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Oblivion Song #1 [Review]

oblivion_song_0001Writer/Creator: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Creator: Lorenzo De Felici
Colorist: Annalisa Leoni
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Associate Editor: Arielle Basich
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Cover: Lorenzo De Felici
Published by: Skybound Entertainment/Image Comics
Cover Date: March 2018
Cover Price: $3.99

Seeing some hype on this book ahead of time, when I saw it was "finally" out, I grabbed it to give this #1 a chance. I’m far from "wowed" with this, though there’s a bit of potential to it.

For the first 11 pages of the issue, the whole thing is basically some alien world with creatures that we have no idea what they are, some people that we don’t know who they are, we don’t know what’s going on, and as a comic book, I would expect a fair bit of dialogue or narration/captions to provide some exposition. Instead, it’s like something trying to be a storyboard or some other cinematic thing INSTEAD OF being a comic book.

Agh! Wha–?! Where?!

Huff! Huff! Huff!

Oh, crap.

No, no, no!

Oh, God!

Piece of junk…

C’mon… c’mon…

Work–damn you…

AHHH!

That would be sparse dialogue/word balloons for one page…but for 11 pages, that’s an average of a mere TWO words. Per PAGE.

Now, I count 23 more pages (several of which have similar quantities of dialogue), but that does put this issue at 34 pages, for "only" $3.99 compared to say, Marvel giving 20 pages for $3.99. So I suppose that makes up for this 11-page near-silent "prologue," though I’d almost expect something like that to have been a preview or prologue ISSUE or such with some other content–interview with the creators, some sketch pages, etc. and then the opening of a "regular" #1 to refer to it to remind a person there was content immediately preceding story-wise.

Essentially, over the course of this issue, we learn that some event happened in the past that shifted part of a city into some other dimension. While most have considered those people to be dead, there’s been cause for hope in some returning. We meet Nathan Crenshaw–who has some personally-developed tech allowing him to cross into that other dimension and with some sort of injection, return himself–and/or others–to Earth proper. He needs funding to be able to do this on a large scale, to thoroughly cover ground in the other dimension and rescue those that can be. He’s denied said funding, as we also come to learn that his primary motivation is rescuing his own brother. When he goes back for another go at finding him, we’re then introduced to some inhabitants/survivors of "Oblivion" including an individual certain to be crucial to the situation presented throughout the issue.

Story-wise, this issue does a fair bit of world-building, set-up, and introduction to the concept of the series. It definitely comes off as the pilot episode to a new series…even having the aforementioned cinematic feel that came off to me as counter to the purpose/point of being depicted on the page of a comic book. The scene might play well as live action, but for a comic book, I did not care for it at all–ESPECIALLY as THE opening sequence of a brand-new series.

That said, this is Robert Kirkman, who brings us The Walking Dead, and seeing as that series has run over 150 issues, there’s a lot more to go on from that series than this for now. Everything has to "start somewhere" and this being a whole different story, whole different world, and so on, there’s no context for "shorthanding" anything to convey more than what’s actually given. We’re only able to go on exactly what Kirkman gives us to figure out this world.

Visually, I have no complaint outside of just having zero context for the creatures of Oblivion and being tossed in to try to interpret what I’m seeing with no idea what I’m supposed to be looking at. The art in and of itself is good, and for the depiction of the people in the story and no point of comparison, it just works for me as "a comic book’s art." I imagine I’d have more to say for a subsequent issue, at least in terms of whether or not it stays consistent or such. I’m also glad that as short as much of the issue is on dialogue/words, at least there weren’t double-page "splash pages" to breeze by with but a glance.

This is an extra-length issue, based on assumption of 20-22 pages being a standard-length issue for $3.99; I would not expect so many pages in later issues (though would not mind them!) and would expect the extra pages made up for and allowed for the extended "silent" scenes. I’m curious to see what/how this develops, and on the strength of The Walking Dead would be inclined to give this series a shot. Of course, as with most comics and virtually all "indy" titles, I suspect I’d personally enjoy this more by waiting for a collected edition.

