Sunday, December 26, 2010

Is it over now?

Add caption

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Walking Dead: Review Episode 6, "TS-19"

 
TS-19
(Or: Unexpected Houseguests From Hell And How To Deal With Them) 
By Dread Sockett

INGREDIENTS NEEDED:
Liquor
Explody-type stuff
Awkward social skills

So in my really short, less-is-more review (bwahahaha) of THE WALKING DEAD Episode 5 (Wildfire), I took the news of Frank Darabont shite-canning his writers and ran with it like a Crackhead with a stolen TV set. Well, since then there has been a flurry of updates (read: cut and pasted links and paraphrases from primarily two sources) that in essence say: “No, Darabont didn't can his writers, not really...errr... sort of... and stuff... ooh look a butterfly!”.  Kirkman and Hurd made statements to downplay these erroneous reports saying that there's no big egos in little China and there's no writers being fired ... well, not as us little people understand "fired", just re-purposed in Illuminati-type ways only industry insiders are privy too and even though no writers got canned they still aren't sure how the writing thing is working next season, but still, chill bitches, chill.

WHEW! Glad we got that cleared up.

FINALE REVIEW, FINALLY: This is it. Countdown begins to next season. The good thing is, when that surfaces this show will finally get some darn breathing room. I'm going to assume these rushed stories and crackass, crowbarred script issues will be a thing of the past or downplayed to a noticeable degree. Consistency would be nice. I know you, dear reader, wonder how these reviews can be so negative yet I still look forward to Season 2. This is why: there's still so much to explore and work with and most importantly, improve on, but this show needs more time to do it. Hell, maybe they might even remember there was once a comic at the root of this TV series. When TWD first began, in all fairness, no one knew how well-received it would be. Well, now that it's a success, there's no need to jam everything, but the kitchen sink into 6 episodes.

This season had some really good points, but they were overshadowed by unevenness and terrible character developments (i.e.: getting insight into people pretty much as they die is just plain bad). And except for elements of the VATOS episode, I never had the same issue with the acting as some other reviewers. In fact, they all did pretty well, all points considered. I mean damn, I really believe Andrea is a psycho bitch that needs some serious medication. Jim & Jacki's actors sold their characters to me but then of course, got killed off leaving me more irritated at the writers for short-changing them than sad to see them go. Everyone else appears to be working with what they've got rather than under-performing. If we're lucky, and TWD's potential is really exploited, much of Season 1 will be nothing but a special feature on Season 2's boxset. Well, save for the pilot, which could almost stand on its own. Here’s hoping these last 6 weeks have just been warm up.

THE BAD: I understand that we've gotten little-to-no cozy time with Jaqui, but I mean really, expendable character or not, I had to clutch my pearls on this one. The writers had the Grrl switch gears and decide to get incinerated. For those needing the memo: they had her butt choose to burn to death. BURN. TO. DEATH. Don't talk to me about the world that awaits, how quick, blah blah blah. No warning, suddenly crispy character. Re-read them caps and tell me you'd pick that. Damn.

I would've bought this a little better if the story didn't go from cocktail party to Kamikaze in 60 seconds. Again, this is what I am talking about with the rushed feeling and sloppy writing. It would have taken a minimal changes to make this almost believable. The only change needed to make this work would have been the implied passage of time. I mean really, they show up JUST as the building is about to blow up??? Let the survivors feel safe for a few weeks. Food in their bellies, showers, sleep, and let the PTSD have a chance to take root. Let the doc get to know these people, care for them, and let the weight of his knowledge about the building's imminent kaboom grow into a beneficent messiah complex. Have him kill them out of mercy, not this wishy-washy version of it.

Of course most characters are going to react with a fight to the death survival instinct when someone is trying to make the choice for them.That's where it changes the game for most people. If Jaqui had been given a scene or two showing that she was terrified of going back outside it would have made sense for her to go from murder to suicide in the blink of an eye. I just didn't get a die-on-my-own-terms vibe. But whatever, I'm more of a Marilyn Monroe-leave-a-pretty-corpse kinda guy, so maybe it's just me. Maybe some people do like that crispy BBQ action. And despite her freak-out last episode I wanted to see what happened to her, but not like this.

