that he’s getting more exposure. I think that he’s doing better work with the Punisher than Garth Ennis did in the last years of his run. If he can make the Punisher seem fresh, he might be some sort of genius. So obviously I was going to pick up this issue. In all honesty, the first issue is a slow burn that slightly turned me off of picking up the subsequent issues. In a six issue miniseries, decompression can be a killer and this issue is fairly decompressed. There is great effort taken to establish the world that these two characters now occupy, a world at the dawn of time with giant spiders and neanderthals who think Wolverine is their god. The narration by Parker and Logan is very much in line with the characters but it seems very roundabout at times.
If there is one saving grace for this book it is that the final page begs the reader to return for issue two. Jason Aaron realizes that the previous content of the book was indeed a very slow, methodical setup for a killer finale and the reader can’t help but jump on board. Unless they just don’t like comics that rock harder than Judas Priest on a Wednesday.
I didn’t like Brightest Day # . This is well documented. I think that’s because Aquaman didn’t summon an undead Kraken to kill pedophile pirates in that particular issue. Yes, you just read that sentence. Geoff Johns is turning into some sort of mad scientist with a pen. I would love to see him write a Lex Luthor mini-seri at this point, because I’m pretty damn sure that Johns is bordering on that level of insane right about now. I’m pretty sure the pressure of his time at DC has melted his brain down to the point that he watched the scene from Megashark vs. Giant Octopus where the shark jumps out of the water and chowed down on a flying airplane and thought “What if that shark was a zombie and the plane were a person?”
Geoff Johns is my hero, for all the wrong reasons.
Vertigo really knows how to sell a book. The dollar intro issues are just the sort of thing that Marvel and DC proper should be doing with their series. I might have passed on this series if it had started out with a higher cost on the cover. In fact, since the dollar intro series has started, I think I’ve picked up all of them. Joe the Barbarian, Unwritten, etc., I picked them all up because for such a price it’d be stupid to pass up what could be an amazing series.
iZombie could be one of those amazing series. It’s an interesting premise, as allVertigo books are, with the all the style that Mike Allred’s art style can provide. I spent much of the issue trying to second guess the narrative in finding out what the crux of the story was really about. When the reveal finally comes, the simplicity of it sort of smacks you in the face. The multiple genre crossing looks like it could make it a classic, and I’m going to give at least the first arc a full read.
This issue featured some great character moments. Especially from Wolverine. When was the last time we got some great character development out of Wolverine? Anyhow, the issue was essentially a breather issue. Where the action beats slow down long enough for the reader to catch his breath before they head into the final confrontation with Bastion and his minions. It’s obvious that this issue was basically a buffer; one where everything basically moves in slow motion. This issue was perfectly timed and really helped to drive home the importance of the crossover on both a small scale in how it affects the characters personally, in addition to the changes it will bring to the mutant community on a universal level for the months to come.
*Note: this post will be edited to include a review of War of the Supermen # 1 when I locate my copy. I think I may have left it at the shop. I have the dumb.
I actually arrived home from work yesterday to find a box full of manga on my front porch, which I really wish I could have read but I’m saving those little gems until after I’ve finished this week’s American output, which is what I’m primarily focused on reviewing here. I doubt there are many of you who read this blog who really give a damn about what commentary I could provide for Battle Vixens. I mean, it’s all panty shots and using fist-fights as an analog for sex, do you really need me to tell you to read it? I sure hope not.
