Admittedly, a good portion of me was secretly hoping that The Walking Dead issue 130 (out in stores now) would deliver the promised action and choas that issue 125 was rumored to. A few months ago, the “All Out War” storyline was winding down, and the final apocalyptic battle between Rick and Negan looked to provide that bloody and destructive battle that had been hinted at for over a year. This is a huge expectation to place on a comic that hasn’t really provided us with any significant events (other than a big time-jump) in a few months. But the flash-forward that began in issue 127 has mainly served to introduce us to the new world, a changed reality for the remaining characters and the wasteland they have to navigate on the way to a perceived normality. Issue 129’s cliffhanger teased at an explosive event to kick off the current installment…..did it deliver? Keep reading……
In this new TWD universe, it’s a bit unclear as to who are now considered the “main” characters. Rick, Carl, Andrea and the others are still the main focal points, but Magna and her group, although they’re new characters, seem to be central to the plot in the current storyline. Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom appear to have figured things out community-wise, and are thriving under the newly-established guidelines concerning travel, trading, etc. But Magna and her friends have just been introduced to this society, and are naturally skeptical as their true motives. Nothing can be as it seems in a zombie apocalypse, right? All of this skepticism leads them to the discovery of Negan behind bars in the basement, and his impending freedom by the newcomers. Spoilers aside (I’ll do my best throughout this review to not spoil any major plot points), they prove, particularly Magna, to be more intelligent and less impulsive than previously thought. Whenever Rick is away, it feels like, horrible things happen to Alexandria. The second coming of Negan would certainly fit the bill here.
There are two major revelations in issue 130. The first is one that all parents must endure as your children grow up, which Rick is now faced with. His trip with Carl to the Hilltop, where Carl is to begin his blacksmith apprenticeship, concludes. A major turning point towards adulthood (and the loss of an innocence that Carl really had stolen from him years prior) forces Rick to admit that his son is becoming a man, and no longer needs his protection (officially). He has an emotional heart-to-heart discussion on this topic with Maggie, who is still in charge of the Hilltop. This issue is also our first introduction to the child of Maggie and Glenn, Hershel. Hershel appears to be about 18-24 months old, and is obviously named for Maggie’s father. After trading some parenting tips, they reminisce about their journey and what brought them to this point (complacency often times breeds vulnerability, as I’ve mentioned in past reviews). So life continues on as usual for the survivors, with only a few zombies (seriously….a FEW) thrown in for good measue. This issue may have the lease amount of the undead in any that I can remember, with their presence really felt in one scene only.
That scene, however, proves to be a big one. The scouts that were were introduced a few issues back, Marco and Ken, are pinned down by a zombie horde and take refuge in a hidden ditch. While waiting out the caravan, they begin hearing strange voices. Later, when Marco is the only one able to make it back to the Hilltop (presumably leaving Ken to certain demise), he reports on the phenomenon that they witnessed. And at long last…..it appears that Robert Kirkman is touching upon the evolving, “communicating” zombies that George Romero explored in Land of the Dead. This is a great twist, as the comic and the storylines were really becoming too “human-centric”, with man playing the roles of both hero and villain for far too long. If the stinkers (thanks to Magna for the new term) are truly beginning to evolve to the point of speech amongst themselves, then we can expect the zombies to begin playing a more integral part in the comics and TWD getting back to its roots. With the last few issues essentially being a comic “reboot”, this is a smart move by Kirkman.
If you’re looking for the crazy action that has been missing since issue 126, then you’ll probably be disappointed by issue 130. But if you look at the forest for the trees, and are willing to be patient, it feels as though the TWD world is on the verge of a major shift in the balance of power. What part will the survivors serve in this new world order, if that is indeed where the storyline is headed? We’ll have to wait until next month, when the characters can begin trying to grasp the shocking reality of what they just heard and how they plan to counteract this impending doom. Issue 130 is short on action and blood, but delivers perhaps the most significant surprise in many, many years.