Bookwyrm’s 10-Word Comic Reviews & Recs: The Walking Dead, The Dregs & More

Did everyone go out and enjoy Free Comic Book Day? I sincerely hope so. These days, a lot of us read comics online or even get a snail mail subscription to our favorite books, but there’s just nothing quite like going to your local store and surrounding yourself with fellow geeks. It’s a chance to come together and debate the finer things in life, like which Doctor was the best Doctor (Ten), and who would win in a fight — the Joker or the Green Goblin? (The Joker, because nothing can kill that bastard. The Green Goblin’s died, like, twenty times.)

In my city, my boys and I made it to three different stores and, between the three of us, picked up most of the FCBD issues. There was a pretty generous helping of kids titles available this year — something I’m thankful for as I love sharing something I love with my sons, but I’m not overly excited to explain why that man just pulled someone’s spinal column out of that other man’s back.

But, alas, it’s over now. The comics are no longer free. However, there are still some out there that are definitely worth paying the full cover price for.

This week, Oscar Isaac takes a back seat to a well-deserved tribute; one particular death is still a pretty big deal in a world overrun with zombies; a bounty hunter learns she should run background checks on clients; crime noir meets social justice and gentrification; and some badass women show how badass they really are.

Here are this week’s issues that #RocktheRack:

STAR WARS: POE DAMERON #14
Publisher: Marvel
Story: Charles Soule
Art: Angel Unzueta

What The Trades Say:
It is a sad day for the Resistance as they mourn the loss of a fallen comrade. But their fight is far from over — the First Order must be stopped! And Captain Phasma knows just how to get Terex to toe the line.

What Bookwyrm Says:
Get the tissues ready, guys. Even if you’re not a follower of this series, it’s worth a pickup for the stellar writing of Charles Soule and the emotionally charged artwork of Angel Unzueta.

Picking up from the events of last issue, Black Squadron makes their way back to the Resistance base after an attack that cost them one of their veteran pilots. Once there, they gather together to mourn their loss, and Poe delivers a stirring eulogy. We also see what happens to their attacker, Terex, currently in the custody of the First Order and awaiting the wrath of Captain Phasma. It’s interesting to see how the two sides spiral out from each other, and Soule weaves the two perspectives together wonderfully.

What makes this issue particularly special is that Soule was writing it when Carrie Fisher passed away last year. Using Poe’s words about his fallen fellow pilot, Soule spoke to all of us who have lost not only a cultural icon, but also a woman who stood for so much. She was a rebel leader through and through, a champion for the marginalized and the underrepresented. The issue stands as a tribute to the fallen pilot, to Leia Organa’s nurturing leadership, and to Carrie Fisher herself. That’s talent, folks.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
A moving, empowering tribute to Carrie Fisher. Grab the tissues.

THE WALKING DEAD #167
Publisher: Image
Story: Robert Kirkman
Art: Stefano Gaudiano & Cliff Rathburn

What The Trades Say:
“A CERTAIN DOOM.” Is it possible, could it be, that the inevitable can somehow be… avoided? Rick and Andrea have a tough decision to make.

What Bookwyrm Says:
Before we get into this one, I’m going to go ahead and say that I’m not posting spoilers. If you want to spoil the comic for yourself, there are plenty of places online where you can do that. But coming into this issue knowing what happens would, in my mind, ruin it for those who have been following the series for its 14-year run. If you’re a fan of the show and you don’t follow the comic, the events of this issue won’t really be a big deal. But for WALKING DEAD readers, this is a big one.

Someone dies.

Okay, it’s a WALKING DEAD comic, so maybe I should be a bit more specific.

Someone important dies.

What makes this a standout issue isn’t necessarily that someone dies; it’s the care and passion that go into the scenes that deal with that death. The issue not only centers around the death, but also around everyone’s reactions to it. We are allowed the chance to mourn this character while connecting with them on a level that the book generally doesn’t allow its dearly departed. Rarely does it give characters a moment to shine when they die, instead opting for shock kills and gruesome imagery. But this issue… this one is special.

This issue touches on how it feels to lose someone you truly care about. But it also gives Kirkman a chance to say goodbye to the character and, even more importantly, teach us a little bit about how we say goodbye to the loved ones in our lives. Words are spoken here with the beautiful resignation of no restraints. Honestly, if you read one issue this week, make it this one.

I’m still at a loss for words when it comes to some of the dialogue in this issue. It’s just masterful. Kirkman is a master of his craft, able to write a story that can disgust you on one page and reduce you to tears on the next.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
A heart-wrenching goodbye to a long-time character. Bravo, Mr. Kirkman.

STAINED #1
Publisher: 451
Story: David Baron
Art: Yusuf Idris

What The Trades Say:
Meet Emma London: recovery artist and bounty hunter for hire. She is strong, possibly indomitable, and did we mention… part machine. Emma is the type that dives head first into things that most wouldn’t and shouldn’t. Those dark places that no one else will go to track down the subhuman criminals lurking in the underbelly of society and brings them to justice. STAINED first comes to life with Emma trying to take down a pair of international diamond smugglers, but her story explodes forward when initially what was thought to be a hunt for a priceless painting with a record high bounty, leads her to something darker and more monstrous than she could have ever imagined.

What Bookwyrm Says:
I wish more number ones were like this.

