By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (art), Cliff Rathburn (gray tones), Rus Wooton (letters)
The Story: Will the truth get out about Rick’s little insurrection before Rick can even rally the troops?
The Review (with SPOILERS): This issue has a fair share of good and bad in it. Let’s talk about the bad first and get it out of the way. Last issue, we saw Rick and Jesus spreading word of their insurrection to some of the other communities when suddenly it appeared that one of their putative “allies” had jumped over the wall of Hilltop to go warn Negan that trouble was coming. Cliffhanger! End of issue! So, we had a month to worry if the plan had been revealed prematurely or whether Negan actually had an extensive network of spies in the communities.
It was honestly a real downer to see Jesus just chase down this runner and make him change his mind. It might be a realistic way for the story to play out, as in, “in real life, you might actually have a wishy-washy guy who changes his mind all the time.” But, this development didn’t make for a very interesting story. There was a bit of tension when Negan’s men showed up, but even that seemed pretty light. Imagine how tense it would have been if Jesus had caught this Kal guy winking at the Saviors and then Jesus had to kill the whole crew–and then Rick and Jesus would have to mount their attack before the Savior patrol was reported overdue. Not saying that Kirkman should do it that way, but I think that would have been more interesting than what we got. All isn’t over and it’s still highly possible that this group of Saviors will return to Negan and tell him that Kal and Jesus were “acting weird,” but I don’t see much point in making your story boring now just so it’ll seem cooler when you make it exciting later.
Now, the good part of the issue was all the stuff around Ezekiel and the Kingdom. When we first met Ezekiel a few issues ago, he was interesting, but the whole thing seemed far-fetched. Why does he talk like that? Why does he have a tiger? And, for crissakes, WHAT does the tiger eat?
It was really nice to see Kirkman addressing all of those questions and the Kingdom now makes a lot more sense. As much as we enjoy following the action-packed (sometimes) adventures of the major survivors, probably a lot of the survivors just want to be led and told that “it’s going to be okay.” When people don’t think the leader has a plan, they get antsy and start to grumble… And in a world where people are forced to accept zombies, is it really that much of a stretch for them to accept a King with a Tiger? I also like the obvious parallel between the tiger and Ezekiel’s people. Just like the tiger, Ezekiel’s people could revolt if they wanted to; but they don’t want to, so Ezekiel gets to remain King.
But, the highlight of the issue for me was the whole Ezekiel and Michonne meeting. I’ve been noting in my reviews for months now that Michonne clearly has a thing for black men and, once again, here is Michonne making sparkly eyes at a black man. I just find it fascinating that this has been a character-trait of her’s all along, but it’s only become obvious to the reader recently. It’s nice to know that Kirkman isn’t done fleshing out the characters yet, even after ~100 issues. From a storytelling standpoint, you do wonder where this could lead to. I’m not sure I want a story where Maggie is in Hilltop and Michonne is in the Kingdom and Rick, Andrea and Carl are all back in Alexandria. But I can’t imagine the Alexandria status quo lasting much longer anyway. Rick & Co. have been in that place for ~40 issues now (3 years!) and it’s past time to jumble things up again.
As for the art, I’d say it’s “efficient.” I think I enjoyed the aesthetics of Charlie Adlard’s art better before he adopted this softer and brushier style. But, you really can’t fault the guy’s storytelling. He gives such a sense of place and emotion. As I’m skimming back through the comic, I recall a lot of panels where I was annoyed by the lack of detail on the faces, but then I realize that the faces didn’t have any emotions to convey in THAT panel. However, when we DO get to a panel that needs shock/surprise/concern/anger to show on the face of a character, then the clarity of facial structures appears and we get what we need. Adlard is probably the perfect artist for this story.
Conclusion: A lame first half and a very strong second half. I guess that averages out to “good.”