AME COMI BATMAN VINYL STATUE 70
AME COMI ROBIN VINYL FIGURE 60
AREA 10 HC (MR) 19.99
BATMAN AND ROBIN #11 2.99
BOYS #41 (MR) 2.99
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #34 TWILIGHT PT 3 (OF 5) 2.99
DEADPOOL AND CABLE #25 3.99
DEADPOOL CORPS #1 3.99
INVINCIBLE RETURNS #1 3.99
JSA ALL STARS #5 3.99
RED ROBIN #11 2.99
SECRET SIX DEPTHS TP 14.99
SHIELD #1 (MARVEL) 3.99
SUPERMAN LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON #2 (OF 3) 3.99
SUPERMAN SECRET ORIGIN #5 (OF 6) (RES) 3.99
TURF #1 (MR) 2.99
UNCANNY X-MEN #523 XSC 2.99
WOLVERINE WEAPON X #12 3.99
WORLD WAR HULKS #1 WWHS 3.99
And here’s how that shit went down:
I’ll probably catch a lot of hell for this, but I don’t read Invincible on a monthly basis. I get the trades, and I’m admittedly even a bit behind on those, being a cheap bastard and picking them up only through deep discount sales and whatnot. This comes after I bought 4,5,7, and 8 at 1/2 price and then filled in the gaps through Amazon and local clearance bins. I still haven’t read anything after volume 10, so I missed the whole “Conquest” storyline that this mini-series seems to come out of. Luckily, the book fills in the blanks well enough that even with my barely involved knowlege of the story’s progression I was able to understand what had happened in the gap where my reading had ended and the new story began. That isn’t really that amazing a feat, I mean, in reality that should be something that is a given, but luckily it’s done in a way that I feel like when I do pick up my next trade, I won’t feel like the story was spoiled for me.
Basically, Invincible Returns works as a GREAT jumping on point for new readers. Yes, there is a lot of backstory to take in, but it’s weaved into the book through character moments that help new readers get to know the cast. Truly, Invincible Returns is a damned fine read for die-hards as well as the new folks who are looking to try out the character.
One thing I want to comment on is how amazing Ryan Ottley’s art has become over the years. Looking at the first trade of Invincible and comparing it to the art of Invincible Returns, the characters still have the same style and look, but the definition is improved a great deal. Ottley’s art is truly underappreciated. His style is a huge part of what makes the book so amazing, and this single issue is a GREAT showcase for his talent. The backup work by Cory Walker is damned fine as well. I admit his style is just a few degrees off Ottley and so at first parts of it just seemed…different. But still, he nailed the look and did an admirable job.
I fucking hate Jon Hickman. That guy is just too damned good. When Marvel finally caves in and lets this guy write a tentpole event for their entire company, you better hold on to your goddamn balls because he’s going to rock them off in ways you couldn’t imagine while mind-fucking your cerebral cortex at the same damned time. He’s currently writing the best Fantastic Four stories since Mark Waid and Wieringo left and he brings that same sense of otherworldly creativity to SHIELD, a book that sees Leonardo DaVinci creating a renaissance space-suit with wings and flying off into the cosmos.
This book is going to be one to watch. It might just be too good for the general comic-book fanboy crowd. It’s inevitably going to be called pretentious and slammed for overactive retconning, all the while ignoring how goddamn brilliant it is. This book is like touching Jesus’ beard; surreal and enlightening. Comic books were created for shit like this to exist.
I dunno. This single issue was so damned dense that I think it’ll take another few reads to fully understand what’s going on. I mean, obviously it’s set in the prohibition era and there’s a gang full of vampires who are trying to take over the other gangs’ turf but some of them want to remain faithful to their old-country traditions of vampirism. And there’s alien spaceships for some reason. I’m not entirely sure where this is all going to lead, I just know I’m down for it, because, let’s face it, anybody willing to go this far out there in order to tell the story is worth giving the benefit of the doubt.
The only complaint I have is that this book is CROWDED with text. This compounds the already muddy art in making the issue slightly hard to read simply on an aesthetic level. The interesting story makes up for it, but I won’t lie, it did give me a little bit of a headache to read. Maybe when I revisit the issue, knowing what to expect will lessen the blow. Then again, you might not have this problem at all.
You know, when the talent pool writing the color spectrum of Hulks doesn’t include Jeph Loeb, the absurdity of the concept seems to be diminished by the fact that the characters are written with a modicum of subtlety, thus creating an enjoyable story. Jeff Parker, who is probably best known for somehow making Agents of Atlas so damned amazing, writes some great stuff here for A-Bomb, who up until this point has a generic walking ball of who-gives-a-fuck. He also writes a pretty good little Deadpool segment, featuring Bob aka everyone’s favorite agent of Hydra.
The rest of the book is just as well done. We get some good development for Talbot, who with all the focus they’re giving lately seems to be a front runner for the inner identity of Rulk. The talent assembled on the book really runs with the mediocre material they’ve been handed thus far. Kudos to everyone involved there.
So that’s it for this week. If you’ll excuse me I’ve gotta read some really filthy manga. Until next time…