CAROL THE PURSE BOMBER: OH. MY. GAWD. Sure.. ummm, I'll roll with it. Anyone, and I mean anyone who has the unmitigated badassery to calmly whip out a grenade that they've been lugging around in their purse like it was some TV remote they forgot about is alright by me. I mean really. A grenade. The men of the group are running around like a bunch of school girls tryin' to see Justin Beiber cuz they can't bust through the glass barrier and BAM! Carol just casually whips out an explosive that will save all their butts. Work that shit, Grrrl. Hope she has some tires, gasoline and extra food in that magic bag for later (Hell, maybe she has an extra husband in there too). I mean geez, how did Rick forget about it since he found it? Was there too much going on? Well, Carol remembered it while there was a crisis so what does that say? Told ya'll Rick was kinda thick. He might'z got a purty mouf, but shit for brains. Make that woman leader NOW!

My Ears are Crying: Before I tackle the obvious ongoing, closing-music-as-some-kinda-hipster-irony-whatever-deepness I suggest you snag yourself a copy of Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" (and yes, I do mean the version found on DR. STRANGELOVE). Now put that in place of Dylan's closing song and tell me that doesn't work better. Now remember, Jaqui done got blowed up... some of the escaping group were smote with pesky blast burns, bubbling flesh and missing half their face from being so close to ground zero (oops, sorry, that would be in real life, my bad), they're driving off into the sunset in more vehicles than there are survivors, and we're stuck waiting for a almost a fracking year for the next season. Go on, I'll wait.

(tick, tock, tick, tock)

There, see? Tell me you ain't all misty eyed like yer momma done took away yer XBOX and kicked yer ass out the basement with only a half bag of tater chips. Uh huh, thought so. Save Dylan for one of them Johnny Cash "The Man Comes Around" montages you know is coming.


OVERALL: This was a compelling episode. The opening was probably the most exciting segment of the show. Seeing how Shane dealt with Rick was revealing. At best, he was literally up against the wall with split second life and death decisions to make for both, creating some serious tension. At worst, we see he's a piss poor trained officer and first responder who let his emotions get the best of him when he was checking for Rick's vitals. Still pretty awesome beginning.

It was interesting that in the previous episode, Rick has a meltdown as his grand plan crashes around them and they are stuck outside with death inching towards them. Then once inside they repay the "kindly" doc, by getting shitfaced throughout the facility.  Nice. While they are eating, further displays of their shitty social skills come into view, and Shane kills the fun by being...well... a dick. He rudely confronts the doctor for info, as if he's pressing him for some murder confession. Luckily the doc shuts down his, and most of their rude asses, with, well....reality....and what a bitch she is these days. Guess that showed Andrea that there's a bigger bitch in town now. Didn't come for the eggs, indeed. I assumed the doc's little brain-go-boom presentation was gonna knock her butt down a few more notches and back to some form of civility. Nooooo, as usual Andrea has to go there again with the whole, "What yer saying is we're screwed" yammer like it's all his fault. See, it's all in the cadence... the nuance. She has none. She just has "Bitch". Gawd... I implore someone to take control of this character's writing before I kick in my flipping TV. And to Laurie Holden, you are selling this shit a little too well, Grrl. I hate your character more than one of my exes.

Now, as irritating as I found some of the survivors’ behavior, I did enjoy this infomercial...err, section most of all. It was almost payback watching them squirm as they realized their fates were hopelessly sealed, and we hadn't even gotten to the ‘splosion part. No more CRATE & BARREL. No more WAL-MART. No more ESPRESSO. It's OVAH! And no amount of tantrums, snarky comments, friending, posting etc.... is gonna save ya. I've always thought these guys were some damn rude SOBs that needed to effing chill and the doc managed to accomplish this with brutal, clinical precision and barely raised an eyebrow... well his voice maybe. Hopefully with their new lease on life they'll grow up a little.

I'll also hope that since we've seen a kid zombie, a horse eaten, a wife-beater beaten, children drinking, and now Shane's drunken sexual assault on Lori, that we'll get to see Carl finally get a gun in hand next season and none of this PC glaze over. The scene between Shane and Lori was a disturbing and well-done (although Lori still seems to act  by staring) that there should be no excuse to hold back in this show.

