Issue #150 began selling out in stores across America minutes after hitting the stands. Walking Dead fans have been eagerly anticipating what waited behind the blood soaked cover. So, what heartache did they discover this time?
Rick Grimes has led the community of Alexandria to relative peace in the years following his all-out war with Negan. Tension has been growing with The Whispers, an animalistic society that wears the skins of the dead in order to coexist with the Walkers. After their leader, Alpha, butchered members of Alexandria and the neighboring communities, the call for war has come again. Rick has sought to caution a hasty response and unrest has grown because of it. This month’s issue is titled “Betrayal”.
Traditionally, Robert Kirkman saves the most seminal moments for issues like this. Moments that change the course of the comic, that reshape the cast of characters, cause dedicated readers to fear issues like #100. So #150 has been cause for great concern. Kirkman breaks from tradition in this issue. Instead, what we have plays more like a “best of…” or, more appropriately, “do you remember…?” The story fails to advance in anyway and Rick doesn’t show us anything we haven’t seen before.
Do you want a spoiler free review? This issue fails to capture the moments that propel the title’s popularity, moments which have become more and more widely dispersed as years go on. Whether Kirkman no longer has the time to dedicate to Walking Dead or whether it has become such a cash cow he is now afraid to mess with the equation is unclear. The palpable fear has for many years been on this side of the comic, from the moment the reader picked it off the stand until they closed it and began to dread what would happen next month. That palpable fear more and more seems to be coming from somewhere in Image Comics, somewhere in the creative process. The raw storytelling has burned out and the flavor of the comic seems forever spoiled.
Before discussing the issue in a way that contains spoilers, let’s just say that the book began as a small group of people living in a camper. It developed characters. The experience was personal. Now every subplot gets two or three pages at most. There are no new characters the reader can connect with. For how little investment has been made fleshing out people rather than setting, killing off members of the core cast may kill the book. Maggie, Michonne, Rick, Carl, Andrea… once they’re gone, who make this book standout from any other zombie series? Kirkman needs to start focusing on meatier stories rather than setting up big events so we can learn to love new people in the process, so we can lose some of the people we no longer believe have anything to fear, and resume wondering what will happen from week to week.
Now, for spoilers.
Rick Grimes, the closest thing to Conan the Barbarian the people of Alexandria have, is attacked by two older men who attempt to scare him and proceed to try and beat him to death. As a reader, it doesn’t resonate. Even caught off guard, we’ve seen Rick tear people to pieces. In fact, his patented go-for-the-throat approach is, yes… something we have seen before. So why did these characters think they could take him and why was this what was offered in terms of creating tension for the reader? It would be like Mario getting jumped by two goombas. There would never be a doubt what the outcome would be. This unintimidating moment is what takes center stage in place of the horror we have felt in the past watching Lori and the baby shot or Glen be beaten to death in front of Maggie.
It’s a great disappointment.
He then proceeds to fill six pages with another speech about returning to old-world values of peace and morality (while he likely still has the taste of throat in his teeth). Six pages that accomplish nothing. He talks about forming an army. Well, guess what? We discussed that last issue. He talks about making the world the way it used to be. Guess what? Rick has been doing that for years. And he spared the attacker who let him go? Of course, he did! He’s the “good guy”. So while it was certainly the virtuous thing to do, it was another moment that failed to offer any surprise. Meanwhile, Alpha and the Whispers continue to be unseen. Do we care that Rick is going to militarize Alexandria? No. We have literally already seen Alexandria go to war and win. The reader doesn’t doubt it can be done because it’s already collected in various trades.
The heartache discovered in this issue seems to be the promise that the golden age of the book is gone, and the suggestion that we’re in for a repeat of the forgettable “All-Out War” storyline. “Betrayed” seems like a better description for a readership that deserved to see this issue be a return to the classic storytelling of The Walking Dead.
Story: Robert Kirkman Art: Charlie Adlard
Story: 5 Art: 7 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review…
….though I’ll admit I bought both the Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard covers