I was not so sure about this current arc, doubting it, thinking it a retread of the woodbury prison siege, an echo of the high point of this great comic.
Then issue 83 happened, and this current arc stands alongside that prison massacre as the pinnacle of this gripping, human drama. Providing, that is, that Kirkman doesn’t screw it up in the final chapter ( issue 84 ). There is potential for that, as the final shocking pages are not definitive events, there is the possibility that one central character, who is surely near death, could be saved. But that would spoil what Kirkman has achieved in this issue, in a way that I think would tarnish the series and damage it’s reputation as a no holds barred portrayal of the end of days.
There is a real sense of panic, confusion and terror throughout this issue, as Rick formulates a plan (based on earlier adventures with Glenn) to get his small group out of the besieged community. This is powerful, raw storytelling, where the hard-earned experiences of Rick, Carl and Michonne are in stark contrast to the way those in the walled community handle this terrifying reality. There are some panels in these pages that literally made me gasp, Kirkman and Adlard pulling no punches. A lot of people die in this issue.
While the situation of Rick and his group takes precedence, there are brief interludes where the fate of some of the other cast is far from resolved. Indeed, no-one is safe, the ghastly rolling waves of undead, insistent and single minded in their objective, make this arc the one where Kirkman delivers an epic zombie tale, as opposed to an epic human drama. This arc is truly all about the dead, and death, and dying. It is shocking, moving and absolutely brilliant. One of the five best issues of the series. If the finale of No Way Out delivers the way issue 83 has, then the series has truly been altered in a way unimaginable a few months ago.
Finally, ‘No Way Out’ begins, with an intriguing mix of horror and sex that really fits in with the end-of-times feel of this new arc. Trapped in their community haven, quickly being surrounded by an ever growing horde of the undead, Rick firmly takes charge, with solid support from Abraham and Michonne. Douglas, the ‘leader’ of this community, is reduced to a bit-player, full of remorse and regret.
The opening is solid action-horror, the stuff that we do not get to see too often in TWD, but always welcome. From there, Kirkman lays out the plot threads that will run their course of the next 4 or 5 issues – romance, illicit affairs (where did that come from? or…WTF???), Andrea in the Watchtower, the rise of Rick as Leader, the downfall of Douglas. There will be death (there is one in this issue), and there will be plenty of drama. My only criticism is that in places Kirkman still wants to fill Adlard’s art up with word balloons. Morgan has a lengthy speech (a lengthy, stilted speech). Carl and Rick has their obligatory Father/Son speech/hug/tears. That is beginning to grate on me. I understand why Kirkman uses these scenes with Carl and Rick – it humanises Rick, gives him his motivation and also reminds us that Carl is still a little boy who needs his Father and is vulnerable…..but there is something about these scenes I find a little trite and over-used. Let’s have more Eugene, Michonne, Morgan, the Rev, Glenn, Maggie & Sophia. Speaking of which….there is a single panel shot of those last 3 that Adlard frames so beautifully that Kirkman could write words to put in balloons all day and would not get close to the sadness and beauty of that picture. I don’t need to tell you that Adlard and Rathburn are as good as ever.
It’s a solid start for this new arc. I think ‘No Way Out’ could prove to be another highlight for this series, my only concern is that if Kirkman does not curb his tendency towards verbosity, the shift from action and horror to lengthy discourse could prove too jarring. We shall see. One thing is certain, Kirkman is laying down a lot of story to be resolved over the next few issues.
Just to round off this months Walking Dead coverage, another ‘No Way Out’ teaser – and the most dramatic yet. Adlard is, again, at the top of his game with this fantastic image. Appetite well and truly whetted…..
Now this poster is truly magnificent. What a way to advertise ‘No Way Out’! I love the way Adlard has staged this piece of art – Sophia’s raw fear, Michonne protective, Rick ready to defend. I cannot wait for this arc. These are really exciting times to be reading The Walking Dead
The cover is a bit strange, and having read the issue through. I do not really see how it relates to what is going on in the ‘safe zone’, but apart from that, this issue is ON FIRE. It is absolutely brilliant, from Rick’s initial confrontation with Carl (see the 7 page preview post from a couple of days back on TWLB), through to a budding romance between Andrea and Spencer, the death of Scott, and the storm-is-approaching that is Peter Anderson. It is the last 2 of these events, that meet head-on in a believable, explosive confrontation, that provides the fuel for an amazing finale. I will not spoil it, because to read it is to appreciate the bloody genius of Kirkman, Adlard and Rathburn (but especially Kirkman’s knack of producing tremendous final pages in TWD). So, as I often say, go read it. I will say though, that a chain of events have been brilliantly constructed, with plot threads being pulled in from over the last few issues, and they are conspiring to create the perfect storm. That perfect storm is called ‘No Way Out’ and we are 2 more issues away from when it all kicks off at #80.
3 deaths in this issue. But that is probably just the start of it (re: ‘No Way Out’)
Rick is a set in stone, cold-eyed killer, his descent into a world where there is only black and white is pretty much complete. His single-minded determination to keep surviving is now just ruthless.
Douglas’ relationship with Rick is fascinating. I wonder – Is his political past serving him well in manipulating Rick to do is dirty work?
The last page is pure Adlard greatness, with an ensemble poised for action. We even get to see a zombie attacked! Hurrah!
Finally, there is a wonderful opening letter in ‘Letter Hacks’, that brought a tear to my eye. it may well do the same to you. No shame in that.
Cannot wait for issue 78!