‘SPLOSIONS AND THINGS BLOWEDED UP: The ending felt rushed. The finale really needed some breathing room and it felt as if there was an entire middle sequence missing that needed to get us to the countdown room more effectively. It was because of this expediency that the doc's actions didn't quite gel. He's obviously a man of some honor who sticks to commitments and gives a damn. It's irrelevant that he's revealed to be a scientist grunt and merely stuck to the plan. He still valued human life enough to continue working besides the fact he let them in knowing things were ultimately futile. Was this his god complex in allowing them one last night of fun before he destroyed them? Also, despite containment protocols, he still wasn't depicted as unhinged enough that he would assume the destiny of these survivors was entirely his call. He went from quiet and having some suspected internalized issues to suddenly he's all suicidal and taking the party with him. It just felt like this section started pulling in too many directions at once. When we finally get to Andrea's choice to stay behind it also seemed a little effed that Dale is positioned in such a way as to focus on her only. This set up, doomsday timing and their relationship be damned, just looks sloppy as Hell that Jaqui is there like a piece of meat and no acknowledgement. Despite this, I was still quite moved by Dale's comments and Jaqui's choice.

So, there you have it. Time to start watching the clock for next season. More episodes should hopefully give the new writers....oops! The writers who haven't been fired but aren't all there some stretching room with the new freelancers that didn't really get hired. I'm eager to see Michonne & Tyrese show up – two characters I sincerely hope they do not mess with – as well as the reappearance of Merle. Guess we'll see, right?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Z. A. Recht - One Year Ago Today


Horror author Z.A. RECHT left us one year ago today. We dedicated our last issue to him and ran a piece on this rising talent whose potential we'll never fully know.

He was unable to complete his apocalyptic zombie series THE MORNINGSTAR TRILOGY (PLAGUE OF THE DEAD & THUNDER AND ASHES) leaving fans to wonder how the story ended.

Luckily, what he did have completed and also through the notes he'd left behind, Recht's final book SURVIVORS is being assembled right now with the blessings of his family. The folks at Permuted Press are painstakingly pulling together the elements to allow Z. A. Recht's legacy to live on, in as close to his voice as is possible. The news of this undertaking is huge for fans of the series. We wish them all the best. Visit Z's forum to see snippets of the work in progress, with occasional updates as the project takes form.

So a toast on this Friday to the man, Z!  We salute you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Walking Dead: Review Episode 5, "Wildfire"


WILDTIRED
(Or, Pardon Me But I'm Feeeling A Little Bitchy)
By Dread Sockett

So here we are at the next to last episode of Season One of TWD. For this review I want to attempt a less is more attitude and knock this out in as few words as possible (quit laughing over there little ms. editor.) (Editor’s note: bwhahahahahaha.). Think of this attempt like the show itself, where 40+ minutes of actual viewing time needs to communicate an hour and a half of material. Now, I won't lie, this is kind of a test since I've heard that my reviews are far too long. Whatever. I'm feeling bitchy....so let's see what we come up with shall we?

The big news this week was that FRANK DARABONT has canned his writers. To that I say good. It's about time. The show’s writing has been on a swift landslide into mediocrity. Of course it's wonderful to have a weekly zombie show, but what good is it if it's filled with unlikable "survivors"  and a time frame that is woefully short to get around to the "they're really good people once we get to know them"? I say good riddance and good luck to DARABONT in this bold move. I certainly won't argue if it means some of this DAWSON'S CREEK shit gets ditched. Can it go either way? Of course. I'll take my chances.

Episode 5 (“Wildfire”) was probably my new favorite episode and finally, the characterization gets ramped up even more. In hindsight, we look at how poorly developed the characters have been that it almost works against itself now that there's some emotional moments going on. Many characters weren't all that likable to begin with so now FINALLY we have reason to care and we must force ourselves because that's what we're supposed to do. In the case of Andrea sitting with her sister for what? 12 hours? That was touching and all, but come on, that was beginning to get soapy; I mean I was starting to break out the wash cloth and lather up. I understand where they were trying to go, but it began to feel forced being so drawn out. It stopped being touching and became unhinged. It also did not help in the least that she pulls a gun on Rick (for a second time), which undermines the sentiment of the moment.  Andrea is fucking nuts, dead sister or not. Get that bitch some Ativan STAT next trip into town.

