Story by: Robert Kirkman
Art and Lettering by: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, Rus Wooton, and Dave Stewart
Last month, The Walking Dead reached a significant milestone—issue 150. Rick announced his plans to form a military to fight the Whisperers, and everyone (aside from Jesus) was ecstatic. This issue follows through with Rick’s plan, as the people of Alexandria train—first starting with walkers. Kirkman does an excellent job of following through with his plan laid out in issue 150 and tying up some of the loose threads from previous issues.
Over the course of the comic, Kirkman has expertly shown Rick evolving from a fearless warrior to someone who can barely take on a couple walkers by himself. In this issue, he shows how weak Rick has truly become. He’s not the same sheriff we were introduced to early on; he’s now a liability out in the field. While the Alexandrians take on several walkers, he stands off to the side, gesturing with his prosthetic arm (claw) and leaning against his cane for support. He takes out a walker with his cane and finally picks up a gun. After almost being overtaken by walkers, he admits that his “police training has been more or less exhausted” and that Dwight is the leader people need. For someone who doesn’t want to be a leader, Dwight sure acts like one. Shouting commands and displaying his expert marksmanship, he successfully gets the people of Alexandria into formation (perhaps hinting that he has a military background) and saves both Rick and Vincent, who Rick spared in issue 150. Rick tells Vincent, “Doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person. If we wrote you off after that one mistake. . . . Think of all the good you’re going to do that would be erased.” Interestingly after this conversation, Rick goes to see Negan. Is he actually considering giving Negan a second chance? Negan clearly didn’t do one thing wrong—he did countless things wrong. What role will he play in this fight against the Whisperers? Will Rick use him as bait somehow?
To really have the force necessary to overtake the Whisperers, and any walkers in their path, Rick needs all of the communities on board. After Ezekiel’s death, the people of the Kingdom have been without a leader. Rick asks Michonne to lead them, and she accepts. With Maggie at the Hilltop, all they need is someone to lead the Saviors. As Michonne jokes, “How old is Carl exactly?” We don’t get any Carl or Lydia in this issue, but Rick tells Maggie that they’re safe to return. Perhaps Rick will send Dwight back to the Saviors and let Jesus lead Alexandria to battle. Jesus is barely in this issue at all (he isn’t even in the training session), so we don’t get a reason for his negative reaction to Rick’s speech in issue 150. He does say he’s staying in Alexandria for the time being, so that’s interesting. Regardless, it’s clear Rick knows that he’s no longer the warrior he once was, so it’s unlikely he’ll want to risk being on the frontlines.
Charlie Adlard’s art is great in this issue. We get pages of walkers, which for a comic about zombies, there haven’t been a ton of lately. The first panel is a close-up walker reaction shot to gunfire, which the Alexandrians use to lure them out of the woods. The whole first page brings back a taste of the suspense the comic is built off of, as the walkers stagger out of the woods toward the gunshots. The detail he uses during the practice battle scene—especially the head-shots—are some of the issue’s best. His use of close-up, wide-angle, and point-of-view shots add to the issue’s intensity and offer variety. He’s always had a knack for communicating emotion perfectly through facial expressions and body language when the panels are void of dialogue. Cliff Rathburn’s shading is especially great in the close-ups of the walkers.
The cover shows Dwight in a full military getup, with a rifle in one hand and Lucille in the other. He has several other visible guns and a few grenades on his person. He seems a bit conflicted, with his gritted teeth and look of concern over his face. But he’s a leader prepared for battle, even if he doesn’t want to be. He can’t hide from it any longer.
Warning: Spoiler Ahead!
The most exciting part of this issue is the very last page. Eugene has been fixing the radio for several issues and trying to reach someone to no avail. Well, he finally receives a response. What a great way to end the issue. It’s been a while since we’ve had a really good cliffhanger. Who answered? What part will the group play in the plan to form a military? Will they be good? With the bad luck Rick’s group has encountered in the past, it won’t be surprising if whoever answered are the new baddies.
This is a great issue to follow the over-hyped issue 150. Issue 150 certainly had some great elements and laid the groundwork for future issues. And Kirkman didn’t wait to pick up the pieces. We get a lot to look forward to in this issue, and plot-lines are starting to take action.