On this week’s Multiversity Comics Countdown, Matt and I commemorate the launch of “The Walking Dead Weekly” with a look back at the ten biggest moments of the series to date. 80 issues into Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard’s zombie epic as of today, there have been a lot of spots in the series that stand out more for others. Share what you think in the comments, and if you haven’t been reading the series by now, I highly recommend on getting on that. Of course, on that same note, if you haven’t been reading the book and perhaps got into the story through that fancy new television show on AMC, be aware there are heavy duty spoilers shown here.
But hey, it’s only the best ongoing series out there according to our recent 2010 in Review feature.
Check out our picks after the jump.
Why It (Sort Of) Makes the List: (Matt) This was just too good to be true.
(David) Ottley + Color + Aliens + the return of The Governor + superpowers? Goldmine. An amazing surprise in the 75th issue.
Why It Makes the List: While initially not a sequence that had made our lists, proper review of the comic revealed this all too revealing moment in the story: having finally reached a comfort level inside the Prison walls with the convicts that resided there, Rick found his leadership defied by the leader of the Inmates, Dexter. Dexter had been placed in prison for murder, and the two had a deep seeded hatred for one another for a good year’s worth of comics. Rick had Dexter imprisoned for the murder of the twins, and even after Dexter was proven innocent their rivalry never subsided. As Dexter was released, he immediately put a gun to Rick’s head, threatening his life and the other survivor’s and telling them they had to leave the prison. This story ended when finally, in the heat of battle against Walkers, Rick took a moment to fire his gun directly into Dexter’s head, decidedly breaking his first rule of post-apocalyptic survival: No killing humans. As Rick had said, “you kill, you die,” and he had certainly killed.
Rick definitely had one of the slowest declines into the dark areas of human capability with the Walking Dead, but the “friendly fire” sequence against Dexter proved just how low he was willing to sink, let alone how low he already had. The fight led to a dark conversation between him and fellow survivor Tyreese about how, even though Dexter was an ass, Rick was breaking his own rules and needed to catch himself before it went too far. Rick was the leader of the survivors, and there was no doubt against this, but especially given what happened with Shane to see how far Rick was willing to go to assert his Alpha status was pretty shocking. To so brazenly kill another man in this of all environments really showed us the direction that Kirkman was going to push Rick in as the second year of the Walking Dead drew to a close.
While Dexter’s death has arguably been eclipsed by epic events in the book (as seen in our list), it’s important to remember where Rick’s decline began. While Rick is a character that was doomed from the start, the murder of Dexter was one of the very telling moments of the moral ambiguity inherent in this dark, dark, dark comic book. Some hero you are, Rick!
Why It Makes the List: In the most recent issues of the Walking Dead, we have found our survivors in an insulated community that is as close to the real world as you can get in a post apocalyptic nightmare landscape. Of course, we knew that our survivors couldn’t make it comfortably in there for long before all of the various horrors that had ravaged their lives in previous shorelines caught up with them mentally. This was most apparent in Rick, who became the new town sheriff and quickly took it upon himself to break every law imposed in the town to dish out his own justice and physically assault another member of the community.Continued below
Whether you agreed with Rick or not, it was clear that this represented the breaking point. After 74 issues of non-stop nightmare, Rick had had so much dealt to him that he was willing to jeopardize everything he currently had in this one moment. Not only did it nearly ruin everything and eventually result in Pete’s death, but it also put the final nail in the coffin for the divide amongst our survivors in the new community. Rick’s boiling point infested the others with doubt, and he was left to try and make it up to everyone in the coming issues.
It’s been a slow and steady decline for Rick, and at this point all signs point to his demise in the upcoming storyline (which would be horrifying and unfortunate). You’ve got to hand it to him, though – it took 7 years for him to really break. He had been on a steady decline of violence, but this was definitely one of the worst. He had finally been given a life back for him and his son, and instead of embracing it for the joy it offered, he turned into a conniving figure ready for a leadership coup that eventually resulted in the public assault of one of the last known men on the planet. Poor Rick.
