Welcome to The Round-Up, Kabooooom’s all-new comic book review column! This week, our writers tackle a few indie books and THE BEST-SELLING COMIC OF THE 21st CENTURY, The Walking Dead #100.
We kick things off with Forrest Helvie’s take on Conan the Barbarian #6.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #6 / Written by BRIAN WOOD / Art by JAMES HARREN / Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
Review by FORREST HELVIE
Faithful readers of Brian Wood’s tenure on Conan the Barbarian will no doubt continue to find Issue #6 as satisfying as the previous issues. The plot to plunder Messantia reaches its resolution as Conan seeks to reunite with Bêlit on The Tigress following his near-execution. In addition to wreaking havoc on the citizens of the wealthy city, Wood continues plumbing the depths of the Cimmerian’s psyche and emotions. While more purist Howard fans might take umbrage with the license Wood takes in his adaptation of the source material, I find Conan’s continued doubt and questioning of Bêlit’s faithfulness to him thoroughly engaging.
As I’ve suggested in previous reviews, it is more interesting to see an imperfect Conan who lunges into battle as heads fly while still unsure of his ability to capture and keep the attentions of his beloved queen. Additionally, Bêlit provides an interesting counterpart to Conan as she reflects many of his own characteristics: both are forces of destruction, in addition to exemplifying romantic notions of freedom from the mundane day-to-day life. However, her position as an internationally infamous pirate elevates her above the young barbarian’s position as a more domestic outlaw, of sorts, and makes her to be a sort of model for Conan in addition to being his lover. Perhaps seeing a psychologically complicated, emotionally dependent Conan subjugated to a powerful female character is more than some readers are comfortable with seeing? Yet, it is a mutual relationship as we see that despite Bêlit’s saving Conan in Issue #5, it is he who rescues his queen in Issue #6.
For those reading Conan the Barbarian and finding it an enjoyable read, you’ll find Issue #6 no exception to the rule. The “Argos Deception” was a success both in and out of the book for this reviewer.
THE WALKING DEAD#100 / Written by ROBERT KIRKMAN / Art by CHARLIE ADLARD / Published by IMAGE COMICS
Review by SARAH MORAN
You’ve read The Walking Dead 100, right? If not, stop now, there’s no way to avoid discussing certain events from this milestone of an issue. They are simply too important, too shocking to gloss over. An issue of this magnitude within a series that has already set itself apart is a true testament to the series’ strength. Robert Kirkman still manages to surprise us, to lure us into a feeling of security only to force us to watch it implode.
From the beginning you could sense something big would go down, but with Rick and Michonne on a trip to the Hilltop leaving only Andrea to protect everyone from Negan’s gang we know are lurking nearby, I was convinced it’d be another showdown at home not horror on the road. And the fact that it’s Glen who’s murdered should have been so obvious, but because of our unwillingness to accept such a ghastly truth and Kirkman’s brilliant and subtle misdirection, it was unbelievable even as I watched it unfold on the page. It was horrifying, gruesome, heartbreaking thanks to Adlard’s amazing artwork. You don’t want to consider a brutal murder beautiful, but in a way, it was.
Much of #100 is a monologue from Negan, and the way he’s written, the smugness in his words, his voice is so clear in my head it’s terrifying. His expressions, his reactions, there’s a very clear picture of Negan painted on these pages, in words and art, and he’s going to rival the Governor in his ferocity. After The Walking Dead #100, the future is very unclear. We are left with no hint of the future, of what Rick will do next, and that sense of the true unknown is a refreshing and awesome way to celebrate a series’ 100th issue.
ALABASTER: WOLVES #4 / Written by CAITLIN R. KIERNAN / Art by STEVE LIEBER / Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
Review by FORREST HELVIE
Here’s the bottom line on Alabaster: Wolves Issue #4: if you’ve been reading since issue #1, then you’ll need to read Maisie’s story. In fact, I’d recommend going back and rereading issue #1 a second time before reading this issue to truly appreciate the character’s backstory all the more.
It’s easy to dismiss Maisie in the first issue as a simple antagonist who needs to be dispatched by the young heroine. This issue, however, allows us to see her in a more human, and tragic light. Kiernan and Lieber present a world that is anything but black and white—even if the coloring of the world and its inhabitants suggest otherwise. Dancy is a stark white, and yet, she is not a completely pure and undamaged heroine. Maisie was a devilish werewolf—now ghost—dressed in black; however, her past experience and present actions speak to a victim who is rising above her tragedy to help another. It’s hard not to see where this makes for a dynamic and nuanced rendition of the good guy-bad guy relationship.
If you haven’t started reading Alabaster: Wolves yet, this story won’t make much sense for you as it’s a building block story for the mini-series. But don’t let that get in the way. Just be sure you pick up issue #s 1-3 along with #4 and listen to some solid tunes as you read this series. For Issue #4, I went with Amy Lee’s version of “Sally’s Song.” I’ll let Caitlin and Steve decide whether I made the right call.
Bad Medicine #3 / Written by NUNZIO DeFILIPPIS & CHRISTINA WEIR / Art by CHRISTOPHER MITTEN / Published by ONI PRESS
Review by ERIK RADVON
This book reads like the best X-Files episode never made. Substitute Agent Mulder for Doctor Horne, a dreadlocked, bespectacled, slightly mystical sawbones who searches for medical explanations to unexplainably arcane legends. Playing Horne’s “Scully” is Detective Huffman, a no-nonsense NYPD cop fresh off the mean streets of Brooklyn. Together, they form the core of a C.D.C. task force charged with investigating cases too weird for the normal staff. There’s no shortage of procedural chatter in this issue, and a few too many “doctor, doctor” introductions, but on the whole Bad Medicine makes for an interesting read. The characters come off as realistic and remarkably well-defined after just a few pages. Horne has an undercurrent of intrigue about him, a sort of quiet reserve that begs for more exposition. Huffman is tough and doesn’t suffer fools. Readers will be rooting to see her unhinge from protocol and just start kicking ass. She’s a blonde bombshell, but channels something akin to Bruce Willis.
Chris Mitten’s art is very easy on the eyes, and even makes some of the duller cop show style beats enjoyable to scan. A supernatural beast is highlighted early on in the issue, to which a character exclaims “Holy Shit!” Readers may do the same. Mitten gives his lycan a tangible physicality, and leaves no doubt that this thing could dig into someone’s jugular with the same gusto as a stoner at the Taco Bell drive through.
Bad Medicine #3 features solid art and dispenses a healthy dose of originality, despite playing in the well-tread supernatural genre. This is a trip to the doctor worth taking.