Last issue, I was pretty harsh on Charlie Adlard’s work. Something I’ve been thinking about the past couple of years is what makes a good writer. I know, wasn’t I just talking about Charlie’s art? This is a review for The Walking Dead Deluxe #8 alright, but I’m going to veer off track for a minute before coming back, I swear.
I was looking at some of DC’s classic titles and wondering something… how does Jeph Loeb have so many in here? He’s got the likes of Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Hush, and even Batman/The Spirit. But, isn’t this the guy that has written stuff like Ultimatum and that Red Hulk stuff?
I don’t think Jeph Loeb is an amazing writer, in terms of words. What I think he’s amazing at though, is his ability to give his artists a story that accentuates their talents. He gives Tim Sale a noir story for Long Halloween. He gives Jim Lee an action-packed story with all sorts of cool characters and scenes for Jim to put in action and cool poses. He gives Darwyn Cooke a silly story, to play up on humor and that old-school nostalgia.
The point I’m getting at is that Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard have extremely different skills. Tony is extremely detailed, draws lively expressions, and vibrant movement. Charlie is a lot more subdued, he’s moody, and uses shadows heavily. I think the last issue did a lot for him, but I think this issue gives him a lot more. We’re seeing Robert Kirkman grow as a writer, learning to give his artists material that works for them.
As I’ve mentioned before, if you’ve read The Walking Dead before, then you know about the lulls in the story. Where Robert Kirkman takes a step back, let’s the story come to a crawl before putting his foot on the gas again. This issue is still in the lull from the last issue, but we’re getting hints of how things are going to ramp up. That’s not to say that there isn’t any action, there are some zombies that Rick and Co. have to fight off, but that’s not the focus.
Last issue, there was just too much exposition. Kirkman went too far with Tyrese and Rick having to talk through everything. It was telling, not showing storytelling that can be really frustrating and boring to read. This issue, he backs away from all the plot stuff and gets down to the characters. We have to explore the pregnancy, Tyrese joining the group, Dale and Andrea. Kirkman does what he does best here, which is to back off and let the characters just be characters.
And of course, he gives us a very famous Walking Dead cliffhanger.
This is what I was going on about in the introduction to this review, the art. I was a little harsh on Charlie Adlard because it is a really jarring experience going from Tony Moore to Charlie Adlard. I think we saw Charlie do a lot of what he’s good at before, but here, Kirkman is giving him pages that fit him better. I don’t think Charlie has the dynamism of Tony Moore when it comes to the action, and his anatomy isn’t as on point, but it’s the use of shadows and how he creates mood that makes him so effective.
I actually very recently just read Codeflesh, a little series Adlard did with Joe Kelly about a vigilante bail bonds guy. He draws some real hardcore action, guys throwing each other through walls and stuff like that, but it was the sorrow and pain that he draws in a face that was compelling, it was when the action was off that I was more intrigued. This is very interesting, I feel like a lot of artists are the opposite way. I can comfortably say I’d rather see a Jim Lee comic with a lot of epic poses, or a John Romita Jr. comic with a lot of movement and action.
But, I’m learning to appreciate Mr. Adlard’s talents, and what his strengths are. Look at the shot below of Dale and Andrea. There’s something so attractive and gross and desperate and cool about it, all happening at once. And the way he drowns everything in shadows. He was definitely the best artist to use for a black and white series, but I also think that it makes the impact of the colors less impressive as they were with Tony Moore. While I think the snow scenes look better in color, the scenes inside the house don’t benefit from Dave McCaig’s impressive skill as much as they might’ve on Tony Moore’s pencils.
In modern-day comics, there is a lot of switching up of artistic teams. The time it takes to draw an issue and how much detail artists are putting in these days is just absolutely insane. To see some of these comics and understand that this was done in a month is absolutely mindblowing. I think it’s always important to remember that. But, something that I think we, as the audience, have lost over time is appreciating the artists behind the pencils (or digital stylus’ they use on iPads and stuff now).
Artists are not interchangeable and I think Kirkman’s first issue was taking into account Charlie Adlard’s differing skill set, but not as much as this issue does. It’s a cool experience to see it and to figure it out on our own from the outside. I don’t think we discuss how a different artist on Superman may affect the flow of the story and the pace because of their strengths, or how a new artist may bring unique weaknesses to a Spider-Man book. We’re consuming so fast and so much lately, that the artist is getting forgotten. But, the best writers, know their artists. We should too.
To cap everything off, the Letter Hacks segment is good as usual, I’m glad to be done with the modern-day letters, it’s too much. I want one or the other but honestly, I don’t have the endurance to read TWO sets of letters. Look at me complaining about extra content! The Cutting Room Floor is pretty disappointing this issue, really nothing interesting brought to the table by Kirkman. Really makes you think, if Adlard isn’t benefiting that much from the colors and The Cutting Room Floor segment is barebones, what are we really buying this for? Anyway, it’s a really good comic, I’m starting to wonder though, is it worth it if you’ve already read the series? I say keep going, but it’s a discussion we should have again around issue #12.