A Review of The Walking Dead #163 – The Value of Context

The Walking Dead #163TITLE: The Walking Dead #163
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $0.25
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With its 25-cent price tag, The Walking Dead #163 is theoretically a jumping-on point for new readers. Given what a global phenomenon it’s become, it’s almost hard to imagine The Walking Dead needing new readers. But if you’re someone who strictly reads the trades, only picks it up here and there, or are indeed among the uninitiated, the Undead Express has stopped and opened its doors for you.

In the spirit of new readers, the plot is pretty straightforward: A bunch of zombies are headed toward Alexandria. As in, thousands upon thousands of zombies. Literally the biggest hoard we’ve ever seen in the pages of TWD. Andrea takes a group on horseback to try and divert some of the hoard away. But Rick, Negan, and the people of Alexandria cannot escape the inevitable. Alexandria is about to be flooded by an ocean of the dead.

the-walking-dead #162, two-page spreadWe learned about this giant hoard last month in The Walking Dead #162. The revelation came with one of the best spreads penciller Charlie Adlard has ever done (shown right). With aid from inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn, he gives us an image of a seemingly endless sea of walkers. And of course, you have that one looking out at the reader, which gives it a tremendous punch.

We don’t have an image like that in this issue. One that demonstrates the immense magnitude of the threat our heroes are facing. We see big groups of zombies, and we see the ginormous hoard from a distance. But there’s nothing like this, where we can really see  how massive and all-encompassing the threat is.

I’m not greedy enough to expect Adlard and the artistic team to produce a two-page spread of this quality in back-to-back issues. However, issue #163 is not only the most widely printed in the book’s history (as editor Sean Mackiewicz notes in the letters section), but comes at an almost irresistible price. So if I have the choice of putting that spread in this issue or the one immediately before it, I’m putting it here. For readers who didn’t pick up issue #162 it would offer valuable context, along with a great taste of Adlard’s brilliance.

the-walking-dead #163, 2017, Charlie AdlardIf there was ever an issue to up that zombie gore factor, it’s this one. What we get on that front is decent. There’s lots of crushing and squishing going on. Zombies being cut apart as they’re pushed through Alexandria’s front gate (shown left), bodies being impaled on spikes, zombies walking over each other, etc. It’s good stuff, but without that context of just how big the threat is, it’s lacking something. That extra fear isn’t there.

Rick’s relationship with Negan has been one of the focal points of the series in the last few years. What does Negan have to do to earn his trust? Can he earn his trust? Can he ever be forgiven or redeemed? In this issue, he gets to flat out ask Rick about that after saving his life. This comes moments after Rick calls the other survivors to follow Negan’s lead in going on the defensive against the walkers. What kind of personal hostilities would Rick open up with Maggie if he forgave the man who killed her husband? As it stands, things aren’t exactly peachy between Alexandria and the Hilltop.

Michonne has a tremendous character moment here. After trying in vain to divert some of the zombies away from the main group, she jumps off her horse and simply starts cutting them down one at a time. She and Jesus then opt to take turns. Every little bit helps, and based on the solicitations for upcoming issues, Rick and his crew are going to need all the help they can get. Not just from zombies, but from those they thought were their allies. Allegiances are about to change.

I’m curious to see how many new readers jump in with this issue. They didn’t necessarily structure it to be noob-friendly. It was essentially business as usual. But when it comes to The Walking Dead, business is booming. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see them sink their teeth into a few new readers.

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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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