Let me explain something. I hate origin stories. I really do. I hate forced introductions to characters, particularly if we already know who they are, where they came from, and how they got whatever special abilities they have. It’s why I loathed movies like MAN OF STEEL and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and why I was so happy with the way CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR treated both Black Panther and Spider-Man. We didn’t see how T’Challa got the suit or trained to become an incredibly agile fighter. We didn’t watch Uncle Ben die yet again and give young Peter a pep talk about responsibility. We saw them in action, and we accepted it. Even in situations where we don’t know anything about the characters, I feel like there are always better ways to explain how they came to be rather than crafting an exposition dump to set readers (or viewers) up for the story the creators actually want to tell.

STAINED doesn’t do any of that.

We are dropped into this world and learn as we go. The story sells its premise through dialogue and situations. Everything we need to know about the protagonist and her occupation as a bounty hunter we learn organically through her interactions with other characters. No massive info dumps, no stilted dialogue repeating things that the characters would already know for the benefit of the audience (otherwise known as “As You Know” syndrome) — just a well-written story that immerses us in the deep-end of a world while we’re still learning to dog paddle. And, right now, that’s all we need to do.

If the trade summary sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because it is. It’s hardly the first story about a part-human, part-machine bounty hunter in a futuristic setting. In fact, there are more than a few BLADE RUNNER callbacks and homages, from the issue’s narration to the color palette, but that’s alright with me. It’s a favorite of mine, so I can dig it. GHOST IN THE SHELL will probably also be counted as an influence. But this book is strong enough to stand on its own, and I hope it can find a footing with audiences out there.

If you’re into mixing cyberpunk, dystopian futures and stories about human beings with robot parts with a bit of crime noir and a some not-so-subtle social commentary, you’re going to love this. It’s well-written, and the main character is, simply, a badass.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Surprisingly refreshing for a well-tread genre, Stained is a standout.

THE DREGS #3
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Story: Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson
Art: Eric Zawadzki

What The Trades Say:
A city with a past, a girl with no present and a hero with no future.

What Bookwyrm Says:
Add another one to the “detective noir” pile with this one. But, damn, is it good.

THE DREGS continues its story of a homeless man investigating the disappearance of his friend. This issue takes him out of his comfort zone and into the more “civilized” world, where he is marginalized even further by people who have no use for him.

Both the writing and the artwork deserve accolades here. Nadler and Thompson give their main character Arnold a distinct voice, one that distinguishes him from our own preconceived notion of who he should be judging by his appearance. His narration of the story provides interesting insight into his character; he’s a smart man, disheartened and disappointed by the world around him. Substance abuse has riddled and addled his mind, leaving him a mess trying to clean up other messes. As for the artwork, Zawadzki gives perspective to the world Nadler and Thompson are creating, choosing to center the action on Arnold himself so we see how much the city around him changes as he leaves the Dregs and ventures out into the city.

Good books reveal things about their characters. Great books reveal things about their readers. As you read THE DREGS, try to remember your last interaction with a homeless person. Did you brush them off? Did you assume they wanted money and completely tune them out? This book reveals just as much about our world as it does its fictional version of Vancouver.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
A hidden gem that deserves every excellent review it gets.

PAPER GIRLS #14
Publisher: Image
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Cliff Chiang

What The Trades Say:
Here comes the future!

What Bookwyrm Says:
If you haven’t been following this series, you’ve been missing out. Brian K. Vaughan, famous for Y: THE LAST MAN and SAGA, has created something pretty special here, and his penchant for strong female characters takes centerstage. The series centers around a group of newspaper delivery girls in the late 1980’s (well, at first), while tossing in a bit of time travel, otherworldly threats, and mysteries that need solving.

If there’s one thing this book is doing right (it’s actually doing lots of things right, but this is the one that really sticks out), it’s building anticipation. It spreads out its story so that all of the pieces line up perfectly, then wipes the whole board clean in the last few pages and makes you question everything that came before. In the hands of a lesser writer, this type of story could be messy and convoluted. But this is Brian K. Vaughan we’re talking about here. You should know what to expect.

Cliff Chiang’s artwork also deserves some accolades here. He has crafted a distinct look for PAPER GIRLS that make it stand out on the rack. The style is full of energy and character, and the way the action flows from panel to panel is noteworthy. I actually had to thumb back through the pages to pay attention to particular panels because the way the story flowed was so effortless. Also, the covers of the series are some of my favorites out there currently.

As a 2016 Eisner Award winner for Best New Series and Best Penciller/Inker, I really shouldn’t have to tell you that the entire series is worth picking up. But I will anyway.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Vaughan serves up another excellent entry in this fantastic series.

That’s all for me this week. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen… I have come here to chew bubblegum and read books, and I’m all out of bubblegum.

For more #RocktheRack and other comic news on our 24/7 news feed, don’t forget to check out DFTG on Twitter for all you need to know in one convenient place.

Liana Ruppert578 Posts

With an arguably unhealthy obsession with Mass Effect, Liana has been an avid collector of gaming and comic memorabilia for well over two decades. With a passion for writing, gaming, and comics - she is currently working as Editor-in-Chief for the revival of Prima Games, with previous managing editor experience with several gaming publications including ComicBook.com, The Hollywood Reporter, TwinGalaxies, and other outlets. She is also the Co-Owner and Managing Editor for DFTG. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, as well as several Facebook communities online.

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