Review – The Walking Dead #100-101
Sadly, I had fallen behind on The Walking Dead comic books. I know, I know. This is wholly unforgivable in someone who is supposed to be blogging about zombies, but that is really neither here nor there at this point. What matters is that I have caught up to the most current issue (#101).
MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW
I was told to expect some mind blowing storytelling, and indeed—as per usual—Kirkman tells a fine story. The latest story arc “Something to Fear” introduces a harsh new antagonist, by the name of Negan, who mercilessly demands half-to-all available goods from all outlying communities. Oh yes, that is the other major plot point: there are multiple self-sustaining communities. Contrary to what Rick and party thought, they are not alone.
It is the discovery of new communities that fills Rick with a new sense of hope; if there are other, friendly communities out there survival becomes more than just a remote possibility. There is just one hitch in the giddy up: the aforementioned Negan. In talking to one of the other towns Rick learns two things: they operate on a barter system, and they wholly at the mercy of Negan. But where others see a problem, Rick sees an opportunity. Rick offers his expertise and that of his companions in exchange for goods and services. You see, Rick’s community has little in the way of tradable resources, but what they do have is a great deal of is experience in killing things. And it’s not like they’ve never dealt with a similar situation before (The Governor…anybody?). True that didn’t really end well, but the point is they’ve pretty much seen it all. This new threat should be fairly easy to deal with. Yeah right. Nothing in the TWD universe is easy. I’m pretty sure you could die just trying to open a bag of chips.
To Rick’s credit, he does—initially—seem to be correct. There are two separate attempts by Negan’s group to extort Rick and company. In both of these attempts the Negan group is well and truly thrashed. These two successive victories fill Rick with enough confidence to actively go after Negan. This confidence (or hubris, depending on how you look at it) turns out to be Rick’s downfall. Individually, or at least in a small group setting, Rick and his team might very well be the equals of Negan’s goons; Negan manages to neatly bypass this fact by catching Rick’s group (of approximately seven people) asleep and unawares with a group of fifty armed, psychopathic thugs. Additionally, he has diverted additional resources to lay siege to Rick’s community.
This is the point in the story where I was actually praying for a little Deus Ex Machina. “Please,” I thought. “Please Almighty Kirkman, cut Rick a break. I really don’t want to watch him get royally screwed, yet again.” But Kirkman’s universe is not a compassionate one, and— in the face of fifty armed and ready aggressors—seven would stand little chance. Such is the case in issue 100. The group is quickly subdued, and the terms of their subjugation (which Negan chooses to label as “employment”) are explained: they now work for Negan to the tune of pretty-much-everything- they-have, payments to be made starting the following week. In addition to his terms, he decides to drive the point with a little object lesson/punishment. This is what I assume people were telling me about when they said “mind blowing”. In retrospect, that choice of words was either in bad taste or darkly humorous.
The “mind blowing revelation” such as it was, is the brutal murder of Glen at the hands of Negan. He is beaten to death with a baseball bat wrapped in barb wire. And yes, it is an utterly cruel and shocking way to die, but it is by no means revelatory (though his brain/mind does leave his body with enough force to be considered “blown”). This is, after all, The Walking Dead. The lives of the characters are constantly up for grabs; absolutely no one is safe. If anything Kirkman telegraphed Glen’s grizzly end in a scene where Maggie reveals her pregnancy to him, and he makes plans to move them both to one of the “safer” communities. Like every cop on his last day of retirement, or any character ever that has plans after “one last job” he is doomed.
Issue 101 is the aftermath of this. Maggie curses Rick for cowardice (an understandable, if incorrect sentiment), while physically assaulting him. This leads to a disturbing scene where Carl and Sophia try to defend their respective parents by violent force of arms. After everyone settles down and resigns themselves to the reality of the situation, they wrap up what’s left of Glenn and make their way to the outlying community, staying just long enough to deposit Maggie and Sophia, before turning back home with the brutally efficient Jesus in tow to offer his services in dealing with Negan.
Issue 101 provides a small measure of hope that this scenario will turn out differently than the group’s last encounter with an egomaniacal demagogue. For one thing, Negan grossly underestimated Rick, committing the classic villain blunder of letting his biggest threat live. Rick is not one to let the murder of a friend go unavenged. For another, the siege against Rick’s compound was thwarted by the ever resourceful Andrea. To sweeten the pot, she also managed to capture the crossbow wielding hooligan responsible for Abraham’s death. Add to this the addition of Jesus, and I have hope for a fine revenge story; the story I actually wanted to read when the Governor was around.
On a side note, it’s been rumored for awhile that Daryl (from the TV adaptation of TWD) will be making an appearance in the comic books. I don’t think this character’s name has been mentioned; he does kind of fit the general physical features for Daryl. We’ll see. I kind of hope not, since this would be a disappointing Daryl.
So all-in-all it’s been a decent story arc so far, but I do have a bone to pick with Kirkman. Haven’t we already been here? It does feel like a sort of “been there, done that” scenario. There’s a reason this article is titled The Governor Part 2; because that’s exactly what if feels like, the sequel to The Governor story line. It’s the exact same premise: maniacal leader of a barbaric group, check; Rick and crew seemingly outmanned and outgunned, check; home base under siege, check. It feels like the exact same story. Now the arc hasn’t concluded (and the siege didn’t work), so I’m hoping Rick and crew can turn the tables and keep their home. I really need for something to happen that diverges from the Governor Arc.
If it doesn’t I will have to assume the Kirkman has fallen prey to his own suffer, hope, suffer formula; and simply run out of ideas. You know what I mean. For all of its well thought out dialog and intricate character development TWD is, in a sense, a gimmick show. It starts with suffering that the heroes seemingly overcome. For a while things are good; then more, worse suffering comes their way. And repeat. This is the pattern of the comic, and it’s fine; it’s certainly made for some compelling fiction. But I’m worried that he’s starting to recycle the suffering (i.e. the Governor). I sincerely hope I’m wrong.
Also (before anybody points this out) yes, I am aware that in a post apocalyptic setting there would be more than one gang of evil marauders. That said, I don’t necessarily want to meet every last one of them.