Unfortunately, due to a scheduling snafu, I didn’t get my comics this week until late Wednesday night. As a result, I wasn’t able to get through them all in one sitting so there won’t be a Pull of the Week this week. But that won’t stop me from getting you two full days of comic reviews from the books I did get a chance to read this week.
Exiles #6 – Marvel – $3.99
And finally, Exiles comes to a bittersweet end. And it’s not bittersweet because we will miss our heroic team as they are shown off in classic fashion. It’s bittersweet because the book that was so lacking in story and character development after dragging the name of one of our favorite series through the mud has finally ended and we don’t need to see it dip even further away from the quality it once was. After only four issues, it was revealed that Exiles‘ second volume, which somehow trumped New Exiles for being the worst use of the Exiles team, would be coming to a quick end. So to “celebrate” the series finale, they decided to make it a “mega-sized” final issue to help tie up all those loose ends that originally should have been spread out over an ungodly number of painfully written issues.
Much like the rest of the series, Exiles #6 just isn’t good. After finding out their first mission was not a success, the Exiles return to the world to break up the alliance that was keeping mutant kind united and would ultimately lead to the end of the world by driving the wedge of Scott Summers’ infidelity between Jean Grey and Emma Frost. When this happens, a series of events plays out that explains the “true” origins of the Exiles teams and how the Timebroker, the bugs and the old couple weren’t ever really behind their formation.
With cameo appearances from Nocturne and Heather Hudson from the original Exiles team, an explanation of the Weapon X team, the whereabouts of Earth-616’s Proteus and an explanation of what happened to the team from New Exiles, except for Psylocke who mysteriously returned home, one would think this issue would be jam packed with interesting and exciting elements for Exiles fans. But, it instead feels unceremoniously forced together in the quickest way possible. And to add further insult to injury, something that must have been planned before finding out the series was canceled was left in as a hanging thread intending to leave the reader with a “what happens next to our team?”
Everything about this book feels rushed. Though credited in the book for his work, artist Salva Espin is not credited on the cover of the issue and instead has his name replaced by “Jones” and “Kessel” who cannot be found anywhere else in the books credits. It is entirely possibly that Salva just didn’t want his name associated with the cover of such a lame issue. Again, like discussed last month, Salva doesn’t do bad cartoon style work. It just isn’t a proper fit for the tone of what should have been a more serious storyline revolving around the implosion of existence. Salva’s style would instead fit perfectly with something like the kid oriented Marvel Adventures line.
In all, both the second and third incarnations of the Exiles are nothing short of failures. With one title reaching only to issue 16 and this one barely reaching the half dozen mark, Exiles is a title that has fallen from grace. Thankfully all the original fantastic stories from the first Exiles volume can be found in trade collection. But as fond as those memories are, this book has proven that not all titles need to be revisited and some should just be allowed to stay dead. While I am aware that a statement like that will undoubtedly curse me with a return of another Exiles spin off, when that does happen I will not be putting myself through that torture any more.
Marvel Zombies Return #1 – Marvel – $3.99
And speaking of things that should have stayed buried… next on the stack was Marvel Zombies Return (Yes, there is a theme to the three books chosen today for review). Contrary to the warnings I gave myself and readers at the end of Marvel Zombies 4 which stated in no uncertain terms that I felt the Marvel Zombies property should be faded out I decided to pick up part one of this five consecutive week event since it would star the original zombies that people had gained some unusual connection to after their first appearance. This issue, as you can tell from the cover, focuses on Spider-Man. In Marvel Zombies 2, Forge had worked on fixing Reed Richards teleporter to get the zombies off his world. Apparantly he was successful in his efforts as this alternate earth’s Watcher in classic What If? fashion observes Zombie Spider-Man landing on this planet back in the early seventies.
After picking up a newspaper, Zombie Spider-Man sees he is back in time and follows the events of Amazing Spider-Man #68 where he remembers watching Kingpin and Silvermane face off over a tablet which may hold the secret to immortality. When one of the Kingpin’s goons sees Zombie Spider-Man swinging through the city (using his veins and arteries instead of webbing) he alerts the Kingpin who springs the Sinister Six to act as a diversion. And then everything falls apart as Zombie Spider-Man sees this world’s Peter Parker, Gwen Stacey, Mary Jane and Harry Osborn get attacked and he gives in to his hunger to try and save them… and hilarity ensues? (or at least that’s what it seems like they were going for).
After the much lauded Marvel Zombies and the slightly criticized Marvel Zombies 2, one would think writers would have figured out what the charm of the first appearances of these characters had been. This sixth Marvel Zombies titled incarnation proves that just isn’t the case. All the time spent developing Zombie Spider-Man as the voice of reason and one sympathetic character remaining is completely thrown out the window in just the first few pages. Instead of slowly drifting back to the mindless zombie he once was at the fault of the Hunger, he instead flips a switch and becomes a over analytical, flesh eating jerk version of himself. He quickly becomes the most dislikeable zombie of them all as he was the one people were hoping had a chance at redemption. But much like this franchise, redemption for Zombie Spider-Man has been completely thrown out the window here.
