Best Shots Advance Reviews: SAGA, THE WALKING DEAD, More


Saga #12

Written by Brian K. Vaughan

Art by Fiona Staples

Lettering by Fonografiks

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

While Alana, Marko and their band of misfits have their own roster of people after them, the big baddie Prince Robot IV has been relatively quiet as of late. Saga #12 remedies that and puts him in the forefront of the issue, and in an almost Hans Landa-like role and takes back his rightful place the prominent antagonist.

We know that our heroes have been on the run, but we haven't had a Robot-centric issue in a while. With the main cast steadily growing to almost a dozen, a few issues here and there concentrating on other members rather than the big four (Alana, Marko, Izabel and Hazel) are sort of a necessity. An issue like this reminds me why Robot has to be the biggest jerk in the galaxy, among other things. Brian K. Vaughan expands Robot's desire for hunting down Alana and Marko, and gives a little insight of the politics of his world.

Usually, Saga doesn't lag when it comes to pacing, but here, it takes a minute to figure out what's going on. When Robot finally arrives at the planet Quietus to finally meet esteemed author D. Oswald Heist, the writer of Alana's romance book and considered the focal point of her and Marko's relationship, he gets more than he bargained for. What starts out as a simple discussion between men becomes a philosophical discussion of war and what it means to the men fighting them. Seeing how one of the main themes of Saga itself is war, it made even more sense reading it. It has one of better-written conversations between two characters in the series thus far, but not for what was said, but for what wasn't said, as well.

Artist Fiona Staples doesn't let up here either. While it's light on alien and strange visuals, her knack for being an artistic storyteller really comes into play here. It has to be sort of difficult to show Robot having emotions when his head is just a computer monitory, but she shows what he's doing and his reactions through solid body language. The tension is certainly there as Robot and Heist finally come blow to blow and of course, the stinger on the last page is always a good one.

Some fans might write off this issue as filler, but the content itself is what the series as a whole is all about. Sure, it doesn't have the same impact others might have had, but the message is still clear: Prince Robot is out for blood.


The Walking Dead #109

Written by Robert Kirkman

Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

Lettering by Russ Wooton

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The Walking Dead is a strange beast. Neither living nor dead, neither disaster epic nor fully-fledged soap opera, neither a comic book empire or a TV smash success, Robert Kirkman's hit series is a tough book to read on a month-to-month basis. It's hard to dock too many points from a comic as ruthlessly consistent as Walking Dead, but at the same time, it feels as though this series is less walking, less shambling, and more likely nearly standing completely still.

Part of that is Kirkman's M.O. It's always calm before the storm arrives, and part of the tension of The Walking Dead is the reader saying, "No, Rick! Why are you instigating another fight? Can't you just let things go and live in relative safety for awhile?" So listening to Rick, Michonne, Jesus and the rest secretly plot to kill the ruthless Negan. Kirkman manages to hook us, however, by injecting some personality to the proceedings, whether its Brianna and Maggie discussing mourning or Michonne struggling with whether or not to resume her violent ways.

But in certain ways, this is where the neverending cycle is most evident — Kirkman spends a lot of time having other characters give exposition, so we hear about Negan, we get the fact that Rick plans things without telling people... but that also means the story doesn't really go very far. Not only is there a lot of telling rather than showing — which winds up really going against the grain of a static, visual medium like comics — but it also slows the pacing down considerably by the less-than-economic pacing. By the time we're more-or-less caught up, we're already at the cliffhanger!

As far as the artwork goes, Charlie Adlard is still the unsung hero of The Walking Dead — but again, part of the reason he's so unsung is partially because of his unerring consistency... and partially because this talky script doesn't give him too much to strut his stuff with. To be fair, Adlard knows how to imbue a page with atmosphere and ambiance, and there is some decent acting here, particularly the discomfort on several people's faces when the village creeper Gregory oversteps some serious social boundaries or the nice father-son moment between Rick and Carl.

That said, for the most part, Adlard also feels more like the vehicle for the script and less like a co-pilot, sadly. It's been clear from the get-go that Walking Dead is an auteur's vision, but at the same time, it's too bad that Kirkman couldn't throw Adlard a few more bones in terms of interesting things to draw. On the one hand, these slow moments make the scary moments even scarier — it keeps us from becoming desensitized — but at the same time, on an issue-to-issue basis, it keeps things slow.

And that's what I think keeps The Walking Dead where it is. Slow pacing means that it's less intimidating to jump in, and the solid technique for character-building and design has remained more consistent here than any other book on the stands. That said, a month-to-month read winds up being a slim substitute for the meatier displays of violence and horror on AMC, leaving the comic book version of The Walking Dead a muscular narrative that only rarely bares its teeth.


Tomorrowland #1

Written by Paul Jenkins

Art by Stellar Labs

Published by Titan Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Every genre of music certainly has its plethora of fans. Whether you're not a fan of country or rap, or even gospel, there's plenty of evidence that those types of music reach a vast number of people. Techno/electronic music is no different, but does it deserve it's own comic starring two of the industries top DJs? That's a different story all together.

Tomorrowland #1 shares its name with the Belgian music festival that is expanding for the first time this year, arriving to Georgia of all places. But the comic concentrates of the misadventures of popular DJs Dimitri and Mike, two Belgian brothers based on DJs Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. The story plays out like a "Bill and Ted" lost episode, with the brothers sharing the same dream about a portal opening up during the concert and mystical creatures emerging. Also, a team consisting of persons of historical importance like Mozart, King Tut and Einstein, being led by Shakespeare.

Yeah. That happens.

Writer Paul Jenkins definitely has his work cut out for him here as he's trying to make these characters relateable, as well as give an idea about the festival for non-fans of the genre. The dialog is fine, but feels sort of sophomoric (like when Mike tells Dimitri, "Bro, seriously, your dream really bites arse.")  to what Jenkins is capable of. We get an idea of the the supposed villain and/or threat, but barely. It's a fun, silly concept, but the execution falls short of whatever he had in mind.

The real problem here is Stellar Labs' collective art. Part Humberto Ramos, part Amanda Conner, part one hell of a mess. Their style itself isn't horrible, but how it's laid out on the page is less than stellar. Every panel is just crammed with close up shots and no room to breathe or get a sense of the world as a whole. The last few pages especially are a mess, until the final splash where things calm down. The battle scene has one or two noticeable moments that deserve a slow clap, but that's being generous. That said, it's not every day you see a unicorn impaling a demon.

It's a shame really as their style could have really told a great story visually, but a lot the layouts just don't make sense. If they could learn a bit about crowd control, that could elevate the pages some, but that's if and only if. Fans of the festival might want to check this one out just for support, but even fans of Jenkins will more than likely steer clear.

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