By Robert Kirkman, Charles Adlard, Stefano Gaudino, Cliff Rathburn, and Rus Wooton.
After the infamous 150th issue you would think maybe things would be calm for Rick and gang for a few issues, but Kirkman and team are unrelenting in this issue rife with action and surprises. Each page is packed with suspense, so when there are the tender moments you turn the page cringing, waiting for something awful to happen. There are many times you may throw the comic down and curse Robert Kirkman as you read it, but this is par for the course. This creative team is still finding ways to surprise and delight readers after 150 issues.
First and foremost, there is great built up with Eugene in this issue, he finally gets a response on the radio he put back together. There is a lot to look forward to as Eugene builds a relationship with the person on the other end of the line. Rick and the survivors at Alexandria are still reeling from the attack the Whisperers laid on them and they are reacting with massive weapon training. Even father Gabriel gets in on the fun and finds out how easy it can be to shoot a roamer. Dwight assumes a leadership role in the training of the townspeople and Rick sees he needs to step back. Rick does have some really good confrontational moments with Negan and Brandon, the son of a guy Rick killed in issue 150. Rick is attempting to take a step back from fighting and be more of a leader behind the scenes as he comes to terms with his physical limitations. Meanwhile, Maggie and other hilltop residents are readying themselves to return to their settlement, but get sidetracked when something happens that puts Alexandria on lockdown.
What can be said about Robert Kirkman that has not already been said? He is a fantastic storyteller and maybe one of the best, if not the best, comic book writer of this generation. If you follow The Walking Dead comics, you know about the mind games Kirkman likes to play with his readers like revealing future plot points, lying about character’s fates, and planting misleading evidence in Letter Hacks, the question and answer section at the back of the comic. This issue is a prime example as we see an unfolding of events, from one of his misleading Easter Eggs from a previous issue, that will have you cursing Kirkman’s name throughout the issue. You can never be sure what will happen in The Walking Dead because no character is safe, and that is the brilliance of Robert Kirkman. He promises one thing, and then that very thing he promised will never happen happens. This issue shows some great character interactions between Michonne and Rick, with her stepping out of her grief to assist in leadership when Rick needs it most. The issue does focus a lot on Rick and Kirkman shows the chaacter rethinking some big topics like: how to motivate the people to fight the Whisperers, is it right to punish people for past behaviors, or do people deserve the right to try to do better? This theme comes up with Jordan and serves as foreshadowing for something coming up along the line.
The art in The Walking Dead is iconic with the bold lines, and the use of only black and white for the color palette. The style is now synonymous with this book and it is the perfect way to capture the story. Adlard is on pencils and he finds a way to use lines to perfectly stage panels and also give characters some depth. Inker Guadino, gray tones from Rathburn, and lettering from Wooton really come together in a single vision to create the black and white world and give it so much personality without the use of color. The shadowing in this issue is spectacular, especially in the Rick and Jordan confrontation. The art panels from that page are laid out in a very intentionally smart way that builds the tension as they two walk toward one another and then finally erupt into fists. The issue ends with a splash page, and it is delightful how the use of lines and shadows create a sense of foreboding. The last page has four words and nothing else, but it is the scene the art team created that really sends chills down your spine; just a really spectacular way to end this great issue.
If you are not currently reading The Walking Dead, you need to fix that immediately. This is easily one of the best books out today that consistently delivers with unsuspecting twists and deaths while still finding ways to challenge and push our characters to their limits. This issue is a perfect example of what there is to love about this comic. It shows action, character and plot development, action, suspense, and hope. Yes, Kirkman will give you anxiety as you read it with the constant fear of death and destruction with the turn of every page. This is because the entire team does a mesmerizing job of getting you invested into this world they have created, and you become so fearful that they will destroy it without hesitation…as they often do.