The Walking Dead is on the verge of their monumental 100th issue and with this week’s release of #95 you can feel the tension mounting. It’s palpable. Not only will the series be marking 100 issues very soon, but our survivors are entering a brave new world. Up until now we’ve been taught to fear newcomers. Remember how long it took Rick and the gang to trust the new people they’re living with now? Well, this issue brings them to a neighboring settlement full of more people than they’ve ever encountered since civilization went to hell. How will being thrust into a larger world affect our survivors? Are they capable of existing in a civilized world anymore?
From the very beginning Rick has been the touchstone for the entire series. It is through him we were first introduced to this crazy, zombie-filled post-apocalypse and he’s still the character were meant to relate to. It’s Rick’s journey as much as it is ours. As Rick’s changed, as he’s learned, adapted, so have we. So, I’m not surprised one bit that all through this issue I was questioning these new people’s motives and just waiting for hell to break loose. Charlie Adlard’s had the artistic duties on The Walking Dead for what seems like forever. He’s very familiar with the characters and it’s never more apparent than in how he illustrates Rick. You can read exactly what Rick’s thinking or feeling from his facial expressions, Adlard’s art just nails them. In this issue we’re given a real good look at Rick, at what he’s become. Adlard’s portrayal of Rick at the very end is chilling.
Trust is a big problem in The Walking Dead. The characters never feel comfortable trusting people, especially new ones, but without someone they can trust their chances of survival are pretty much nil. By now Rick and the gang have been burned more times than I can count by trusting the wrong people, so it’s by no means shocking Rick is being extra cautious about this new settlement, The Hilltop. But the thing is, we’ve been shown absolutely nothing that would make us unsure of them. Their settlement appears idyllic. The people seem normal. They even have larger numbers but in no way do they come off as threatening. It makes you wonder if Robert Kirkman is finally taking a step towards civilization returning or is he just luring us into a sense of false security only to spring something insane come issue 100? It’s hard to tell but I’ve been fooled by Kirkman one too many times to be completely trusting.
One thing that holds true, Kirkman remains the king of left page reveals. Sometimes you’ll read a comic and on the right hand page there’s something super-crazy and awesome going on and you try so hard not to look early, but when the book’s open and both pages can be seen it’s really tough not to prematurely spoil yourself. Not so with a Kirkman comic, when you turn a page, BAM!, you’re hit with a shocking moment on the left page you had no clue was coming.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The next paragraph contains spoilers. Click “Show” to reveal them.
Issue 95 is no different. Just when you start thinking, “All right, maybe everything is hunky-dory on The Hilltop,” events take a 180. At the conclusion of which Rick defends himself and in the end murders a resident of The Hilltop. It can easily be understood Rick acted in self defense but it is the quickness at which Rick came to the decision to kill this guy that’s unsettling. Rick has most definitely changed from the man who used to tirelessly fight with himself over whether or not killing someone was the right choice. Again, the moment of realization for the audience, and everyone else, comes in that final image of Rick.
Telling you The Walking Dead is a great comic you should all be reading is like telling you Romero zombies are superior to the fast, rage-fueled kind. You already know it’s true, but if you’re not reading it monthly this might be a good time to catch up. Things are getting to ready to change in a big way, you can just tell. And it’s refreshing after what’s been a kind of stale patch for the comics. What insanity Kirkman has in store come issue 100, I have no idea. But for damn sure you’ll need to reading now in order to be prepared.