Open Mike Night - Descender #1 & The Walking Dead Vol. 1

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Descender #1

Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Dustin Nguyen
Lettered by: Steve Wands
Cover by: Dustin Nguyen

Published by: Image
Cover Price: $3.99

Weaver: I don’t generally like space stories, I’m going to say that from the start.  But I was interested in this because of the philosophical aspects of it, so I gave it a shot.

I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this comic.  I feel like the first issue throws both a lot and not enough at you...mainly, you get a lot of information about topics that I’m sure will become important later like how the government is organized and what groups comprise it, but I feel like several things that are important right now were just kind of mentioned in a line of text and never really explored.  We see the apocalyptic moment here, and then fast forward, which is a useful narrative device in order to not have to explore what happens between then and now except in brief reflections.  What we don’t see is much about how robots were in society before the apocalyptic moment, which seems to be pretty necessary information to understand the situation we find ourselves in.

Maillaro: I have had a lot of time to think about this issue, and I have to admit, I’m still not sure how I feel about it either.  I do know that my favorite part of the comic was the description of the various worlds after the main comic series.  You can tell Lemire has some great skills at world building.  But I did think there was a lot of confused ideas throughout the issue that never quite came together right for me.

Really, the problem to me was that there just wasn’t enough context.  For example, the main character sends out a distress call and some scary looking dudes show up in the end to answer it.  But I had no idea why this was a particularly bad thing, especially something worthy of ending on a cliff hanger.  I spent a lot of my time reading this issue comparing it to Saga.  Saga also throws you in the deep end, but gives you plenty of support and narration to help you feel grounded.  I never quite felt that here.

Weaver: I feel that the worldbuilding notes at the end would have been better served at the beginning or integrated into the comic as it went.  Really, we don’t know much during the comic itself about how everything ran before the apocalypse, which feels like necessary information.  After all, it’s hard to have context for how much things change if you don’t know where they were before.  The art tries to help out a lot here, but it can’t do enough on its own.

Maillaro: I wonder if a lot of this is the whole “write for trade collection” mentality.  A lot of Image’s series seem to sell well as trades.  For someone who gets the first four or six issues at once, this probably wouldn’t be as big as issue.  We say this a lot, but great first issues seem to be a dying art.  To me, you really build your world in the first issue, and not just leave so much for interpretation.  

I did think the presentation for this book was pretty clever, with minimizing the dialogue when we first meet the main character, but I do think that the issue would have been better served by fleshing things out more.  Showing off only counts when you can back it up.

Weaver: Yeah, remember when we did that old Avengers issue and it seemed better at bringing you up to speed than several modern first issues?  I still think this would be an issue in trade, because if you’re not giving me much of anything in the first 20 pages, I’m not inclined to think you’re going to give me much later.

And yet, at the same time, I really don’t want to talk a lot of junk about this comic.  It felt like a paper that I would mark Incomplete, but based on revisions (later installments) it could be something good.  I don’t think I want to pay on the off chance that happens, though.

Maillaro: Yeah, I agree.  I think there is a lot here...and based on the creative team, I am willing to give them some leeway, but in most cases, after reading a first issue like this, I am not sure I would be coming back.  There are too many comics I read and want to read, so if something doesn’t grab me immediately, I am hesitant to give them my money again. 

Weaver: There’s so many monthlies out there that you have to give me something as a hook to make me choose this over a bunch of other titles.  And there isn’t enough of that here.

I feel like we’ve said what can be said about this.  I’m giving the story a 3, but the art...I really really like the art most of the time, and feel it tells a lot of the story itself.  I’m giving a 5 to the art.

Maillaro: Dustin Nguyen is a great artist.  He did Lil Gotham which was one of my favorite digital series until it abruptly ended.  I’m going to give Lemire the benefit of the doubt here.  I think there was a lot of great stuff here that just didn’t quite pan out like I would have liked to.  4 for the writing.  5 for the art.

