Needless to say, this review contains spoilers for issue 113…
Though it is not something I have covered on this blog, if you are a fan / follower of The Walking Dead comic book then you will no doubt be aware of another ‘event; coming up in a matter of weeks. Maybe event fatigue has set in, maybe this title does not generate the same excitement in me as before, but, for whatever reason, I have not made mention of ‘All Out War’ until now. The event title is self-explanatory, so I do not need to go into any great detail. Go and google it and you will get the teaser images, the cover art (new artist doing covers alert!) and the teaser interviews by Kirkman. The lead-up to these things can be the very best thing about The Walking Dead (and I am thinking of the Prison siege way back in 2007/2008), and so it proves with issue 113. In a series of increasingly tense scenes, there is now no way back for the Negan and Rick-led groups. War looks inevitable in The Walking Dead (and not just because we are being told that in the media).
Issue 113 kicks off with Jesus/Paul & Aaron heading out on their mission toward the Savior outpost. If you remember, this was the one that Dwight told Ezekiel of. Very quickly we learn that this has somehow not worked well, as Jesus stares in horror or disbelief and exclaims ‘oh damn’. Has Dwight, or Ezekiel, proved to be working against Rick?
We then cut away to the brutal and brilliant focal point for this month. After the failed attack on The Saviors, Negan wants his revenge. Things escalate very quickly, and the relationships between the core characters come to the fore – Rick and Negan, Rick and Carl, Negan and Carl, Andrea and Rick. What is interesting is that it’s Carl and Andrea, at different times, trying to protect Rick, a reversal of the usual dynamic. Andreas insistence that ‘we don’t die’ is (maybe) a foreshadowing of something dreadful to come later, but for now, her intent and desperation are all too obvious. Carl, meanwhile, is fearless and deadly, almost killing Negan, and doing something far worse to the resident bad guy in the process. By the end of the issue we are at a familiar junction – Negan, with Lucille in hand, preparing to use his tried and trusted method of dispatch. It is a fantastic cliffhanger, with Rick in the firing line, but with Carl and Andrea still a threat to the leader of The Saviors. And we may yet have the cavalry appear in the form of Jesus and Aaron. It is breathless stuff, I found myself turning to pages at a furious pace, the fantastic layout and art from Charlie Adlard propelling the action. It gives a good reminder of how great this artist is at fight and battle scenes, as you get the sense of pace, the smell of fear and desperation, the struggle.
A top notch issue, a reminder why this title, when on its best form, is peerless.
A couple of points;
There surely has to be a point during the ‘All Out War’ event where either Rick or Negan die. They cannot keep dancing around like boxers squaring each other up and one of them NOT land the knockout punch. Negan is an entertaining villain (and I would say the most entertaining presence in issue 113), but it is getting close to the point that his potency as the man you love to hate is lost because of too much familiarity. I just hope there is a suitable and satisfying conclusion to this, because 12 issues of ‘All Out War’ spread over 6 months is a long time (or ample time if you are feeling generous) to tell a tale.
There is a physical attack on Andrea that seems unnecessarily brutal and lasts too long. Or should I say, lingers too long on her beating and physical distress. It seemed gratuitous. I understand it was important to show her peril and the outcome of that, but the depiction of the violence was a bit too much.
Finally, I expect (or rather, hope) that we shall see the body count increase next issue – it teased and teased imminent death in #113 that if we don’t get some pay off next month then this issue will have felt like a prelude to an empty promise. Some deaths need to occur to bring matters to a head, and the inevitable violent resolution to all this.