If you can find this for cover price (and not some jacked-up "speculator price") and enjoy Kirkman‘s work in general, I’d encourage picking this up to try for yourself and see how it comes off to you. As long as I’m not duped or otherwise vexed by a variant cover in the meantime or at point of sale, I’ll probably check out the next issue before I decide for sure if I’ll pass on the single issues and wait for a trade. Assuming this would get a "$9.99 Volume One," even getting the first couple issues AND a trade, it’ll cost about the same. That said, I’m not particularly "impressed" with this, and leave it as a more "passive" recommendation than anything "active."

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Invincible #144 [Review]

invincible_0144The End of All Things (part twelve of twelve)

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Pencilers: Ryan Ottley, Cory Walker
Inkers: Cory Walker, Mark Morales
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Covers: Ryan Otley, Cory Walker, Nathan Fairbairn
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $5.99

I’ve read relatively few issues of Invincible over the years. Off the top of my head, I remember reading some sort of #0 issue when the main series was in its 20s on numbering. Whether I read them or not, I remember when Invincible guest-starred in a couple of Marvel issues Kirkman was writing. I want to say I read #50 or so, and I remember the one-issue-summer-crossover-event Invincible War thing. I have the first paperback of the series, and recall getting the first couple hardcovers to read from a library. And at one point, I had the title on my pull list, though that didn’t wind up lasting terribly long. Without digging all that deeply, I’ve previously covered several issues:

And now it’s been a number of years since the last time I read an issue, consciously–I believe there was a 25-cent issue last year that I got but do not recall reading. So offhand, it’s been more than 1/3 of the series since the last I read, and here I went and bought the last issue, and read the last issue. The final issue "ever," until some follow-up special or mini-series or such is done.

I don’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I knew I was buying the final issue, that it comes at the end of the series, the end of a 12-part story, etc.

Needless to say…spoilers ahead!

spoiler_warning_transparent

Again, I have NOT read the previous 11 chapters of The End of All Things.

This issue picks up with Mark Grayson–Invincible–telling his son about where he comes from. The sense of deja vu that I got reading this makes me almost certain it is a recreation of a scene from the first issue of the series, as Nolan told Mark about himself and such. A fitting bookend sort of scene. We find that Mark is leaving, and Markus–his son–will be remaining on Earth with Scott, a character I’m not familiar with, but suspect was a fairly major character around #100, and apparently Markus’ acting father, or "real dad." Mark himself is now leader of the Viltrumites, and is leading them off into space to a new sort of greatness–as a peaceful people, rather than a warring empire of domination and conquest. And then the bulk of the issue is vignettes of the years that follow–as we see moments from the various characters’ lives, defining incidents, etc. Mark and his daughter visiting Earth, Markus getting his costume, incidents in space, a revelation about Mark’s wife, and finally, a reflective moment as Mark looks out upon the peace that he has led.

This is definitely a final issue sort of thing. It feels more like an epilogue…but then, an epilogue is still part of the story, so, we’re getting into stupid little technicalities there. In part through the use of the slice of life/vignettes, I suspect a number of lingering plot threads were dealt with, albeit over my head as of this first reading, addressing probable concerns such as Mark’s son, what Markus’ life might be like and if he’d follow in Invincible’s footsteps; and of course we see a number of things play out in broad strokes. In some ways, this seems to offer answers long-term and by covering so many years (centuries?) it effectively lays to rest the story as a whole. Maybe there’ll be other Invincible content or revisitations in years to come, but the broad strokes have been established; we see where everyone ENDS UP, even if we don’t have the page by page issue or story-length details.

I’m sure this is not nearly as satisfying for me as it would be if I was a lot more invested in things, if I had read more of the series and more recently. That said, I really like the way it ended, doing all this–while it gives me some idea of a handful of characters that survive, and some idea of those who don’t, and broad strokes of where things wind up, it also intrigues me–makes me want to find out the details, to go back and get to read the entire series from the start, all the way through. Even if I obtain the compendium volumes–and I suspect 3 of those would get the whole series, possibly with room for spinoffs–I have no idea when I’d actually get around to such an undertaking.

That Invincible gets to end like this–on the creators’ terms, that it gets an ending on their timing, and it becomes a "finite story," I think makes it a lot stronger in some ways, and as long as the series as a whole is kept in print, it will be interesting to see how it lasts, and what sort of fans come in "after the fact," that jump into it knowing/seeing it to be a finite story instead of just another indefinite ongoing series without end.

