REVIEW: The Walking Dead #101

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Or – “In The Aftermath…”

Last issue, Negan made his presence known, and the shocking events of last issue cemented him as a threat greater even than the roving mobs of murderous zombie monsters.  One of the longest-running cast members is gone, and the repercussions are yet to be seen…  Your Major Spoilers review awaits.

THE WALKING DEAD #101
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler: Charlie Adlard
Inker: Charlie Adlard
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Gray Tones/Cover Colorist: Cliff Rathburn
Editor: Sina Grace
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in The Walking Dead:  After years of a nomadic existence, Rick Grimes and the surviving members of his band of refugees found a home in the town of Alexandria, even starting to rebuild normal lives after the horrors of their day-to-day life.  But when Alexandria opened up trade lines with a nearby settlement called Hilltop, they attracted the attention of Negan and his band of Saviors, a gang of thugs who extort supplies from the hilltop with overwhelming numbers and brutality.  Rick and his people killed a few of the Saviors, but Negan returned with additional men, and beat Glenn to death, just to prove a point…

THE FIRST THING AFTER DENIAL IS ANGER.

The issue opens with a very effective sequence depicting the surviving members of Rick’s party kneeling in the dirt, coming to terms with Glenn’s death.  This is one of the times that the black-and-white really serves the drama, as the bleak sky grows darker, and the focus on the body of an old friend hits the reader HARD.  Rick’s party starts to fray, as Maggie takes out her frustrations on Rick, leading Carl to pull a gun (!!) on her.  There’s been an undertone of frightening sociopathy to Carl’s actions since the loss of his mother and sister, and this moment underscores how hard the young lad has become, though he also comforts Sophia on the loss of her adoptive father in a very touching scene.  Maggie insists that she and Sophia are going to live at Hilltop, and that she wants Glenn to be buried there, as well, and the group returns just in time for Rick to show that he’s almost as big a bully as Negan when he beats on Hilltop’s community leader for not telling him the whole story on Negan.

A REFRESHING CHANGE IN PACING…

This issue really cooks along after the last dozen or so (some of which consisted entirely of traveling scenes) heading back to Hilltop then home to Alexandria where my worst fears about last issue come true, as we find the stronghold surrounded by bodies and shattered vehicles, the remnants of a Savior attack on the city.  Stephen opines that this book is the same thing over and over, that Rick finds a sanctuary, somebody screws it up, fighty-fighty, lather, rinse, repeat.  l won’t say that there isn’t a grain of truth in that statement, but this issue isn’t a mere repeat of the events around the prison a few years ago, as we discover as Rick makes his way into the city in the aftermath of the battle, only to find Andrea alive and well.  The settlers held off Negan’s men easily, even capturing one of them, and as the issue ends, I wonder if Rick is going to avenge Glenn’s death with Negan’s lieutenant.  In superhero comics, they make a lot of arguments about black-and-white morality (“Batman cannot kill the Joker because that makes him as bad as the Joker is”) that would be interesting to see in the context of this more naturalistic (if not realistic, seeing as the zombies and all) storytelling model.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  A NICE ZIPPY FOLLOW-UP TO LAST MONTH.

The Negan problem is interesting to me.  It’s nice to see a character who is a match for Rick, but unlike standard superhero books, there’s no real way to keep this interaction going in the long term.  Negan has to be dealt with quickly or else he’ll slide completely down the slope into cliche villainy (his dialogue during the murder last issue guaranteed that) but I’m wondering if the point here isn’t how far Rick, Andrea and the others are going to slide trying to eliminate the threat.  The Walking Dead #101 is a strong follow-up to last month’s big anniversary, and will serve to entertain any new readers who just jumped on with the big One-Oh-Oh, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  There are some moments in the issue that feel troublesomely incompletely, like our goodbye to Maggie, but I’m happier with going a little too quick than I am with the glacial pacing of the TV Season 2.

Rating: ★★★★½