The story itself is full of holes, not even counting the instantaneous character change of Zombie Spider-Man. Certain things just don’t make sense even in the small continuity that has been established for the Marvel Zombies. A perfect example of this is when a super powered being is bitten, they become a zombie too. “Normal” people just die and become zombie chow. But in this story, once the carnage starts, various non-super powered people are walking around in zombie mode. And to add to the poor storytelling, super powered beings who aren’t bit don’t become zombies but one of the characters who is beheaded in this issue through “non-zombie” means ends up becoming one too. Suspension of disbelief is one thing but going against the rules you’ve already established to the readers who have stuck with you through five previous series just isn’t right.
The style of writing also doesn’t help the poorly constructed story. As stated earlier, the story is told in classic What If? fashion… and that isn’t a good thing. The best part of the classic What If?‘s where the scenario’s presented in them, not the often hokey 1970’s silverage writing style. But every overexplained inner monologue and campy villainous remark is present in this book. The artwork also adds to the uphill battle of the book when the first page features the classic What If? Musclebound version of the Watcher and a version of Colonel America from the Zombie-verse who looks like he has been combined with a monkey rather than infected by the zombie virus.
But if one is able to turn off all sense of logic and taste, they may enjoy some of the more horrific pages of the issue like when Spider-Man takes it to Mysterio’s globulous dome or when Sandman decides to play with no rules with this world’s non-zombified Spider-Man. But the “pretty pages “, and I use that term very sarcastically as the greatest images are often incredibly gruesome, of the issue are far and few between. Unless you are a hardcore zombie fan, you can likely pass on this book as you can get much better zombie fixes from books like Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead, ironically the same author who started this craze and the only one who got it right. But at least it is still better than Marvel Zombies vs. Disney’s Hannah Montana. (Actually that might be awesome now that I think about it.)
Last Resort #2 – IDW – $3.99
In the opening pages of Last Resort #1, you see a tropical paradise have its first encounter with a zombie like creature who crawls out of the water on to the beach and bites the face off a lifeguard. Then the rest of the issue starts building a story behind the various passengers on a plane headed to that same island. So what could writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do to give the reader something unexpected? They blow up the freaking plane! Not a zombie horde to attack the passengers but a runaway luggage car that hits the side of the plane, setting off a series of explosions. This book starts off the moment after that explosion takes place, having taken out many of the middle seats of the plane.
While the couple which looks to be our main heroes, the pilot Dean and the flight attendant Carol, work on getting whatever survivors they can off the plane, Palmiotti and Gray make sure to continue subtly building interest in the characters they focused on in the first issue like the rich woman obsessed with her dog, the movie starlet going incognito and the son who convinced his elderly mother to take the trip to visit the family. What follows is an explosive, foul language and gore filled series of pages as survivors run for their lives from the still burning wreckage. The part that doesn’t bother the reader about this is it is believable that this is how people would react in a disaster. With a plane blowing up around them, it’s hard to imagine people caring about keeping their language very PC at the time.
But things go from bad to worse for the survivors as the sexually adventurous and mutually emotionally abusive couple from issue #1 are the first to encounter an infected but how it is handled again differs from the standard storytelling often associated with “Zombie” books. Though not entirely believable how they perceive the situation when reading it on paper, it may be easier to understand had one also just had the same situation occur to them after running out of a burning plane.
The story also takes time to introduce new characters in this issue as well like two scientists stranded out at sea by the hurricane that hit the island who depend on being saved by a New York playboy and his boat filled with women who he paid to come with him (Yes, hookers. I was trying to be PC too but it just didn’t feel right with the language of this book to wimp out now). The issue gives some not so subtle hints that these scientists may have an idea behind what happened to cause the infection’s outbreak. And much like the last issue, the book ends on a pretty shocking image on its final page, though this one isn’t as entirely unexpected like the exploding plane was.
Giancarlo Caracuzzo’s interesting style of art works well in the book as it almost looks like a blend of uninked pencils colored in with watercolors. Something about these pages just feel dirty and raw. This is especially effective during the most chaotic and gory scenes of the issue like the burning plane and the debris spraying off of it as it explodes. Though the style probably couldn’t work with every title, it seems to fit the indie style of the book well. The only time it feels out of place is when showing the tattoos of one of the characters in the opening pages.
The tattoos are fully inked and computer colored so they stand out starkly against the simple pencil and watercolor feel of the book which makes it a little hard in the opening pages to fully become immersed in the book. A style that also could have worked in a strange way are the bright and cheerful covers from Darwyn Cooke. Though they seem bright and cheerful compared to the disturbing images they portray, they are eerily fitting for the book. Many of them would make for great posters with their very distinctive and eye-catching style
The Last Resort isn’t necessarily the perfect example of a “zombie story done right” since it has only gone two issues. It is, however, a great example of “doing a zombie story differently”. And that is one of the great things about indie books, they are allowed to take chances. They don’t have shareholders breathing down their necks if a franchise tanks or the next big event falls shorts. Creators at publishers like IDW get to try out different things that haven’t been tried before to see what works. And while they don’t always work out, this book is a good example of a different style of storytelling compared to the stereotypical zombie books out there and deserves a try from any fan of the comic horror genre.
See, it’s not all negative. The theme was “things that should stay dead” today. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy comics as Last Resort showed us. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for my reviews of the Invincible Iron Man story arc “World’s Most Wanted”, the debut of Fallout Boy’s Pete Wentz’s Fall Out Toy Box and more.