Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Walking Dead Volume 10: What We Become (2009)

I've been a busy blogging beaver for many months now, but I had no idea it had been over a year since I last read and reviewed my favorite flesh-eating zombie survival horror soap opera comic, The Walking Dead. The previous volume was something of a low point for the series, so I guess I can forgive myself for letting two trades and a solicitation for a third pass me by before finally getting back to it fresh.

Where I might have groaned about our crestfallen protagonist Rick still playing telephone games and having nightmares about the departed, I was instead relieved to have hooks back into the series' status quo after such a lengthy absence. I'd forgotten who all had managed to survive volume eight and regroup, so some reacquainting was due, not to mention reminders that there's a slew of new characters I'm now slightly less prejudiced against. In truth though, Abraham remains the only one making a real impression, as his personal history and escalating tension with Rick are the main driving forces in this edition.

Picking up from last time, the crew continues their slow push toward Washington, D.C. After the fall of their longtime previous home, our survivors need a reason to keep going, but it's clear their psyches and interpersonal relationships have been devastated in the aftermath. When Michonne is your most calm and stable cast member, things have certainly taken an ugly turn. The latter half of the book revolves around Rick and his son Carl returning to their old neighborhood in search of supplies and a loose thread left hanging since the earliest issues of the series. Abraham is in tow, and unsurpringly, things take a turn for the grimmer and barely let up.

Never moreso has it been clearer that the walking dead of the title are not the zombies, but the increasingly disturbed humans barely getting by. Where last time, Rick's whining and delusions seemed regrettably indulgent, it now is apparent that he's just succumbing to the psychological traumas that have plagued the weaker cast members in the past, but now leave even the most hardened unscathed. Coming full circle back to Rick's starting point illustrates how terrible things have gotten, and how the hopelessness of the situation is unsettling everyone to the point where it's tough to feel safe in the company of even the oldest, most comfortable cast members. As an added bonus, we finally get the classic "ghouls breaking into a house" sequence that dates back to the granddaddy of this genre, Night of the Living Dead.

Long time readers know Kirkman writes this book in cycles. Here We Remain was his dull, talky establishing of a new status quo. What We Become is the slow burning development of the current conflicts, and it ends on a build toward the inevitable shitstorm in volume 11. Luckily, now that I'm back on the book, I'm just a bit of reading time away from seeing how that plays out. After all, despite the failings of the last edition, The Walking Dead remains consistently the best series on the stands, and I buy each new collection without hesitation or remorse.


DamonO said...

Hey, Mike --

Hope you're doing well. I'm going to really tax your trivia recall abilities this time. I'm trying to think of the name of a DC character -- I believe he's a villain. He's a black character, overweight, and I think he's mentally challenged, sort of a childlike personality and maybe has some kind of energy negating powers or such.

I saw him once in an issue of the Power Company where he was used to help defeat Dr. Polaris. I think the Manhunter clone character in that title told him if he'd help defeat Polaris, they'd get his puppy back for him (which had died years earlier). I know I haven't given you much to go on. Ring any bells? You can hit me up on e-mail for a response.



Diabolu Frank said...

I believe you're talking about Black Mass from the Overmaster's Cadre?

DamonO said...

GENIUS!! That's him! You know anything about the character? Specifically, what his powers are, his backstory, anything would help.

Diabolu Frank said...

I pulled out some back issues, if you need scans, but all the relevant info turned up on Wikipedia:

"Black Mass is a fictional DC Comics supervillain. He first appeared in Justice League of America #234 (December 1985)

Geoffrey Thibodeux was a small-framed physicist who was granted a bulky body and gravity powers by wristbands provided by the Overmaster, who drafted him into the original Cadre under the alias Black Mass. Following their battle with the Justice League of America, Black Mass was sent to prison. Years later, he briefly lost his wristbands to Wally Tortolino in a card game but had them returned. Eventually the wristbands and their power bonded permanently with his body. During the Joker’s 'Last Laugh' riots at the Slab, Black Mass used his powers to draw the entire facility into a gravity well. A bullet to the head left Black Mass a vegetable, but he retained his powers and is now the cellmate of Doctor Polaris, unwittingly keeping the magnetic villain's powers in check. Still brain damaged, Black Mass was last seen rejoining the Cadre under the leadership of Polaris in San Francisco. They fought the Power Company, who ultimately tricked Black Mass into betraying Polaris (Power Company #5, August 2002). Presumably, they then shared a cell again.

Black Mass has recently resurfaced in Justice League of America #17, along with Crowbar and Nightfall, trying to leave America and escape capture. They were stopped by Black Lightning.

At some point, Black Mass met his demise and has been identified as one of the deceased entombed below the Hall of Justice.

Other media: Television

* Black Mass (alongside Cadre members Crowbar, Fastball, and Shatterfist) appears in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Clash." They were defeated by Superman and Batman. Black Mass later returns as a member of Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society."

DamonO said...

My thanks as always. I'll check out some back issues featuring the character.


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