Robert Kirkman's Non-Walking-Dead Comics
Robert Kirkman is in a weird spot.
Because The Walking Dead was such a cultural phenomenon, it’s what he’ll be known for forever, the first line in his obituary, FOR SURE.
And it’s a little tragic. “A little” because the dude is probably getting paid, making great comics, and calling his work life “tragic” is a slap in the face of people with jobs like Professional Slapboxer, people whose life work of being the target of face slaps probably won’t stand the test of time.
But it IS a little tragic because Kirkman is a lot more than The Walking Dead.
If Kirkman did all the comics he’s done BESIDES Walking Dead, he’d probably be a bit less rich and famous, but he’d definitely be a comics legend.
Allow me to explain:
If you know TWO Kirkman books, the second one you know is Invincible.
Invincible is like a cross between Spider-Man and Superman in that it’s about the son of an alien with general superpowers (Superman), and it’s good (Spider-Man).
One of the issues (hah!) with superhero comics is that the characters can be pretty static. The bigger publishers don’t want to change a character TOO much and run the risk of turning fans off, so they either stay the same or change and quickly rubberband back.
With Invincible being a limited series, characters do change. Relationships change. Heads get mooshed into mush.
If I have to make one complaint about the book, it does play with some game pieces pretty familiar to people who’ve read a lot of comics. But while it’s some pre-trod territory, Kirkman does it better than anybody, and this is a book I especially recommend to folks who haven’t read a lot of comics but want to give it a go.
Plus, the candy-coated art of Ryan Ottley clashes with the ultraviolence in a beautiful way.
This is the book that inspired this column. Because it’s great.
A guy invents a thing that lets people travel to a parallel Earth, and this causes some HUGE problems. We’ve got some monsters, there’s a science man in need of redemption, all your classic stuff.
The book does what Kirkman does best: you have a setup, it doesn’t have to be all that complex or difficult to explain, and then dynamic, interesting characters take you down a twisty road.
It’s like a great 12-episode miniseries that has the best of a Mike Flanagan terror mixed with an Independence Day level of action. Which absolutely should not work and absolutely does.
Who doesn’t love a heist?
How about a series of heists?
My guess is this is Kirkman’s love letter to the Parker books, and it’s a letter that’d score him at least one awkward date with those books, for sure.
Normally, I really don’t care for James Bond-y, smarmy characters who have it all figured out, but Thief of Thieves pulls it off.
For me, this one is a tad slow, but it’s the kind of slow you get in movies from the 70s. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey. That shit begins with 15 seconds of NOTHING!
Outcast isn’t THAT slow, it’s more like The Exorcist slow. Which fits because this starts out as your classic wave of demonic possessions rampaging through a small town kind of story.
It’s kind of anti-modern in its pacing. The reader knows almost nothing beyond what the characters know, unlike Midsommer where you, the viewer, are aware you’re watching an Ari Aster film and wait like 2 fucking hours for a cult to do some cult-y shit, which they then go ahead and do, surprising no one.
What a piece of shit.
Did I waste this space not reviewing Outcast, possibly maligning a movie you love? Maybe. But if that’s your opinion, write your own column, dweeb. Start with one about how cathartic the experience of Midsommer was and how it was a great metaphor for something in Ari Aster's relationship with his mother. I predict your column will be a giant hit, what with being so original.*
Werewolf superheroes, vampire mentors, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on this one, the rug gets pulled out from under you.
It’s a great ride, and not since I read Twilight: Eclipse did I get so much vampire/werewolf action in one book.
Now, granted, Eclipse was only like a year before The Astounding Wolf-Man. Same with Underworld: Evolution.
What was in the water in the 2000s that had us all so invested in werewolves and vampires mixing it up?
Battle Pope probably suffers a bit from being “edgy” when it came out like 25 years ago.
Look, don't read it to "discover" how offensive it is. If a reader "discovers" that Battle Pope is offensive, they haven't discovered anything. It's like this show I watched where these guys went in the jungle and got stung and bitten by various bugs and ranked the pain levels. Did these guys “discover” that bullet ant bites are painful? Of course not.
What they really discovered was their love for each other.
Wait, that didn’t happen. That’s what I kept hoping would happen. There had to be SOME narrative to that show, right?
Nope. Just episode after episode of dudes getting bitten by bugs and being surprised how much it hurts.
If you're offended by stuff that was edgy and maybe a little juvenile in 2000, skip this book. You won't enjoy it, there's no reason to march through something you won't like. Nobody is impressed.
If you tend to have fun with stuff like that? Give it a whirl.
If you were expecting a wild ride with massive gun and sword and knife fights and blood pouring out of every panel, well, you’re in luck because your expectations align perfectly with the aptly titled Die!Die!Die!.
The most relevant criticism that can be leveled against this book is that it’s stupid.
The best praise that can be heaped on it is that it’s stupid.
We’re at the perfect intersection of Stupid Street and Awesome Avenue here.
Kirkman has lots of other great books: Fire Power, The Haunt, Tech Jacket.
But I figured we could wrap around to Marvel Zombies.
Because when I picked this up, I was pre-rolling my eyes. Oh, Walking Dead guy is doing a zombie book with Spider-Man. DO YOU THINK THE REAL MONSTERS IS US!?!?!?
But ignore that dashingly handsome but ignorant version of me, Marvel Zombies is a shitload of fun.
It’s kind of a big joke while also being a book that totally works at the same time. I can’t vouch for all the sequels, but the first volume is...come on, you've got one zombie pun in you, Pete...come on...
What can I say, I'm no Robert Kirkman.
It's not a complete list of everything Kirkman has done. I mean, who has time to read Jubilee? I do, but I choose to use that time to complain about Midsommer online instead. You guys seen that shit? Man, let me tell you, what a lousy...
*I am so tempted to cut this, because I love Midsommar. —Editor
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