Story by: Robert Kirkman
Art and Lettering by: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, Rus Wooton, and Dave Stewart
Warning! Spoilers Ahead!
As we learned last issue, Negan is on the loose! In an act of teenage angst, Brandon released Negan from his cell. He was angry at Rick for killing his father and retaliated in the worst way possible. As we learn in this issue, Brandon made a huge mistake.
As Maggie and her people make their way back to the Hilltop, Negan and Brandon slip out undetected. After Brandon reunites Negan with his beloved leather jacket, Negan reveals who’s in charge: “I’m the one calling the shots now. Fall in line or fall down a fucking well.” This comes as no surprise. As Brandon learns, Negan isn’t one to be pushed around. Rick, Michonne, and Aaron figure out pretty quickly that Negan is going to see Alpha and the Whisperers, and Michonne and Aaron head out to find him. However, is that where he’s headed?
In response to Rick’s (horrible) idea of plastering “Silence the Whispers” all over town, Paul shoots Marco, who’s from the Hilltop, when he doesn’t recognize him. Rick has ignited fear in everyone. As he said last issue, “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.” Rick’s plan backfires. Paul’s dialogue is an interesting parallel to Rick’s reasoning for the signs: “I really thought I was keeping us safe.” Unfortunately, many decisions Rick has made haven’t turned out the way he thought they would. Rick is unable to keep his people happy, and he shows his weak leadership skills. In the past several issues, Kirkman has shown Rick’s leadership unraveling little by little. The title of this issue “Heavy Hangs the Head” is in reference to Rick. He’s not proud of the decisions he’s made, and many of them have led his people to the situation they’re in now—the Whisperers slaughtering several people, Negan escaping, and the townspeople fearing for their lives and accidentally shooting others.
Another exciting moment happens with Dwight and Lucille. He says that the bat represents “oppression, misery, authority. I feel like it’s my responsibility to change that . . . to . . . make it stand for something else.” He also alludes to Negan making his way back to the Sanctuary—that someone would’ve carried around Lucille like some king’s scepter. The people of the Sanctuary are still devoted to Negan. What will happen if he shows up? Will they follow Dwight or fall in line behind Negan?
I enjoyed Charlie Adlard’s panels featuring the walkers and Dwight and co. fighting them. For a comic about zombies, we don’t get to see them very often—as it’s more so about people surviving in this apocalyptic world. When we do, it’s exciting. Also, the expression on Rick’s face after Paul says “I really thought I was keeping us safe,” is perfect. You can feel Rick’s embarrassment and shock.
The cover features Rick hanging his head, like the title and theme of the issue. He’s down on his knees touching blood on the floor. He feels guilty for the blood that’s been spilled on his watch. As the leader, he knows he’s responsible for the pain and death his people have experienced. He carries this burden with him every day.
With Negan on the loose, how can the issue not be exciting? Kirkman’s writing for Negan is consistent and, as always, welcomed. Will Negan head to Alpha or will he go back to the Sanctuary? We’ll find out soon enough.