Friday, March 13, 2009

The Walking Dead, issue #59

Hallelujah! Actually, coming from a Catholic background, it's really Alleluia for me.

This issue hits all my happy spots, starting by breathing lightly against my neck, then running its fingers down my trembling sides and nibbling my earlobe while whispering dirty, dirty promises.*

It's quick-moving, relatively light on dialogue (and what dialogue we get is generally brusque), covers a lot of territory in just a few action-packed pages culminating in a perfect mid-scene, un-silly cliffhanger ending. Kirkman hauls us back to the hair-raising scenarios that hooked us into this series. As I've mentioned before, Adlard's best work is his zombies. If we were to graph me nitpicking his art, we'd see that my whining's highest when zombie content is low. This issue dishes up our friendly neighborhood shamblers in spades, and Adlard rises to the occasion. The high water mark is a *superb* double-splash, capitalizing on some pulse-pounding action.

I have no idea how it will resolve; I'm on pins and needles. This issue is clearly the payoff I've been waiting for. (Who doesn't mumble and whine in line? Even in line for something awesome. I'm guilty.)

I repeat the point I articulated several posts ago: month-to-month is no way to read The Walking Dead. I'm sure that for youngsters in the sixties and seventies, getting a quarter to spend on books was a special treat, and they wore that quarter thin every day after school, reading and re-reading each issue for four weeks, their grubby li'l fingers leaving it filthy and dog-eared. Never distracted by the legion multimedia that today keeps our heads snapping in a different direction every twelve seconds, these kids had the time and tenacity to commit that issue to heart. They knew exactly what resolution to hope for with the next issue and never lost the narrative thread.

Couple that with the fact that comics at that time were written for kids who needed a spandex-befitted fix every month, written to be punchy and rewarding every time, and you can see why a mature title like The Walking Dead is really not suited for monthly reading. The plot takes time to ripen. The characters are usually interesting to observe just *being*. There are a lot of lulls while these things happen, and those lulls are critical.

They're critical because they are definitively punctuated by issues like this, #59, blowing your balls clean off. If every issue were like this, the title would've been an insane adrenaline-fest, ass-kicking as a horde of hyperactive tweens having their way with a donkey piƱata, compulsively readable but ultimately empty. It would've burned out years ago.

Instead, Kirkman gives us a well-paced, thoughtful, long-reaching narrative that (I can't say it enough times) is undeniably best enjoyed in collected format. (Now, whether that is a series of stapled floppies or a trade paperback is left to your preference. I'm a big trade fan, myself, but that's because a: I'm cheap, b: I'm clumsy, and c: I believe the collectibility of modern comics is negligible if not dead.)

Next time you read me bitching about an issue being slow, direct my short-ass attention back to this entry and I'll promptly STFU.

Another note: When Adlard switched to drawing his pages actual-size several issues back, there was a marked drop in the quality of the faces, with eyes clearly misplaced, mugs flattened, etc. I think he's finally starting to get his footing again and is beginning to master the smaller layout. There are only a small handful of WTF faces in this issue. Most of the art has come up to the level Adlard established when working full-size. High five, Charlie!

See? I'm not so insistent a whiner as you've empirically observed me to be.

*I'm not so Catholic anymore, but I feel like I ought to say some Hail Marys just now.


Doc Zombie said...

here here! Once again a great review!

wiec? said...

what you said about Dead being best read in the collected editions is spot on. I used to snag a floppy once in awhile if it's a slow week and always regret it. i'll want more and end up having to wait 2 months for that trade to come out would be torture.

the series lately has been balancing a lot better between slow parts and holy f'ing hell parts. you need both for the book to work but it seems Kirkman has hit his stride.