A Review of The Walking Dead #156 – True Psychopathy

The Walking Dead #156, 2016, Charlie AdlardTITLE: The Walking Dead #156
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 7, 2016

***WARNING: Major spoilers lay ahead for The Walking Dead #156.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When reading The Walking Dead, I always try to keep in mind something Robert Kirkman wrote in the letters column for issue #100:“A good indication that we’re not going to do something is if hundreds of people predict it. If it’s obvious, we’ve probably already decided not to do it…because it’s obvious.”

So with all signs pointing to a Negan/Alpha romance, we probably should have realized a swerve was coming. And it’s every bit as bloody and graphic as you’d expect from Negan.

After spending about two years as a prisoner in Alexandria, Negan has escaped and joined The Whisperers. But he needs to prove himself, mainly to their leader Alpha. As we come to learn, Negan’s way of life doesn’t necessarily mesh with his new cohorts. As a result, near the end of the issue he abruptly kills Alpha, and then beheads the corpse. We close with the line, “Wait until Rick gets a look at you…”

Alpha, TWD 156This is the issue where the emotionless and merciless Alpha finally breaks. So much of this series has been focused on what the apocalypse turns people into. But we’ve never gone the other way. In the our final scene, Negan destroys the psychological barrier she’s built around herself. Despite her status as a villain, it’s heartbreaking. Especially when she talks about missing her daughter Lydia, who we’ve come to know. Then, of course, Negan robs her of the chance to ever see Lydia again. Thus her story becomes even more tragic.

Negan is such a fun character that it can be difficult not to like the guy. Until he does something awful, and you’re kicking yourself for not remembering just who he is. Issue #156 is a textbook example. He saves a young woman from being raped, and then seems to show Alpha his own unique version of compassion. But we’re reminded that he is a psychopath in the truest sense of the word. He talks about losing his ability to feel a full range of emotions after the death of someone close to him (presumably his wife). This explains why he has such a difficult time when other people get emotional around him. We see it here with Alpha, and the scene with Carl from issue #106 comes to mind.

Negan and Alpha, TWD #156The line about Rick is obviously curious. The way Rick has come to him for guidance lately, my guess is Negan tries to use the murder of Alpha as a get-out-of-jail card. Now, as a free man who happens to have the leader’s ear, he’ll have a huge amount of influence, and perhaps the ability to chart a new course.

The praise for Charlie Adlard’s work almost goes without saying at this point. The scene where Alpha breaks down is fantastic. Strictly from a visual standpoint, we can see the cracks start to appear in her hardened demeanor until she finally loses control. The final page also lands really well. But my favorite moment in the issue can be seen above. Negan doesn’t know how to handle Alpha breaking down, and Adlard simply has his eyes dart to his right. He’s so obviously uncomfortable that it inevitably becomes funny. Of course, then he cuts her throat. Kind of a buzz killer.

So whose side is Negan really on? Is he about to take command of The Whisperers? Or will he show his loyalty to Rick? The only thing we can be sure of is that in the end, Negan will be on his own side. I’d be surprised if a reunion with Lucille isn’t far off.

Images from readcomics.net.

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