THE WALKING DEAD #108

By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (artist), Cliff Rathburn (gray tones), Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Rick goes to meet the leader of another enclave of people.

The Review (SPOILER ALERT): 1. A bigger view of the world. - Even most fans of TWD have wanted a bigger worldview of the landscape that the zombies and survivors have created.  While Kirkman isn’t showing us other parts of the world, we ARE getting the more wide-angle view of the world with all these enclaves around Washington, DC.  Counting Ezekiel’s “Kingdom,” that makes FOUR little human settlements (with Arlington, Hilltop and Negan-ville being the others) and you get the sense that there could be more communities in the vicinity.  Suddenly we have room in the series for “extra” characters.  That’s a very different thing for a series that made its bones as a story where all the characters could sleep inside Dale’s RV.

It also allows us to draw some conclusions about the rest of the world.  Wouldn’t it make sense that other large cities would have similar networks of survivors?  So, we’re talking about a world that still has a decent number of people remaining.  Why has nobody gotten a ham radio running yet?  And why do the zombies still have clothes?

2. Ezekiel is just strange. - What a weird set-up Ezekiel has!  I mean, he calls himself “King,” he holds court on an old theatre stage, he requires his milita scouts to speak like old fashioned knights and he has a pet tiger.  Ezekiel seems like a pretty placid dude, but I’m not sure that anyone can rise to a leadership position in TWD without having a hard edge about them.  Tigers eat ~50 pounds of meat per day according to wiki.answers.com.  What is he feeding that thing?  Does he let it loose to hunt?  Does he feed small children to it?

While I think Ezekiel is interesting, I find him a little implausible.  I tend to think that a TWD-like scenario where every community has the same basic engineering constraints in terms of keeping zombies out, worrying about bandits, feeding the populace, etc… would tend to produce very similar types of communities and leaders. The communities that tried weird things would quickly fail and all development would bottleneck towards what works.

3. Revolution? - It sounds like things could go badly for Negan.  It’s funny how different Negan looked in this issue.  He’s still kinda captivating when he’s on the page, but this time he looked like the bully that doesn’t know his own days are numbered.  I mean, he’s playing ping-pong with people who let him win and having sex with other men’s wives as everyone stares daggers at him.  Meanwhile all the little people are discussing how to team-up and take him down.  Negan is going to get murdered.  

I really like Negan as a character, and part of that is because he seems pretty realistic to me.  I think you’d get a LOT of Negans in the zombie apocalypse, but that they’d have a pretty short lifespan once people realized they could gang-up on the bully.  Is Negan going to be something more?  Will he fall only for Rick to realize that Ezekiel isn’t as friendly as he seemed?  Will Negan have a secret plan up his sleeve?  I’m curious to see how it all turns out, but also a little nervous because I’m starting to think about the real-life likelihood of these events; which is always dangerous for enjoyment of a story.

4. Minor items getting a few pages. - I swear, Kirkman is obviously giving Charlie Adlard a few softballs for the original art market.  What else should we think of a splash page of Michonne and Carl killing zombies?  It’s not a great splash page either.  As an aside, the original art market for any page featuring Michonne has gone INSANE.  I’ve had people offer me 10x what I originally paid for one of my Michonne pages and it isn’t even a very good page.

Kidding aside, it’s interesting to see what Kirkman is doing with Michonne.  We see her saving Carl.  We see her complaining to Andrea about how she’s losing it.  We see her regretting her impulsive advances on Heath.  Hmm…  Michonne is such an interesting character and I’m hoping that Kirkman sticks with this storyline.  I feel like I already know everything I need to know about Rick.  He’s just a tour-guide at this point.  Michonne still has layers to uncover.

Also, what’s this ominous crap about Spencer praying about what “must be done?”  Remember, Spencer is the guy who was hitting on Andrea and she rejected him.  Whatever Spencer’s planning, it doesn’t look good. I’m almost more curious about this than whatever happens with Rick, Ezekiel and Negan.

5. Quality art - Charlie Adlard’s art has changed a good bit over the last couple of years.  To my untrained eye, it has become murkier, less detailed, etc…  Those are not things that usually appeal to me and I can’t say that I’m as eager to own Charlie Adlard original art as I used to be.  There certainly are fewer pages that make me say, “wow!”  But, I almost don’t care about the “beauty” of TWD as long as the storytelling is accurate and Adlard hasn’t dipped one bit on that front.  I’m never confused about what is going on or the way he constructs a scene.  Honestly, I wish more comics took the TWD approach with a singular artist who focuses on timeliness and storytelling over splashy images.

Conclusion: Kind of a weird issue…  It does show us even more of the broader world and that’s good.  But, we step away from some of the bigger philosophical questions that TWD has been playing with.

Grade: B

– Dean Stell

Grade

Conclusion


13 Responses

  1. katmore9 says:

    Nice review. I agree with you: “king” ezekial has some skeletons in his closet. I wonder if he feeds the tiger zombie meat. That sounds implausible, but so is a zombie apocalypse.

