Tag Archives: comics-and-graphic-novels

#21: The Walking Dead, Compendium 1 (The Walking Dead #1-48) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn, Tony Moore

Spoilers.  Spoilers from the show.  Spoilers from the comic.

I’m not even going to try to make this anything but a huge pile of spoilers.

 

Walking Dead Compendium

I hate horror.

I hate horror movies.  I can’t stand the trailers for new ones.  Horror music?  Knock it the fuck off.

I hate scary TV shows.  Don’t want anything to do with them.

I can’t stand haunted houses and the few times I let myself be talked into going into one, I’d either bail after a few steps in and walk back out the front door or I’d grab the shirt of the person in front of me, close my eyes, press my face into their back and let them lead me.   Fuck haunted houses.

Zombies?  No.  One of the worst horror creations because they eat you alive and it could be someone you know.  The smell… I can’t even.  It might be a brand new zombie or one that’s been wandering around for who knows how long.  Fuck everything about that.

Walking Dead Season 4

I love The Walking Dead.

My husband had read the comics and when he heard AMC was creating the show, he was wicked excited.  Me?  Nope.  More than nope.  More like “Why?  Why would anyone DO that?”

He’d be watching in the other room while I was on the computer trying really hard not to listen to any sounds.

But then it got interesting.  The characters seemed cool and every single scene wasn’t a zombie biting off someone’s face.  I started wandering into the room, standing in the doorway, watching for a few minutes.  By episode four, I was very curious, but still not convinced.  Then season two started, Sophia disappeared, and I was in.

I didn’t want to read the comic because I liked being surprised and getting to know the characters through the show.  I knew the show had gone in a very different direction with the characters and the story, but I didn’t care.  I liked these people and didn’t want to know what could happen next.  My husband would point out from time to time if the book had a plot line that was more violent than what they did on the show and also that they changed the characters a lot and he liked what they did.

I got so into the show that I would watch in real time, complete with commercials because I didn’t want to wait for the DVR.  When season two ended, I was tempted to read the comic, but still didn’t want to.  Then season three ended and I waited a few months and here we are.

People might hate me for this, but I do not care: I like the show more than the comic.

Maybe if I had read the comic first, I might not feel this way, but I doubt it.  They have become are two completely different things and the creators of the show have done something amazing from the source material.  Robert Kirkman has been on The Talking Dead (congrats, Chris Hardwick!)  several times and seems incredibly happy with what has happened, even admitting that the show has done things that he’s pissed he didn’t think of first.  The writers are that good.

The simple reason I like the show more is the pacing.  Comic book writing is incredibly different from television writing and this makes sense.  Things need to move quickly in a comic.  Because of space limitations, the story needs to be tight and characters need to develop in the least amount of pages.  Ink cannot be wasted.  On the show though… amazing.  Shane’s arc alone is worth it.  In the comic he’s gone at the end of chapter one.  On the show they are able to really linger.  You see his jealously and madness building and building and his death scene?  Amazing.

I also think they’ve made good casting decisions for Carl and Sophie.  In the comic, Carl is a little kid.  On the show, not so much.  Yeah, if you look at season one Carl next to season four Carl of course Chandler Riggs has grown up, but we’re looking at this:
walking dead carl comiccompared to this:

Walking Dead Season 1 Carlwhich then turns into this:

Walking Dead Season 4 CarlI am both excited and terrified to see what will happen to Carl in the show.  My husband said things happen to him in the comic and this makes me want to stop reading it because I want to see what the show does first.  By the end of season three, it’s clear that he is on the path to Seriously Fucked Up.  At the end of Compendium One, he’s still a little kid, but one that has seen and done things that his little brain cannot really comprehend.  It’s been amazing to see how he has changed on the show and Chandler Riggs is one hell of an actor.

 

Walking Dead Merle and Daryl

They’ve made other excellent choices when it comes to changing characters and adding new ones.  Of course Merle and Daryl Dixon are the prime examples.  Guys aren’t even in the book and Daryl has become a fan favorite and women want to have his babies.

 

I am thrilled with how they changed Carol.  She’s a damned mess in the book but is amazing on the show.  Watching her character change has been a highlight of the entire series.

walking dead govenor comic

The Governor is another great choice.  In the comic he’s 100% creepy and violent and evil from the first moment we meet him.  On the show, he’s just as creepy, but it takes a little bit longer to develop.  Not much longer, but a little bit longer.  This makes sense though because he’s a character that so many people already knew about that it wasn’t worth dragging it out.  With Shane they could take their time to show him losing it.  

walking dead govenor

I’m not going to talk about Lori and Andrea because ugh.