And just when I thought the group was getting some serious, convincing, personality time so that I didn't feel the need to paint them as a bunch of poor-desperate-white-collars-on-the-verge-of-nervous-breakdown, they go and have Jim's outing by Jaque just get out of control. I mean shit, instead of acting with compassion that one of her compatriots is mortally wounded and OBVIOUSLY (KEYWORD) not about to turn in a second, they have her go batshit crazy. Why'd they finally give her screen time and do that to her? I hate the bitch now. Then of course, she yo-yo's and becomes Florence Nightingale in the van. TOUCHING HIM AND SHIT. Remember folks, she had springs in her ass when he was clearly ambulatory and lucid, yet when he's obviously succumbing to infection she's right up against his face? She kisses him for fuck’s sake! THE HELL? Did I miss something in Zed 101? I guess she really was a government worker back in the day with them two-faced social skills (no offense to government workers who do actually have class). And I kinda liked her too.

THANK GAWD DALE IS STILL AROUND. The only person I truly like (read: that has fucking brains worth a shit in this group).

Rick's meltdown was good...though why did it take until now to show he had more than one emotion inside? Was he just too tired from chasing that wandering accent? Everyone else too, had a good show of emotions that I wish was apparent when the shows first started and we were getting to know them. I would've thought much better of the show and the actors than I have. I mean jeezuz, I've been more interested in Darryl and Merle all this time and that's a damn problem. But if yer gonna stick me with assholes then I'll at least stick with the ones with actual survival skills. OVERALL: A good solid episode that should have been the standard from the start.

Frank Darabont, work some magic with the new guys. When I saw you were willing to shoot the little girl zombie and take the horse down (despite riling all the PC bitches) I couldn't wait to see what you were gonna hit us with. What followed was a pale imitation of that fuck-it stance. Bring on Seasons 2's new writers. IT'S A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, START FUCKING SOME SHIT UP!

And I lied...I ran my mouth.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Rise Again

RISE AGAIN
By Ben Tripp

Review by Dread Socket

It was when I caught myself uttering the words "Ben Tripp can kiss my ass!" after he killed off a character I was really beginning to like that I realized I was in for the long haul. Seriously in. He crafted this person against all expectation and then the bastard killed him. Bad Ben, bad!

Ben Tripp's little bit of Deadlit nirvana, Rise Again, is an easy book for me to recommend. It harkens back to 2007, the Original Summer of Zed Love, when it wasn't unusual to have 2-3 books going at once while juggling Z films and comics. There were rare occasions when works rose to the top of the pile, distinguishing themselves from the horde and surprised the Hell out of me for being damn near exactly what I'd want in a Deadlit book. Not just pulp entertainment, but nearly perfect without feeling like I was settling (those fans who've waded through umpteenth zed variations to get to the type they prefer, you know exactly what I mean). To my surprise, Rise Again quickly became one of those rare finds.

I was initially put off by the publisher's description and assumed, yet again, we had another by-the-numbers-touchy feely-find-the-loved-one and try-not-to-get-eaten book. In this case, there was the added “edginess” of a female lead in what is usually a male role. It's been my (frequent) experience that when a book makes gender/orientation/(insert non-dominate group) switches from the “norm” it calls attention to itself, as if the mere fact it exists in the narrative isn't compelling enough. Usually the guilty party is a scribe who has no obvious affiliation with whatever group they're depicting and probably has no business attempting to speak with any authority for or about them, especially while using them as a plot device. [Editor’s note: Dread has enough soapboxes stored in his bunker to last until doomsday.]

In this case, Tripp was speaking from the place of an empowered ex-military woman struggling with community/civilian re-integration, functional alcoholism, and combat-related PTSD. That's a mighty steep cliff to climb, with an even more perilous fall if Tripp failed in his characterization. He didn’t. As it ended up, I could probably write a behavioral assessment and modification plan for Tripp's lead Danny. Her psyche profile, in all its intense shades, is revealed with so much depth that she becomes less a character and more an extension of the reader, faults and all. We empathize with her because we do in fact see her drive in us. We also see that her faulty thinking isn't that of the other person, but stuff we could possibly find ourselves contemplating if we were honest about it.

With Danny, Tripp gives us a highly flawed, yet sympathetic “heroine” (however reluctant). We want to curse her under our breath, as we would a friend for making certain decisions and sigh with relief when she escapes a crisis. Tripp holds her, as well as the rest of the characters, accountable for their actions which means there are no miracle saves for any of them adding authenticity and tension to their zed universe. Danny gets the shit kicked out of her more than once and she clearly acts like a dumbass at times. Hell, even the book's catalyst, Danny's search for her sister, is painted as a fool's errand almost from the start. Sentiment doesn’t bode well in their world. We zombie fans are notorious for complaining about not getting enough gritty, realistic zombie action. Tripp’s world cruel and unforgiving, so I must shut up and suck up the consequences (but he can still kiss my ass).

