Surprised: I didn’t expect to like World War Z at all. I’m not even sure why. I like Brooks’ parents, so that shouldn’t have negatively impacted my expectations. I’ve loved Zombies since first I saw Return of the Living Dead in the movie theatre, so I was predisposed to like this book. So I dunno. But I had low expectations, and they were thoroughly exceeded.
It is a great idea, and Brooks’ total commitment to his mock history was convincing. There were times when I couldn’t help letting my imagination run to a parallel universe where this War had actually happened.
The best part, though, was the places Brooks took his Zombiepocalypse – places only The Walking Dead has even approached. Most Zombielit is about the outbreak. The Walking Dead takes the next step, letting us see what it would be like to be a survivor of the outbreak, what it would be like to live during the Zombie occupation, but Brooks gives us the aftermath. How he hell does the earth rebuild after something like that? Brooks takes a pretty convincing stab at imagining how, and it isn’t pretty, nor is it even all that inspiring. I buy it, though.
Fulfilled: My low expectations didn’t extend to the Zombie violence. Even with the oral history format, I expected gore and grotesquery and nastiness, and I got exactly what I expected. There were even a couple of kick ass violent – and not so violent – superlatives, like the marine-Zombies attacking divers, the madness of Yonkers (a pretty impressive moment, actually), the greed of Breckenridge Scott and his Phalanx, and the Redeker Plan (along with the Redeker Twist – which was my absolute favourite part of the book).
Disappointed: Once Brooks blew apart my low expectations with some strong writing and brilliant ideas, he created a new expectation – and a very high one that he failed to deliver on.
Brooks attempted to make his book a global chronicle of the Zombie War, and he populated World War Z with characters from nations on every continent. By the end of the book, though, they were homogenous. The Japanese folks didn’t sound Japanese. The Russian folks didn’t sound Russian. Everyone sounded American. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Brooks gave in to the temptation to make America and their “great” President the saviours of the human spirit. Yep, the Yankees led the charge to defeat the Zombies, to take the war to the Zacks rather than hiding in their fortresses and embracing safety.
We bought an antique piano today, and we were comparing middle C on our dreadfully out of tune piano and our electronic keyboard. The warbling shred of the antique piano made the kids sad because they wanted to sit down and play, but they knew they couldn’t until the piano is tuned. That sadness is exactly the way I felt about Brooks’ decision to make the USA the heroes of his War, but there’ll be no chance of a tune up to take away my sadness. (less)
Our crew of survivors are still hanging out in the prison, and time goes by -- for the characters -- rather quickly. Some shit happens: Lori give birth to Judith; Dale loses his foot (the first successful amputation of a Zombie infected limb) and starts to suspect Andrea and Tyreese or bumping uglies; Glen and Maggie decide to start making their own babies; Carol ends her whinging with a Zombie embrace (such a cool way to go in Zombie world); and a bunch of our Survivors raid a National Guard base for gas, guns and ammo and a Wal-Mart for canned goods.
Then they wander around and pontificate while eating Herschel's fresh produce; or they practice shooting the Roamers while convincing themselves that the Governor and the folks of Woodbury will surely leave them alone; or they descend a little further into madness. But for the reader this is all slow, slow going.
Which is probably good because this installment ends with the Governor riding in, one-armed, on a tank with his own little battalion of humans to take over the prison. I think we needed this break, boring though it is, before we are Made to Suffer. I hope it all picks up again, though, because I've not been a fan of the last 10 issues. Maybe the death of the Governor, if that's what's coming, will perk me up.(less)
There is a redress going on in modern popular culture with which I am fascinated. Rape tales, tales of torturing women, tales of violence against wome...moreThere is a redress going on in modern popular culture with which I am fascinated. Rape tales, tales of torturing women, tales of violence against women have been told for years with graphic detail. Many of these tales have been saying (either explicitly or implicitly) that these brands of violence are wrong or even evil, but many of them still offer up the vision of this violence to illustrate the wrongs and evils.
