By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (art), Cliff Rathburn (grey tones), Rus Wooton (letters)
The Story: Someone is out to get revenge against Negan.
A few things (with SPOILERS): 1). Is Jesus smooth, incompetent or both? - It’s hard to determine Jesus’ motives. Clearly, this Dwight dude is a little dim as he didn’t notice that Jesus was following him when it was seemingly obvious to Dwight’s buddies. Was this all part of Jesus’ plan? Was he just sick of walking and figured he could get “captured” and “hitch a ride” to Negan’s super-cool, wasteland base (complete with animated zombie decorations)? It’s really hard to tell, but it’s fun to have a character and scene where there are multiple possible interpretations. If only the TV show were this nuanced!
2). Whoa! Carl! - It’s also a little hard to know what is going on with Carl. He says he’s there simply to kill Negan, but it’s also possible that Carl has gone off the deep end. This is the kind of long-form storytelling that TWD excels at. By this, I mean that Carl’s dark side has been building in ernest for the last 30-35 issues and perhaps this is the pay off. In that time, he’s killed another child, seen a potential new mother and sibling get eaten by zombies, been shot in the head and seen Glenn smashed into goo. That’ll bring out the darkness. One popular theme of apocalypse fiction is the classic scene where the pregnant lady asks herself, “How could I bring a child into this world?” Well…..maybe this is what happens to those children? I always assumed that Carl would grow up strong, but maybe he’ll just turn psycho.
I should also add that if anyone deserves to be dead, it is this Negan character. What a dick! But, it is interesting to see that some people are thriving in the zombie apocalypse. Negan was probably a washed-up former high school football player before the world ended. He was one of those guys that everyone forgot as they went onto college, got good jobs and started families because Negan was back home as a overweight loser doing some menial job. But then comes the apocalypse and he dons his leather jacket and grabs his baseball bat and is right back to being a bully.
3). Not a lot of action otherwise. - Other than the elements mentioned above, not a whole lot happens in this issue – and that’s mostly appropriate. This story arc is building to a climax and it makes sense to not have other extraneous stuff going on. About the only thing to glean from the action is that the rest of the community really thinks that Rick is an A-hole. Even if it is appropriate to focus on Carl’s story, what happened to the big news a few issues ago the Eugene was reasonably confident he could make bullets (or ammunition)? And, when is this Rick/Michonne relationship going to be addressed? It isn’t that I question whether it’s right to neglect those stories in this issue, but why have Eugene mention that and go silent about it for a few issues? Just have him bring up that story and resolve it in issue #109 (or whenever).
4). Big things to come. - Man, just thinking of the next couple of issues makes me all tingly. Basically, Jesus has to get back to the community and warn Rick. But, does Jesus even know what happened with Carl? If Rick knows what’s going on with Carl, what does he even do about it? You know that Rick will try to save his son and that Andrea, Michonne and a few others (major redshirt potential!) will be right there with him, but to what effect? Negan’s camp looks pretty big, tough and populous, and all the people there are of the carnivore variety of human.
Perhaps the more interesting question is: What will Negan do with Carl? The normal penalty for trying to kill Negan is probably slow, painful death, but you get the sense that he kinda likes Carl in a sick sort of way – one psycho to another. And, will Carl be pleased to see his father? It seems that little Carl is pretty disgusted with Rick.
And here I thought that whole arc of Jesus following Dwight back to Negan’s camp would take another 6-7 months. Wrong!
5). Typically good art. - This isn’t the greatest issue that Charlie Adlard has done and he continues his recent trend of everything getting rougher and coarser, but the art is still very effective. I mean, I wish he’d keep drawing faces on all these characters in the background, but their absence doesn’t really hurt the storytelling. And, when he needs to draw a face that conveys emotion, he’s still bringing the goods. It just isn’t quite as crisp and sharp as what we used to get from Adlard, but until the storytelling suffers, I’d prefer to keep the book coming out on time.
Conclusion: Some pretty big events for Carl in this issue portend explosive action to come.
– Dean Stell