Story by: Robert Kirkman
Art and Lettering by: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn
Cover by: Charlie Adlard
Variant cover by: Arthur Adams and Nathan Fairbairn
Similar to the last two issues, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard use a sixteen-panel grid to fit a lot into this issue. Although the design is hectic, it’s parallel to how the characters themselves are feeling—stressed. There is more to read and see, but the issue is fast-paced, which is perfect for this six-part arc. In this third part, Negan faces off with Beta and reunites with a special someone. Dwight also steps up again.
In issue 158, Gabriel became the first casualty of war. As Kirkman promised in part one, Gabriel, Dwight, Laura, Negan, Magna, Michonne, Jesus, Maggie, Herschel, Carl, Lydia, Dante, Aaron, William, Eugene, Andrea, and Rick are all in danger. There are a few close calls in this issue—Dwight, Negan, and Jesus—which had me cringing while reading. The fight scenes thus far have been really intense—kudos to Kirkman’s writing and Adlard’s creative representation. The best moment was Negan reuniting with Lucille, as he says, “Welcome home, baby.” Unfortunately, his excitement is short-lived, as Lucille cracks over Beta’s back. Negan is beside himself after this happens. His confidence already seems to be waning. Who knew anyone could love a baseball bat so much? If anyone is reading Negan’s backstory in Image+, however, you know why Lucille was so important to him.
After the Whisperers run off, Dwight splits the fighters into four groups: (1) Jesus will lead a group east, (2) Michonne’s will go west, (3) Magna’s will go north, and (4) Dwight’s will trail behind the rest to pick off as many Whisperers and walkers as they can. It’s an excellent strategy—to divide the horde—but it makes me nervous. Will one or more of the groups not make it? To blend in, Dwight does something incredibly smart. He becomes a Whisperer on the last page of the issue—“When in Rome,” he says. It’ll be an easy tactic to infiltrate the Whisperers from the inside out.
We see some conflict between William and Zachary, which will bleed over into the next four issues. Another notable moment is when Lydia tells Carl she doesn’t love him. After living among sociopaths and being abused, it’s not surprising that she’d be unable to even feel love or any positive emotion. Perhaps she’s trying to distance herself from Carl in case the Whisperers take over the Hilltop. She still thinks her mother is alive; I’m interested to see her reaction when she finds out Negan killed her. I still think it’s possible that she’ll try to kill Negan.
Smartly, Adlard keeps the art pretty simple and clean, only adding significant detail as necessary. Adlard doesn’t let the congested design become a weakness. He does offer variety throughout in regard to the shots represented, keeping the pages interesting. The panels showing the walkers, as always, are a highlight. One of the most impressive spreads is about halfway through. Adlard depicts a large horde of walkers sauntering toward the group with small panels at the bottom showing several characters’ reactions. Everyone is scared—from Dwight to Jesus, Michonne, and even Negan—and the fear resonates off the page. As Negan puts plainly, “We’re fucking fucked.”
Adlard’s cover—featuring Beta and Dwight—is great. The red in the background behind Beta gives him a sense of power, while Dwight seems to be keeping his distance at the bottom, just like in this issue. For the six parts of the Whisperer War, Arthur Adams and Nathan Fairbairn have created six variant covers, which all connect, much like the comic’s volumes. Seeing all six connected is stunning. Adams’s and Fairbairn’s cover, featuring Andrea, with two guns in hand, as she battles Whisperers and walkers alike, is intense. The orange in the sky and on Andrea’s poncho provides a nice balance.
This is another strong issue in the Whisperer War. How will Negan proceed without Lucille? What will Dwight do to infiltrate the Whisperers? Three issues to go! What’s next?