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The Walking Dead #121 Review

By: Sean McLaughlin

    There are several reasons to believe that the TWD universe is doomed, the least of which has to be the post-apocalyptic zombie universe that surrounds it all.  The Walking Dead issue 121 is all doom and gloom….there’s no sugar-coating it.  If not for the fact that the front cover alerts us that this is chapter 7 of 12 in the “All Out War” storyline, I would honestly believe that this is the end.  Countless times since revolutionary issue #100, Rick and his soldiers (there’s no way around it now, these citizens have become soldiers simply to survive) have launched attacks on Negan and the Saviors, each with varying degrees of success.  But even with a series of victories, the current installment reminds us that Negan has a seemingly endless supply of men and weapons, and that even the strongest will can be broken eventually.
   
    When we last left our heroes, they were celebrating an unexpected victory from Negan’s invasion (along with a key defection), even as their homes were burning behind the safety of their walls due to crippling grenade attacks.  Jesus redirecting a live grenade back at the Saviors, and Dwight’s face turn amongst the enemy and continued infiltration, are all that saved the Alexandria Safe Zone from complete annihilation.  Negan defiantly proclaims that the smoke rising up among the community houses means that they won at the end of the issue.  Unfortunately we learn in 121 that his statement was not too far off.  Rick immediately begins dealing with folks wanting to leave right away, and others that want to continue fighting.  Ezekiel continues his guild-ridden breakdown despite Michonne’s coaching, and once again proves to be an unworthy ally.  But there are two very important things going on here.  On the retreat, the Saviors are able to take a few key hostages completely by luck.  One of these could be the turning point in the war itself.
   
    The second element at play here is entirely reactionary.  We begin to see Rick, the man that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years to be a strong leader and never back down from a fight, deteriorate a bit.  He suddenly doesn’t know what the next move is.  He’s unsure whether to follow Negan to continue the battle, or evacuate Alexandria to save whoever is left.  We witness his shaky non-answers to the questions being thrown at him.  Robert Kirkman composes this issue brilliantly, depicting a leader that’s reverting back to his faults….faults that have gotten friends and those that looked to him killed.  Perhaps this mutual respect that he and Negan have shared for the past 20 issue, the respect that I’m always bringing up in my reviews, is dead and gone.  Both men are realizing that they should’ve killed the other when they had the chance (and the each had multiple opportunities).  Rick, more so, is regretting his past ineptitude at this juncture.
   
    The amazing aspect of this current story arch is that despite several violent clashes and deaths, it almost seems like this story isn’t going anywhere, like it’s stuck in the mud.  Each side has traded victories and bragging rights, but neither has claimed the world championship belt.  I know we’ve been teased with promises of a conclusive battle forever, but now more than ever feels like the time.  And unfortunate as it is, Rick and his group are on the outside looking in.  While they search for a new home, this may be just the opportunity that Negan and the Saviors need to grab that ring.  With five issues left in “All Out War”, something tells me that issue 122 won’t provide the conclusive action that we’re looking for. read more

The Walking Dead #120 Review

 

Review By:  Sean McLaughlin

 

                At the conclusion of The Walking Dead issue 120, we’ve officially made it halfway through the “All Out War” storyline (6 of 12).  And when we last left the action, Negan and the Saviors appeared poised to put a violent end to the Alexandria Safe Zone, once and for all.  Which begs the question…..how are there still six more chapters to this story arch, when our heroes are faced with such impossible odds?  But to ponder this question would doubt the road that Robert Kirkman has paved for his audience…..and after ten years, the man has earned this level of respect.  I’ll be the first to admit that I had wondered how Rick and the gang would escape the impending doom at the end of issue of 119.  Not only are these questions answered, but the latest installment invokes a level of emotion and violence unlike any other in recent memory.  Considering the amount of chaos and gore that the TWD universe has witnessed since issue 100 (particularly the last few issues), this is saying a lot. read more