Walking Dead Michonne CatWith other characters, they’ve stayed close to Robert Kirkman’s creation.  Michonne feels the same in both versions, with one big difference that is just starting to reveal itself in compendium one.  I love her character and before I read the comic, I was worried that they were fucking her up because of how much fans of the comic were freaking out.

And of course they are able to do things with the artwork that is absolutely incredible.Walking Dead Bicycile Girl Comic 1

Walking Dead Bicycle GirlThe special effects crew should be winning award after award for their work.

The comic is amazing.  The show is amazing.

I still hate horror.

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#15: Black Hole by Charles Burns

What the fuck did I just read?

If people want teens to stop having sex, this book should be mandatory reading and taught as TRUTH, just like that shit Go Ask Alice book.  It’s a TRUE STORY, kids.  No, wait… I need to apologize to Charles Burns for putting his book with that thing.  I should start over.

Black Hole is the story of the worst STD ever.  It’s 1970-something and teens are becoming mutants and no one seems to know what in the holy hell is going on.  The kids at school will suddenly notice someone has a… thing, and then that kid stops coming to school and no ones knows where they went and what happened.  The… thing seems to be different for everyone.  Webbed fingers, an extra mouth, a tail, and who knows what else.  The lucky ones can hide the disease but others have leave society.  There is no compassion or pity for the infected.  Once you are outed, life as you’ve lived it ends.

The story mainly focus on four stories.  Chris contracts the plague after sleeping with Rob.  She didn’t realize he was infected until it was too late.  She dreams of water and shedding her skin but doesn’t seem to realize what’s happening until one of her girlfriends tells her that her back is changing.  When we meet Rob, he’s already a mutant and is guilty and confused that Chris didn’t know.

Keith, who has been in love with Chris since forever, is shocked that she hooked up with a guy at a party.  He can’t comprehend how someone so clean is now infected.  When he meets Eliza, he is fascinated with her tail and at the thought of losing his virginity to such a mysterious woman.  This part was weird to me though because I couldn’t tell if he knew this was part of the plague.  Either he was so horny that he chose to ignore it, he didn’t understand it, or he is so nice that he doesn’t mind.  Keith is sweet and it’s possible he sees Eliza as a person and not a mutant, but it’s weird that he’s disgusted when he finds out about Chris but OK with Eliza.  Maybe it’s because he knows he has a chance with Eliza and only knew her as having the plague, so he didn’t lose his innocent crush version of her.

Things start to get harder for the mutants.  Chris has to leave home and moves into the mutant camp in the woods.  The infected teens with the most deformed bodies have found a place to hide and are taking care of each other the best they can.  There are people who will hurt them so they try to stay invisible.  Rob stays with Chris when he can, but since he can hide his mutation he’s able to stay in school and pass as normal.

And then someone starts murdering mutants.

The thing that bothered me the most about this book is that there are no parents.  Yeah, I’m totally fine with kids picking up a STD that makes them a mutant, but c’mon… where are the grown-ups?  However, this follows a lot of 1970’s teen fiction I’ve read.  Clearly this was a time when adults were doing their own thing and teens were free to get as fucked up as possible.

The artwork is beautiful.  The comic looks like it was done by woodcut.  It’s inky black with harsh lines.  Some of the pages look like Burns poured ink onto the page and worked out his visions in swirls.  It’s amazing.

It’s interesting to see how different people read into this book.  Some see it as a metaphor for AIDS.  Others say it’s a warning to teens against drugs and sex.  Others say it’s just any other regular teen age sexual awakening, except, you know, with tails.

My one complaint is that there’s no introduction of the plague.  I think I read the back of the book first which explains what happens, but in the comic itself, it’s just sort of there.  Because it’s told from the POV of teens who are already in the reality, they don’t stop to discuss what’s going on.  I wish there was an introduction of what happened before.

Woah!  Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary are writing this into a movie!  How in the fuck is that going to work???

#30: The Child Thief by Brom

I enjoy retold tales.  I think we all do.  Think back to when you were a kid and you wanted the same story night after night after night.  Those of you with kids know what happens when you try to rush a story by skipping a page.  We crave the familiar.  Folklore is full of motifs and we pick out those patterns that repeat in all the tales.  Three brothers and the youngest wins, wicked stepmothers, witches in disguise, princes and princesses needing to get married, magic shoes and more.