THE STORY: Danielle “Danny” Adelman is an Iraq combat veteran who's returned home and charged not only with continuing care for her younger sister, Kelley, but she’s also sheriff of the sleepy southern California town of Forest Peak. None of this works out particularly well for her. On the day she is to be honored and receive the key to the town, surrounded by throngs of gathered tourists and townsfolk, all Hell breaks loose.

The least of her immediate problems is that Kelley ran away leaving behind a cryptic farewell note. The worst is nearby Los Angeles, overrun by a mysterious infection that turns its victims into mindless, screaming banshees that literally run until they drop dead. The reach of this mysterious infection is expanding beyond the big cities and starting to touch the outlying townships. Freeways clog as people drop dead in their cars while oceans of humanity engulf the streets. The runners eventually trickle into Forest Peak and as the town succumbs, Danny and a group of other survivors band together to find a way out. They soon realize  that those who've fallen will rise again (and we have a title! YAY!). And let me tell you, there’s some pretty creepy stuff going on here. The “spatula/cafe scene” comes to mind as one of the few narrative setups in any novel that genuinely grossed me out.

Danny’s group escapes to the desert in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants exit that very well could've climaxed the book right there. Tripp handles action sequences skillfully enough that after its excitement, the desert sequence threatens to screech things to a halt. Luckily, Tripp takes the time to continue building his characters during this lull. Danny eventually sets off to find Kelly. Along the way the scope of this contagion is revealed, as are clues to her sister's whereabouts. Danny's journey takes her up the California coast and eventually lands her in the ashen city of San Francisco, with the realization that looking for her sister may not be the best idea after all.

I'm tempted to offer more insight into Tripp's handling of Danny's journey, but it would lead to even more spoilers. I'll leave potential readers to discover the varied twists and developments on their own. I wasn’t even sure what I thought of it all as it was developing, but its handling is one of the book’s strengths and reasons to read it. Another point that I am typically unyielding about is zombie types. Again, no spoilers, but with Tripp's crucial placement, I was willing to accept the touch he added.

Are there moments that threaten to get out of control? Ehh.... yea, probably depending on your suspension of disbelief and maybe even life experience, but I found it acceptable. There were a couple of points in the development of the desert survivors’ predicament that I found a little forced. That felt a little clumsy in the pacing when compared to Tripp’s thoroughness elsewhere. Otherwise, I was willing to roll with almost anything he did after the escape from Forest Peak. You certainly won’t see some hot babe on a motorcycle come crashing through a stained glass church window, perfectly timed to save a group that’s being attacked by mutated monsters (*ahem*RE2*cough*rolls eyes). Instead, Tripp confidently juggles all elements of zombie lore like a veteran and creates an immersive zombie experience that you'll want to revisit again… after you’ve caught your breath.

384 pages
Publisher: Gallery (Simon and Schuster)
Pub Date: October 26, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1439165164

R.I.P. Ingrid Pitt


INGRID PITT, a Hammer Films goddess, died on November 23rd, at the age of 73. She belongs in a class with Karen Black and Barbara Steele, old-school horror divas you don’t mess with unless you want to be beaten to death with cleavage and eye-fucked harder longer and faster than the TSA could ever imagine. 

Along with the aforementioned ladies, Ingrid Pitt was one of the leaders of the emerging sexual revolution in horror films that didn't assume that all women were victims. One of her most famous roles was for Hammer Films as a lesbian vampiress. 

It is interesting to note in her obit that she said she dreamed of becoming an actress while spending three years in a Nazi concentration camp. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Walking Dead: Review Episode 4, "Vatos"


LA DOLCE VATOS
By Dread Sockett

Since “predictable” is in the air these days, it won’t surprise you when I say I’ll (sorta) follow last week’s entry and drop dime with nerd rage first, then I’ll kiss and make it better. Cool?

Now that we’re starting to get into more serious character insight, I think it’s becoming evident that these episodes really need to be longer. Personally, I feel the short episode action is just not working and in fact I suspect it’s stifling the creators. There is just too much that needs to be communicated in the time allotted and it all ends up feeling rushed. It also bugs me because some of these shortcomings are going to eventually reflect poorly on KIRKMAN and his comics, which I honestly feel is almost tragic. AMC needs to hook this show up with more time, or slow the pace down, so the potential is reached. This also might relieve some of the cocked eyebrows the show is receiving because of these dense-ass characters and situations.

