With my town in the grip of frigid weather and icy roads, some might think it reckless of me to venture out at all. Nevertheless, I had things to do. I had to pick up some ingredients for my Christmas cake, and- it being Wednesday- I had to make a trip to Outland Comics. I was expecting some new books in my pull box.
My trip through the great outdoor deep freezer proved worthwhile. I discovered my four wheel drive worked well enough to get me out and back home safely. With the Christmas cake now in the oven, the whole house smells like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, all kinds of good stuff. And I found time to curl up on my favorite chair with the dog and cats and read.
Issue 117 of The Walking Dead packs in quite a bit of action for what’s supposed to be a filler issue. I expected to see the fallout from Rick’s attack upon Negan’s base. I expected to see setup for Negan’s retaliation or another strike from Rick. I expected Negan’s characteristically profane vocabulary. I expected zombies.
I got all that and more. I did not expect to see Ezekiel’s tiger Shiva get in on some zombie killing action. I did not expect to see quite that much profanity in the single cluster F-bomb Negan dropped upon realizing the danger his base was in. I hated Holly when she was first introduced, and I had definitely not expected to do a complete one eighty. Whether she dies or survives in the upcoming issues, she will do so with some greater respect from me. But I won’t get attached.
And Robert Kirkman had the grace to save the biggest shocker for the end. Negan revealed something that shows he’s not just a ruder, cruder version of the Governor. His methods aren’t just different. He’s playing an entirely different game. There are a variety of ways it could play out, and I’m curious to see how.
And of course I’m curious to see who will make it out alive.
I read books like Amazing X-Men for the opposite reason I enjoy books like The Walking Dead. There are no heroes in The Walking Dead, at least not of the sort I like in superhero comics. The very, very best are mere human beings trying to make the best of the zombie apocalypse- and the very worst are, too, in their own way. But nobody triumphs. While there are small victories, they may not last, and they most certainly come at a price. Ultimately, the best we can hope for is that the characters we like live well, die well, and don’t come back as zombies. But we can’t take even that for granted. And we don’t. It’s as realistic as we can expect anything from zombie pop culture.
But sometimes I get more than my fill of grit and grief from real life, and that’s when I turn to books like Amazing X-Men. I don’t expect superheroes to be perfect, but I find stories of good people fighting the good fight and winning inspiring. I’m entertained by the crazy situations superheroes endure. I like feeling confident that the good guys will prevail, and I feel satisfied when that confidence is vindicated. Sadly, I hadn’t been getting as much of that out of superhero comics over the past several years.
Today was different. To paraphrase Sean Pigeon’s contribution to the letters pages, I read superhero comics because I too like “that they allow the impossible to be possible.” I generally loathe the cliche Major Character Death, especially since there’s no more shock value, the readers know it’s a gimmick even if the creators don’t believe so, and the character will inevitably return due to popularity, a movie coming out, or concerns about maintaining trademarks. However there is something to be said for losing one’s self in, as Mr. Pigeon again put it, “a world where we can be reunited with lost loved ones.” Lost loved ones who won’t claw and bite us to death, that is.
This is the first time I am bothering with a story arc involving a dead character’s return. Normally, I prefer to just pretend such characters never died- unless we’re talking about Jean Grey, and we aren’t. Nightcrawler’s passing, besides being something that I thought shouldn’t have happened in the first place, was rather shoddily handled, so I was fully prepared to pass on reading his inevitable return. But I had faith in Jason Aaron’s ability to write a fun book and his grasp of a good, fun, and multifaceted character like Nightcrawler, and he pleasantly surprised me with Amazing X-Men 1. While I still have questions about where the Bamfs come from, I was similarly pleased with this second issue.
The biggest surprise- even bigger than the appearances of Professor Xavier and a couple of historical personages- was seeing Northstar, who I never took to be a very fun character even when writers allowed him an occasional witticism, actually cutting loose and enjoying himself at the bad guys’ expense. The other characters are quite well handled, believable, and while not perfect, definitely likeable, pitted against a delightfully madcap variety of demons, pirate demons, and even Jack the Ripper and Billy the Kid.
And just like Kirkman did in this week’s issue of The Walking Dead, Aaron saved the best for last. “Now comes the fun part,” Nightcrawler promises.
I expect that promise will be kept in the next issue.