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The Dynamic Doctoral Duo is back for another action-packed episode promising thrills and chills! This time, Gwen and Derek begin by discussing Brecht Evens’s Panther (Drawn and Quarterly), a book that gives a first impression of innocence but then becomes darker and increasingly disturbing as the story develops. Gwen is a scholar of children’s literature, and she points out that Evens follows many of the tropes found in picture books, and his style — what you’d find in his earlier works, The Wrong Place and The Making Of — may even lead readers to see this as one. But she argues that Panther is anything but a text for younger readers. Evens’s penchant for watercolor and his borderless panel style make this a most sophisticated narrative, one with no easy answers and ending in ambiguity.
Next, Derek and Gwen transition into yet another portal narrative, Gene Ha’s Mae #1 (Dark Horse Comics). In this new creator-owned series, which began last year as a Kickstarter, the titular character’s older sister, Abbie, has discovered a way into another world and often absents herself from her family. But Abbie’s fantastical getaway begins to insert itself into the mundane world, initiating events that are sure to carry the homebody Mae into unexpected adventures. This is Ha’s first attempt at both writing and illustrating in a longer narrative form, and it’s a series that both cohosts plan on returning to in the months to come.
Finally, the two wrap up by doing something that has not yet been done on The Comics Alternative: reviewing a Walking Dead title. As much as Derek enjoys the popular comic-book series and the TV show, they’ve just never had the opportunity to discuss a beginning point or something standalone from Kirkman and Allard’s franchise. But this time, they have: Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s one-shot, The Walking Dead: The Alien. This is available on the creators’ Panel Syndicate website, and as with the other titles you’ll find there — e.g., The Private Eye and Barrier — this is a pay-what-you-want comic. Gwen does not have much history with The Walking Dead, and she’s not a fan of zombie narratives, so she brings a unique perspective to the discussion…and likes what she reads. And as Derek points out, this is a title that will resonate with avid Walking Dead fans and at the same time can hold up outside of any larger narrative context. As if we needed any addition reason to love the creative team of Vaughan and Martin.