FIRST CASE IN POINT: I appreciated the intro sister chat between Amy and Andrea thinking “Yea, this is what I’ve been waiting for.” Here the characters can breathe and I can see there are people under these entitled and/or idiot facades. These semblances of attempted normalcy in this apocalyptic setting, while delivering insight into characters is sorely needed especially now that we’re two shows from the end of Season 1. I don’t care if they’re talking about fishing lures, just give me tidbits of their past/present and maybe I will understand and care, finally.

Then it occurred to me that well, this must mean one of them is gonna die. Not in the future, but NOW, this episode. There were just too many Hallmark reflections and tight camera angles happening all at once. It seemed to foreshadow one of their deaths per Hollywood Rules 101 (reflect on shared history and loss, then kill one leaving one left to carry the torch and there you have it: automatic character tragedy and sympathy). A classic cliché set-up. And BINGO!  We had a winner. The good thing at least, like Carl’s tent comments in episode 3, this sets Andrea on her 2.0 path comic readers will be familiar with (hopefully).

THANK BEELZEBUB that Andrea (Laurie Holden) pulled off the final scene with just the right emotion that this sorta trite setup was mostly forgiven. It really was touching. It’s these little moments I look forward to finding while wading through the quagmire that sometimes surrounds them.

A minor quibble: easing up on them micro-zooms would help let the scenes like this breathe a little. A contrast between Andrea dealing with the urgency of her sister’s death and the camp attack crisis surrounding her simultaneously would’ve taken this up another notch. As it was, I caught myself thinking of OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES’ almost aggressively, intimate zooms and really, that’s not a good thing when Laurie Holden is working her shiz. And that she did. Kudos to her.

HOODRAT CAREPROVIDIN’ - CASE IN POINT 2: Okay, havin’ a little...err... teeny bit of insight into this particular set up (hoodrats moonlighting as careproviders, not the whole zombie apocalypse or hostage trading) I really appreciated seeing this attempted. The thought counted, at least a little in my book. However, the execution of the concept was clumsy, like someone from the outside looking in and maybe even romanticizing what some crazy gun exchange would look like, but never having met a thug except through MTV’s Cribs. And yes, I do realize it was a front. This was a script issue, not a matter of whether a reformed custodian could pull off a smoke screen. Just cuz you’re a custodian doesn’t mean you’re oblivious to your environment, it is usually the opposite.

What stood out like a sore thumb, was our Junior homie in the wife beater who gets clocked by Darryl. Like the later gangbanger scenes, there was a mix between shit delivery and bad lines that made this feel a little tilted. It’s most notable because Darryl at this point is becoming damn near one of the best developed characters in the show and he makes the baby boy hoodrat’s deficiencies in script and acting stand out. The poor actor kid was no match to any of the guys in those scenes.

Which brings me to the “negotiation” scenes: So like I said, I was real cool with the end of the world homies as caregivers idea, as I can see people I know doing just that. But at the same time, none of their gangster asses shoulda broke code THAT QUICK (fakin’ the funk or not). Having a spokesperson who would seems also as unlikely, but maybe this is a down South thing the creators were doing. Grandma swoopin’ in doesn’t excuse things either. I mean shit, you go there and have this “new take” on “minorities” but then make them too stupid to barricade the doors effectively against the elderlies during a shake-down for guns?!

The selling of this scene relied first and foremost on credibility. Here, it fell flat, feeling like Hollywood Gangster 101 (lotta 101’s this episode). There was little tension and it felt rushed. I’ll give Kirkman some swing on this since some of what I thought was needed to sell this set up was more authentic aggressiveness in the script/lines, which in turn, theoretically, woulda allowed for less wonkyass delivery. I mean, damn, I never thought I’d say it, but more cussing would’ve improved the believability factor. But all the real-ness came through via the swagger display only (I mean geez guy, I was ready to slap wardrobe if I saw someone bust out with a DICKIES and STACY ADAMS combo with waxed, razor pleats). This just felt like the suits came in and did some ‘clean-up’. “We want that urban thing Kirkman, but it needs to play to middle America.”

THAT SAID: This is where I would’ve liked the episode opened up in length, with this idea and group explored a little more. It not only would’ve been a refreshing change, but there was an intriguing social dynamic at work here. They darn sure had it together more than Rick’s group.

