Is Goldberg in Trouble? Plus, Ponderings From WWE Smackdown Live

Bill GoldbergBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week’s segment on Raw with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar brought back some interesting memories. Not of either of them, but of Bill Goldberg.

Goldberg was a superstar, make no mistake about it. He was a larger than life superhero. But so was Hulk Hogan. So is John Cena. So is Roman Reigns. As we’ve seen with all those men, sometimes wrestling fans get tired of the superhero shtick. Older fans in particular want someone more complex, someone with more gray area to them. As such, cheers can turn into boos.

Goldberg was no stranger to boos. WCW even tried an ill conceived Goldberg heel turn. But it simply was what it was. Some fans liked Goldberg, others didn’t.

These memories might have been lost to many of us as we basked in the honeymoon period of Goldberg’s return. But as we saw on Raw, the honeymoon may be over. They chanted for Brock despite Heyman’s obvious attempts to get them to chant for Goldberg. Eventually, we actually heard chants of “Goldberg sucks!” Reportedly, Vince McMahon became angry backstage and pulled the plug on the segment.

Granted, it was in Brock’s home state of Minnesota. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best place to try getting the crowd to chant his opponent’s name. But what happens when they put Goldberg out there in front of the famously opinionated Toronto crowd at Survivor Series? Remember, this was the crowd that famously turned on the Rock at Wrestlemania XVIII. It’s also the home country of Bret Hart, whose career Goldberg unintentionally ended with a brutal kick to the head.

Bill Goldberg vs. Brock LesnarHeel or babyface, Goldberg is a draw. What happened Monday doesn’t change that. But WWE needs to be ready for whatever these crowds decide to do in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series. Fans may have bought a lot of Goldberg DVDs in recent years, but that might not translate to an adoring audience…

Ponderings From Smackdown Live:

Bray Wyatt def. Kane in a no disqualification match, when Randy Orton abruptly hit the RKO on Kane. If they were going to go to the trouble of making this a no DQ match, they could have actually made it seem like the reigns were off a little. Outside of the interference by Orton and Luke Harper, what exactly made this match more dangerous than your average one-on-one match?

Later in the show, Orton simply said: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He took the world’s longest pregnant pause before he said it, but he got it out eventually.

Of course, Daniel Bryan used this same logic a few years ago when he joined the Wyatt Family. He got a hell of a moment out of it on Raw when he finally turned on Bray inside a steel cage. A normal person wouldn’t be stupid enough to fall for this again….

But because these are WWE writers penning this, we’re probably getting a week or two of Randy Orton in the Wyatt Family.

Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Alexa Bliss interrupts Becky Lynch’s return to Smackdown after an injury. There’s so much talk about the “four horsewomen” of NXT. But in terms of charisma, Alexa Bliss is up there. She’s obviously reciting written dialogue, but she’s so natural with it. It’s tough to believe she’s only been wrestling for about four years.

Pleased to see Becky back. When she couldn’t wrestle at No Mercy, I think we all had flashbacks to Sasha Banks having to drop the Raw Women’s Title. It should be fun to see her defend the belt in front of that Scotland crowd in two weeks.

The Hype Bros def. The Ascension, will represent Smackdown at Survivor SeriesSo this Survivor Series match with the tag teams will be 10-on-10, with five teams being represented in each match. So in order to win, do all 10 members of a team have to be eliminated? Or are both members of a team eliminated when one is pinned?

Either way, the Hype Bros qualify as expected. Much like Karl Anderson in a singles match, when the Ascension was announced, the outcome was never in question. These poor guys never get to win.

Nikki Bella def. Natalya to become the captain of the Smackdown women’s team at Survivor Series. Natalya is hereby left out of the match. Carmella ambushes Nikki afterward. Of course Nikki Bella is the captain. Why wouldn’t she be? I assume they’re waiting to announce the addition of the women’s champion until after the Becky/Alexa match in Scotland.

Nikki Bella, Natalya, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016With Nikki’s use of a modified STF to end this match, they continue to build up her relationship with John Cena. I imagine that’ll be part of a larger story down the road. It’s inevitable that one of Cena’s opponents will use Nikki to get to him.

