Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Walking Dead Volume 17: Something to Fear

Title: The Walking Dead Volume 17: Something to Fear

ISBN: 9781607066156
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2012
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Collects: The Walking Dead #97-102

Rating: 4/5

In return for goods from the Hilltop, Rick and his group agree to protect them from an unseen gang or tyrants led by a man named Negan. Given all that he’s seen and been through, Rick isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. But he’s dreadfully ignorant of what Negan and his crew are capable of, or who/what a confrontation will cost them.

Almost everything notable about this book happens in The Walking Dead #100, which is at about the halfway point. It’s there that we meet Negan, who’s drawn his share of comparisons to the Governor, based on their obvious similarities, and the fact that they’ve both served as the series’ main living antagonists. It’s not an unjustified comparison, but Negan is very much his own character. While the Governor was deceptive and manipulative at times, Negan is very much up front about his intentions: “Give me your shit or I will kill you. You work for me now.” The Governor was a manipulator, but Negan is a bully, plain and simple. He’s the Walking Dead equivalent of a schoolyard kid who’s bigger than everybody else, and will take your lunch money just because he can. He strikes a very familiar chord from childhood that makes him instantly unlikeable.

As his first act of villainy, Negan kills Glenn by smashing in his skull with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire. As Glenn’s been with us almost since the beginning, that was a tough kill for long time fans to endure. Was there a pressing need to kill Glenn off? No. But the audience was expecting someone to go in issue #100, and Glenn was expendable. Plus, his death can potentially provide some interesting new depth to the Maggie character, and further disturb young Sophia’s already unstable psyche (though we have yet to see either of these in the monthly series). I also enjoyed the way Kirkman cracked the fourth wall, so to speak. Through Negan’s dialogue, he seemed to give us a glimpse into his thought process about who to kill off. It added another dimension to the scene, while at the same time continuing to make Negan look like a terrible bastard.

This issue also did fans a favor by killing off the Abraham character. For my money, he was always just a poor stand in for Tyreese. Kirkman tried to give him some intrigue by placing him at the center of a love triangle, but that never really did anything for me. Even the way he died was annoying. He takes an arrow through the back of his head, and the damn thing is sticking out of his eye. But then for some reason he keeps talking. He says another five sentences with that arrow sticking through his eye as if nothing happened. I’m not sure if that has any basis in medical science or not, and it was obviously done for horror effect. But it took me out of the story regardless.

In contrast, I’m very interested to learn more about the Jesus character and what his story is. He’s got a martial arts/parkour thing going on that makes him very memorable, as opposed to some of the other characters introduced after the group left the prison.

In my review of Vol. 16, I talked about the inevitability of tragedy. Coming into this book, it was pretty clear something terrible was going to happen. Mostly likely a massive attack of some kind that kills a handful of people in Rick’s crew. Kirkman planted a bunch of red herrings in this book to make us believe that was just what would happen, and that Andrea would be the one to die. But he pulled a great swerve on us, giving us a smaller tragedy that ultimately had the same amount of impact (if not more) than a big massacre would have. Ergo, we come away with a lessons learned: In the world of The Walking Dead, always expect the unexpected.

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