QUIBBLES AND BITCH: Uhm... so let’s bag on Glenn for a sec. Now you’re buddies just tried to save your ass, while risking theirs, from what they thought was a near-death situation. You obviously have insight to what’s happening with your abductors to know the Homeland-terror-level-alert has dropped. The least you coulda done when they came into the joint was get off your ass and look like this meant something and start explaining. But noooooooooo... let’s not ask too much. Side-effects of WoW withdrawal are a very ugly thing folks.

CAMP: Jim’s meltdown was a moving scene. I’m glad to see his character finally having some depth after not knowing WTF he was about all this time. However, I still think the camp people are mostly idiots. Shane and the bunch showing up like a mob to someone who is obviously having a PTSD issue (even before the reveal) was a bit sloppy. Shane obviously missed the behavior mod classes at work. Dale, I like a lot and is clearly the most sensible of the bunch. His “Faulkner watch” speech wasn’t all that deep, yet actually kinda poignant, but our mall babies just missed it entirely. Are there brains in them heads to eat? Gonna be some hungry zombies.

ED: HAHA. AWESOME. And last but not least: the writers need to beef up Rick a bit. He’s kinda becoming the least interesting character. I think we’re skating on thin ice when Darryl becomes the more interesting of the two. T-dog seems to be coming around too and I kinda like the dude. His original rooftop intro wasn’t all that flattering. He’s feeling more like a real person now and not some cutout. And all hail the extras who get eaten. We’d have no cast and no reason to rewind to see who the Hell that was who got munched, cuz ya know ya never saw their butts before.

Speaking of munchies... Is zombie junk food fattening? I suspect I’m gonna be sporting a paunch when this season ends. There’s a lot of “stuff” in these ingredients, but dammit, I just can’t stop watching it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse!


The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse!
Review by DeadVida

I assumed this would be an anthology, and it is, but not in a traditional sense. I was expecting something straight-forward, offering apocalyptic tales by disparate voices, and while that is the case the framework actually holds together in a tight universe and offers a Rashomon effect of the end of the world.

The narrative starts with an email, which describes England’s current political state and the writer’s protest of the destruction of a church in South London. The church had been built by (a fictional) disciple of (the real) architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. Hawksmoor was responsible for designing and building churches all over London in the late 1600s-early 1700s. Modern theorists speculate about the possible Satanic or supernatural pattern these churches make when viewed on a map. When the ground near the church is excavated, something that had had a long standing prohibition, The Death is unleashed upon the world. It is suggested that this has happened before and that the Great Plague in the 1600s wasn’t actually bubonic plague, but zombies! I LOVED the mixing of fact and fiction here and also appreciated that exact answers are never provided because of the narrator’s view is all that we are ever given.

From there the story takes off and while this book will seem dated in ten years, I loved that the authors and editors used modern technology as a means for capturing the variety of individual experiences. Early on in the outbreak, we learn what is going on from emails, BMC (a fictional BBC-type company) internal memos, letters, interviews, medical reports, newspaper articles, voicemails, PDAs, and police reports. As the virus spreads and infrastructures collapse, documentations of experience shift to individuals instead of “official” sources. These include the diary of a 13-year-old girl (which seemed a tad too influenced by Anne Frank), Twitter chatter, texts, blog posts, pilot transcripts, uploaded video files, letters and more. There are some unreliable narrators, some nice twist endings, and even humor.  Some of the stories are downright creepy and gruesome.

With about 20 contributors, this could have felt uneven, but it doesn’t and it held my rapt attention straight through. In the end you are left with questions, which is how it should be. The apocalypse shouldn’t be a tidy thing. Recommended!

Stephen Jones (Editor)
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Running Press
Pub date: December 7, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0762440016

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: FUBAR (graphic novel)

Review: FUBAR
By Jeffrey McComsey
$11.99
http://zombiefubar.wordpress.com
Review by Dread Sockett

Deadvida scored a copy of Jeffrey McComsey's self-published WW2 zombie magnum opus, FUBAR (complete with some kickass sketches and sigs), for the West Coast RIGOR MORTIS archive & headquarters where of course, I am Chief, Commander and all around soldier of Bullshitus Excellentus and other zombie/horror claptrap. I think I read it twice the day it arrived. Truthfully, this review should've been completed a few days after its release in September at the Baltimore Comic-Con 2010. Unfortunately, it came in just days after I'd finished RIGOR MORTIS #3's ObCom piece on NAZI ZOMBIE films, so I was a bit over the whole write-about-NZs-thang.