Now a redress has come, and we have Lisbeth Salander avenging herself on her tormentor, and The Walking Dead's Michonne brutalising her brutalizer. It's the latter I am concerned with here.
The extended sequence of Michonne's revenge is, perhaps, the most disturbing thing I've seen since I read the Habitrail sequence in American Psycho (though it is still a shade behind). It is an illustrated torture session with most of the tortures happening right there in front of us, happening "on camera." There is a genital mutilation, an anal rape with a spoon, power drilling, pliers ripping parts away from the Governor's body, an amputation and cauterization, a half-blinding. It is up there with the killings of Patrick Bateman for sheer brutality, but it was perpetrated by a woman wronged, not a man doing the wronging, and it would be awfully hard to suggest (and I am not) that the Governor didn't deserve what he got.
But even though the Governor deserved it, I am not sure that showing us images of Michonne's vengeance does anything to really redress the injustices of the past. I imagine that is the reason we accept such images today -- the hope or possibility of redress.
I am not angry at Kirkman for showing Michonne's vengeance. I don't even really know what I am trying to say. I think American Psycho is a masterpiece, and I appreciate Stieg Larsson's books, and what Michonne did is precisely what her character -- as offered to us -- would do. And I would defend any author's right to self-expression, even in cases of brutality. I guess it is just that what I got from Robert Kirkman here was totally unexpected. I expected ultra-violence on Zombies, former humans shambling about in a state of perma-rot, not ultra-violence on humans by humans. But then why should I be okay watching brutal fantasy creatures be brutalized and not brutal humans being brutalized? Where th fuck do we draw the line? Can any violence stop so long as any violence is accepted and acceptable? Or do we need violence like we need air?
I dunno what to say about the brutality. I am just rambling now, so it's time to stop. But I will read on, even though the series has taken a much more serious turn than I ever expected. How on earth will they incorporate this into the TV series? I'm guessing it will all be off screen -- or most of it will.(less)
1. An epistle of my father Rick, written to me, Carl; and it was written unto me soon after my calling to the walking. And on this wise did he write unto me, saying:
2. My beloved son, Carl, I rejoice exceedingly that your beautiful cheating Mother hath been mindful of you, and hath called you to this earth to slay Zombies.
3. I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end.
4. And now, my son, I speak unto you concerning that which grieveth me exceedingly; for it grieveth me that there should Zombies rise amongst you.
5. For, if I have learned the truth, there have been Zombies amongst you since you were but a child.
6. And now, my son, I desire that ye should labor diligently, that this gross error should be removed from among you; for, for this intent I have written this epistle.
7. For immediately after I had learned of these Zombies I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, saying:
8. Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the only the righteous but all humans to repentance; the shambling need no physician, for they are undead; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are quick and harder to bite; wherefore the curse of Zombification is taken from them with a bullet to the brain, thus it hath no power over them; and the law of Zombie lobotomy my command.
9. And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should fail to lobotomize Zombies.
10. Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach -- repentance and Zombie slaying unto those who are accountable and capable of carrying a weapon; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be slay the undead, and quicken themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
11. And their little children must slay as soon as they are able. Behold, Zombie slaying is fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of decay.
30. Farewell, my son, until I shall write unto you, or shall meet you again. Amen.(less)
The bloody, putrid, rotting corpse of soap opera goodness that is The Walking Dead graphic novels is in its full balls out glory in the third collecti...moreThe bloody, putrid, rotting corpse of soap opera goodness that is The Walking Dead graphic novels is in its full balls out glory in the third collection Safety Behind Bars.
Lori is pregnant with Shane's baby -- And in case you don't know, Shane is the former best friend of Rick, Lori's husband. Not only that, though, Lori and Rick's son Carl shot Shane dead. Not only that, though, Shane was buried after his death, and Rick realizes over the course of the story that Shane is probably zombified (more on this later), so he goes back, digs Shane up, and kills him again. Sweet.
