Nothing actually showed up in the box (or the shelf) this week, but I’ve been working on a motherlode due to my weeks away for the holiday, so there’s quite a bit to poke through. It’s long, so if you want to click around, the list is American Vampire, Billy the Kid, Elephantmen, Ozma of Oz, Sweet Tooth, Transformers, Unwritten, and Walking Dead. Further down, I also talk about some of the fine beers that accompanied me in this reading. Please to enjoy.
Walking Dead #80 (Image, $2.99, pull): Last issue: Shit got real. This issue: Shit continues to assert its reality. In this, the first part of the “No Way Out” arc, the group is dealing with the big pack of walkers that just showed up at its gates, something you knew was going to happen eventually. Rick’s crew steps pretty comfortably back into its role of survivalists (and now, protectors), and the community seems happy enough to let this happen. I’ve been liking the gated community story, but I think the big zombic boost comes at just the right time (that is, the worst possible time for our heroes). One minor gripe, and this is nothing new to WD, is that we really jump abruptly between scenes, and the Bendis-grade levels of dialogue threaten to drown out a lot of the book’s beats. Still, it remains one of the last titles I read every month for all the right reasons.
Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #4 (Dark Horse, $3.99, shelf grab):This series comes to a close as it began: Weirdly and with a bunch of surprises. It’s a good fit if you’re a fan of Eric Powell’s main book, The Goon, but (as Gary of Gary’s Comics argued), it loses a little goodwill when we’re not getting new issues of The Goon because of it. Still, weird, gory, and pretty fun.
The Unwritten #21 (Vertigo, $2.99, shelf grab): This book is both awful and terrific to be reading single-issue. It’s great because Mike Carey parcels it out in satisfying episodes; it’s a little daunting because the story has gotten so complex, you almost have to re-read the previous issue or so to remind yourself what was happening. Tom’s still learning the rules of Moby Dick alongside a Captain Ahab who may or may not be his father, Lizzie’s trying to contact him with the blood trick, and Richie’s got his possible vampirism under control (for the moment). This is a great issue for getting at the “rules” of fiction, a lousy jumping-on point, and it ends with a nigh-literal cliffhanger. Oh yeah, and there’s Frankenstein.
Sweet Tooth #17 (Vertigo, $2.99, shelf grab): This issue in brief: Everyone collides with everyone else, Jepperds finds out more about his kid, and some dyin’ occurs. Frames aren’t one of the first things you hear about with comics, but this issue they’re key to getting the chaos of the story across while still keeping things straight – even in the madness, the organization does a great job of keeping everything paced and cohesive.
Ozma of Oz #3 (Marvel, $3.99, shelf grab): You’re not following this if you didn’t grow up with the Oz books, but the art is amazing and the dialogue is straight out of those books. I keep telling myself to wait for the trade, because each 8-issue arc is a complete book, but it’s too cool-looking to wait for.
Transformers #15 (IDW, $3.99, shelf grab): The old, movie-inspired art is back, and this book is in danger of losing me again – I know some people like it, but I can’t relate to faces that look like collections of scrap. The storyline that got me hooked – alien robots integrate with the existing struggles on Earth – seems to be at a crossroads now that Megatron is alive again. Will they keep with this new path that gave us cool ideas like the Combaticons working for North Korea, or are we headed back to the same-old, same-old? Only one of these is worth my money.
American Vampire #10 (Vertigo, $3.99, shelf grab): This is still such a cool book, and it somehow avoids suffering from vampire story fatigue (for me, anyway). I like that the American breed is both a lot more wild and a lot more ugly (when vamped out) than its Old World counterparts – they resisted the urge to make the U.S. vampires look cooler, and I respect that. This issue, we find out what happened to Hattie, Pearl’s roommate who also turned (and betrayed Pearl). She gets to live in a locked room as a lab rat in hopes of figuring out how to kill the American bloodsuckers. Things degenerate from there.
And now, the beer!
What I’m drinking: I kicked through these issues in two sessions because the stack was so big, and I enjoyed two big beers in that time. Southern Tier Brewing’s Choklat Imperial Chocolate Stout (22 oz., 11% ABV) is … well, it’s hard to describe without essentially saying “It’s so chocolatey!” but it kind of is. That might seem obvious, considering the name, but often chocolate beers tend more toward the oh-so-genteel “notes” of chocolate. Not so here. The chocolate is what you smell first, and the taste is most definitely a strong dark chocolate; even the texture is more velvety than your typical stout. It’s not a bad stout, either, with a thin brown head and an ABV that makes it a nice winter warmer. I should clarify that we’re not talking chocolate milk levels of flavor – you won’t forget you’re drinking a beer – but the strength might put some off. Me, I liked it.
I had also picked up a sixer of Erie Brewing Company’s Ol’ Red Cease & Desist (1o.1% ABV) during my last trip up to Erie County, Pa. EBC’s beers are pretty reliable, and I particularly like Mad Anthony’s American Pale Ale. This is another strong beer, a Wee Heavy style, and it’s a nice, malty red. The flavor is assertive, not aggressive, but it’ll definitely warm you. Although I enjoyed this from the bottle, it wasn’t quite as good as the first time I had it on draft at Pittsburgh’s excellent Bocktown Beer & Grill. They’ve surely rotated it off tap by now (another great thing about Bocktown, but if you see it somewhere, give it a try.