So here we are months later and my Nazi fatigue has abated. I'll first say that I LOVED the idea of this graphic novel, really. It damn sure is about time someone did this. It's also great that McComsey and crew recognized the limitations, as well as unexplored areas, of the NZ idea and opened it up to include Allies which helped immensely toward making this alternate bit of history seem believable as a zombie concept.

BLAZING COMBAT: In the thanks, McComsey drops props to Warren's BLAZING COMBAT as being a primary inspiration for this work. For those who don't know, BC is cited by comic eggheads as being some of the most important war comics. Released in the sixties, and condemned to die after four issues due to its anti-war stance (Vietnam), BC was hardcore stuff that carried the torch that Harvey Kurtzman and crew started with EC's FRONTLINE COMBAT and TWO-FISTED TALES. BC is legendary, and rightly so, since it not only had fine stories, it also carried the likes of Frazetta, Severin, Toth, Wood, etc. Oddly though, the reason I'm taking the time with this is, is I can't tell you how rare it is to hear that someone took inspiration from a WARREN title. It's always MARVEL this and DC that. BLAZING COMBAT was genius, so when I say these guys started off on the right foot with this reviewer, you know why.

Ironically though, the excitement I had reading the BC reference put me in a spot where I needed to keep from accidentally drawing comparisons to BC (and just for clarity, McComsey never once suggests they were emulating BC).

                                                                               
McCOMSEY's HEROES: FUBAR is a collaborative effort spearheaded by McComsey that includes: Stephen Lindsay, Dominic Vivona, Steve Becker, Benjamin Truman, Jim McMunn, Mike Imboden, James Ngyen, Phil McClorey, Steve Willhite, Kyle Kaczmarczyk, Rob Croonenborghs, Jonathan Moore, Helaine Crawford, Shawn Williams, Darrin Stephens, Lonny Chant, with Jason Meadows/Jeff McClelland lettering. Jeebus. I hope I got everyone (and forgive me if I didn't I mean sheesh, I DENTED MY COPY trying to get these names right, so be nice).

He's assembled a pretty diverse range of artists for the comics within and as a whole, FUBAR is an epic graphic novel that quite frankly needs to be made into a movie. The general wrap-around idea of FUBAR is that the Nazis have come up with something (i.e. crazy shit) that would give their fading empire a scorched earth finish – with zombies. They lose control of this and thus the premise for all of the tales is set within this alternate reality. Readers piece this together as the stories unfold. I enjoyed this a lot since this is the first time I've seen the idea done to this degree and done pretty well. Most NZ flicks have the monsters set in modern times, here, we're right smack dab in the middle of WW2 in a pretty compelling what-if scenario that puts all sides into the fray. Very cool.

GO TELL THE INKERS: My one criticism is that FUBAR, as a whole, could've used a more serious tone in its illustrations, which I did actually enjoy. This is not to say there wasn't seriousness put forth in the style varieties because there are indeed a few. The problem I had with the look is that there wasn't one story that cemented a truly serious look for FUBAR's universe. Considering the subject matter, I'd think an even darker look for the art was needed for at least one balls-to-the-wall set piece. Hell, it could've had an Impressionist strip and I would have been okay with it if I had a really good anchoring piece to reference.
As it was, I spent just a tad too much time visually working through and occasionally being distracted by many of the stylistic panels. Stretched arms, really exaggerated expressions, etc., worked against the strip dynamics at times. There was more than one occasion where I thought if a story was done in a darker realistic style and toned down the almost whimsical imagery a few notches, whatever piece woulda kicked more ass and the art wouldn't be fighting the story for a reader’s attention. For example, JONATHAN MOORE’s wash-style found in the pin-up section looked like a good candidate for a full-length anchor piece. His Churchill is perfectly nasty as is Stalin and Eisenhower. They’re even more effective than the zombies that he draws in his inked story “De Guer”.

Despite these criticisms, FUBAR actually manages to be pretty visually consistent and satisfying because, well, everything's so damned stylized. Just maybe next time I think I'd like to see these guys knock out the subject matter with a really serious art tone and nothing that feels like I could say “that was a fun read”. Nazi Zombies should never be a "fun" read.