It's not about being bitten anymore -- That's right. You don't have to die with a Zombie biting you to turn. All you need to do is die. You die, and you come back. How do we know? Chris and Julie (Tyreese's daughter) gave each other their virginity then enacted their suicide pact. As these things are wont to do, the suicide pact only resulted in Julie's death, and as soon as she died, with no zombies in sight, she was reanimated and trying to eat her grieving father's neck. Rick finishes her zombieness off, while Tyreese strangles his daughter's lover to death. What a meany!
Prisoners and Serial Killers -- It's not enough that our band of merry wanderers finds a prison and have to clear it out, but they also find a small cache of prisoners, still alive and eating meatloaf in the prison mess hall: a murderer (he killed his wife and her lover), a druggy drug dealer, an aging biker in prison for theft, and a white collar tax evader.
Next thing you know, heads -- and not zombie heads -- are literally rolling, and one of our prisoners is a serial killer. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
Love Connections Galore -- Andrea hooks up with Dale. Chris and Julie hook up pre-mortem. Tyreese and Carol keep their relationship going between mop up jobs. Glenn and Maggie get all romantic over a barber chair. Dexter and Andrew, former inmates, start to see their man love cool. And even little Carl hooks up with little Sophia. It's fun for all ages.
It's no wonder AMC's making it for the small screen. The melodrama suits TV perfectly.
What really keeps me reading, though, isn't all the silly shit -- which has its place and I do enjoy -- it's the constant shifting of ethical and moral attitudes as these people get deeper and deeper in to the Zombiepocalypse. Their ideas are constantly fluctuating; some of them talk a good game about retaining their humanity, then quickly blow it all in a moment of madness; they try to make laws to govern themselves and don't realize (at least most of them don't) that they've already been violated; the whole band of them are full of hypocrisy and selfishness and the baser human instincts, and the way it's being handled is definitely making the journey fun.
I don't know that all of this behavioural stuff can be sustained, but it is my favourite part of the graphic novels, no doubt about it. (less)
• The main idea of iZombie vol. 1 Dead to the World is a thing of beauty if you're a horror fan (especially if you dig zombies). Gwen dies, wakes up undead and discovers that she has to feast on a brain a month or become a shambling mass of rotting flesh with an insatiable appetite. She is not just cute, she's hot (as David pointed out in his review, this is a wonderful change from the zombies we're used to seeing), and she has to navigate our everyday world while fighting and feeding her hunger. The premise is gangbusters!
• At the back of the book, we're treated to a gallery of Michael Allred's beautiful black & white pencils. Most of them are potential covers for future issues, and they reveal a real depth before the colours are added. It's really a shame that they chose to colour iZombie at all
• Revenants. If you are a horror fan and don't know what this is, you're not really a horror fan. I'm not sure where they are taking this yet, and I am not convinced I like Chris Roberson's take on the Revenant, but the fact that it is there at all impresses the hell out of me.
• Mummies rock.
• The plot went in too many directions for me -- which is a symptom of the crappiest part of this book (see below) -- but when the story stays with Gwen's survival and out of the Diner, it is worth reading. I hope the second volume does a better job of sticking to what's good, but I know that's too much to ask. Whatever, I liked it enough to keep going, even with its faults.
• There's some pseudo-nudity that bothered me a bit. If the story had been more adult oriented, if it hadn't felt like a monster prequel to Friends, if its tone had been more Sookie than undead-Veronica Mars, I would have cheered on the sexuality and looked forward to more, but iZombie was too cute for that, and as long as it stays too cute any nudity is too much nudity. It just doesn't fit.
• I hated -- and I mean HATED -- most of the supporting characters. Wereterrier-boy, Sandra Dee Ghost-girl, the Asian geeks, the Vampire chicks, the Corporation Monster Hunters -- they all sucked the life out of the story. When things were focused on Gwen, things were great. I loved her digging up and eating brains. I loved her having to cope with the memories of the brains she's eaten. I loved her learning what she really is from Amon. I loved her whenever she was on her own. But when she was surrounded by her pack of idiot friends, it was like being stuck in a supernatural Riverdale High.
