With 150 issues, you would think things get stale, trust me, things are just getting started…There will be spoilers ahead for this issue and a few previous issues.
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustarted by Charlie Adlard
SPECIAL EXTRA-SIZED ANNIVERSARY ISSUE – 40 PAGES FOR ONLY $2.99! In our 150th issue, Rick Grimes finds himself… BETRAYED.
With all the expectations, “The Walking Dead” should have a shocking moment in a landmark issue. However, sometimes the shock doesn’t have to come from something brutally violent. In fact, the severe brutality came five issues earlier, in a moment no one saw coming. Given the longevity of the book, it is virtually impossible to not be ready for anything. And boy, this issue delivers with a slow burn of a shocker.
Picking up where the previous issue ended, Dwight has taken leave from the Saviors camp. He is disillusioned with being a leader, specifically a diplomatic one, the opposite of Negan. In Alexandria, Rick & Eugene are discussing the formation of an army to protect the community. Not long after, Rick is attacked by Morton and Vincent, killing Morton in self defense. Vincent escapes for a brief period only to be captured and brought to Rick. Rather than kill him, Rick spares his life. The crowd shows their support for Rick, much to the pleasure of Negan.
Most of this issue is wordless, which is surprising given Robert Kirkman’s knack for very wordy passages. But this works to the issue’s advantage in a huge way. Kirkman doesn’t really give the reader a chance to get inside of Rick’s head this time around. From the fight with Vincent and Morton, there are hints that Rick is going to meet his end. It is a nice distraction from what it really going on, which comes to ahead at the end. After the death’s of Ezekiel and Rosita in #145, a bloodbath would have been a total cop out. I am one who frequently asks this question to my friends about, “Do you want The Walking Dead to be about zombies all the time?” The same can be said for the violence, it would lose impact if it happened frequently.
Wisely, the shock comes from Negan’s reaction to Rick’s rebel rousing directly above him. In an earlier issue, Negan stated in oh so many words, you need a reason to get the people behind him. Rick was apprehensive of lying to his people, but what choice did he really have? The devil on Rick’s shoulder is a fascinating development, one Kirkman must be thrilled about. While the reader knows this, the rest of Alexandria doesn’t. What would happen if they found out Rick, potentially, staged his own attack? And with sacrificing Morton in the process, would the society crumble? This looms very large over the story, making it the biggest threat to “The Walking Dead” since the zombies were created. I know that is a bold statement to make, but the implications of this could change the entire complexion of the book. I applaud Kirkman for taking a psychological approach as opposed to a directly violent one, much like issue #100.
All the action that happens, gives Charlie Adlard ample space to work with. The wordless passages make for a lot of great choices with in the actual art. During the fight for instance, Adlard doesn’t give a lot away, making it a very white knuckle ride. This adds to the fake out of Rick’s potential demise, especially when you see the faces of his attackers. Adlard is very expressive with his facial renderings, which is something that can take me out of a book if done incorrectly. Another moment is when Rick is address the crowd when Vincent is captured. Rick runs the gamut of different emotions, from stoic leader all the way to defeated hero. Adlard’s detail is wonderful, in some ways you can even see subtleness to how uncomfortable Rick is with all of this.Continued below
Another moment which I have not touched on involves Carl and Lydia. Kirkman, in earlier issues, has Carl buying in slightly to The Whispers rhetoric. It marks a change for Carl and a significant one. Lydia, by contrast, is coming around to the Rick Grimes way of thinking. Naturally, this forms an attraction between the two, who are lost in a world still dominated by their parents. Both are at Hilltop, for now, and are getting to know each other sexually. Adlard doesn’t do anything graphic or extreme here, but it is shocking nonetheless. Interestingly enough, it is the small details that make Adlard’s work here shine. From Andrea peaking into the room and with Lydia’s fascination with Carl’s eye socket, it makes for uneasy reading.
In all honesty, this was very hard to critique without thinking of the series as a whole. When you have an issue #1 or #7, the story is still forming. As a reviewer, I find it easier to look at it in a standalone sense. “The Walking Dead” up to this point, I found it imperative to discuss key elements from earlier issues. To that point, I agree that the focus should be on the story proper. However, I feel this is a major status quo change, even if there is not a “shocking” moment that happened.
Kirkman & Adlard do not want to keep the same story going for another 150 issues, which I am sure would infuriate readers even more. At the same time, killing off an entire cast doesn’t start a new story either. Rick being the leader with unscrupulous morals that may have been compromised, changes the game. Considering all he has been through, why now is Rick starting to crack? That is the fundamental question that is introduced in this issue. There is a wonderful exchange between Rick & Michonne in issue #147 highlights Rick’s internal change. It was only after Lori & Judith’s deaths that he was able to find true happiness. That is not to say he wouldn’t have them back in a second, he still hurts but has moved on. With that perspective, things begin to clear up as to why Rick would listen to Negan.
Where “The Walking Dead” goes from here is up in the air. The Whispers are a threat, with deep psychological terror too, that will be there. Rick’s attitude change will make for some new ideas. But this is going to simmer for a long time, when it is ready, it is going to be massive. Even after 150 issues, two TV shows and a legion of fans, “The Walking Dead” is still able to stay fresh. Leave it to Kirkman & Adlard to make an issue 12 years in the making feel like a brand new #1 issue.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – By now, you should know what to expect from “The Walking Dead.” But, from here on out, things are about to get very different. Highly recommended!