By: Sean McLaughlin
Ominous, foreboding, anticipatory….these are all words one could use to describe the pace of The Walking Dead since glorious issue #100. TWD #111, hitting store shelves on Wednesday June 12th, appears to give the appearance of a bloody battle which had been building for close to a year now. Judging by the cover art, interesting protagonist Negan is in the midst of a violent conflict, grinning sheepishly as gore drips from his face. Could this be the climactic battle that Rick and the others have been building towards? Not so fast…..
You have to respect Robert Kirkman (if you didn’t already). It seems like only a month ago, in my review of issue #110, I was both praising Kirkman’s ability to set the tone and establish strong character dynamics, while at the same time cursing him for making us wait at least another month before the inevitable carnage can begin. Here we are…..another month, another praise/curse. This issue, while not quite delivering on the assumed (by the readers, anyway) bloodletting, does manage to move the storyline pitting everyone against Negan and the Saviors along. We are given glimpses into the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Alexandria as the combined forces begin to amass in preparation.
Small cracks in invincibility that we saw develop in Jesus in the last issue (thanks to his brilliant comrade Kal), while not widening, does begin to portray a bit of weakness here. A bit, certainly not a lot. He is still Rick’s most trusted “outsider”, a role that Ezekiel will surely never fill. The aforementioned faux king continues his courtship of Michonne, breaking down her wall of toughness even further as the call to war inches ever closer (presumably). There aren’t many zombies in this issue, so the gore is minimal. Well…..the zombie gore, at least. There is a particularly nasty scene near the end of #111 that harkens back to the last ultra-violent attack the TWD universe was forced to endure (Glen’s death in issue 100).
The real development in TWD #111, as I see it, is the sense of respect that Rick is gaining with his latest arch-nemesis. Over the course of the last 10 issues, Negan has had multiple opportunities to kill Rick and harm everyone close to him (specifically Carl), but has refrained from doing so. This issue really blows the lid off of the notion that he’s beginning to see Rick on somewhat equal footing, nearly defending him against detractors. The irony is delicious, as Negan sticks up for the guy currently organizing an all-out assault on his group. But that may perfectly sum up this world that Kirkman has created: the living are the greatest threat to each other, even while the dead are roaming the earth. Friend becomes foe, and vice versa.
Hardcore fans of The Walking Dead comics may find their patience tested with this issue, while casual fans more than likely checked out a few issues ago. But don’t write off #111 immediately, as there are several things in play here that will lead to a crazy and deadly battle in the future. We can only hope it’s the very near future, but either way have faith that the journey that Kirkman has set us on, as usual, is certainly as interesting as the destination.