• I was not impressed with Laura Allred's colours. In fact, I think her colouring work wrecked Michael Allred's pencils. Compare and contrast the black and white work in the back with the glossy, fully coloured panels of the graphic novel. The depth and texture is suddenly missing, and it makes the M. Allred's drawings look like cheap, low-budget TV animation. Granted, there are some bits that her colours can't ruin, but most of it was ruined for me.
• I fucking hate Jughead and anything that reminds me of him! Have I mentioned that Gwen's friends are a pack of Riverdale rejects?(less)
I admit it: The Walking Dead descends into cheesy soap territory from time to time.
I admit it: some of Chris Adlard's art seems sloppy and rushed.
I admit it: the AMC series adapting this into something even better than its source material.
I admit it: I am a massive geek.
Every once in a while Kirkman hits a patch of dialogue, almost always at a critical character moment, that rings emotionally pitch perfect. Take this moment between our "hero," Rick (could he be any more annoyingly one dimensional?) and Herschel:
Rick: And you're keeping those ... THINGS in your barn -- on your property -- right next to where you sleep?
Herschel: Yeah, we're keeping them in the barn until we can figure out a way to help them. What have you been doing with them?
Rick: What do you think we've been doing with them? You said yourself they should be dead. Shooting them in the head fixes that. We've been killing them.
Herschel: Killing them?! You've just been killing them?!
Rick: We're putting them out of their misery ... We should go in that barn right now and shoot every GODDAMN one of them in the head. It's nto safe for them to be here! We need to kill them before they kill us.
Herschel: My SON is in there GOD DAMMIT!
I can feel how expected, how trite this seems, but I can also see someone doing something as stupid as Herschel does, and I can see it happening for that very reason, and at the heart it rings true for me. I love these moments. And I think it is why Kirkland's comic has lasted so long and become such a hit on TV. It resonates.
You know, the soapiness is just fine by me because it offers something that no other Zombie tale has ever offered -- potential longevity. Why is this important? Because all of the movies we see, most of the literature we see, are at the beginning of a Zombiepocalypse or an explosion of the undead. The Walking Dead started the same way, but the longer it runs the mroe fascinating it becomes. What does a Zombie infestation look like 6 months later? A year later? 5 years later? A decade? A Zombie soap opera can explore that, and it is right now as we speak.
Even though Aldard's art can be sloppy at time, he's penciled some absolute gems that stick with me from this second graphic novel. The best is the cover to issue # 9:
It's genius. It speaks for itself.
I am glad about the TV show's decision to keep Shane alive. I am glad that they went to the CDC. I am glad that they cut the gated community. I am glad that they've added side journeys, like the run for medical supplies in the episode "Bloodletting." AMC's crew is making good choices. I hope they keep it up.
If you're reading this review, you probably already know what a geek I am. So no surprise. I might have liked this more if it hadn't followed The Dark Phoenix Saga, so my apologies for those who love this installment of The Walking Dead. My standards are unfairly high at the moment.(less)
The best part of The Walking Dead is the art. It is some of the cleanest, most robust pencilling I've seen, and the decision to keep it in black and w...moreThe best part of The Walking Dead is the art. It is some of the cleanest, most robust pencilling I've seen, and the decision to keep it in black and white is solid. Black and white paradoxically keeps the gore quotient down by removing the vivid colours of death and decay, but it allows for great detail in the gore and nastiness that's present.
The okay part of The Walking Dead is the story. It borrows from most of the important Zombie movies you know and love (anything from Romero and a big chunk from 28 Days Later), and it adds some yucky stuff of its own. Then it throws it all together as a less compelling parallel to Lost. It's as though the Zombiepocalypse survivors were on Oceanic Flight 815 and they just happened to crash outside Atlanta rather than on some crazy island. And then they add to the bizarre mix of pulp culture references by throwing in Short Round (beware Indiana Jones geeks! They are everywhere, and much more insidious than your Trekkies or Star Wars fanboys).
The worst part of the The Walking Dead is its pace. Slow, boring, and not very tense. The AMC show does a much better job building up the tension.