Retelling other people’s tales it a bit more tricky.  Get it right and you have Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.  It doesn’t try to replace L. Frank Baum but it creates an entirely new tale.  The second author has to be careful or they run the risk of seeming like a shameless hanger-on instead of a gifted author creating an homage to the original book.  The truly gifted author will not only pen that homage, they will create something new and wonderful and fantastic that it doesn’t need to stand with the original book to work.

Brom does this with The Child Thief.

Growing up, my Peter Pan was the green clad flying elf boy presented to me by Disney.  Wish hard enough and you can fly.  Girls are jealous of other girls, even if one of them is a tiny fairy.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I read J.M. Barrie’s book and saw a very different story.

Brom is fascinated with Peter and began asking himself what kind of a boy, or elf, or sprite, or wood-creature, would slip into our world and spirit children away?  And what happened to the extras?  One sentence in particular sent his mind spinning and he created a very different Peter.

This Peter hunts.  He finds children who desperately need a friend.  He sniffs out terror and anger and pain and shows up when the need is great.  And then he plays.  A few twists of a blade and his game ends with blood and a child who follows him because they have nothing else in their life to hold on to.  Peter brings them into his world, or at least tries to, and they become Devils.

The battle is coming.  War must be fought.  The Captain is waiting and Peter doesn’t have much time.

Nick gets caught up in Peter’s world.  He’s backed himself into a corner trying to break free from the drug dealers that have moved into his home and he finds himself running through Central Park, praying to get out before he’s killed.  Peter finds him and saves him and whisks him away.  It seems like Nick’s prayers are answered, but the more he learns of Peter’s world and Peter himself, the more he questions what’s happening.  The other children love and worship Peter, but Nick starts to wonder if anyone gets to leave.

He finds himself forced into the world of the Devils, but there’s something evil running through his blood.  No one is telling the full truth, he doesn’t know what’s going on, Peter is the only one who can get him home, but Peter is gone.

This book is violent and angry and heartbreaking.  Brom wonders where Peter came from and then creates a back story that is beautiful and painful and altogether new.  Why does Peter really refuse to grow up?  What are the lessons he learned as a baby and then later in the woods?

And the ending?  Perfect.  Brom stays true to his tale from the first word to the last period.  There’s nothing more frustrating than an author who tries to force characters into doing something so the ending will be a certain way.  Brom lets his characters do what they should do, not what someone might want them to do.  Satisfying doesn’t begin to describe it.

On top of his fantastic writing, Brom is an amazing artist and the book has absolutely gorgeous drawings at the beginning of each chapter with bonus full color plates in the middle.  The story on its own is a gift, but the added artwork makes it extraordinary.   It’s almost unfair that Brom gets to be so talented at art and writing.  But I forgive him because he shares his creations with us.

If you like dark writing, realistic YA and urban magic, get this.  And pick up a copy of The Plucker while you’re at the store or the library for more of Brom’s work.

#10 Little, Big by John Crowley; The Plucker by Brom

It’s rare that I don’t finish a book.  Even if I don’t like it, I’ll plod through to the end to see if it at least had a satisfying ending.  Or perhaps it gets so awful that I can go off on a rant that amuses me, if no one else.

I abandoned Little, Big.  538 pages.  I slogged my way through 209 and then I couldn’t do it any more.

Frustratingly, this is a book that I should like.  It’s all about folklore and I love folklore.  I love modern faerie tales.  I love when the faerie world crosses over into ours.

But I did not like this book.

The main reason I had to toss it was because there is no conflict.  Zero.  Nothing.  The main characters all know they are part of The Tale.  Things happen because they happen.  If you get upset…well, you can’t get upset because it’s part of The Tale.  Apparently the conflict is that there isn’t going to be any conflict.

A really serious thing happens between three of the characters.  It’s Really Serious.  Like someone should at least get punched in the head serious.  But it doesn’t happen.  The person who was wronged knows it’s part of The Tale and immediately begins to redefine her life with the new information.

Who does that?  Even the most enchanted princess is going to throw a hissy fit from time to time.

Maybe it gets better.  I just did not care.

Instead, I picked up The Plucker.

Oh my god, this book is good.  This is a faerie tale.  This is a bedtime story for fantastic young’uns.  This is a book that creeped me out just enough that I had to peek my eyes open a few times during the night, just to make sure…

Pixar didn’t invent the idea of toys coming to life when their child isn’t around.  We all knew this happened before Woody and Buzz showed up.

Our book starts with poor Jack being sent under the bed.  Thomas doesn’t want to play with him anymore, so out of sight he goes.  He is heartbroken, especially when the other toys shun him at night.  Thomas goes to sleep and they come out to play.  But Jack must stay away.