I’m not thrilled with high priced single issues, and this was $5.99 with multiple covers. I’m not even sure if I got the "main cover" or not, so I’m a bit less thrilled with that. But assuming I did succeed on that front, and given the extra length of this issue AND that it IS a final issue, a finale, a sendoff…I’ll give it a lot more leeway for a one-time "incident" of high pricing, as it’s definitely double-length, so at least justifies its cost.

The story is solid, as said, and seems to wrap up numerous plot threads and the like. Visually, this shares art by the two artists associated with the series, which is a nice touch, giving both a chance to handle this final issue.

All in all, I enjoyed the issue, I’m glad I got it, I’m not overly troubled by the price (only the use of variant covers), and would certainly recommend this to anyone already following the final story. It may be worthwhile also for you if you’ve read the series here and there, TO see where things have wound up and where they go. Yet, as a #144, if you’ve never read the series, this is hardly the place to start.

I wouldn’t consider this a masterpiece, but it seems like a solid wrap-up to a series, and caps off the series well while transforming it into something it would never be able to be as an indeterminate-length ongoing series.

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East of West vol. 1 [Review]

eastofwestvol1Volume One

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Published by: Image
Cover Price: $9.99
Collects: East of West #s 1-5

I’m not a fan of Hickman…I’ve been more turned-off by his work than I’ve been impressed. I didn’t enjoy his Shield (I never even managed to finish the first issue); couldn’t get into his Fantastic Four, was actively turned off by his Avengers. So by rights I should have left this volume on the shelf. But, it’s a healthy-sized 5-issue volume…and only $9.99 cover price. Which is the “sweet spot” for me…especially as that’s a bargain whether the single issues were $2.99 or $3.99 originally…and just as I’ll check out pretty much anything at $1/under, I have little problem trying the first volume of a series for $10 or so.

I noticed the chapter-heading pages pretty quickly, which I’d also noticed in Infinity #1, so that was a stylistic thing for me immediately. Not quite the sort of thing I enjoy with Quantum and Woody, but this being its own thing, I found it a little more fitting than I did IN Infinity. Otherwise, visually, this had a different feel than I’m used to and I could almost see this being all silhouettes for the characters. The color palette is definitely not what I’m used to, but for this particular story–not being something I already knew, or involving super-heroes–it works very well and I like it. I also like the quasi-“Western” sense I got from it.

Story-wise, I’ve long since read Gaiman‘s Sandman, which to me has the definitive take on the personification of Death. However, here Death is brought in as one of the Four Horsemen rather than “just” the embodiment of an abstract, so it’s a bit different, and works. Reading this, I wasn’t looking to analyze or dig deep; and it being Hickman I expected to have a sense of high-brow pretentiousness to things; and for this to be totally over my head. What I got was a followable story where Death had fallen in love, married, lost a child and his wife, discovers both to be alive yet and seeks them out. His wife’s less than thrilled at his return, and she has quite a bit of status as a woman who has conquered Death. Meanwhile, the other Horsemen are seeking to reunite with Death in order to usher in the end of the world. I mentioned above getting a sense of a quasi-“Western” from the visuals; the story seems a mix of things, and actually put me somewhat in mind of Stephen King‘s The Gunslinger, which is a credit to East of West.

Given my being able to read this as a larger chunk–5 issues’ worth of story–I rather enjoyed the volume. I couldn’t quite identify the end/beginning of issues because of the chapter breaks’ pages, and I am relatively certain I would have hated this as single issues; but as something I knew nothing about and so had no real expectations for going in, I enjoyed it. (I think this is the first I’ve actually enjoyed Hickman’s work in general.) $14.95–the “regular price” for a volume this size, these days–will be a much more significant investment and “risk” for me for the next volume…but having read the first volume now, my picking up vol. 2 in a few months won’t be out-of-the question as it would have been before.