Still, there's a nice twist at the end, and a solid cliffhanger. I will go on. For now. (less)
• The cover art by Stephen Youll is killer in a cheesy old movie way. So killer that it made me buy this book against my better judgement...moreThe Coolness—
• The cover art by Stephen Youll is killer in a cheesy old movie way. So killer that it made me buy this book against my better judgement. The Gill-man on the cover, looking like he’s just risen from the swamp, dripping water from his forearms with some aquatic flora hanging loose from his chitinous armour, is a hoot, and coupled with old B-movie, Creature font, it is impossible to resist.
• Cody and Brice are nude. A lot! That’s what happens, I guess, when you’re back in the Devonian with the one that you love and no society is around to tell you to keep your clothes on.
• Zombie Gill-men!
• There’s this kick ass burial ritual for the “civilized” Gill-men where they liquefy their dead and return them to The Mother. I would love to have seen this used better in a different context. But it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
• You can’t have a good novel without an issue to revolve around, or at least that’s what I imagine Hackosaurid di Filippo’s creative writing teacher telling him. So di Filippo does the responsible thing and throws in some environmentalism for us. The world’s a mess in 2015 because of of our destruction of the environment, so good ol’ boy Brice wants to splice us together with a Gill-man to save our species from the eventual destruction our industrialization has wrought. Don’t worry, though, there’s no crisis or craziness happening when Brice goes back. Just an increase in temperatures and air conditioning. This could have been an excellent addition if it had been handled with some subtlety, but Hackosaurids are not known for their subtlety. They’re more like T-Rexes trying to be stealthy.
• The stupidity of Cody and Brice was sorta funny to begin with, but then it just gets annoying. What a pair of idiots. Still, it’s really easy to buy their stupidity, so they deserve everything they get. But then the super-genius who created the time machine adds his stupidity to the mix, and the Gill-People are just as stupid as all of them, so the stupidity is interminable and painful.
• There is some really, and I mean REALLY, crappy wish fulfillment going on in this book. Case in point: “You own every part of me now, Brice, whether you ever wanted to or not. Don’t ever forget that.” You see, Cody was almost eaten by a seventy foot, prehistoric shark, but her geeky, marine biologist boyfriend, Brice just happen to nuke it from his kayak with a kick ass automatic rifle, saving her life. Then we get this little vow of personal enslavement, just before a crazy tumble in the bog between the two randy lovers, and all so Brice can daydream about the amazing foreplay that is a near death experience. Gill-man alive!
• AND there is some seriously shitty dialogue. Just consider this gem from Hackosaurid di Filippo when his heroes (and I use the term loosely), lose their iPod time machine and discover they’re stuck in the Devonian: “Brice showed Cody the empty holster on his hip. He tried to be light about their devastating loss. ‘Our ticket home’s been punched already. No mileage left.’” Umm ... need I say more?
• The Gill-folk are telepaths and water shapers and earth shapers and air shapers and aliens! Wow! Don’t you just love sci-fantasy? It’s like the cheesiest X-Men story ever.
• Gill-Folk = Noble Savages = Devonian Utopia. Then the Gill Zombies come and screw it all up. But the “base-line” Gill-People remain so nice and so understanding and soooooo peaceful. Oh joy, oh Devonian bliss. Silly assed foolishness.
• Most of the book. But at least it is better than The Spell of Zalanon. Barely. I better get a good pulpy fix soon our my head is going to explode. Trash is good, but vomit is unacceptable.(less)
1. The Zombies are from space! 2. Not all the uniforms are Trek. Can you say Princess Leia fighting zombies in her slave girl bikini?! 3. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Star Wars references abound, driving our captain, Jim Pike, crazy! 4. Serious, gory, Zombie slaying madness with seriously cool Trek weapons (remember Amok Time?)! 5. A Convention within a Convention on the Edge of Forever! 6. Nuclear Blasts that turn out to be fusion bombs that put an end to USA's sixth largest city! 7. Twists and turns and octopus hands! 8. Plenty o' death to plenty o' red shirts! 9. A Kirk style hero with some genuine military training for that added flavour of believability ;) 10. 35 exciting chapters named after the best Trek episodes you can remember :)
I expected the book to end with me smiling a little -- maybe more of a smirk -- and shaking my head over the 17 bucks I wasted. I didn't expect to love it. And I did. It started to drag for about two chapters at the end, but even that couldn't wipe away the brilliance of Night of the Living Trekkies.
