The Walking Dead is the juggernaut that helped redefine Image Comics from a publisher still seen as mainly a superhero publisher into what it is today which is the natural successor to Vertigo Comics for new and interesting material in the mainstream. Robert Kirkman’s tale of survival in the zombie apocalypse now reaches the milestone of 150 issues which is a rare feat for any independent comic, and especially a black and white comic.
With current artist Charlie Adlard (who replaced co-creator Tony Moore some years ago) Kirkman has seen central protagonist Rick Grimes become the leader of a group of survivors not to mention the hero to other groups that are starting to form the basis of a basic trading society after the collapse of civilisation not to mention issues of strife with characters having a habit of dying when you least expect it. Hence why if you’ve come on board expecting the TV series you’ll be surprised at still seeing the likes of Andrea still knocking about, not to mention Carl’s lost an eye (though he’s still a pain in the arse) and the last big villain, Negan, has only been mentioned in the series once and Glenn’s long, long dead but Maggie’s still around. As for the current bad guys, The Whisperers, they’re a band of humans that have skinned zombies so they can wear the skin as suits to help disguise themselves among the zombies.
In the build up to this issue the leader of the Whisperers, Alpha, has allowed her daughter to return back to Rick’s care as long as Rick and his people stay on their territory. The way that territory has been marked out is with a line of severed heads of Rick and his friends’s loved ones left by Alpha.After several issues of talking (something the comic tends to do when building up to something big happening) among the characters, including Rick listening to Negan’s advice (Negan is Rick’s prisoner. Long story, buy the trades) he’s settled on the choice of building an army to fight and wipe out The Whisperers.
And that’s roughly where this issue starts…
After telling Eugene of his plan Rick is mugged by two of his people frustrated with Rick’s supposed inaction at the deaths of their fellow survivors.
Rick manages to see one of his attackers who were supposedly trying to scare Rick into action, but one decides that now Rick’s seen them that they have to murder Rick, but the other attacker isn’t having that and tries to stop the assault before Rick defends himself in an astonishingly brutal way that’s shocking even for a comic that’s dealt in shocking over it’s previous 149 issues.
As this is going on Andrea (who is now Rick’s wife) checks in on Carl to see if he’s OK, and he’s doing just fine….
As for Rick, he’s discovered in a bloody mess by Maggie, and is taken to the infirmary to be fixed up, though he makes clear the other attacker needs to be found and dispatches Michonne to hunt him down. In the meantime while he’s still in a bloodied state he speaks to his people to remind them that they cannot return to the old days of survival of the fittest and to keep them on the path he’s guided them on.
After telling his people about the plans to form an army, Michonne returns with the second attacker who thinks that Rick’s going to execute him in front of everyone, but he doesn’t. He spares his life and rallies his people against The Whisperers.
At the end of this issue Rick is renewed as leader with his people falling back into line behind him as the mission to build an army begins but in this world nothing is easy, so I imagine something will go wrong because that’s how The Walking Dead works.
As for this issue it’s an issue for regular readers only because it’s continuing so many ongoing plot threads that if you’re going into this fresh then you’ll be totally lost, For those of us up to speed it’s an issue that does close a few flailing threads not to mention has the character of Rick Grimes return back to the brutal survivor he is which is fine as the story needs drama but I can’t help think that perhaps it’s time to start telling the story through another set of eyes, though I don’t think Image or Kirkman is willing to kill off their central character. It would however end the need for Rick to be able to essentially do anything. It’d also make it that anyone can die, even the lead character.
This is a fine issue though. Charlie Adlard does another sterling job and Kirkman turns out a script that hits all the beats perfectly. It’s a fine anniversary issue that helps set up the next stretch of story. In terms of individual great comics this doesn’t get on the list, but a s a chapter in a much larger story it’s important but missing something in terms of impact.
Next issue sees army training start so that’ll go as well as can be expected in the world of The Walking Dead..