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, Vol. 27 – Negan Rises, Lucille Falls

TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #157#162
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED:
March 1, 2017

***WARNING: Minor spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The biggest thing I took away from The Whisperer War? That the Saviors were a tough act to follow.

That’s not to say they aren’t interesting in their own way. It’s hard to not be interested in a group that wears zombie flesh and rejects the idea of civilization. But the Whisperers are to The Walking Dead what Bane was to Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. On his own merits, Bane was pretty damn evil in The Dark Knight Rises. But the Joker left such an impression on you in The Dark Knight that anyone else paled in comparison. Like the Joker, Negan made a very violent, vile, and personal impact on our heroes. But he was also uniquely charming. That’s why in many ways he’s become the star of the book.

More than two years after their war with the Saviors, Rick Grimes and our network of survivors are once again prepared to fight. But this time the enemy is very different, and the heroes have far more resources. But the Whisperers have something at their disposal  that could destroy everything Rick and the survivors have built: An army of the dead.

The most interesting aspect of this series since the time jump in issue #127 has been Negan’s quest for redemption. But we aren’t exactly sure if that’s his true motivation, or if he’s playing some kind of long game. Either way, we’ve gotten to see him from a few different perspectives. First as a prisoner, then an unlikely confidant for Rick, now a sort of comrade-in-arms.

Negan’s famous baseball bat, Lucille, is unexpectedly shattered in this book. It’s actually sad, in a silly sort of way. More endearing is the burial and eulogy he gives it in issue #162. As many of us know, it’s not really about a damn baseball bat. But seeing his personification of it come full circle is a neat little window into his heart.

On the subject of matters of the heart, Maggie has a great character moment. One of the newer characters, Dante, has been crushing on her for quite awhile. In this book he puts his cards on the table, but Maggie says she’ll only ever love Glenn. When he presses her on being alone for the rest of her life, she simply says: “I’m happy when I think of him. I’m not asking you to understand. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense to you.” I love that. It’s unconventional, and it’s a great moment for fans who miss that relationship.

Artistically, the strongest issue is #162. Penciller Charlie Adlard, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and gray tone artist Cliff Rathburn give us a gorgeous two-page spread of the largest herd of walkers we’ve ever seen (shown right). But I also love the faint smile Adlard draws on Negan when he apologizes to Lucille for naming “a stupid f***ing baseball bat after you.” He also gives Rick a tremendous terrified look when he realizes the big hoard is coming.

The fire sequence in Issue #161 is also particularly strong. After an attack by the Whisperers, the Hilltop is burning. We see Carl nearly die after rushing back into a burning building. And for pure badassery, it’s tough to top Lydia kicking a zombie as the flames roar behind them.

The Walking Dead also shifts to a 16-panel grid for this volume (shown right), giving the book a much more dense feel at times. If you’re not used to seeing this layout, it can take some time to get used to. I once heard Gene Ha say it’s best to read a comic book twice, once for the story, and a second time just to absorb the art. That’s certainly the case here. I can’t imagine how much extra work this creates for Adlard, Gaudiano, and Rathburn. The books don’t suffer for the change, though. That’a a testament to the talent at work here.

I don’t know whether Negan is playing the long game. Be we know one person who is: Robert Kirkman. The Whisperer War is clearly a smaller piece of a larger puzzle he and this crew have been assembling since issue #127. Thus far it’s not quite as thrilling as what’s come before. But you can’t always judge an image until you can see the whole thing.

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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 #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 Fear the Walking Dead, S1E1 – Anticipation and Frustration

Fear The Walking Dead, S1E1, GloriaBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The premiere of Fear the Walking Dead has some problems. But they’re problems that, in hindsight, you’d expect to have in the pilot of a Walking Dead prequel. Namely, the audience’s anticipation for zombie gore, and the frustration of having to wait so long for a human/zombie confrontation. They give us a very brief one in the opening scene, but then we don’t see another for almost the entirety of the episode.

But let’s pick things apart here, and take the good with the bad…

In the opening scene, Nick Clark, a college drop out and a drug addict, discovers a friend of his has become a zombie. This was a fairly strong opener, especially with the music. I’m a little bit worried that the strongly synthesized stuff will get old after awhile, though.

Fear the Walking Dead, premiere, AMCFear the Walking Dead stars a dysfunctional soon-to-be blended family. There’s a decent amount of cookie-cutter horror flick stuff in here. The bratty and troubled teenagers, the high school setting and authority figures, the dysfunctional family. I hate to make comparisons here, but I’ll argue The Walking Dead didn’t have this many horror tropes when it started. It started quite a few, but it didn’t contain a great many already-established ones. Whether that tarnishes this episode is up for interpretation, I suppose.

The opener notwithstanding, the show begins to hint at the larger outbreak about 20 minutes into the episode. Naturally, this episode set up the characters, the setting, etc. But considering we’re so used to The Walking Dead, and how that world works, it’s frustrating to see things begin at such a slow pace. After all, we already know much of what’s going to happen. It’s understandable, and I don’t fault the show for it. But there’s an undeniable “Get to the zombies!” urge in this episode.

Cliff, Nick’s soon-to-be stepfather, explores the church where he saw the zombie. He later returns with Madison, his fiance and Nick’s mother. This church brought back memories of Father Gabriel’s chapel. I highly doubt there’s any connection. But the whole church/zombies connection is cool.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, Fear the Walking DeadElizabeth Rodriguez portrays Liza, Cliff’s ex-wife, and mother to his son Chris. I didn’t realize Rodriguez also plays Daya’s mom on Orange is the New Black. Between these two gigs, she’s got a pretty sweet thing going for her.

Before giving him a bedpan to use, a nurse tells a restrained Nick “I take my dog out when I want to, not the other way around.” That was a really dumb line. A nurse would never say that to a patient in any capacity. Not one that has any bedside manner, anyway.

Panic begins to set in an at about the one hour mark, as a footage of a zombie attack emerges. I liked the way technology was used here. A simple viral video spreads panic. I’d rather not have waited an hour for it happen, but we got some nice suspense here.

Nick’s drug dealer Calvin attempts to shoot him. Nick winds up turning the gun on him and taking his life. Later, the body has disappeared from the murder scene. The episode closes when Cliff and Madison come across a zombified Calvin. Great way to end the episode. We knew Calvin a little bit, and to see him as a zombie set the stage very well. With luck, we won’t have to wait so long to actually see the monsters in future episodes. Those last two lines, followed by the shot of the city, were great.

“What the hell is happening?”
“I have no idea.”

Fear the Walking Dead, premiere, image 4Image 1 from abcnews.go.com. Image 2 from amc.com. Image 3 from ew.com. Image 4 from screenrant.com.

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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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