I don't know that people will like this book if they aren't fans of at least Zombies or Trek, but if you're a fan of both this book is a photon torpedo. It's slick, action-packed, wittingly hits all the right notes and plays by the rules of its sources, and it is ready, this minute, to be turned into an excellent film. I hope it makes it to the big screen, but even if it doesn't, I'll be returning to Houston and the problem of Third Eye Space Zombies real soon.
I dug Blighted Seattle and the Outskirts, but I wanted more detail in the former and more...moreI dug Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, but I wanted so much more.
I dug Blighted Seattle and the Outskirts, but I wanted more detail in the former and more time in the latter.
I dug the Rotters, but I wanted more rot, more zombie madness, and more exploration of their potential ability to communicate and problem solve.
I dug the pseudo-history and Hale Quarter, the fictional biographer, but I wanted more installments of his history.
I dug the back story of Leviticus Blue, but I wanted to be convinced that he was evil rather than merely devastatingly irresponsible because while I can see devastatingly irresponsible as being negative for all, I don’t think it can really be called evil.
I dug Dr. Minnerecht, but I wanted more time in his lair, more time with his nasty deeds, and way less of his silly petulance.
I dug Zeke, but I wanted him to do more, to be more active.
I dug how Briar took responsibility for the killing of Levi Blue, but I didn’t like that she did it nor the way that she did it, and I find the general cheering on of her actions a bit disconcerting.
I liked the supporting cast, but I wanted more of what brought them to where they were, what motivated them, what they cared about, who they were pre- & post-Blight.
I dug the technological steampunk elements, and was more than willing to suspend my disbelief, but I wanted more of the steampunk social criticism to go along with the toys.
I dug the hints of a larger world beyond Seattle, but I wish there’d been more of it here so I wouldn’t have to wait for Clementine.
I dug that there were three interesting women, but I didn’t like their disdain for men nor that they felt like three versions of the same woman.
I dug the dirigibles, and for once there was enough time with the Skypirates to fulfill my desire.
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I've been a fan of Stone Soup since I was a little kid, so I consider myself something of a connoisseur of Stone Soups. The yummiest I've ever tasted...moreI've been a fan of Stone Soup since I was a little kid, so I consider myself something of a connoisseur of Stone Soups. The yummiest I've ever tasted is John J Muth's sumptuous feast of Stone Soup set in feudal China.
Bone Soup, though, is like a disappointing chocolate cake dessert. You know that big gooey multiple layer cake you order at the end of a meal? You expect it to come warm, with the chocolate oozing out of the layers and the cakieness melting on your tongue. You expect a perfectly piping coffee on the side, or an icy cold glass of white milk. But what do you get? You get a cold cake with lukewarm coffee and lukewarm milk. A straight out of the refrigerator cake that's cakieness is hard and icing is harder and is work to chew and swallow. You get lukewarm milk or lukewarm coffee that do nothing to compliment the cold cake. And you're disappointed. But you finish them because you really LOVE chocolate, no matter how cold the cake might be, and the coffee or milk still compliment the chocolate better than a beer or a water would.
Bone Soup is like that. It still tastes as it should. It hits most of the important notes. It is okay, but it isn't amazing, so my anticipation was thwarted. Bone Soup was not what I wanted and needed it to be. But if that's all that's being served, I'm sure I'll eat it again because, after all, what kid will turn down chocolate cake (unless they have a gluten allergy)? I'm sure my kids will want it for bedtime dessert again soon, and I will just have to suck it up and enjoy the cold cake the best I can (and I’ll take the milk over the coffee, thanks).(less)