Treading Water And Sucking Blood : “Empire Of The Dead” #2



Looking at things in strictly structural terms, second issues are often a tricky wicket in the comic book racket. In today’s marketplace, especially, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re going to lose nearly half your readership (at the very least) between the first and second installments of any given book simply because cover prices are so fucking high (the going rate for the series under discussion here today, Empire Of The Dead, or as it’s known to Marvel Comics’ legal department, George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead Act One, is $3.99 per 28-page issue, with only 20 of those pages devoted to actual story and art) that a title has to be seriously flawless right out of the gate in order for everybody to shell out their hard-earned cash for a second serving.  So you’d better give the diminished-yet-loyal cadre who have showed up for the second round good reason to keep coming back for more — a nifty plot twist or two never hurts — and you’ve also gotta put in some serious work on fleshing out the world you showed in only the broadest strokes in the series’ debut installment.

With those two admittedly impromptu standards in mind, it’s safe to say that Empire whiffs on the first — badly, in fact — but connects rather nicely on the second, and therefore the end result is a decidedly mixed bag indeed.



Nothing much happens here in terms of plot progression, with Romero choosing instead to paint a more complete picture of his zombie-and-vampire-infested future New York City. We learn that the devious Mayor Chandrake, his even more devious nephew Bill, and their ghoulish entourage live, appropriately enough, at the infamous Dakota apartment building, and that Bill is a bit reckless in terms of his procurement methods for new flesh (and blood). We learn that SWAT-officer-turned-zombie Francis Xavier is displaying even greater signs of intelligence (or at least more successfully mimicking learned behaviors, as she proves when she arrests a criminal) than previously thought. We learn that uber-zombie Zanzibar is an even bigger bad-ass in the coliseum than we figured by way of a particularly gruesome fight sequence. And we learn that Dr. Penny Jones can be somewhat ruthless in pursuit of her research goals, even going so far as to enlist her feminine wiles to aid her cause.

But that’s about as far as things go here. There is some impressively Bacchanalian excess going on in the Chandrake suites, with carnal blood-letting taking up most of the issue, and there’s some political “court intrigue” introduced in the New York city council, but there’s no real story advancement taking place in the traditional sense, with Romero apparently being content to take this opportunity to merely expound upon his characters and their various situations a bit more fully (except for poor Paul Barnum, who’s scarcely given anything to do). That might work reasonably well for one issue, I suppose,  but we’re going to need more the next time around — a lot more, in fact, especially given that part three will mark the more-than-halfway-point of this initial five-issue arc. I’m not ready to say this second issue was a failure so much as a missed opportunity, but it all hinges on what happens (or doesn’t) next.


At least the art doesn’t let the side down, though. Alex Maleev’s rough. sketchy illustrations are rich with atmosphere and convey a genuine sense of both brutality and foreboding, while the variant covers (by Maleev, Arthur Suydam, and Greg Horn,  respectively, as shown) are all pretty goddamn cool in their own way. Now it’s just up to “Mr. Zombie” himself, George A. Romero, to give his artist some more interesting things to draw. I’m down for another issue, but the go-nowhere nature of this one has tempered my initial enthusiasm for this series quite a bit.

The ball’s in your court, George. You haven’t let me down yet (as mentioned in my review of issue one I was even a fan of Diary Of The Dead), but this is a  new format for you with new demands — and new possibilities.  I’ve still got exactly $3.99 worth of faith that you won’t disappoint me now, either.


Scenes I Love: 86th Academy Awards Show

bill murray oscars reuters

Always known to be the quirky, eccentric personality, during last night’s broadcast of the 86th Academy Awards, Bill Murray provided a fitting, spontaneous tribute to his long-time friends and collaborator Harold Ramis.

Harold Ramis passed away last week at the age of 69 and Murray’s on-stage tribute to his friend must’ve brought not just smiles and applause from the crowd but some tears as well.

Whatever one thinks of last night’s show this was one moment that made it all worth watching.

20 Random Thoughts About The Oscars


If only Jared Leto had leaned a little more in.

1) Let’s start with the ceremony itself.  It ran way too long, it was full of slow spots, and it was almost painfully safe.  And yet, it was also fun to watch.  As opposed to Seth McFarlane, Ellen DeGeneres went out of her way to keep things positive and uncontroversial.  There’s a lot of political and social turmoil in the world right now but you wouldn’t know that from listening to any of Ellen’s jokes.