The Walking Dead #119 Review

By:  Sean McLaughlin

         A big dose of reality hits our heroes in The Walking Dead #119.  Nobody ever said that war was easy, but the way Rick and the allies have seemingly run roughshod over Negan and the Saviors it was understandable that Alexandria was already feeling safer.  In this post-apocalyptic realm, safety is never guaranteed (nor is it promised).  Robert Kirkman is painstakingly methodical (and slow) in his story-telling; however, he also ensures that the end result is worth the journey.  While we haven’t yet reached the conclusion to the “All Out War” subplot, issue 119 reassess the current state of the survivors and ends with one of the best cliffhangers since The Governor was barking orders from the top of a moving tank.
        We are given access to the most vulnerable sides of several characters as they change before our eyes (Ezekial breaking down, Rick beginning to question himself, Aaron ready to kill).  This is a very smart tactic by Kirkman and illustrator Charlie Adlard (with wonderful depictions of inner feelings boiling over), because these more-humanized folks are about to be put to the test.  Rick and his group returns to Alexandria after his successful pinning-down of Negan and destruction of one of his outposts.  Unfortunately, he learns of Ezekial’s failure and begins to devise a plan to cut-off Negan’s inevitable counter-attack which he theorizes is barreling towards their front door.   Apparently, they’re a bit off on the number-crunching because Negan, with Lucille and his army in tow, appear at the gates ready to “talk”.  While normally, a verbal discourse would be out of the question in this situation, Negan has actually shown a penchant for talking things out (to his benefit only, of course) throughout this current run of the comic.  Of course, the mutual respect between he and Rick, which is downright baffling at times, remains the only reason that our hero is still alive and breathing.  After the return of a missing resident, the pace picks up exponentially leading to the explosive ending and white-knuckled cliffhanger.
      After numerous issues of inaction and false finishes, you really get the sense that All Out War is winding to a volatile conclusion.  It seems like Negan has brushed off at least half a dozen assassination attempts by Rick, and the only time he really made him pay was way back in issue 100 with Glenn’s murder.  There has to be a reason for this, and perhaps this is the big payoff we’ve been agonizing for.  There are a few questions that can be raised which are not answered here, but look promising for the next issue or so.  What’s going on at The Hilltop?  How did Negan and his men escape?  How many soldiers does Negan have anyway?  This last one really does keep me up at night, as the last year or so has seen the killing of at least 100 of the Saviors.  Yet, with each attack their numbers seemed to have been replenished.   Most likely, Kirkman does this to hammer home the point that this is a bad guy, and the threat he poses may never really be neutralized.  Rick and his combined forces may’ve won a series of battles, but now with the war at their own gates their time may just be up.
     There are many reasons that issue 119 is worth the price of admission.  Several main characters continue on their trek towards an emotional breakdown.  Rick receives yet another reality check, and is provided an opportunity to prove his leadership ability yet again.  Most importantly, we’re left with an image that harkens back to the prison heyday.  And just like back then, we can’t wait until January 22nd to pick up where Kirkman leaves off.  But in true TWD style, there’s always a chance we’re left with more questions than answers.  We’ll see. read more

The Walking Dead #118 Review

      By: Sean McLaughlin

 

Looks can be deceiving….as Rick and his army are beginning to find out.  Issue 118 of Image Comics’ seminal The Walking Dead busts through the seemingly invincible shroud of the good guys’ victory over Negan and the Saviors, and marches the readers head-on into the reality of All Out War.  Just in case you thought this would be a quick and easy war, Kirkman and Co. are letting you know that it’ll be best to settle in for the long haul.

 

Issue 118 begins by showing us Rick’s group, the combined forces of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom, as they begin their assault on the Saviors’ outposts.   With varying degrees of success, they engage in firefights with Negan’s soldiers, battling both bad guys and zombies alike.  The group becomes more and more spread out and isolated, as they flee bullets and biters.  The psychological toll becomes apparent from even the most loyal follower, and we’re treated to quite a few deaths (some of them significant) and the undeniable sentiment that this war is not going as well as everyone hoped.  While Negan is merely mentioned and never shown in this issue, you can’t help but feel that the tide of the battle is beginning to turn feverishly.  Both sides are cut off and scrambling, and having to act on the fly.
   
Perhaps we were all being lulled into a false sense of security due to the recent victories in issues 116 and 117, but Robert Kirkman felt it was appropriate to yank us all back down to earth.  His greatest triumph in issue 118 is the emotional impact that several key casualties bring to a few formerly rock-hard characters.  We see one couple, two folks that we’ve grown to admire since Alexandria became the setting, get torn apart in the most tragic way possible.  And we finally see a softer, much more vulnerable side to the eccentric and charismatic Ezekial. He’s been journeying down the path to a less-harsh exterior since getting close to Michonne, and he now has the opportunity to bare his soul about leading his men into the fray and being less than successful.  He no longer appears to be a leader of men, nor does he seem to aspire to that anymore.  And while Gregory is attempting to convince the Hilltop that Negan isn’t a bad guy, Maggie is there, conveniently, to preach about the virtues of not abandoning Rick.  “I believe in Rick Grimes” is a mantra that has pervaded The Walking Dead throughout the entirety of its decade-long run, and those words take on a much deeper significance in this issue.
   
Above all else, issue 118 is designed to clutch you by the throat and pull you down from the victorious high of the other recent installments.  You’ll witness the rise of some beginning to ascend to leadership roles, and the decline of others that are realizing that being a leader requires certain skills that they may not actually possess.  Through it all, you will be left with a foreboding sense that this war is about to come home to Alexandria’s doorstep. read more

The Walking Dead #117 Review

By: Sean McLaughlin

                What’s the difference between Negan and The Governor?  Well……we could be here a while listing those out.  But the main distinction between the two for me?  I never actually sympathized with The Governor, which is something that I’m finding myself doing more frequently with each new issue of The Walking Dead.  Issue 117, which hit comic store shelves on Wednesday, November 27th (two issues in less than a month……WOO HOO!), continues this unfamiliar pattern of supporting villainy.  Mastermind Robert Kirkman strikes again! read more

The Walking Dead Issue 115 Review

By: Sean McLaughlin

   We’ve all been anxiously awaiting for the “historic” issue 115 of The Walking Dead.  Image Comics has been promoting it.  Roberk Kirkman has been tweeting about it with as much fervor as he did with issue 100.  So what’s all the hype about?  What’s everyone looking forward to?  At long last, we are promised the epic, further-apocalyptic showdown between Rick and Negan, Alexandria and The Saviors.  Would it all come to a head, finally?  Read on for the answer……but please, turn back if you’re a fanboy (or girl) and can’t handle a few spoilers. read more