Pick of the Week
What did the
- Pick of the Week - 05.15.2013 - Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher #1
- Pick of the Week - 05.08.2013 - Thor: God of Thunder #8
- Pick of the Week - 05.01.2013 - Animal Man #20
- Pick of the Week - 04.24.2013 - Uncanny Avengers #7
- Pick of the Week - 04.17.2013 - Captain Marvel #12
art & cover CHARLIE ADLARD & CLIFF RATHBURN
Size: 32 pages
There are several elements that come into play with the successful telling of stories. Usually a comic book series will focus on doing one or two things very well, not having the luxury to really focus on more than that. Walking Dead is a unique example in comics. It's a very long form story, with no discernible ending point, just like many superhero books, but different than those, the story is completely at the whims of the creators. Consequences are real in this fictional world, and you really never know where the characters stand. In this way, one thing at which Walking Dead succeeds is the element of surprise. You really don't know what is going to happen, who is going to show up and who is going to take the dirt nap. At least for the most part. Because Walking Dead has a lot of luxuries that most indie comics don't. It's been around a long time. You get to know the characters quite well, because we're 80+ issues into this thing. And while there are surprises, as a reader you start to perceive patterns, and create safety that doesn't really exist.
There's no point in even trying to maintain a spoiler free environment at this point, so from here on, you're warned. Deal?
At the start of this No Way Out storyline, we saw something that was familiar. Rick and company found themselves another group of survivors and they cautiously integrated with them, under a banner of some semblance of protection and normalcy. It all seemed like it might be OK. Of course, it wouldn't be. We've seen this before in the series, like with the prison. Something goes wrong, usually as a result of human faults, and the raging tide of nature (zombies) destroys all they have. In escaping, they always lose some members, and usually one of them is someone you have known for many issues. There are surprises, yes. Robert Kirkman halved the size of Rick Grimes' family a little while back, and no one saw that coming. But the zombies got them, and it's understandable. When the shit started hitting the fan at this new community, it was time to start hightailing it out of there, and we expected casualties. But this is where I give Robert Kirkman credit. He surprised me again, and I really thought I couldn't be surprised like this anymore when reading Walking Dead. But man, did he do it.
I was lulled into a false sense of security early in this issue. Rick hacked up a zombie and festooned its guts about his band, as a means of camouflage. We've seen this in the comics, and in the TV series. I got a little annoyed. It put me off my guard, which turned out to be exactly the thing I needed for the next act. We're conditioned by years and years of these kind of stories to sort of expect that the heroes will prevail, especially when they're children. Robert Kirkman holds to no such rules. The group escapes out the front of the house, and it all starts to go to hell, as expected. Almost immediately things start going wrong, and the cover is blown. Then Rick's new girlfriend, whose husband he got rid of to protect her, loses her son to the zombies and she won't shut up about it. Then she won't let go of Carl. Given no choice, Rick hacks off her hand. That would have been enough. Carl is saved, and Rick has to force himself even further into the boundaries of what he will do to protect his family. You think that's the big surprise moment, but you're wrong. Guns start firing, and there is a friendly fire incident. The victim is a character you have really come to believe is above danger. Not since issue #48, where Lori and baby went down, have my eyes bugged out of my face in the way they did while reading Walking Dead #83. I really thought it couldn't be done, but they got me. I could not believe they did that. But they did.
In the back of my mind, I can't help but think of the monstrous success of the TV show, and how it's a frightening possibility that it will affect what's going to happen in the comic book. See, I don't care if the TV show diverges from the comic story. I'm fine with that. But I would hate to think that choices are being made in the comic that service the greater good of the TV show. In this issue, Kirkman reiterated to us that that's very likely not the case. If it is the case though, I can't wait to see the media reaction if the TV show ever decides to emulate that happened in this issue.
I wouldn't dream of forgetting Charlie Adlard. It's easy to take him for granted. He's regular, steady and always reliable. We know who we're looking at, and we know what's happening. The consistent tone and look of the world of Walking Dead is one of the things that lulls us into that false sense of security. Not that the characters are safe from harm, far from it, but that we generally know what will happen. We expect the bad things, but with just enough imagination, that rug can be yanked out from under us as well. It's through the skillful acting Adlard projects into the characters; the look in Rick's eye when he knows what he has to do next, and the body language he projects after the fact. It's the moment where we see who Michonne really is, and her sadness. There are hordes of undead zombies, and they really become commonplace, and their lifelessness a real aspect of how they operate, unthinking and ruthless. I always feel the need to point out how hard the job is for an artist who doesn't have superhero costumes to rely on to differentiate between characters, where they're all just regular people in regular clothes. There's never a fill in, and the books always come out more or less regularly. It makes the Walking Dead that much more of a treat for those of us reading it in issues, or even collected editions as the case may be.
I do love a surprise, and I love that Robert Kirkman knows the importance of that surprise. It says something great about him that after 83 issues, he's still putting everything he can into this book, when the reality is that he doesn't even really need to do it anymore. He could coast, and he'd still collect his checks, but that's not happening. No, Walking Dead is still vital, exciting, engaging, and damned good. Every time. Plus, it can still surprise you.