    Which brings me to something you wrote that I wanted to follow up on:
    “…a little nervous because I’m starting to think about the real-life likelihood of these events and that is always dangerous for enjoyment of a story.”

    What aspects of the story do you think is likely to happen in real-life?
    “The Road”, “The Book of Eli” and many other forms of media have examined the fall of civilization during an apocalypse. They are all grim stories, just like this series.

    Do you see the same “grim” settings manifesting themselves if we had an extended power outage (like NBC’s “Revolution”)?

    Just curious for your thoughts…

    • dfstell says:

      I think it’d get pretty bad. Look at Hurricane Katrina.

      I love apocalypse stories because they’re all about complex systems trying to find a new equilibrium. I mean….when you look at something like The Road, the horrifying thing is that there are NO more resources going into the system, so people will start resorting to cannibalism. Zombies are kinda the same. Even though people COULD start farming or mining coal or logging again, it’s just so unsafe to do so with the zombies afoot…..so you get cannibalism and general nastiness.

      Even though I don’t think Revolution is a very good TV show (but I do watch it), it probably has it right. People in that world are producing stuff. That releases the pressure and allows society to find a new equilibrium after going through a period of real nasty stuff.

      The key is how quickly can a society start to produce new resources and how many people need to die before that new level of production is “sufficient”. That’s going to dictate how long it’ll take before banditry stops being a way or life and goes back to being just criminal behavior.

      I think these big walled communities are probably unique to zombies. As we see from TWD, they are good protection from zombies, but with someone like Negan a walled community just looks like Wal-Mart. If it weren’t for the zombies, everyone would be better off hiding on their own with modest resources and lots of guns. Even a vicious bastard like Negan isn’t going to get shot at over a candy bar.

  2. The Omega Effect says:

    While I have been a constant supporter of this series, I find that this particular review was a bit too generous. I actually gave this issue a C- for using/introducing some extremely unlikely premises.

    The idea of the Tiger needing an exceptional amount of meat a day was the first thing I thought of when I saw that page. Any man that is keeping a pet Tiger right next to him is going to have to make sure that the Tiger is VERY well fed. Is meat such a common thing in a zombie apocalypse? Even if he had some stockpile, that observation (particularly from me) is just nit-picking.

    What REALLY bothered me about this issue is the idea of all these various communities. Have you noticed that (thus far) they are all civilian communities that “cropped up” after the zombie-apocalypse? I’d think that military units would be far more common than rag-tag survivors (training, equipment, etc), but so far…no. Sure, places like “Woodbury” (or the suburban dwellings of the subsequently encountered suburban “hunters”) were far enough removed to have more time (and a smaller concentration of zombies during the initial event) to deal with things, so even THAT was “understandable”, but with all these various communities that Jesus seems to have interacted with, it is inexplicable that they would not have pooled their resources LONG before now. If communities are so common and so large, then the entire premise of the series is called into question.

    Granted, you’ve pointed out that we’re not conducting feasibility studies on the idea of a zombie-apocalypse, but when the entire premise of a series gets called into question, there’s definitely something going wrong with the writing.

    Rick’s group was brought into their current settlement by a pair of scouts that traveled around looking for survivors. That they’d managed to miss 3 fairly large settlements within 2 days ride is inexplicable.

    While the series still piques my interest, I have to think that Kirkman currently might have too much on his plate. The show, and the book, and “Invincible”, plus whatever else he may have “going on” seems to have made for some sloppy continuity issues.

    By the way – good call on that thing with Spencer. That had a more ominous overtone than the actual “war”, and was (for me) the most interesting aspect of this issue. I’m just hoping that Kirkman manages to “reel-in” this “reality” and restore it to the point of being a little more plausible to the circumstances. Some of the scripting seemed to be just a bit too convenient/contrived for me in this issue.

    • dfstell says:

      Yeah….maybe it’s a “soft B”? The way I kinda grade is that an issue starts as a C and the art can add or subtract a full grade and “story” can do the same. I don’t think this is awesome art, but the storytelling is clear and Adlard does handle some complex emotions pretty well. I mean….that scene with Spencer in the church really sells that this is one troubled dude who is considering something very horrible. And….he even nails that the minister is still kinda a loser who isn’t going to say anything when someone acts weird. So, it kinda got 1/2 letter grade for art.

      The story amused me even though I think there are some massive questions that Kirkman needs to answer. I hadn’t even thought about how they were brought in by those scouts. Didn’t the journey with the scouts take a couple of days? That’s the same distance these other communities. On the other hand, we’re still only a couple of years into the story, right? If they spent the first year just trying to survive…..maybe it makes sense. But…the folks at Hilltop acted like Negan was Fidel Castro and had been in charge for 50 years.

      It’s not a good thing if we readers start picking at the practicality of the settlements. Kirkman needs to keep us distracted because the series really shouldn’t be looked at as a “how to guide”.

      I really can’t wait to see what the tiger is eating. I agree with you…..everything suggests that meat is scarce. Plus, we’ve seen ZERO farming. I mean, shouldn’t someone at least have a few chickens?