The Walking Dead Vol. 1 - Days Gone Bye


Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Tony Moore
Additional Grey Tones by: Cliff Rathborn
Lettered by: Robert Kirkman

Published by: Image
Cover Price: $8.99

Maillaro: This is actually the second time I’ve read Days Gone Bye.  I will admit up front, I’ve never really been a fan of The Walking Dead.  It seems like a book I should love.  I am a fan of Kirkman’s work on Invincible, Haunt, and Marvel Team-Up.  I like good zombie stories.  And I think black and white is an awesome stylistic choice that never gets enough appreciation.

Despite all this, I’ve just never really been able to get into Walking Dead.  The show has no appeal to me.  I will definitely agree that the comic is good, but nothing I would buy or read on a regular basis.  I honestly don’t know what it is.  I always try to be honest with the reader, so I will say maybe it is the book’s popularity.  I have no interest in Breaking Bad, Mad Men, or Game of Thrones either.  Which probably makes me the bane of the internet…

The real tricky part of Walking Dead has been that I have a few non-comic reader friends who like the show and the comics, and always try to connect with me through Walking Dead.  I always feel like a real douche when I have to say, “I don’t read or watch it.”  Man, like was so much easier when comics were viewed as kid’s stuff to be ignored.  And now, somehow, I have become a cranky old hipster…

Weaver: It turned out I had read more than I thought of this (probably all of it) before, and not realized it.  I’m kind of in the same hipster mold here, which is funny since we’re both typically easy to please, but I’ve tried Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, so on and so forth, and none of them are very interesting to me compared to a billion things that have come before.  

Unlike Descender, The Walking Dead dodges giving you the apocalyptic moment by having the main character be in a coma when it happened.  I believe that the impression is that he was in a coma for about a month, and the zombie plague started around the same time, but the hospital he’s in was abandoned about a week before he comes to.  I’m all for willing suspension of disbelief, but I’m not sure I buy into all this.  Anyway, once you get past the miracle resurrection moment, and the fact that he’s easily walking around the hospital after getting up from a month long coma, a week of which he wasn’t taken care of at all during, Rick Grimes is a likeable enough character who seems to be mostly seeing the bright side of things and having faith in his fellow man.  I like the character of Rick a lot.

Maillaro: Yeah, that waking up in a hospital thing bugged me too.  Especially since it seemed like it was pinched directly from 28 Days Later which came out a year earlier.  Maybe that was purely a coincidence, but it definitely caught my attention as an issue.

One thing I really liked about the first volume of Walking Dead is that most of the characters are really likeable.  Other than Shane (Rick’s former partner who ends up slipping the little zombie to his wife when they both assume he died in the zombie outbreak)...and even Shane seemed to mostly have redeeming qualities, he just seemed to be slowly driven mad by guilt.  But all the other characters seem to be dealing with things reasonably well.   I know this isn’t the case in some of the later trades, but I thought it was nice to see a dystopia where for the most part characters maintained their least for a little while.

Weaver: I think in general Shane’s not a bad guy either.  I’d agree with the characters being mostly really likeable...somehow, it even makes me like the old guy who has shacked up with two 20 something sisters that he rescued, a scenario that normally would make me a little uncomfortable.

A problem with the characters, in my opinion, is that it’s very clear early on that one of the sisters is going to survive since we have several moments of “You’re so good with guns,” which led me to believe even on my first read that the other would die.  Also, of course the guy who is so closed off that he never says anything to anyone is quick to die so that we don’t have to waste a lot of time starting to enjoy him...although I did like him anyway.

Maillaro: Yeah, it’s a zombie book, so people had to die.  But I agree totally that it did feel a little predictable who was going to die.  Even once Shane started to get a little crazy eyed, it seemed very unlikely he was going to be around much longer.

I did have one major question reading this...what happened to Morgan and Duane?  We meet these characters with Rick starting to explore the world, but they decide to stay behind.  I wonder if they even come up again.  I found myself dwelling on that question for a while after I finished reading this book.

