The Walking Dead no longer describes the survivors infected by a virus which will turn them into zombies when they die. The Walking Dead seems to describe characters who no longer have an interest in appearing in this book.
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 now begun to militarize Alexandria to prepare them for all-out war… though no one is likely to call it “all-out war”. That’s the story they just did. (Are they dragging their feet across these issues hoping we’ll forget?)
At this point, Rick has become the man dressed as Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. He’s little more than a figurehead, always present but not really what anyone came to see. Instead, you pass him by looking for the characters you haven’t begun to outgrow. In this case, we’re looking at people like Carl or Michonne. Rick himself acknowledges to the degree to which he’s no longer relevant. Of course, there’s no reason Rick couldn’t be as engaging and as interesting as he’s always been. It just feels at this point that maybe Robert Kirkman himself has grown a bit tired of him. It might explain why his best moments these days (for example, ripping people apart an attacker with his teeth last issue) are just repeats of his glory days (for example… oh, man, that was years ago, don’t make me look up the issue number).
Sadly, even the characters you’re looking for seem disinterested with the story. Michonne’s appearances are so sparse, if this were the television show you would expect she was only making the minimum appearances according to her contract. She actively wants to leave to join characters we saw briefly almost two years ago. She’s not standing with Rick or Alexandria against the Whispers. She’s literally napping on the couch. Meanwhile, other mainstays like Carl and Andrea make no appearance at all.
Dwight’s appearance in Alexandria seems to be a desperate attempt at this point try to bring new life into the series. Rick says, “You obviously have some military training…” in explaining why Dwight should be leading people in his stead. Well, does he or doesn’t he? You’ve known him for years at this point, Rick. Did you ever ask? Or do you simply not care because you’re just done with all this?
In fact, to revisit the television show analogy, it’s hard to escape that fatigued feeling you see in later seasons, just before the show goes off the air. The actors have unexplained absences while they film movies and think about the future of their careers, the writing team clearly begins to run out of ideas and every story is not just familiar, it’s directly taken from a few seasons before. Every issue since “All Out War” has just been building up to another “All Out War” scenario. The only difference is… the bad guys are different.
The bad guys are different! So, yes… The Walking Dead has a chance to breathe new life into its pages by showing us more of the Whispers and Alpha, by establishing new characters there instead of focusing on the extras in Alexandria. We’re getting training scenes with characters who either won’t die or who will die to the great indifference of the reader.
Does anyone care if Gabriel decides he wants to train? This is a genuine question becomes it seems any reader-interest in Gabriel died many years ago. Was anyone surprised that Eugene made contact with someone on his radio? The wide-eyed ending at someone actually responding to him via the radio is ridiculous. We know there are other people in the world, we’ve been seeing new communities show up for years. Eugene knows there are other people. And if he didn’t know it, why is he so surprised? He was clearly using the radio because he expected he could get in touch with someone.
The hardest part of the series is being one hundred and fifty-one issues in and wondering at what point to give up and walk away. Every issue is discouraging and it forces even the most die-hard fans to ask at what point are you are simply dead with no interest in coming back?
Story: Robert Kirkman Art: Charlie Adlard
Story: 5 Art: 7 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Pass
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review