Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Charlie Adlard
Coloring by: Cliff Rathburn
Cover By: Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
I always read the Walking Dead first. It’s probably one of my favorite comics, and it’s one that I’m the most excited for. Being a rabid fan of the Walking Dead I get frustrated when there is filler issues, or the calm before the storm. Having a slow-burn in comic form doesn’t always work for me, and I just want to get to the juicy plot and get on with it. Unfortunately the beginning to the Larger World arc starts off spinning wheels in the mud and going over ground covered before. It’s just a stack of exposition and waffles this issue.
The story thus far: Rick, Michonne, and Abraham ran into a hostile survivor on one of their scout patrols. After a brief scuffle it’s revealed he’s come to offer a trade route to a network of communities. His name is Jesus. So here it is, a promised land of society trying to get back on its feet in the face of a the zombie apocalypse. “A Larger World” opens on the cliffhanger from last issue as Jesus describes the trade routes and how it works. So Rick is like, “oh, okay great, no problem, when can we get started,” and Jesus is surprised that this is going so easy. Then Rick beats the piss out of the poor guy and captures him for interrogation. I can see where this is going. Rick doesn’t trust Jesus and is paranoid that he’s from a crew ready to attack their town and raid supplies. I can understand. He hasn’t exactly had any luck with outsiders, like the Governors cannibalistic society of neo-Romans, where he lost his arm about 50 issues ago. Rick decides to prepare his town for war, while he takes a patrol out to see if he can spot Jesus’s war party. Andrea makes an interesting point and asks “what if he is telling the truth and they are blowing a chance to trade with these other communities?” Exactly, thank you Andrea.
Longtime reader’s of The Walking Dead can spot a painful exposition dump coming a mile away, and unfortunately we get a couple of doozies this issue. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I love Kirkman’s plotting. I think he always takes us on an unexpected and somewhat realistic journey with his stories.The twists, turns cliffhangers, and shocking conclusions are why I keep coming back for more. However kills me with the drawn-out explanations and waffling. Literally he can talk a situation to death (or until a zombie attacks). He sorely needs to use the “Pope in the Pool” method of burying exposition by drawing the audience’s eye to something visually startling (like a pope swimming in a pool) to distract them from the information overload. The preparation for war monologue is particularly involved and not much fun to look at. After Kirkman lays it all out for us we are graced with one decent character moment from Eugene who brings up a good idea about recycling ammo casings and trying to re-make bullets. Later there’s a brief brush of desperate tension with him and the girl lives with who used fuck Abraham. Hopefully this will seed into some kind of interesting conflict down-the-line.
Out on war patrol Rick, Michonne, and Abraham stumble upon a pack of zombies and dispatch them rather quickly and quietly. In fact they are so ruthless and efficient that its sparks a debate about why they are worried about some attack from unknown survivors, when they aren’t even phased by the living dead anymore. A “Pope in the Pool” opportunity is missed here and instead of waffling and postulating while killing zombies (not realistic, but interesting and exciting) Kirkman instead saves it for a nice boring walk in the woods. Man sometimes this really does feel like the Talking Dead. I get it. To move this story further they have to trust Jesus (never thought I’d say that about this comic) and go through these trade routes to meet the other communities involved. We all knew this was going to happen. It had to. I wish it could have just been half the issue dedicated to Rick being in character and not trusting anything new, than waste the whole book going nowhere. Maybe it bought the creators some time, but c’mon bring on the “larger world” already. I’m amped for what’s coming around the bend, it’s just not happening fast enough.
While the plot may be on pause this issue, at least it looks freaking’ fantastic. Ever since issue 7 when Charlie Adlard took over the art for The Walking Dead, it’s truly found its true voice. Not taking anything away from the spectacular characters designs from original artist, Tony Moore, but Adlard gave the Dead a consistently stark and realistic tone that draws you into the world. I favor Moore for his fine detail, but Adlard wins with atmosphere. This issue he teams up with Cliff Rathburn to assist with “coloring” (it’s black & white so maybe “toning” would be more accurate). Striking thick brush strokes and sublime ink washes depict the dystopian mood of The Walking Dead. Zombies are husks of meat, ravaged by rigor mortis and time. They are desperately primal and echo the human condition. Devoid of all emotion except rage, they drip with terror and move with murderous intent. Adlard’s action scenes are as violent and intense as they are fluid, showing real athleticism and energy. The survivors have been through the ringer and it shows. I can see their stink, their weariness and strength. The weight on their shoulders is carried with gritty artistic flair. It feels very much like the world of Romero’s classic Night of The Living Dead. Adlard displays cinematic style through dynamic camera angles, shot scale, and a strong use of shadow and light. The spotted-black patterns of leaves, blood and rot paint the transgressive theme of this series with fervor and zeal. In short, the zombie apocalypse has never looked so good.
Like any good TV show, some episodes are needed to set the stage for things to come. It’s a necessary evil. This issue was needed to add realism to the characters shifting attitude, and to stay true to the series’ history. I really wanted to jump ahead and skip all that. I’m an impatient asshole, what can I say. I blame the internet. New beginnings are promised to be on the horizon however. As long and Kirkman and crew can deliver on that promise than we are all good. I trust that he will. There’s a lot narrative and thematic possibilities that a “larger world” could open up. However if they fail and slip back in to the big threat while zombies attack formula, rinse and repeat… it could prove fatale for the series. I don’t think that will happen though. Kirkman saw that a change was needed to shake things up and has done a lot of groundwork setting up a smooth transition. We can only wait and see if the pay-off will be worth it.
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