A Review of The Walking Dead #167 – Andrea’s Fate

TITLE: The Walking Dead #167
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: May 3, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s always been a direct correlation between the quality of a Walking Dead story, and how real and relatable things feel. That’s what’s made this story different from typical zombie lore. We’ve had so much time with these characters, and seen them to do much more than run from zombies. The world they live in is obviously a fantasy. But we’ve seen them grow and change like real people.

That’s what makes issue #167 so impactful. To a certain extent, it feels like a real person has died. Furthering that point, it’s handled in a very raw and emotional fashion. This is unquestionably one of the best issues of the entire series. Maybe the best.

Andrea has been bitten. After having been with her for so long, Rick must once again say goodbye to a woman he loves. But can he bring himself to continue on without her? And how does her death impact Carl, Negan, Michonne, and the rest of the survivors? Especially now that the Saviors may once again be a threat…

I’ve never been any good at saying goodbye. Maybe that’s why this issue resonated so much with me. This is essentially one big goodbye to Andrea. They even forego the letters column this month, replacing it with a message from Kirkman about the character. It all may seem a little self-important. But The Walking Dead has such a passionate and devoted fanbase, that you can actually see the some of the reasoning behind it. Andrea has been part of the series since it’s second issue. She was one of the “originals.” So her death means that much more.

My favorite page in the issue is on a 16-panel grid, where we see major and minor characters alike pay their respects to Andrea. Each gets one panel. There’s a striking honesty on this page. You have some of the obvious, “we love you” and “if it hadn’t been for you” type stuff. But Heath, for instance, says: “We never talked much. I’m sorry for that. I’m not the best at making friends.” Carl’s love interest Lydia says, “I don’t think you like me, but…I’m not going to hurt Carl.” Then you have Negan, who puts his own little spin on a goodbye. And that’s not even taking the artistic quality of the page into account. It’s fantastic work by Kirkman, Adlard, and the entire team.

Kirkman uses Andrea’s death to talk about the human condition a little more directly. When talking with Carl about his relationship with Lydia, she tells him “People like to think there are people out there they’re meant to be with” but that “Anybody can love anyone if they want to.” He’s essentially trying to debunk the idea of soulmates, and asserting the notion that people make their own destinies. One might read that as Kirkman getting on his high horse. I suppose that’s true. But it’s his book, after all…

As one might imagine, much of the issue is spent with Rick and Andrea alone. He sits at her bedside in her final hours. It’s good stuff, but we get some odd repetition. Rick breaks down, talking about how he can’t go on, can’t stay strong, etc. In her last big monologue, Andrea tells Rick that he must continue, and how he’s made everyone else stronger. Then a few pages later, after Andrea has passed, Rick doubts himself out loud again. As he did just a few pages earlier, he says he “can’t do this anymore,” and that he just killed a woman a matter of hours ago. (It happened last issue. Long story.) The only real difference is that Andrea is dead in the latter scene. It’s a big difference of course, and Andrea’s monologue has all the appropriate power. I just wonder why the choice was made to have Rick repeat himself. In between those stretches of dialogue, we get four whole pages of silence, simply letting the art show us the final moments of Andrea’s life. I wonder if it would have been better to maintain that silence.

Charlie Adlard, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn work their usual magic here. I almost hate to use that term, as it seemingly lessens the gravity of what they’ve been able to accomplish on this series. Adlard and Rathburn have been with the series since its early days. So it’s always gratifying to see them there when a long-standing character leaves the book.

There are a good amount of splash pages and two-page spreads in this issue. There’s a two-page shot of Rick at Andrea’s bedside that’s tremendous. There are a lot of deep black in the room, yet we get the sunlight coming in through the window. This is also a great showcase for Adlard’s character “acting” skills. He’s become absolutely amazing with the subtleties in human facial expression. Case in point, the splash page of Rick’s face after Andrea is gone once and for all, and the impact of what’s just happened finally sets in. Then you have the panel below, where Andrea has died, and Rick has to prevent her from turning…

Despite Andrea’s death, this issue is really about two things: Perseverance and hope. This is the most painful and most personal blow Rick has faced since he lost his wife and baby. But the issue ends not with more grief, but with an eye toward the future. The Walking Dead isn’t necessarily a series that’s known for it’s optimism. So often this world prompts its character to act on their darkest and most disturbed impulses. Going the other way was smart, given the emotional impact of what we’re seeing. It’s part of what makes this a landmark issue for the series.

