By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (grays) and Rus Wooton (letters)

A jump forward in time is a good idea for this series.  Much of what happened between the end of the last issue and the first page of this issue was stuff we didn’t really need to see.  I mean, there was a lot of reestablishment of agriculture, getting new haircuts and picking out sunglasses to wear over your eye.  That’s not terribly compelling storytelling, and we readers didn’t need to be dragged through that stuff.  It’s over and done with.  Now we can just get on with the storytelling about murder, zombies, and whatever else Kirkman has planned for us.

Unfortunately, what they’ve jumped forward to isn’t very compelling.  I mean, if you and I were actually survivors of the zombie apocalypse, you would TOTALLY want to live in Rick’s little town.  But, we’ve already seen these attempts to “be happy” and recreated civilization before.  They tried it in the prison and the Governor messed it up.  They did it before in Alexandria/Hilltop and it was ruined by zombies and Negan.  Even though Rick & Gang seem to have better stuff this time (better farms, better administration, etc.) and even though it seems like he is more the leader than he’s been before, from a storytelling standpoint, this is really the same-old, same-old…  This is just the appearance of giving Rick’s group something nice only for it to be ruined again.  We’ve seen this dynamic before, and I just wish that out of all the possibilities in this world, Kirkman would show something different.

Speaking of something different, we even got Negan locked in a cage.  You know he won’t stay there.  He’ll be out at some point and causing mayhem before you know it.  I don’t want that.  That just makes him Rick’s Joker where we’re all screaming, “just KILL HIM!  Don’t put him in Arkham, he’ll just escape!”  I just don’t like it when TWD only gives it ONE path forward for a storyline.  There’s no way that Negan dies of old age in that cell, so he’ll get busted out.  It’s only a question of whether he sweet talks Carl into letting him go, OR there is a situation where zombies overrun the place and he pleads to Rick, “You can’t leave me to die in here!” and Rick lets him go– only to regret his decision.

Again, TWD may not go in these directions, but for the first time ever, I FEEL like I know where the story is headed.  That’s not a good thing.

The other news in this issue is we get some new folks.  Not sure that is a big deal or not.  I mean, we get this new crew and lots of other background characters get speaking roles for the first time, but I’m not sure how much the story is improved by trading one cast of supporting characters for another.  Most of these folks are still going to be cannon fodder at some point.  Let’s hope that some of them can make the jump from background noise (like Heath) to quasi-main characters (like Jesus).

Jesus’ new look kicks all kinds of ass, btw.  The splash-page of him in armor with a sword and a samurai-style topknot will sell for a pretty penny.  I do wish that I didn’t see so many blatant money pages in TWD, but that’s just how it works nowadays.

Conclusion: The new direction is the same as the old direction.  Smoothly written and expertly drawn as always.

Grade: B-

– Dean Stell