In this post, from Dark Horse Comics: Orchid #11 and The Strain #9, Image Comics: The Walking Dead #105 and from Marvel Comics: Avengers Arena #1. OH MY GOD, AVENGERS ARENA IS FINALLY HERE!
Dark Horse Comics
Orchid #11 by Tom Morello, illustrated by Scott Hepburn, cover by Massimo Carnevale
Genre: Fiction, dystopia, action, post-apocalypse
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
We’re onto the penultimate issue in this limited twelve issue series and things are starting to get real. Realer. We last left our prostitutes turned heroes trapped in a cave about to be eaten by mechanical robot dogs with seemingly no possible means of escape. But this is fiction, so everyone dying just wouldn’t work, especially in the first few pages. This isn’t Anna Karenina, the action doesn’t continue after the titular character dies. Spoilers. Not. Anna K was published in 1878, the statue of limitation on spoilers has long passed. Simon spends the majority of the issue pulling a Giles and everyone else gets in on the action/adventure aspect while he’s unconscious.
Illustrator Scott Hepburn’s work really shines in this issue, with the artist illustrating intricate battle scenes and bloody evisceration and beheading plots. So much blood, so much glorious blood. The man knows how to illustrate someone nonchalantly shooting a gun without a sideways glance. Not to mention the continued existence of fantastical monsters and even more robotics. Add in some musical swelling scenes with themes like “the meek shall inherit” and a bromance and you have a pretty powerful second to last issue. Complete with giant cliffhanger of course. Of course. No Peter Jackson shenanigans here, issue #12 is sure to be a doozy.
The Strain #9 by David Lapham, illustrated by Mike Huddleston, cover by Dan Jackson
Genre: Fiction, horror, vampires, apocalyptic
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
These aren’t your little sister’s sparkly vampire love interests. Although they probably use their tongues just as often. Ugly gross pulsating tongues that are the stuff of nightmares that is. Thanks a lot Mike Huddleston, way to give me the heebie jeebies with your terrifying take on vampires. Unfortunately for some citizens given enough warning to escape the city, they don’t, confusing vamps for drug addicts like it’s something out of Shaun of the Dead. I’m sorry, but if you see two shadowy figures walking toward you why would you immediately assume they plan to rob you and take your money? So much so that you throw their wallet at them before you can even see that they’re vampires who want to suck the blood out of your body? Citizen fail!
The unsanctioned C.D.C. investigation into the vampire menace continues, with brief glimpses into the slice of life domestic squabbles occurring between Eph’s ex-wife and her new husband. Slice of life plus vampires. Gotta love it. No seriously, it’s been done before and I loved it. Although in this version (The Radleys by Matthew Haig) the vampires were the protagonists. Anyway, Eph continues trying to reveal vampires to the world, videotaping how to kill them for the public while continuing to eradicate the threat. Hint: the rats seem to know something.
The Walking Dead #105 by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Charlie Adlard, cover by Charlie Adlard
Genre: Fiction, post-apocalyptic, zombies, horror
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
When we last left Carl in issue #104, he was continuing to be a bad ass. Although he got caught, he still managed to hitch a ride and sneak into megalomaniac Negan’s hideout and threaten everyone with a gun. YOU GO COMIC CARL! That little dude killed six people before he was taken down. The insight into Negan continues and we learn things that should make him more evil than the Governor (like that he has multiple wives) but doesn’t. On the plus side, it’s nice seeing a villain who is completely upfront about his intentions. Especially one with so many great lines. As he tells one of his henchmen who brings him his bat Lucille, “Did you treat her like a lady? Did you eat her pussy like a lady?… I’m just fucking with you! A baseball bat doesn’t have a pussy!”
Negan takes Carl into his world for the entire issue and the two form a strange pair, re-enacting a scene that feels a little more Sandor Clegane/Sansa than Negan and Carl. You’ll know it when you see it. We get more glimpses of Negan’s community, which runs on a point system rather than money which residents can use for goods and services- I say residents, but I really mean subjects- who treat their leader like royalty. Hey, the man does have his own harem. Despite all this strangeness, Negan does seem to have a few redeeming qualities. For one he seems to actually value Carl and the kindness he shows the boy hints that he may have a spark of humanity way down in that black pit he calls a heart.
It’s Avenger’s Arena time, which basically equates to Marvel’s new series that pits its teenage superheroes in a fight to the death. In other words: Battle Royale meets superheroes, complete with Battle Royale inspired cover. The evil villain Arcade enjoys watching superheroes die, but for some reason his other plans (i.e. trapping the X-Men inside a giant pinball machine) have yet to work so he got inspired by literature and sent the heroes to
the Hunger Games Murder World. The sixteen kids (who include fan favorites like the X-Men’s X-23 and the Runaways’ Nico) have 30 days to survive. Don’t worry, someone will be dead by the end of the first 32 pages. Promise.
This issue sets the groundwork and opens up the plot with a glimpse at Hazmat and Mettle, the star-crossed lovers from the Avenger’s Academy who are forced together by love and the ability to only bone each other. One of the many drawbacks of being a radioactive superhero. While the adults are away at Tony Stark’s party on Christmas Eve, the kids are snapped up by Arcade. If only the Jean Grey School for Higher Learner had a weaker security system, Hazmat and Mettle might have been safe. Seriously, Wolverine is such a good headmaster that none of his kids are kidnapped and forced to fight each other to the death. Yet more reasons why Wolverine is the best.