What’s Love Got to Do With It?: “The Walking Dead” #154 (Review)
Story by: Robert Kirkman
Art and Lettering by: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn
A lot happens in this issue! The dialogue tends to weigh down the story at times, except for Negan’s, which is always welcome, but the issue is pretty solid. We finally get a name for the person Eugene has been talking to on the radio. We also meet Alpha’s Beta (there had to be one, right?), Negan meets Alpha (and falls in love), and Rick thinks he’s become a better leader.
The issue starts out with Andrea and Maggie chatting it up. With all the violence, it’s nice that they can sometimes take a breath and act like there isn’t a zombie apocalypse going on all around them. Michonne and Aaron are on Negan’s tail, who is heading to the Whisperers after all. As they come across Brandon, who Negan left for dead but hasn’t turned yet, Michonne says “We’ll worry about him on the way back.” But will they?
Negan, as always, has some laugh-out-loud moments throughout: “Don’t grab a fucking sleeping bag or anything, Brandon. I’ll be fine sleeping in the open, Brandon. So glad I stabbed you, you fucking shit ball.” When he encounters the Whisperers, he notes that they’re “scary as fuck” but knows exactly what they are. “I have eyes, so fuck yes I know what you are. People wearing skin suits to mask themselves from the dead. Or is this like Looney Tunes and there’s another zipper under the human skin and you’re dogs inside? Are you guys like living Russian nesting dolls?” This is why I love Negan. As horrible as he is, he is hilarious. Kirkman couldn’t have written a better character. I hope he translates just as well to the TV show as we see more of him next season. Kirkman also introduces us to Beta, a man who stands almost a full head and shoulders above Negan. It’s interesting that Kirkman chose to wait over twenty issues to reveal a Beta. Why introduce him now?
We get some awesome katana action from Michonne as she and Aaron cross the border that Alpha established and stumble upon the Whisperers. Although Michonne kicking ass is always great, the lead up to this scene was a bit of a letdown, as they decided to talk about boys rather than keep their ears open. Again, perhaps Kirkman is trying to show us that they are still human—they crave normalcy, even in the least convenient of times. Love and relationships actually come up a lot in this issue—Maggie and Andrea discuss Carl and Lydia, Eugene reminisces about Rosita, Michonne and Aaron talk about Eric and Jesus, Negan “loves” Alpha, and so on. Kirkman is trying to remind us that these people are still human with human emotions. It seems he is trying to set them apart from the Whisperers, who come off as almost sociopathic: cold and without feelings.
As Michonne notes that Negan—a fugitive—crossed the border and they’re just trying to catch him, not hurt the Whisperers, Beta steps up and says, “Then we have the advantage,” and stabs Aaron in the gut. Perhaps this is the reason for Beta—Kirkman didn’t want a random Whisperer taking out a major character. However, Alpha herself could’ve achieved this. I’ll be interested to see the part Beta plays in the larger story.
Back at Alexandria, Eugene tells the mystery person on the radio more about himself and his people, and she reveals her name is Stephanie. But is Stephanie to be trusted? Is she playing Eugene? I have a feeling that she’ll be a big part of the story in the not-too-distant future. Also, as Andrea returns, she is appalled at the Silence the Whispers “propaganda” plastered all over the walls. As she asks Rick what happened, he says, “I became a better leader.” Is that what he really believes, though? Last issue was all about the guilt and burden he carries with him. He seemed pretty shaken up when Paul shot Marco, and under his leadership, Negan escaped. And because of Rick, Aaron has been killed. (Hopefully Michonne will make it out alive.) Are these signs of a good leader?
I enjoyed Charlie Adlard’s panels featuring Michonne and Aaron fighting the walkers and Whisperers, particularly the scene with them in the middle of a horde of walkers and faux walkers. The last page of the issue, featuring Alpha, is also great. Alpha looks down at Negan in disgust as Negan pledges his love to her. The way the scene is depicted displays her authority and position. From this panel alone, you can tell that she’s in charge. The look on her face juxtaposed against his is pretty entertaining. For once he’s not scowling or grinning maliciously. He actually looks pretty calm and relaxed. You would expect cartoon hearts to pop out of his eyes. How will this actually play out? I have been shipping them since we met Alpha back in issue 132 (and even planned to cosplay Alpha with my husband as Negan!). Will Alpha actually make herself that vulnerable? I doubt it. Does Negan just want to overthrow Alpha (and Beta) so he can lead the Whisperers? Highly likely.
The cover features Michonne and Aaron surrounded by Whisperers, much like what happens to them in the issue. You actually see Beta in between Michonne and Aaron on the cover, because as Negan points out when he meets Beta, “You some kind of rebel? Won’t wear the full skin suit? Just the skin helmet? You just hang out behind the others saying, ‘Pay no attention to me,’ hoping the dead won’t notice your chin?” (Again, Negan’s dialogue is some of the best yet.) The orange background really allows the artwork to pop. The issue’s title “Led to Slaughter” plays into this scene, as they’re being led to slaughter unaware of their impending doom. But by who? My guess is Rick. He sent them out to catch Negan.
I’m super excited that Negan met Alpha and can’t wait to see where the story goes. Negan’s one-liners throughout are particularly entertaining, and I hope we continue to see more of them in the issues to come. With Eugene’s mystery person finally revealing herself, it’ll be interesting to see how that story evolves. Will she be the next big bad?