By Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano and Cliff Rathburn
It’s been pretty smooth sailing for the characters in The Walking Dead since Negan was interred in the basement prison. With Negan out of the picture the terrible people who had to put their differences aside and be team players are now reverting back to their true nature. There have been critics of the lack of action in the series since the end of the All Out War story line however the introduction of the whispering walkers was very clever and the sense of security that the two year break between story arcs provided certainly points to something horrible brewing. It is the tried and true form of The Walking Dead to lull the reader into a false sense of security right before tearing everything down. Issue #137 starts what may be the tear down as we have quite a bit of action (in more ways than one!) and what may be the single most horrifying frame in the series’ history.
Kirkman has often said The Walking Dead was a comic about people and not about zombies. This issue is a perfect example of how the zombies are just a plot mechanism that these horrible people work around. The drama is occurring almost exclusively inside the walls of the Hilltop Colony. Gregory, the deposed leader of the Hilltop, has been designing a plan to get back into power and he’s finally ready to exact revenge on Maggie for taking reign from him. Meanwhile, Carl is falling for the honeypot Lydia is laying out for him with the Whisperers waiting to strike outside the Hilltop. All of this is set up with the fact that Rick is out of the picture because he lives at the Alexandria camp many miles away. Kirkman is proving he can still set up premises that put our favorite characters in bad situations. With Rick separated from most of the action, we can’t help but feel like no one sees the plotting going on until it’s too late.
After 137 issues, it can’t be easy to come up with new ways to shock readers of a series known for shocking moments. Charlie Adlard has put together a fairly disturbing cover for this issue which shows the uncovered, scarred face of Carl Grimes. Even more disturbing than the cover is what Lydia does to Carl’s scar at the end of this issue. Along with that horrible full page, Adlard excels, as always, with his facial expressions and close ups. This issue has a lot of dialogue, so Adlard has to express many different emotions throughout the pages without a whole lot of action to make the job a little easier. With the series being solely in black and white, Cliff Rathburn deserves quite a bit of credit for making these pages pop with such a limited color palette. It’s not often when you read a black and white comic but feel like you remember the images in color! The series has gone on for a long time and these artists are still producing top notch images to portray Kirkman’s story.
The Walking Dead is still going strong. Readers who criticize the lack of action need to remember who they are dealing with here. As soon as things get a little too calm, all hell will break loose. The Hilltop is the weak point in Rick’s alliance of communities and it looks like that’s where things may start unraveling. We’ll see soon enough if Jesus, Maggie, and Carl can handle the Hilltop without Rick. Let’s just hope that all of this somehow doesn’t lead to Negan getting loose because then we could be in for a bloodbath as we head towards Issue #150.