Why It Makes the List: There are very few scenes in comics that truly shock readers. While a good number of them do come from this book (which, as you’ll see throughout the rest of this list, is the most shocking book out there), for me perhaps nothing was more intense to see than the pure violence of the way Kirkman and Adlard dispatched Tyreese (who at the time was maybe the second biggest character in the book).
Having been captured by The Governor and his forces as they approached the prison, The Governor gave Rick and his merry men an ultimatum: open the gates or they will kill Tyreese in front of everyone. Rick of course does nothing, and The Governor responds by decapitating Tyreese, rendered in its full glory by the exceptional Adlard.
Disgusting, shocking, and one of the most memorable moments yet.
Why It Makes the List: In the wake of the death of Lori and Judith, Rick was a shattered man. The comic had become, essentially, Rick and Carl in a series of “no hope whatsoever” scenarios as they traversed the wastelands by themselves, alone and with no shelter. All was lost for our heroes, and we had begun to give up all hope that they would survive for very much longer on their own. Cue a mysterious phone call promising the hope of shelter to Rick and his son, although in a rather cagey sense. We knew that there were other survivors out there, and while they weren’t sure it was safe to allow Rick to come and join them, there was still someone out there. Rick participated in these phone calls regularly, until it was revealed at the end that Rick wasn’t talking to anyone in any kind of shelter – he was talking to his dead wife in a depressed and hallucinatory state.
This is the kind of thing that can only work in comics. If the Walking Dead attempts to do this (which they very much should), many viewers might instantly recognize the actresses voice. With comics though, anything is probable – even if that something is that a phone still works in a scenario like this. The ending of this sequence continued to reveal where Rick was as a character after all that had happened, and it has since gone on to be one of the defining things about his character.
Rick hasn’t let the telephone go ever since, still occasionally using it or attempting to find comfort in it when no one is looking. It has become the one key element in allowing the readers to see Rick’s soft side, as he has definitely hidden himself in a new post-Prison Raid shell in order to keep himself and his son Carl alive. It was a brief glimmer of hope in an otherwise desolate situation, and with our wounds barely even healed from the last Walking Dead catastrophe, Kirkman took it all away as quickly as he had given us. Kirkman is nothing if not a dastardly writer.Continued below
Why It Makes the List: When Rick and Michonne and the rest arrive in Woodbury, it seems as if the town might be a functioning town amidst all of the death and destruction. In true form, it turns out to be too good to be true, as Rick objects to their zombie Coliseum and next thing you know all hell is breaking loose, culminating in #4 on our list and Michonne getting rather unsavory treatment that Gail Simone likely blew a gasket over.
The Governor going from a decent guy to one of the worst villains in the history of comics was an intense turn, and one that kicked off perhaps the strongest and most exciting section of the book to-date.
Why It Makes the List: The Walking Dead is definitely a comic that consistently raises it’s own stakes, and the Governor and everything at Woodbury was a huge part of that. Of course, after Rick and the gang escaped, we knew things wouldn’t be very safe for much longer. As the Governor and his army attacked, certain doom was spelled for our heroes, and I don’t think anyone could’ve assumed how miserably it was going to end for everyone in one of the longest story sequences in single issues (that, as a note, read amazingly in trade).
When it all ended, everyone was dead or missing except for Rick and Carl. It was like Kirkman had hit a terrifying reset button for his entire story, taking away everything we loved and replacing it with a desolate and depressing follow up arc that only left readers uneasy. Could things ever truly be the same again? How much longer could Rick and Carl survive alone without any back-up ammo or protection? How much longer is the series going to last before Rick (driven mad by the loss of his hand, wife, and daughter) dies, and what does all of this mean for Carl?
Kirkman is nothing if not a masterful storyteller, keeping us all on our toes for every issue. One could argue that up until the attack began, we’d allowed ourselves to become complacent with the setting and scenario for the show. We knew that the survivors wouldn’t stay at the Prison forever, but we always assumed they’d leave on our turns. As Kirkman tore the world down around us and Charlie Adlard drew it absolutely wonderfully (for specific and graphic violence, that is), we simply watched with mouths agape, lost in the possibilities of what could possibly come next.