One of the things Kirkman does very well with The Walking Dead is create a certain legacy for characters that have died. The deaths of characters like Glenn, Lori, and Herschel are still being felt in the series today. So as we move forward, the question becomes: What will Andrea’s legacy be?

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A Review of The Walking Dead #150 – A New War For a New Era

The Walking Dead #150 (2016), Charlie AdlardTITLE: The Walking Dead #100
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: January 13, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers for The Walking Dead #150 lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Walking Dead #150 was a let-down for yours truly. But I’m not sure I have any right to  it a let-down.

In this milestone issue, Rick continues to ponder the community’s next move after the Whisperers killed so many of their people. But after he is attacked by two of his own people, Rick announces that his community will not stand by and be helpless. The time has come to form a military. The world of The Walking Dead may never be the same.

I’ve made it sound more epic than the issue actually is. But this seems like a story we’re meant to look back on later and say: “That’s where they started in that direction.”

The Walking Dead #150, Charlie Adlard, Rick and EugeneI came into this issue thinking about the book’s previous landmark issues. In The Walking Dead #100, Negan made his debut and promptly bashed Glenn’s head in with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. In issue #125, Rick had a big confrontation with Negan that ultimately led to his victory over the sadistic potty-mouth. The Walking Dead #150, a bloody fight notwithstanding, doesn’t give us anything like that. There aren’t any of the book’s trademark heart-wrenching moments or daring escapes. There isn’t a major triumph for anyone. This isn’t a bad thing, per se. But it does leave you saying: “That’s it?”

The notion of Rick being some kind of military leader indicates he’s going down a path once walked by the likes of The Governor and Negan. As we see in this issue, Rick has more compassion than either of them. But how exactly does one run an virtuous, humane military in a world where virtues and humanity are often lost to carnage and brutality? What does a post-apocalyptic military even look like? How does it work? It seems these are the questions we’ll be examining going forward. The concept is intriguing to be certain, particularly with Negan in the wings.

The Walking Dead #149, Charlie Adlard, NeganWe don’t see much of Negan (shown right in issue #149) here, but he’s cast very well in this devil-on-your-shoulder type role. The scenes in previous issues where he’s talking to Rick from his cage bring The Silence of the Lambs to mind. There’s a moment in this issue where Rick is talking to Eugene about artillery, and he says: “The Whisperers won’t know what f***cking hit them.” This subtle nod to Negan’s influence on Rick hints at one of the dangers he’ll face going forward. How does he keep his community from crossing too many lines, and becoming a new version of the Saviors?

As for the fight scene, it definitely fills the gore quotient. Rick sinks his teeth into his attacker’s neck, showing us he hasn’t lost any of the savagery that helped him survive in the old days. That’s where all the blood we see on the cover comes from, and Rick uses it to help rally the community behind him.

The Walking Dead #150, Charlie Adlard, Rick Grimes chantOn that subject, near the end of the issue many of the community members actually chant Rick’s name (shown right). This is one of the rare Walking Dead moments I would classify as lame.

Charlie Adlard is Charlie Adlard. At times it feels like that’s the only way to describe the art in this series. The man has made himself into a legend. He’s been with these characters so long, and has been so consistent with his work that he brings a familiarity to every issue. Every movement or expression from Rick or one of his cohorts feels natural, because no one knows them like Adlard. That’s one of the reasons these characters feel so real.

The Walking Dead #150 isn’t a thrilling read, but Kirkman and Adlard are continuing to lay groundwork for thrills to come. That might not make for overly compelling content now, but given what’s come before, I’d wager the future still looks bright for The Walking Dead.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Review of The Walking Dead #100 – Enter Negan

The Walking Dead #100TITLE: The Walking Dead #100
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 11, 2012

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead #100.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

While answering a fan question in the “Letter Hacks” section of The Walking Dead #100, series writer and co-creator Robert Kirkman says the following: “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.”

