A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 16 – Jesus and Zombies

The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger WorldTITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #91-96
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED: June 13, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It never quite goes the way they want it to, does it?

Oh sure, the characters we see in Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead do have their moments of triumph, no matter how brief they are. But they’re almost always followed by horrendous, bloody tragedy. That’s the way the pattern works in this book. Brief triumph, tremendous tragedy. Such is the way of things in a world infested with the undead.

In A Larger World, Rick and the rest of our heroes meet a man named Paul Monroe, whose nickname is Jesus. He tells them he’s part of a network of communities that trade goods, and that they’re welcome to join. Rick doesn’t buy it, and ends up taking him hostage. Now, as Rick continues to explore the nature of his relationship with Andrea, Carl struggles with his new facial disfigurement, and the group faces the reality that they’ll soon be running out of food; Jesus’ claims will be tested. And, as is par for the course in The Walking Dead, blood will be spilled.

The Walking Dead #91, JesusOne of the keys to The Walking Dead‘s popularity and endurance is the fact that at its core, the stories usually aren’t about zombies. They’re about human beings, the choices we make when life tests us, and the people we become as a result. Robert Kirkman deserves a lot of credit for being able to create stories that have such raw emotion and humanity without always having to have to play the zombie gore card. This book is as good an example of that as any of the other Walking Dead trades.

One of the themes in A Larger World is the human need for things like compassion, camaraderie, companionship, trust and love. With all that’s happened to him, Rick rejects so much of it. Obviously that’s on display with the Jesus and the community storyline, but we also see it with Rick and Andrea. Andrea reaches out to Rick, trying to show him love and affection. But he turns her away, not wanting to risk losing her too. We see Eugene reaching out to Holly in the same way. But like Rick, she’s not interested. There’s also a great little scene where Michonne matter-of-factly talks to Abraham about how lonely she is. When you pull back and look at the story as a single book, as opposed to individual comic books, you really start to see how the different story beats play into the larger theme.

I’ve always said The Walking Dead is better consumed in graphic novel form as opposed to single issues. Depending on what’s happening in the story at the time, the individual issues can be rather dull when you open them cold. It has nothing to do with how Kirkman and Adlard pace the stories. It’s more about how large portions of the stories are often made up of a lot of different characters just standing around talking. That’s perfectly fine. But when you’re taking the story in chunks on a monthly basis, it can sometimes be difficult to give that kind of book the attention or appreciation it deserves until you get to go back and read all the issues in sequence. If this book has one major flaw, it’s that.

The Walking Dead #96, Rick Grimes, Charlie AdlardWhat’s interesting about the Jesus character, is that he seems to legitimately have good intentions. But history has trained Rick and his crew not to trust anyone. Like the characters, we want to trust this new person, but we’re understandably cautious. Kirkman and Adlard do a nice job of keeping that question hanging in the air as we turn the pages. As readers, as have as much a reason to be cautious as the characters do, if not more. Because by now we know how the cycle works. We know tragedy is coming. We don’t know when, where, how, or to whom. But it’s coming…

Anyone else looking forward to The Walking Dead #100?

RATING: 8/10

Image 1 from dailydead.com. Image 2 from comicbook.com.

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