A Plan to Silence the Whispers: “The Walking Dead #150” (Review)

Jan 15, 2016

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The Walking Dead #150
Image Comics

Story by: Robert Kirkman
Art and Lettering by: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, Rus Wooton, and Dave Stewart

The Walking Dead has reached a significant milestone: issue 150. For those who have stayed along for the ride, we’ve seen the story and the characters go through many changes—some good, some bad. Each character has evolved in his or her own way since being introduced, especially Rick. He was once a cunning, fearless leader (of the Ricktatorship), but he’s grown weak and scared. In this issue, he proves himself once more, regains the trust of his people, and sets forth a plan for vengeance.

Although the issue isn’t as shocking or groundbreaking as it was hyped up to be, Kirkman picks up the pace and sets the stage for what’s to come. Not only is the issue a pivotal moment for Kirkman and his team but for the story itself. This may well be the last time Rick and his people are united and safe, as the issue was all about returning to another time—a time when Rick felt like a leader. He has to venture back out into the world he’s been fighting to get away from. Since Alpha and the Whisperers savagely murdered many of his people and threatened to wipe out everyone, Rick has been hesitant to retaliate, afraid that they will lose the safety they’re all now accustomed to. Throughout 150 issues, we’ve seen Rick evolve from an unstoppable hero capable of killing several walkers (and people, if need be) at a time to someone who can barely walk let alone take on several walkers alone. However, in this issue, Rick once again becomes the leader everyone needs.

TWD150_MortonWhen two fellow Alexandrians (Morton and Vincent) threaten his life, he doesn’t back down. He viciously and fatally bites Morton’s jugular, which is a nice throwback to the way Rick dealt with the Marauders in issue 57. After passing out for several hours, he makes a speech to the townspeople while still covered in his and his attacker’s blood. As he tells Maggie, “They need to see me like this” to establish an us versus them mentality (which Negan suggested in issue 149). He vows to train and form an organized military to “silence the whispers once and for all.” Also, as a good leader, he doesn’t kill his second attacker, Vincent. After Michonne hunts him down, Rick graciously spares his life in front of all of Alexandria, noting, “It’s time for us to come together before we are torn apart.” Unlike his failed speech in issue 148, this one has the power and impact of the classic “We are the walking dead!” speech in issue 24. It’s brilliantly executed, and as Negan remarks from his basement cell as he hears all of Alexandria cheering for Rick Grimes, “Atta boy.” Although the cheering was a bit cheesy, it cemented the feeling of a united front that will be crucial in the story’s development from here on out. Also, in a crowd of elated faces, it showed only one displeased person: Jesus. Perhaps he knows Rick is preparing for his own demise and possibly leading his people to theirs.

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Interestingly, as Rick tells Eugene his plan to form an army, Eugene states: “The formation of a military will occupy everyone’s minds while we’re building exactly what we need to strike back. It will appease the most bloodthirsty among us . . . while also giving people something to rally behind . . . while also buying us time to figure out the best and most efficient way to strike against the Whisperers.” Is Rick’s plan to create an army a distraction? This quote from Eugene sure seems like it. Maybe Rick is taking another page out of Negan’s book—he’s manipulating his own people. What are they planning to build?

TWD150_JesusAdditionally, in the issues to come we’ll find out whether the Hilltop, Sanctuary, and Kingdom will be on board. Maggie is all smiles during Rick’s speech, so the Hilltop’s involvement seems like a sure thing. However, where will Carl’s loyalties lie? Will Lydia try to protect the people who stole her childhood and innocence? Will Carl follow his dad or Lydia? In past issues, the Sanctuary saw Rick as an ineffective leader and wanted Dwight to stage a coup, but instead he (and Lucille) and Laura left and made their way to Alexandria. Dwight, walking in during the middle of Rick’s speech, is just as smitten with him as the rest of the group. He’ll likely be a leading force in the military with Lucille in hand and be able to convince the Sanctuary to enlist as well. Lastly, the Kingdom will want revenge on the people who murdered their leader, Ezekiel. It’ll be interesting to see how the coming issues play out and who will remain allegiant.

Kirkman’s writing isn’t the only aspect to excel in the issue. As always, Charlie Adlard’s art is masterful. His use of close-up, wide-angle, and point-of-view shots give the pages much-needed variety, especially when a scene goes on for several pages. Working in black and white, the detail he uses, especially in very dark panels, is great. Even when a character’s face is shrouded in darkness, you can sense the emotion the character is conveying. Adlard’s ability to establish the passage of time (morning, night, daybreak, and so on) is impressive—using purposefully placed shadows and different gradients for the sky to inform the reader. The issue features several full-page panels that are some of his best yet—Dwight making his way to Alexandria, Rick biting Morton’s neck, Michonne chasing down Vincent on horseback, and, of course, the people of Alexandria cheering for Rick. These pages without much dialogue are some of the strongest, as the art speaks for itself.

TWD150_NeganAdditionally, there are six amazing variant covers for the monumental 150th issue. Charlie Adlard and Dave Stewart’s main cover looks quite epic with Rick standing front and center drenched in blood from head to toe while a giant 150 lurks in the background. A black-and-white version of this cover is also available but rare. Retailers are to only be supplied one. (My local comic book store didn’t receive any.) Last from Adlard is a blank, White Album-esque, variant cover.

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Tony Moore’s cover is an adaptation of the very first issue’s. (Moore was the cover and interior artist in issues 1 through 6 and remained the cover artist through issue 24. He also illustrated the covers for the first four volumes.) On his cover for issue 150, the world looks a bit more dilapidated than the first time around. Vegetation is rampant (now growing through the car and building), as many years have passed. Rick stands tall as he did in the first issue, reloading a shotgun with a look of determination on his face. However, as we know, Rick has changed. A prosthetic arm now replaces his right hand, and his cane, which he can barely get around without these days, rests against the aging car. He certainly looks older (and more bearded). Gone is the clean-shaven, good-guy sheriff we were introduced to in issue 1. The Rick who follows the rules and plays by the book is no more. He’s been through a lot, and it shows. Gone also are the walkers in the store windows behind Rick; they’ve been replaced with the faces of people he’s lost. This is my favorite cover in the group, as it symbolically and beautifully conveys Rick’s evolution as a character throughout the 150 issues.

Jason Latour’s (Southern Bastards) cover features Michonne wielding her katana and slicing off a zombie’s head and fingers. It’s the most cartoon-y and fun with the zombie sticking its tongue out as the head flies across the page. The sharp green and red colors are a nice contrast to the black background.

In the most graphic cover of the bunch, Ryan Ottley (Invincible) draws Rick shooting a gun into a walker’s maggoty eye socket as shell casings fly across the page. Ottley’s placement of Rick at the top facing the walker at the bottom is smartly executed. It tricks the eye into believing that Rick is almost falling onto the walker with a forceful momentum. Rick’s screaming face juxtapositioned across from the walker’s is an interesting and strong parallel. The use of white for the background is also smart choice. It allows the intricate detail of the images and colors to pop right off the page.

Although this issue was a bit overhyped, it is still a great one that prepares readers for the next story arc. Some of the scenes tend to last a bit too long, which weighs down the story at times, but Adlard beautifully executes each one. At forty pages, the issue was marketed as the biggest issue yet, which seems to be more literal than figurative. If readers are expecting a ginormous bloodbath with favorite characters dying left and right, they’ll be disappointed. However, this issue finally set that epic event in motion.

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