      • The Omega Effect says:

        Oh yes, Adlard is always spot-on with expressions, and father Gabriel is definitely still some feeble hypocrit who locks his parishioners out of his own safe haven, and then (later) condemns those that saved his life. That church scene is still (for me) the most interesting part of the book.

        By the way – We DO see some farming and chicken-coops at the hilltop. The odd thing is that the hilltop is supposedly the biggest of all settlements, with control of the “highground” and still cater to Negan as much as they do. Given what we see of Negan, it seems that he’d have tried to take such a plum spot for himself. I guess that Negan is being depicted as a sort of “Genghis Khan” figure; with a roaming horde of mongols that can take on larger forces. Still, the portrayal is “off”. Negan doesn’t come across as quite that smart – more like a mouthier version of “Lord Humongous”.

        I know that I shouldn’t nit-pick so much and that this isn’t a “how to survive in Zombie-land” guide, but it really bothered me that there would be so many settlements in the same area (a few days ride from each other), and yet Arlington (who was sending out scouts) would be so unaware of them while Jesus is in touch with all of them. I mean those scouts even had a parabolic microphone.

        Sure, you just canNOT make this a story about “humans vs zombies”. That would be the most boring book EVER, and confronting the human elements of an outrageous situation is what has kept this such a great read for so long, but my problem was that the fundamental premise of the situation seems to have taken a backseat to convenience. Maybe I’m just spoiled. So far, they’d done better in that department.

  3. Scott T says:

    I agree 110% with this … “Honestly, I wish more comics took the TWD approach with a singular artist who focuses on timeliness and storytelling over splashy images.” I’m tired of seeing 90’s image/marvel like comics with splash pages for no reason and decompressed/bad story telling. I want more in a comic. Let’s have more 9 panel grids like watchman or at least 6 and save the splash pages for important scenes … like it should be.

    • dfstell says:

      Yeah….there are a few artists who I think “deserve” to get creative license to do more. But most of these guys should just stick to a grid and stop having delusions of grandeur.

  4. Gerry O says:

    I thought the midieval language was preposterous. Not only that, it seems that Kirkman has lost his sense for vocabulary and dialect. For instance, the traitorous, cuckolded Dwight sounds like a Shakespearean actor with bad biker tattoos. “But I can help you END his reign of terror…free all the people existing under his thrall.” Thrall? When was the last time you heard ANYONE use the term “thrall”? The dialogue in this issue was laughable and is making a difficult premise all the more impossible to buy. I hope the tiger eats Dwight.

    • dfstell says:

      Hmmm….that is a good point. Nobody talks like that. Maybe Dwight was a theater veteran before the zombies? :)

  5. I agree, as a radio amateur, I would assume the skills I and 700,314 other Americans have you would have run across a few in the couple hundred survivors we have seen die so far. The motto “when all else fails”, must not hold to a zombie uprising. I love the comics, series, books, but it seems like Robert Kirkman is clueless when it comes to Ham Radio. If you watch a couple of episodes of Nat Geo’s prepper show, you will see a 2mm radio or a low power/qrp radio is in almost every kit.

    • dfstell says:

      Yeah….to some extent, I think Kirkman writes mostly about what he knows and doesn’t spend much time learning about new stuff. Compare that to someone like Greg Rucka who does exhaustive research before embarking on a new project and you can see the difference. I know that some people complain when we point out problems with radios or guns or whatever, but this stuff is annoying when you actually know what you’re talking about. It just kinda pops the bubble that we step inside of during the story.

      Heck….for these little communities around Washington, they wouldn’t even need a Ham radio. VHF would probably work.

      Plus, it would be easy enough to avoid this stuff. Just say that during the early stages of the zombie uprising, that there was some wack-a-doo theory that a massive EMP would stop the zombies and that the gov’t tried it out of desperation. Then you don’t have to worry about all those pesky Ham radios…. :)

    • I also thought at first Negan was the ultimate villain. I was telling friends who only watch the show, you think the gov is bad, what till you see Negan. He makes the governor look like a quaker. Then it seems like they are trying to humanize him too much. If he was kind of a split personality thing, that may have been OK, but it is hard to believe him as much now. If the people who are the muscle were more captivated or under his spell, like in a Negan cult. Then you could buy a populace that toes the line. Spend some time in China, people won’t be glaring, they will would be staring at the floor, if they are not part of the ruling class. The people around him seem to have too much spark left. His men don’t seem to like him too much, how has he still survived? His biker contingent inner circle would have shoved Luccille long ago LOL.

      • dfstell says:

        Yeah….that’s the problem. I think you’d actually see a lot of Negan-types in a post-apocalypse, but their tenure would be pretty short because someone would just kill them. I mean…you can’t just take all the women and be rude to all the guys all the time. Eventually someone will get pissed at you and you get shot.

        I’d believe Negan a little more if we saw more precautions from him. Like maybe he wears a bullet proof vest under his leather jacket. Or maybe he doesn’t let the troops carry weapons inside the compound. Or maybe he selects out the tough-but-dumb thugs and rewards the hell out of them so they watch his back.

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