But you know what?  That’s okay.  Last night’s Oscar ceremony was 3 and a half hours of positive energy in an increasingly negative world and how can you complain about that?

2) This may be the first Oscar telecast that I can remember where there really weren’t any bad acceptance speeches.  (I could have done without the woman singing after Twenty Feet From Stardom won for Best Documentary but that’s mostly because I find gospel music to be tedious and everyone knows Stories We Tell should have been nominated and should have won.)  So, who gave the best acceptance speech?  I think it’s a 7-way tie between Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o, Matthew McConaughey, the two songwriters who won for Best Original Song, Spike Jonze, and Steve McQueen.

3) How adorable was Jared Leto last night?  Not only did he give a great acceptance speech but he also brought him mom to the ceremony to him!  How sweet!  I think I may have a new celebrity crush to go along with the Franco brothers, Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, and Idris Elba.

4) I enjoyed Pharrell’s performance, largely because it provided proof positive that I’m a better dancer than Meryl Streep.

5) I haven’t seen August: Osage County but, just judging from the clips they showed of Meryl and Julia Roberts in the film, I’m not regretting that decision.  It’s hard to judge a performance on the basis of a few seconds but both Meryl and Julia came across, in what I did see, as being painfully shrill.

6) I’m not a religious person but I did enjoy watching all the hipster douchebags having an online meltdown after McConaughey thanked God.  I haven’t seen them that scandalized since Clint Eastwood endorsed Mitt Romney.

7) A lot of people made some unkind comments about Kim Novak and the way she looked (and acted) during last night’s broadcast.  Well, you know what?  Kim Novak is 81 years old and she was directed by Alfred Hitchcock so, as far as I’m concerned, she can do whatever the Hell she wants.

8) I loved Penelope Cruz’s dress!  Penelope Cruz always reminds me a lot of my mom so I’m always happy to see her.

9) “Jim Carey” was briefly a trending topic on twitter, largely because everyone was misspelling Carrey.  That’s probably a bad sign, for an actor, when people can’t spell your name correctly.

10) For the second time in Academy history, Tyler Perry was a presenter.  That’s probably the closest Perry will ever get to winning an Oscar.

11) As far as my predictions went,  I got 18 out of 24 correct.  My mistake is that I assumed there would be more upsets than there actually were.  As a matter of fact, there really wasn’t a single upset this year.

12) I recently rewatched Blue Jasmine and I have to admit that I was a lot less impressed by Cate Blanchett’s performance the second time.  If anything, Sally Hawkins is really the one who held the film together.

13) A film directed by Woody Allen won an Oscar last night.  Has Ronan Farrow responded yet?

14) As far as the winners go, I can’t complain.  My favorite of the nominees was American Hustle but 12 Years A Slave is a great film as well.  I did get a little bored with Gravity winning every single technical award but then again, Gravity deserved its victories.

15) Of all the nominated performances, I think that Barkhad Abdi’s was the most underrated.  I think a lot of people are assuming that Abdi was simply playing himself.  Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to show more of what he, as an actor, is capable of doing.

16) I loved American Hustle but a lot of my fellow film blogger did not.  What I find interesting is that people go so overboard with the American Hustle hate, as if the film’s existence is a personal insult or something.  Seriously, let’s all grow up, okay?

17)  My BFF Evelyn’s review of the show is that U2’s performance of Ordinary Love put her to sleep and she never really woke back up.

18) As is tradition, I live-tweeted the Oscars and it was a lot of fun, even if my tweets weren’t quite as good this year as last year.  When I was asked who I was wearing for the Oscars, I replied, quite truthfully, “Victoria’s Secret” and gained a dozen new followers.

19) One very odd thing of note: essentially, a few hundred of the most outspokenly liberal people in America were all gathered in an auditorium together and yet, somehow, it was a very apolitical evening.  Jared Leto mentioned the people of Venezuela and Ukraine in his acceptance speech and Steve McQueen spoke out against slavery but otherwise, politics did not come up.

20) Now that this Oscar season is over, is it too early to start speculating about next year’s Oscar winners?  Of course not!  A lot of people seem to be excited about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  Myself, I’m curious to see what David Fincher will do with Gone Girl and whether or not the people at AwardsDaily will declare it to be the greatest film ever made without having seen it (which is typically their response to any movie directed by David Fincher).  And let’s not forget that Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel is opening in just a few more days.