Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Tony Moore
144 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

There’s been a resurgence of zombies in popular media over the past couple of years. Maybe it’s a reaction to society in general, with mindless masses working in their office jobs and believing everything they’re told. Alternately, maybe it’s just because people really like shambling undead monsters that want to eat your brains. Either way, there’s definitely a lot of them as of late, and in comics there’s a clear winner of the most popular zombie book: The Walking Dead.

Officer Rick Grimes was shot while trying to apprehend a suspect, but what he didn’t know was that was the last normal moment of his life. When he woke up, several weeks had passed and he was all alone in an abandoned hospital. Well, abandoned by the living, at any rate. The world is now consumed by zombies that have taken over all large urban areas, and all it takes is one bite from them to transform you too into a zombie. Now Rick needs to find out what happened to his family, see if there’s anyone else out there still alive… and survive.

In terms of a suspense story, the first collection of The Walking Dead has exactly what you’re looking for. From the moment that Rick wakes up in the empty hospital until the very end of the collection, there’s barely a chance to stop and breathe as one attack or escape after another happens. In many ways, that’s both what I liked and disliked about The Walking Dead. It’s a book that never lets up in terms of suspense and tension, but it does so at the cost of character development. At the end of six issues worth of stories, we still barely know any of the cast aside from Rick himself, and even he qualifies as little more than a generic resourceful person. Hopefully this is something that’s fixed in later installments, because as much as I do enjoy the suspense portion of The Walking Dead, the book becomes very formulaic in its attack/escape routine. The back cover talks about how without modern conveniences people truly start living, and that’s what I want to see; the characters living, not just catching their breath between disasters.

Tony Moore’s art works well with the stories in The Walking Dead; it’s one that draws both humans and zombies alike with ease. It’s nice to see Moore getting all the little details right, like cheekbones or individual hairs on people’s faces as beards first begin to grow in. In many ways, Moore’s art reminds me of Steve Parkhouse, with people’s slightly angular features and how you still can see individual lines in people’s hair. Even the backgrounds look nice in The Walking Dead; you can see the barren trees in the backgrounds of the camp that give off a feeling of death, or the shambles that is Atlanta letting you know that everyone in the city is now gone. It’s a pity that Moore didn’t work on future volumes of The Walking Dead, because he’s able to capture Kirkman’s scenes well and really bring them to life.

The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye is a good book, and I certainly enjoyed reading it. At the same time, though, things will have to change if the series is going to keep my interest. Hopefully future installments move away from the patterns that got established here; if The Walking Dead can keep moving forward, and start to concentrate on the people trapped within the world of zombies instead of just the zombies being a menace, this will be a series that can go on for a very long time to come.

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Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
40 pages each, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

With so many comics being published every month, it’s easy for a stray mini-series to pass people by, even though it’s by creators with pretty big name recognition. I can only assume it’s why the top-selling comic this winter hasn’t been Grant Morrison’s and Frank Quitely’s We3.

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xxxHOLiC Vol. 4

200 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

When I read the first volume of xxxHOLiC, I liked it but didn’t love it. I was more attracted to the ideas that CLAMP came up with for Watanuki’s missions for the witch Yko than I was where the series was going in the long term. Now, three volumes later, the makeup of the book has changed a bit… but is it for better or for worse?

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Invincible #18

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Ryan Ottley
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

It’s hard to believe that it was just two years ago that Invincible #1 first appeared on the market. Part of a group of books launched at the same time at Image, Invincible has not only stuck around, but managed to increase its sales over time in a marketplace where the reverse is what normally happens. Now that the book’s been established for a while, it’s time to ask the question: quality-wise, how’s it doing?

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Wet Moon Vol. 1: Feeble Wanderings

By Sophie Campbell
176 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

Before Wet Moon, I was already a little familiar with Sophie Campbell’s work in comics. I liked the flashbacks she drew for Too Much Hopeless Savages, and her art for Spooked was really nice as well. What I hadn’t realized, though, was that Campbell can not only draw, but she can write as well.

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Astronauts of the Future Vol. 1

Written by Lewis Trondheim
Art by Manu Larcenet
96 pages, color
Published by NBM

Audiences in general seem obsessed with “the twist”. You know, that singular moment where everything’s turned upside down and you discover what’s really going on. In that case, Lewis Trondheim and Manu Larcenet’s Astronauts of the Future should delight just about everyone who reads it… not just because of the cute art or the fun story, but because Astronauts of the Future has more twists than a bag of french crullers.

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Frank Ironwine

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Carla Speed McNeil
32 pages, black and white
Published by Apparat/Avatar Press

Last April, Warren Ellis talked about creating four one-shot comics, styled in a more traditional adventure format, and making each one of them the first issue of an imaginary new series of comics from an imaginary publisher “Apparat”. It’s a fun little project that harkens back to thinks like the Tangent Comics one-shots from DC, and like Tangent before had me asking the question: will any of these one-shots really feel like something that I want to read more of?

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Musashi #9 Vol. 1

By Takahashi Miyuki
208 pages, black and white
Published by CMX/DC Comics

As strange as it may sound, I’m always a little more intrigued by books being brought over from Japan that are still ongoing series. Maybe it’s because the ending doesn’t yet exist, meaning that you’ve still got surprises in store for you, the conclusion yet to be formed. It’s one of the reasons why I first picked up the book Musashi #9 from DC’s new CMX imprint as I scanned the shelves for something new. Of course, the real question isn’t “is it still going?” but rather, “is it any good?”

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Hero Squared #1

Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Joe Abraham
32 pages, color
Published by Atomeka Press

Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, as a writing team, are probably best-known for their collaboration on books like Justice League International and Formerly Known as the Justice League. Now they’re co-writing another book, and while it’s not the Justice League this time, they’re certainly trying to appeal to the same people who enjoyed their earlier works.

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Skyscrapers of the Midwest #1

By Joshua Cotter
56 pages, black and white
Published by AdHouse Books

For better or for worse, a familiar theme in comics seems to be about the trials and tribulations of childhood. Most of the time you see the subject matter coming a mile away, resulting in good but still fairly predictable stories. Maybe it was the imaginative title of Skyscrapers of the Midwest, or perhaps the cute anthropomorphic cats that make up its cast, but I have to say that in many ways this is one of the few books that genuinely surprised me in quite a while.

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