Weaver: Yeah, I felt the same way...they seem like they want to stay right where they are, so they aren’t likely to head to the Atlanta area woods, and while Rick does suggest pulling up stakes and going somewhere else, and his biggest opponent to that idea seems to walk into the woods with Rick AND ONLY ONE COMES OUT...I don’t think Rick wants to go back to Kentucky.  Which was another slight issue I had with this book.  Morgan and Duane mention that they felt Rick’s neighborhood was much safer than their own, but from that moment on Rick consistently “Aw, shucks” his way into portraying his hometown as being pretty small and boring.  Having grown up in a small and boring town, I’m willing to buy into there being a hospital (even though Rick’s estimation of the town makes that seem unlikely), but having multiple neighborhoods that are that different from each other is questionable, to me.

Long story short, I don’t see a real possibility that they cross paths again, but it probably happens anyway.

Maillaro: I will say this.  I absolutely loved the art on this book.  Like I said earlier, I think black and white is a great stylistic choice when used well, and Tony Moore really blew me away here.  There is so much detail, especially in terms of the individual zombies and survivors.  I find that when I read a lot of non-superhero comics I have some trouble telling characters apart, but that was never an issue here.

I was also amused that the credits acknowledged a “grey tone” artist.  And it was deserved, there is a ton of great shading here that serves just as good as coloring.  Better in many places.

Weaver: I noticed the same thing on the “grey tone” credit to Moore and Rathburn..and I agree it was well deserved.  It’s hard to make black and white work this well, and it fit the theme perfectly.

Maillaro: I would easily go another five for the art (I really need to go back and do that database...we seem to give a lot of 5’s for art).  Story I’m going to lowball at a 3.  I didn’t hate it, but I don’t quite love it like a lot of people do.  Sorry to the Walking Dead fans.

Weaver: I feel like we either give art 5’s or really low marks (Squirrel Girl comes to mind).  I feel like story tends to stay in a relatively consistent 3-4 range for most titles, with a few 5’s and a few lower scores like the mess that was Uncanny 250.  But I’m interested in a database.

Art at a 5 is a given.  Beautifully done comic.  As for the writing...I have a friend who lists Walking Dead and a few other titles (some of which I agree with the quality of like Sandman, some of which I don’t agree with such as Watchmen) as being so artistic and wonderful that they cannot be called comic books, they must be referred to as graphic novels.  I disagree with him a lot about that.

Maillaro: In my humble opinion, no series that is over 100 issues can ever be called a graphic novel with a straight face.  I even think Bone is stretching it at 55...

Weaver: Neil Gaiman once said that calling a comic book a graphic novel is like calling a prostitute a lady of the evening.  It might make you feel better about what you’re doing, but in the end, everyone knows it’s the same damn thing.  Thus, he always said that he wrote Sandman comics, and while I disagree with Neil on a lot of things, I don’t disagree here.

Anyway, long winded approach to say...I’ll be a bit more charitable and bump the story up to 4 because of the great characterizations.  And maybe because I fear The Walking Dead fans.

Maillaro: time.  Hey, we haven’t done the new Silver Surfer series yet, right?  

Weaver: No...and that will be interesting, since I know you have a lot more love for Norrin Radd than I do.  As in...a lot more love.

Maillaro: It’s Dan Slott and Mike Allred, so that should ease your pain some!

Weaver: I do like Mike Allred.  Alright, sold.  

Maillaro: So what do you have for me in the back issue bin of doom?

Weaver: It’s tempting to make you read the Dazzler as a herald of Galactus issue, but I’m not that cruel.

Maillaro: Actually, let’s do it!  I’ve been reading Secret Wars, and that got referenced there  a few times.  Oddly enough, I have read the issue before that, but never the actual herald issue!

Weaver: I vaguely recall reading at least one or two Dazzler issues involving Galactus, but I don’t think I’ve ever read her actually serving as his herald.  Time to go dumpster dive looking for it.  Just kidding, I randomly have access to Essential Dazzler, which should have it.

Maillaro: Cool and the gang!  See you later in the week!

 Final Scores


Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Descender #1





The Walking Dead Vol 1 - Days Gone Bye