That’s something fans of this series (or at least I myself) should have kept in mind when opening the long-awaited issue #100. Prior to this issue, Kirkman and penciller Charlie Adlard had taken Rick, Carl, Michonne and a few other more prominent characters, and split them off from the homestead where Andrea and the rest of the group were. They’d done all but erect a giant neon sign to suggest that Andrea’s group would be attacked and likely all killed by a character named Negan and his gang of tyrannic thugs. He’d built up a new romantic relationship between Rick and Andrea, gotten most of the A-listers out of dodge, and even shown us a few gang members near the homestead where the characters were staying. It looked like the stage was set for yet another big, bloody massacre where Rick would once again lose the woman he cares for.

The Walking Dead #100, Glenn, Charlie AdlardCue the swerve. Negan and his goons found Rick and the others in the van, and Negan beat Glenn to death with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire. More than half the issue consists of a scene where Negan not only kills Glenn, but says things like:

– ”We pissing our pants yet? Oh, boy–do I have a feeling we’re getting close. It’s going to be pee pee pants city here real soon.”

– “The new world order is this, and it’s very simple…Give me your shit or I will kill you. You work for me now. You have shit–you give it to me. That’s your job.”

– “I just hope–for your fucking sake, you’ve finally realized how things work and where you stand in all this…Whatever you had going for you–that’s over. You answer to me. You provide for me. You belong to me.”

This is one of those twists that you kick yourself for not expecting, because it retrospect it seems so obvious. Yes, Kirkman and Adlard were heavily hinting that Andrea and the rest of the crew were going to bite it. But all the characters that I as a reader care most about (Andrea being the sole exception) were also placed in a van and sent out into the wild. Given that this was the 100th issue, and we were expecting an important character to die, the odds of said fatality happening in that van were 10 times higher than the homestead.

The Walking Dead #100, Negan's debut, Charlie AdlardMind you, I don’t say this in anger. When you’re so wrapped up in the story that you can’t see the bigger picture from a deconstructionist standpoint, that’s a great thing. A lot of fans were no doubt expecting that homestead to go down in flames. Instead, Kirkman and Adlard gave us something much smaller in scale, but much more important and impactful: The introduction of a new villain who, when push comes to shove, may be worse than the Governor was.

The Negan character has only been around for one issue, but I love him already. He’s exactly what this book needs to inject some fresh life into it. He’s an obnoxious bully with an entitlement complex who’s not afraid to beat you to a bloody pulp, assuming his thugs are there watching his back. He’s also not afraid to pick on guys smaller and weaker than he is…like poor Glenn.

Negan, The Walking Dead #100, Charlie AdlardGlenn’s death is another “should have seen it coming” moment for me personally. He was one of the few characters left who’d been around since the start of the series, so fans were pretty invested in him. We’d also recently found out his wife Maggie was pregnant, which gives us an additional element of tragedy. That’s enough to point the proverbial scithe at him, but when you throw in his nice guy attitude, he’s the perfect victim to establish the horrific Negan. His death also makes the Maggie and Sophia characters much more interesting. The advantages to killing Glenn outweigh the advantages of keeping him alive.

Glenn got one of the most unapologetically graphic death scenes I’ve ever seen in comics. Negan smashes his skull with his first shot, making his left eye jut out, then cracks him across the jaw, and finally just knocks the hell out of him until his head is essentially hamburger meat. Adlard gives us a nice look at that eye again, as it literally sits on the ground beside what used to be Glenn’s skull. This is good not only for a little shock value, but to put Negan over as sadistic bastard he needs to be.

Interestingly enough, just before Glenn’s death Kirkman cracks the fourth wall a bit. Through Negan, he seems to let the audience in on his thought process on who to kill in the big 100th issue. He looks the characters over one by one, and thinks out loud…

The Walking Dead #100, Negan, Rick Grimes, Charlie Adlard– Carl: “I can’t kill you before your story ends. Too f***ing interesting.”

– Michonne: “There’s a lot of things I’d like to do to you, and killing you is at the absolute fucking bottom of that list.”

– Rick: “How stupid do you think I am? You’re practically invincible.” (He actually seems to be talking to some of the fans on this one.)

