Story by: Robert Kirkman
Art and Lettering by: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, Rus Wooton, and Dave Stewart
Last issue, in an exciting turn of events, Eugene fixed the radio and made contact with another group. We hear from that group (or a person in that group) in this issue and get some hints about the community. Rick steps it up a bit in this issue in regard to his physical strength, but he’s still as weak as ever, as a teenager is able to thwart him.
The person Eugene connected with has been trying for years to reach someone. Both he (or she) and Eugene have agreed to only speak to each other and keep their communication secret until they can form trust. Interestingly, when Eugene reveals that his group has about fifty people, the person on the radio claims to be from a much larger group. Is this person lying? Is Eugene being catfished? It seems that Robert Kirkman may spread out this storyline across several issues until both groups trust each other. Right now, the mystery behind the group is exciting, but if Kirkman lets the storyline go on too long without a reveal, he’ll spread the story too thin, causing readers to lose interest.
Last issue, we saw how much of a liability Rick has become when almost being overtaken by walkers while training his army. This issue, Brandon, a teenager angry at Rick for killing his father, Morton, in issue 150, almost got the better of him. Although Rick finally bested the kid (after being knocked down and punched in the face several times), how can we expect him to take on a horde of Whisperers? I think Rick is realizing that he’s no longer suited for combat. As he tells Michonne, “I can’t have people second-guessing the path I’ve chosen again. I need to keep that anger directed away from me.” However, because Rick was unsuccessful in diverting that anger, Brandon retaliated in the worst way possible.
Warning! Spoilers Ahead!
Brandon went and got the person who hates Rick Grimes as much as he does: Negan. Yep, that’s right. Kirkman pulled a fast one on us when he said Negan wouldn’t be getting out anytime soon. He’s out! But Kirkman ends the issue with another cliffhanger. We don’t know where he is. I think Negan is too smart to run out and warn or join the Whisperers, as Brandon asked him to do. I wouldn’t put it past Negan to kill Brandon to send a message to Rick. I foresee Negan going back to the Saviors. Right now, the Saviors are without a leader, angry at Rick, and angry at Dwight for leaving. The people are weak and easy to manipulate—a perfect situation for Negan to take advantage of. However, maybe fear of Negan, not the Whisperers, is exactly what Rick needs to unite all the communities. Perhaps this is what the issue’s title “United in Fear” is in reference to.
As usual, Charlie Adlard gives the panels a lot of variety with his use of close-ups, extreme close-ups, wide angles, point-of-view shots, and so on. I especially like the angle he uses when Rick is looking down at Brandon after finally overtaking him. Drawing him with the camera looking up gives Rick a look of dominance and power (two things he really needs). I also always enjoy any panels that feature Negan. His expressions—particular his grinning—are so distinctive. Cliff Rathburn’s shading is a welcome addition to the artwork as well. It always helps to set the mood perfectly for each scene.
The cover features the people of Alexandria painting the words “Silence the Whispers” on the town’s walls. It’s an interesting choice since there’s a panel inside of almost the same exact scene. Regardless, it’s a strong message that Rick is trying to send his people. As he says, “I don’t want people to forget about the Whisperers. I want people to be reminded of them every second of every day. I want them to be furious.” Dwight and Laura are off to the side, likely indicating the important part they play in the plan.
It’s a pretty exciting issue with some unexpected twists. Kirkman continues to lay some groundwork and put some plot points into motion. He once again is building anticipation in the reader—something that’s been lacking from the comic lately. With the latest turn of events, I can’t wait to see what happens next!