The War Is Far From Over in “The Walking Dead” #161 (Review)

“The Whisperer War: Part 5 of 6” The Walking Dead #161

Image Comics

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

The Whisperers attacked the Hilltop! In the fifth part of the Whisperer War arc, the Whisperers make their move on the Hilltop, and Maggie, Sophia, Aaron, Lydia, and Carl are ready. Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard devote over half of this issue to the battle. But with volleys of flaming arrows, lots of action-packed zombie fighting, and a couple of close calls, it does not disappoint. Each page is exciting. In past issues in this arc, the sixteen-panel grid that runs throughout jumped around to different characters and their role in the Whisperer War. This month, we stay with our group at the Hilltop a little longer than usual to build suspense and get our adrenaline pumping. However, the war is far from over.

In issue 160, we saw Lydia accept the Hilltop as her home. Here, we see her fight for it. As she fights a Whisperer, she screams, “I don’t want to live like an animal! I’m better than that! We all are!” Lydia has endured physical and emotional trauma living among the Whisperers but is able to turn a new leaf and call the Hilltop home. And everyone at the Hilltop steps up to fight. Throughout the battle, we get glimpses of several people fighting the Whisperers, and some really neat action shots (lots of zombie heads getting hacked off or in half—SVAASH! SHAKK! SVAKK! WRAKK! panels read) and spreads showcasing the Hilltop burning.

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Later, with Dwight’s group, we finally get a peek into Negan’s reaction to losing Lucille. Dwight finds him crying and doesn’t understand his emotion, calling him a “fucking lunatic.” As Negan tells him, “You’ll never understand what she represented to me . . . why she meant so much.” (Those of us reading Image+ know!) At this point, Negan seems inconsolable. Even Jesus seems surprised by how down he is. Is this the new Negan? Did he draw his power and confidence from Lucille? Or is it all a mind game? With only one issue left in the arc, we’re sure to find out. And, as we see at the end of the issue, Sherry is getting a bit power hungry. Negan’s reaction to losing Lucille and his connection to the Saviors may play a part in how it all shakes out. But, luckily, Rick is aware of the threat from the Saviors, telling Andrea, “When you’re out in that bell tower watching for the Whisperers . . . you watch for them too.” Kirkman, and the comic’s editor Sean Mackiewicz, cleverly cut the scene with Eugene on the page before Rick and Andrea’s conversation. As he prepares to deliver bullets to Alexandria, Eugene asks, “People are out there dying for us. We die to get them what they need. Otherwise . . . what are we?” which cuts directly into a conversation with Rick and Andrea, as Rick basically completes Eugene’s question with “The Saviors.” Exactly.

I’ve really enjoyed the design choice for this arc. Kirkman and Adlard continue to build suspense by using a sixteen-panel grid. In other comics when characters are spread all over the place, things can get a bit overwhelming and confusing. But that works for this arc, because war isn’t something that’s neat and organized. Through the design, you can feel the uncertainty and the stress that the characters feel. I particularly love how Adlard depicts the battle scene with the Whisperers, using a variety of shots and showcasing many characters from the Hilltop. The last page of the battle with Maggie staring away from the burning Hilltop and little Hershel tightly embracing her leg is incredibly fitting. “Yay. We won,” she says. She’s not jumping up and down or celebrating their victory. She’s knows there’s more to come, and she’s exhausted.

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Adlard’s cover features Maggie and Eugene. He sticks with the primary colors red and yellow we’ve been seeing throughout the arc. Behind Maggie is the Hilltop aflame with its residents running away from the main house. Perhaps it represents civilization crumbling—or literally burning. When the war is over, our characters will have to rebuild civilization, and that may be the real task. Arthur Adams and Nathan Fairbairn’s variant cover features a super-ripped Carl and tough-as-nails Lydia shooting into the horde of zombies.

This issue continues to push the arc forward and lead us to the conclusion. There’s only one issue left in the Whisperer War! How will it end? And what’s next? Will we finally meet Eugene’s radio pen pal?

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