The Walking Dead #100 gave the series the shot in the arm it needed to freshen it up. There certainly hadn’t been a lag in popularity up to this point. But the series had reached a certain creative high back during the Governor storyline that it had yet to equal. Now we have a new villain who appears to be as sadistic as the Governor ever was, not to mention much more irritating. Negan now has Rick’s group outnumbered, and under his thumb. This obviously puts Rick and the others in a position where they have to endure even more adversity, and grow as characters. This issue was exactly what it needed to be.

Images 1 and 3 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from moviepilot.com.

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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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A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 14 – The Unthinkable and the Inescapable

The Walking Dead, Vol. 14 coverTITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #79-84
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED: June 15, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Admittedly, I came into No Way Out a bit jaded with Robert Kirkman and the whole Walking Dead experience. Let’s be honest: At this point, the book is essentially the same thing happening over and over again. Rick and the gang find a new place to stay, or get some kind of new hopeful idea, and eventually it all goes to hell, some people die, and they’re back to square one. It’s like a little kid playing with blocks. It doesn’t matter how high that tower gets, eventually it’s coming down. I came into this book knowing I was going to see everything go to hell again, and I wasn’t especially excited at the prospect of the entire process repeating itself again.

But I’d forgotten about the element that, in my opinion, is the key to the longevity of The Walking Dead: The naked humanity Kirkman and the creative team put into the stories.

The Walking Dead #83, Rick, CarlIn No Way Out, the small community that Rick and his band of survivors have become a part of comes under attack by a small army of zombies. The group is overwhelmed. Once again, Rick and the group are forced to make heartbreaking choices. In the end, a certain choice of Rick’s may end up costing him the life of his only son, Carl…

Indeed, this book contains the controversial issue #83, in which something terrible and irreversible happens to Carl. In the latest issue, they printed some of the hate mail the folks at TWD got over it. If you want to put a positive spin on it, it definitely illustrates how passionate the fans can be about the characters who’ve been there since the beginning of the series. Personally, what happened to Carl didn’t surprise me. In The Walking Dead, anybody can go at any time, for better or worse.

I think a few decisions Kirkman made for the worse happened in the way he handled the Morgan character, both in this book and the previous one. Morgan was the first non-zombie Rick came into contact after he woke up from his coma. At that point, Morgan had a young son, but had lost his wife in the zombie apocalypse. Morgan’s son eventually became a zombie, and had to be killed (again). Rick’s group eventually found Morgan, and he became one of them.

The Walking Dead, Morgan deathFor my money, TWD made a mistake in killing off Morgan’s son, and certainly made a mistake in reuniting him with Rick. Morgan was a character we got invested in very early. When Rick and the others found him, we all knew his backstory, and were wondering what he’d gone through since we last saw him. We cared about him. Kirkman could have used this to his advantage. In one of the Walking Dead collected books, Kirkman wrote an exclusive short story featuring Morgan and his son around Christmas time. They didn’t endure anything incredible. We just got a look at what they were up to. If I were Kirkman, I’d have kept doing these short stories not only to give us an occasional treat, but to take us to different locations and give us the occasional break from whatever Rick and the other survivors are up to. The scope of the series could have been widened, if only for a short time. Instead, Morgan became just another member of our regular cast.

4985I sometimes have a problem with our ensemble of characters in TWD, in that it can be hard for me to tell people apart, or remember everybody’s backstory. Rick, Glenn, Andrea, and others who’ve been around since the start aren’t a problem. But newer characters can sometimes be hard to differentiate, especially in the black and white art. “Okay wait, what’s this guy’s deal again? What’s his big trauma/secret?” Things like that. But to an extent, I suppose that’s inevitable when you’re dealing with so many people. I’ve always just pushed through, and it’s gotten me this far.

Any one character in The Walking Dead has had to endure multiple heartaches and traumas, the caliber of which the average real person only has to deal with once or twice over the course of their life. In No Way Out, we see two men torn about whether they should fall for other women after their wives have died, we see a man feel terrible remorse for cheating multiple times on his now-dead wife, and we see a man flat out say that he would sacrifice the life of another child for his own on any given occasion. That’s pretty heavy stuff to say the least, and it’s what truly makes The Walking Dead series about people, not zombies.

RATING: 8/10

Image 1 from comicsonmynightstand.blogspot.com. Image 2 from walkingdead.wikia.com. Image 3 from zombiediary.com.

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