Until the Plucker shows up.

Thomas’ father brings a spirit warden back from Africa.  He thinks it will be a good protector for Thomas and keep the scary dreams away.  The problem is, he doesn’t know this spirit warden is actually made from a spirit and the spirit is evil.  And pissed.  The doll breaks open and the Plucker escapes.

Everything about this book is adventure and heroes.  Jack must decide if he’s worthy of the quest to save Thomas.  The other toys must decide if they will follow.  Jack is given gifts but questions if he can use them.  Will he ever be good enough?  Is Thomas even worth saving?  Why should he care about the other toys, even Angel.  Beautiful Angel.

Naughty language, amazing artwork, scary parts, voodoo and hoodoo… this isn’t for those prone to nightmares.

I loved it.

I’m glad I didn’t read it when I was 10.

#3: Fun Home – A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I enjoy reading memoirs.  I like reading someone else’s story and finding the universal connection between myself and a stranger.  Failing that, it’s nice to see if someone else’s life is more fucked up than mine.  A competition among strangers to see who gets the bigger laugh and the most pity.

Graphic memoirs are amazing because the author is choosing the images she wants you to see.  A sentence that I might pass over in text becomes impossible to miss because of the way the shadowing was done on the page or the angle of the bodies or the images in the background.  Less words are needed, so the ones that are chosen have more importance.

Of course this doesn’t work if I don’t like the art work.  If the story sucks but the art is my style, I can slog through.  If the story is great but I  hate the art, I’m probably not going to finish.

Luckily for me, Bechdel has an amazing story and I really like her drawing style.

Trying to summarize this story is giving me fits because of all the levels.  It’s a story of a girl growing up in a messed up family.  It’s a story of a Fun House – the funeral home owned by the Bechdel’s where the kids saw the bodies and helped set up for calling hours.  It’s a coming out story.  It’s a story where Bechdel learns about her father’s sexuality.  It’s a story of a child, then an adult, then an adult looking back at her childhood.  It’s the story of a miserable marriage.  It’s the story of OCD and transference and cognitive dissonance.

That last paragraph was a bitch to write because it’s not correct, even after I chopped it apart and rewrote it several times.  There’s a lot going on in these pages and it’s difficult to explain, but that’s OK because there’s a lot going on in Bechdel’s head that’s probably still difficult for her to explain.

I responded strongly to the ending.  I think most of us get to a point where we begin to view our parents as people.  As we get older we think of the decisions that our parents made in terms of how we would make them right now.  It changes the relationship and it’s hard to hold onto anger and grievances of your teenage self when your adult self suddenly understands.  But they’re still your parents and you’re still their child and the mix of kid and adult is confusing at best.  And your 12 year old self is still wicked pissed.

Bechdel does a beautiful job longing to and resiting the urge to reframe her father’s story into something she can relate to.  On the other hand, she does relate to parts of it, and that has to irritate the hell out of her younger self.

There are very few secrets in this book after the first few pages and the back and forth spirals work as Bechdel tries to untangle her life.  It wasn’t horrific, it wasn’t ideal, and it is hers.

#1: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt

I’m a big fan of Patton Oswalt.  I love his stand-up and his gamer geek on Reno 911.  The Comedians of Comedy is a great look into stand-up with a nice bit about comic book addiction thrown in.

Oswalt is smart and the cadences and rhythms of his stand-up translate nicely into Zombie Spaceship Wasteland.  He loves reading and he loves words and you can tell.

This book is a fun mix of memoir, fiction, humor, comics and much more.  There are comedic bits that probably wouldn’t work as part of a stand up routine but are wonderful in print.  I enjoyed the different genres throughout the book and how they all overlap to show who he is as a writer, comedian and regular person doing regular things.

Every generation has several defining moments.  I can only imagine what it was like before and after cars.  Before and after the interstate highway system.  Before and after the polio vaccine.  Before and after NASA.

Oswalt chooses his, which I’m also a part of:

Maybe that’s what makes my generation unique – the one that remembers before MTV and after…and then before the Internet and after.  The generation I see solidifying itself now?  They were born connected – plopped out into the late nineties, into the land of Everything That Ever Was Is Available from Now On.

I like that last bit.  We live in a country and a world where it is possible that everything will be available to everyone as long as they can get on the Internet.  What with the before and after be for the next generations?

A fun read with a nice mix.  I hope he will continue writing books and I need to pay more attention to the articles that he’s publishing in various media.  Luckily I have the Internet.