Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Walking Dead Volume 18: What Comes After

Title: The Walking Dead Volume 18: What Comes After

ISBN: 9781607066873
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2013
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Collects: The Walking Dead #103-108

Rating: 4/5

I’ve spent plenty of time talking about how The Walking Dead is better read in trade format, as opposed to one issue per month. The way the series is usually paced, it helps when dealing with some of the second and third string characters, who we sometimes don’t see for months at a time when we’re reading the issues as I come out. This book, however, is the exception to that rule. Leave it to Kirkman to prove me wrong.

Shortly after Glenn’s brutal, merciless murder, Rick and his camp find themselves at the mercy of his murderer Negan, and his gang the Saviors. For perhaps the first time since the zombie apocalypse began, Rick finds himself in a state of submission…or does he? Either way, one person who isn’t backing down is Carl. When Carl stows away in one of the Saviors’ vehicles, he sets himself up for a deadly confrontation. And unlike his father, Carl isn’t afraid to confront Negan face-to-face.

Carl being trapped with the Saviors made almost every book in this issue pretty hard to close. Negan had been established as such a heartless killer. And despite his bravery, Carl is more vulnerable than ever. Kirkman and Adlard essentially put an infant in front of an oncoming train for a few months, and made us watch as the train came closer and closer. Interestingly enough, what Negan ends up doing with Carl raises more questions about the leader of the Saviros than answers.

But I love the Negan character. He’s turned out to be just what I hoped he would: The perfect shot in the arm for the series. Though he’s tremendously easy to hate, in a bizarre way he’s also very likable. He’s almost like the Joker, in that he somehow makes you chuckle at the most inappropriate times. For instance, there’s a scene where he forces Carl to remove the bandage over the gaping hole where his right eye once was. Negan’s reaction of astonishment and awe is actually child-like in its own right. With a grin on his face, he refers to Carl’s face as disgusting and cross, and actually asks if he can touch the wound. This reaction reduces even usually tough and reserved boy to tears. Seeing Carl’s tears, he abruptly backpedals. “Oh, damn. Look..holy sh** kid. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” The idea that this madman, who just five issues ago beat a man’s skull in with a baseball bat, is shaken by a child’s tears, is amusing in a very dark way. Negan’s balance between juvenile and sadistic behavior makes him difficult to read. That, of course, makes for a great villain.

I’ve been enjoying the new characters Kirkman and Adlard have introduced is to in the last 15 to 20 issues. For a while there the older characters, (Rick, Carl, Andrea, Michonne, Glenn, etc.) were the only ones I found myself caring about. But Jesus has proved to be a nice addition to the series, and pretty bad ass when you get right down to it. His stealth and fighting skills, combined with his desire to earn Rick’s trust have made him very likable. There’s also Dwight, a member of Negan’s crew who is nicely expanded on in this book. At the very least, the mutilation of his face makes him very distinguishable from anyone else in the series.

Then there’s Ezekiel, who is without question one of the most memorable characters the series has seen. Mind you, I’m saying that and he’s not even in this book for an entire issue. He plays the role a merciful medieval king, joyfully commanding his knights, armor and all. He also has a friggin’ tiger as a pet. To say the least, this is different from anything Kirkman and Adlard have given us before. In this case, different is very, very good. At minimum, we know we’re eventually going to see somebody get mauled by a tiger! Question: If an animal eats a zombie, does it contract the contagion? If so, I’ve got three words for you: Zombie friggin’ tiger!

For a while there, I was seriously concerned The Walking Dead had peaked. But it seems the series just needed to get its second wind, which began with issue 100. The book is exciting again, which thankfully ensures it will continue to have a nice, long life. Or…death? Undeath? You get the idea.

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