Heath Slater & Rhyno def. The Spirit Squad to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Adding Slater and Rhyno to the mix is a decent way to pad the program with Miz and Ziggler for another month. But after Survivor Series it has to end. These guys need new dance partners. Unfortunately, the only heel challenger that immediately comes to mind for Ziggler is Baron Corbin. That program was done to death earlier this year.

AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose by disqualification. After they showed a replay of Ambrose doing a big dive to the outside, JBL said: “We need Rick Grimes out here.” Not only did that reference not land, but I can almost guarantee you he’s never seen The Walking Dead, and had no idea what he was saying. Bad form, sir. More accurately, bad form to whoever told him to say it.

Something about Mauro Renallo calling a Fujiwara arm bar made me smile. I can’t remember a WWE announcer saying that since Taz. Inevitably, one of the reasons Mauro gets compared to Jim Ross so much is because, like JR, he calls the moves. That’s the difference between being a wrestling announcer and a sports entertainment announcer.

James Ellsworth, AJ Styles, WWE Smackdown, October 25, 2016Ambrose and Styles always have good matches, and I’d been looking forward to seeing what they’d pull out of the hat here. As it turned out, one of their big tricks was James Ellsworth getting overzealous and attacking Styles, costing Ambrose the match. I liked this. It casts Ellsworth as not only a hopeless underdog, but a misfit and a screw up. He played it up even more on Talking Smack, looking like the saddest, most ashamed guy you’ll ever see. You’re not going to go to Madison Square Garden with James Ellsworth. But as a character, this guy is good. He’s an unconventional asset they can use to tell really interesting stories.

Also, No Chin Music is a hilarious name for a finish.

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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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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. 15 –

The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find OurselvesTITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #85-90
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED: December 14, 2011

Need to catch up? Check out The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve always preferred to read The Walking Dead via these trade paperbacks, as opposed to the single issues. With the single issues it’s sometimes difficult to be patient with this series, as the majority of it consists of talky scenes which by themselves might mean very little, but they add up to something much greater. When you read the trades, you can see what they add up to. That being said, We Find Ourselves didn’t exactly add up to a thrilling read. It was intriguing at times, but not necessarily exciting.

This book follows the catastrophic events of No Way Out, in which zombies overran the small community of survivors that Rick and his comrades now find themselves a part of. Carl suffered a life threatening, and from many a fan’s eyes controversial, injury that has left Rick devastated. Meanwhile, some of the survivors are wondering why exactly Rick has been appointed leader, as he’s been in the group for so little time. That question may lead to an uprising that could tear the group apart.

The Walking Dead #89, Charlie AdlardOne of the big themes of this book is community, its importance in this post-apocalyptic world, and whether it can truly be achieved when everyone is fighting for survival. In truth, that’s been a theme throughout the entire series, and it’s never really worked out for Rick and the gang, has it? Part of what makes this series so wonderful is the fact that the zombies aren’t the greatest threat to the survival of humanity. The question of whether or not these characters can survive is intertwined with the question of whether they can co-exist as a unit. It’s certainly a topic worth analyzing, and this book does it fairly well. Rick and Carl add a different perspective to that idea, as Carl’s injury forces them to look at how much they need each other.

The purpose of We Find Ourselves seems to be bridging the gap between No Way Out and whatever the next big event is in the saga. We’re playing up the idea of community, which will undoubtedly prove a major factor in forthcoming issues. We’re also developing the character beats further, and even developing some new ones, i.e. Rick confiding in Andrea. What happens between them in this book (at the very end especially) seems a bit forced at first, but when you look at the fact that they’ve gone through so much together, and are among few characters to have survived for so long, you forgive that. I’m waiting to see what happens in future issues before I condemn it altogether.

The Wallking Dead #89, Charlie AdlardThe fact is, there’s not a lot that actually happens in this book. I’m inclined to forgive a lot of that, because when you’re telling a story you can’t always keep the tension and intensity so high for a prolonged period of time. Sometimes you’ve got to build it to a fever pitch, then bring it down and start over. The fever goes down in this book, as it needs to. But I found myself wishing Kirkman and Adlard could have worked a smaller problem into the fold to spice things up a bit, and make us feel like we’re not just going through the motions. One can only hope that when things heat up again, it will be worth it.

RATING: 6.5/10

Images from graphicpolicy.wordpress.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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