This is no Sandman or Gunslinger…but for the price, a pretty good volume. I probably wouldn’t specifically seek it out, but for the $9.99, it having been right there and my having the money to spend at the time, it was worthwhile and I’m definitely glad I picked it up. If you’re a fan of Hickman in general, you’ll probably enjoy this; and if you’re a fan of Sandman, the Gunslinger books, or a mix of Western/dystopian future/etc. this might tickle your fancy. And whether you typically enjoy this type of fare or not…I’d say that cover price makes for a solid bargain for just checking it out (Especially compared to most volumes…particularly as this is less than half the price of a 5-issue Marvel premiere edition.

The Walking Dead #100 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

The Walking Dead #96 [Review]

A Larger World (Conclusion)

Creator, Writer: Robert Kirkman
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Penciler, Inker, Cover: Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones, Cover Colors: Cliff Rathburn
Editor: Sina Grace
Published by: Image Comics

Rick and “our” survivors get a taste of this other facility where so many live, and have their own perspectives on the whole thing. While they’re learning about the situation in general, Rick finds himself in position to make a deal for long-term survival, though his friends aren’t entirely thrilled with it.

Story-wise, not a bad issue. I hardly remember the last issue, so surely lost something in between that and this. As story conclusions go, this is a bit less thrilling than some, so a bit of a let-down…but it sets things up for other stories to come, and the run-up to #100 (which by usual 6-issue arcs will kick off the 2nd half of the next arc).

Visually, nothing new or shocking, really…the art’s one of the most consistent things about this comic (actually, same can be said for the writing).

Frankly, this is no jump-on point…but it’s the latest issue of The Walking Dead, and it’s not bad.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

The Walking Dead #55 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good

Rick faces his past while Glenn faces the future.

walkingdead055Creator, Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler, Inker, Cover: Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones, Cover Colors: Cliff Rathburn
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Aubrey Sitterson
Publisher: Image Comics

We open on a flashback scene–Carl races toward the street with Rick in pursuit–yanking his son away from the street as a car zips by. As Rick talks to Lori, she transforms into a zombie and rips him apart…while he stays put and takes it, feeling he deserves it…and then he wakes. The nightmare prompts Rick to take Watch rather than wake his son, and we get to see a bit more of his coping mechanism in dealing with recent losses.

This is yet another very character-driven issue; a slice-of-life to which we actually have 54 issues’ worth of context. The writing is just where it needs to be–consistent, believable (given the zombie apocalypse that makes up the environment our characters find themselves in), and no real problems. Kirkman doesn’t let things get stale, though–the issue’s end suggests that these characters’ status is far from “quo.”

As the writing remains consistent and believable, so too does the art. No problems here; the art team keeps a nice, consistent style that fits well with the writing.

While it’s probably not “ideal” to jump into a series 55 issues in, this issue kicks off the next six-issue arc, and as such is about as good a point as any to jump into the deep pond if you’re up for some swimmin’. The final page will have an impact on long-time readers, and might just hook a newer reader into staying around to see what happens.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

The Walking Dead #54 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good

Rick & Co. interact with newcomers/survivors who claim to know what caused the outbreak of the walking dead.

walkingdead054Creator, Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler, Inker, Cover: Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones, Cover Colors: Cliff Rathburn
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics

After last issue’s cliffhanger suggesting revelation this issue, we begin the issue with the follow-up: one of the new-comers indeed has knowledge as to what caused the plague of the walking dead. But he needs to get to Washington to deliver said classified knowledge. The two groups of survivors clash over this as well as what to do with the immediate future, driving to the issue’s conclusion…which promises more change.

The story here is as always top-notch. After the last couple arcs really driving home the idea that no one is safe and strangers bring disaster, this issue plays with those expectations a bit, making me feel that it is that much more realistic–it’s certainly a great read as part of the ongoing story! Even though we don’t get to know a whole lot about the newcomers, there’s just enough there that I’m interested, and want to find out more about them and how they’ll play into the ongoing narrative. There’s a consistency–in character portrayal, as well as character growth based on recent/prior events that adds to the strength of the issue.

The art–also as always, top notch–keeps a dark mood on these characters with lots of shadow really conveying how dark a point many of the characters have reached. I have no complaint visually–this simply is The Walking Dead, recognizable in style if not specific characters.

This is the tail-end of the 6-issue TPB cycle, so not really the greatest point to jump on…though if you don’t want to start at the very beginning, this arc is certainly a good point to jump on-board. I see no reason for long-term/continuing readers to pass on this issue.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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