Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: The Walking Dead 73 - 76

Non Spoiler Review: Walking Dead reviews have lagged a bit behind, but that can speak to the slow moving storyline. While that's not a negative at all, these last few issues have drifted by at a leisurely pace, focusing on character development, until the last two installments exploded with the usual Robert Kirkman shocker endings.

These four issues have allowed the reader to get a sense of the community and its inhabitants, while our characters familiarize themselves with their new neighbours and the relatively peaceful lifestyle inside the walls. Douglas hands out tasks to Rick and his compatriots, and everyone sets off on their new work orders. 

We get a sense of the inner politics of the village. They are not as tightly bonded as Rick's group, and are willing to let people fend for themselves in order to survive, as Abraham nearly discovers while working on the outer fence construction. 

Meanwhile, Rick continues his conspiracy to obtain weapons, and matters come to a sudden head in issue 75 with some shocking and somewhat mindblowing twists, leaving 76 to pick up the pieces, and here again events do not unfold as one might think.

While this has been a slow burn as far as the storyline, I'm sure patience will be rewarded. Events in the community have reached some irreparable states, and we get answers to some ongoing questions about the characters and situations, as well as the introduction of some looming threats from outside.

Spoilers Now!
I could really get into a lot of individual storylines here, but obviously Rick's is the main source of conflict, as, over the course of these four issues, he finally snaps when intervening in the domestic affairs of the doctor and his wife and child (the one with the black eye from the party). Douglas has allowed this situation to continue, as the abusive husband is the town doctor and they can't banish him without suffering for it. Rick acts impulsively, prompting a standoff and a sudden psychotic break down in front of everyone...which leads in to a full colour segment that involves the return of dead characters and the revelation that the zombie virus was the prelude to an alien invasion. 

Played purely for fun and shock value, this little vignette is quite jarring at first, as we're left wondering at the end how serious Kirkman is to throw this twist at us. But he has teased about introducing aliens in the past, and this was his little joke to the fans for the 75th anniversary. As issue 76 begins, we get the sense that Rick had a momentary lapse, and we're back in the middle of the action again, with Rick realizing he's lost it and surrenders.

There is a lot of dialogue and exposition in issue 76, revealing Douglas' actions with the previous leader of the town, a man who started out with the best of intentions but slowly became a danger to everyone. In a surprise twist, Douglas decides to keep Rick as the constable, preferring his take action attitude over the lack of action seen in his fellow townfolk. 

Rick has his own heart to heart with him, confessing he never wanted to be a leader, and recounts the situation with Shane and Lori from the beginning of the series. It's good to see these two characters confessing to one another. What's more disturbing is the damaged relationship between Rick and the rest of the cast. Even Michonne tells him to get his shit together, which is something in itself coming from her. Andrea has little to say, and Glen is only now returning from his supply run in the city.

The issue ends with Rick having a phone call with the wife, only to have Carl walk in on him. 

What Worked:
Kirkman continues to play against convention here. Preacher Gabriel's attempt to throw the crew under the bus with Douglas blew back in his face, as Douglas would have none of it. Gabriel is curtly told to mind his own business. Unexpected, but it works well. It would be so easy to paint Douglas as the new villain in the story, but he has handled matters quite fairly and logically, aside from his personal faults when it comes to women.

Rick's meltdown could have ended with him banished, but again, Kirkman had the characters resolve it somewhat amicably for now. The series is very hard to predict, and right now, it seems the conflict is going to come from outside, as Glen's trip into the city may have alerted hostile forces from outside of their location.

This storyline, like the prison chapters, looks like it will continue for some time, and I'm anxious to see where the community and our characters end up.

What Didn't Work:
The slow pace may not be for everyone. While the focus has been on the main group of characters, most of the B characters are nowhere to be seen and have completely fallen off the radar. Now, with an even larger cast, I'm wondering how relevant they may be in the future.

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