Why It Makes the List: As I was mentioning during #6, The Governor going really, really bad was one hell of a thing. While it wasn’t at all the worst thing he did, perhaps the most memorable thing he did himself was his response to Rick refusing to tell him where the prison they reside at was. Some form of torture was expected, but to cut off Rick’s hand? It was an incredibly shocking moment, and one that continues to affect Rick to this day. I mean, it’s hard to survive in the zombie ridden world of this book with two hands, but with one? That’s just mean spirited, guvna.
Why It Makes the List: When Robert Kirkman began The Walking Dead, he always said that it was his way to explore what happens when most zombie fiction would normally end. To get into the character bits and see how society begins to fall apart with the dead walking the Earth.
Perhaps no moment illustrates that better than in issue #24, when Rick, fresh from collapsing he day before, being informed that he was out as group leader, goes into a speech in front of everyone about the future of the group and the nature of this new world. By the time Rick screams “WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD,” you know things are broken beyond repair. I also love the ambiguity behind the statement. Does he call everyone that because when they die they will be the very same zombies they kill, or is it because they are in an inescapable hell of a world in which all they can do is stave off death with every effort they can exhaust.Continued below
It’s a remarkably powerful scene, and one executed brilliantly by Kirkman and Adlard.
Why It Makes the List: To put it quite simply, there is a certain stigma in comics when it comes to the deaths of main characters that is specifically perpetrated by the Big Two: death in comics do not mean anything anymore. Heroes die and come back to life, and anyone that really matters will never stay dead. Nightcrawler got impaled in this year’s Second Coming, but many fans are already asking how soon it will be before he comes back. Such is not and has never been the case with the Walking Dead, and Robert Kirkman showed us all he refused to play it safe with any character when he killed off one of the book’s main female characters: Lori Grimes, Rick’s wife and mother of his two children.
When Lori was first introduced to the fans, we quickly were given a reason to have a distaste for her with the seventh issue and her betrayal to Rick. As time went on and her pregnancy became apparent, fans didn’t know if it was ok to root for her or boo her given the fact that the baby might not be his. The answer to this question was never allowed to be given, however, when the Woodbury Army attacked the Prison. Lori was killed in the final stages of the attack, and her death also resulted in the newborn Judith, whose tiny arm we had to horrifyingly see fall limp under her body. It is one of the single most horrifying events in any comic ever. I can only imagine what went through Charlie Adlard’s head when he drew this.
Lori’s death reminded us the gravity of the situation in The Walking Dead. We had gotten comfortable with our heroes, and had always believed certain protagonists would always be for us. With Lori’s death, everything was out the window. No one was safe even more – not even Rick, as much as we might have pretended otherwise. The Walking Dead has – to say the least – set new standards for comics in many ways. Lori’s death reset the death ante to an all new level for everyone, and is an event that still brings some of the greatest drama to the comic.
Why It Makes the List: When you’re reading the first arc of The Walking Dead, you know a lot about it very quickly. It is a book that doesn’t mess around. You know it’s a great zombie story. You know Kirkman has an incredible grasp on the characters. These are the things that are obvious from the get go, and if just left at that, we’d still have a great comic that doesn’t differentiate itself from other efforts in a significant way.
And then the ending comes.
When Shane survives through the first season of the TV adaptation, fans were up in arms over it. While I like the direction the show went instead, I understand the rage. This moment pushed the comic into an echelon few can touch, as Kirkman effectively said “anything can happen.” While from there, he’s escalated the insanity to entirely new levels, perhaps nothing was more shocking than the very first major twist when Carl shows up out of nowhere and saves his dad’s life by taking Shane’s. It was a moment that changed this comic (and in a lot of ways comics as a whole) forever, and was as heartwrenching and devastating as it was startling.