It’s the beginning of the end, or at least the end of things as we and our intrepid group of survivors have become accustomed. Life on the road has been rough. Life in their new settlement hasn’t been that much easier. But now there’s hope for a better future. If you’ve been reading The Walking Dead as long as I have you’ll know a promise of a brighter tomorrow usually signals the shit’s about to hit the fan. That’s what the beginning of this new story arc, “Something to Fear,” is all about.
Rick’s group and the people of the Hilltop have come to terms for an alliance. In trade for necessary goods, like food, Rick’s group will provide protection for the Hilltop, the only thing they have left to trade. Through this new alliance Rick has seen a better future. He’s seen the potential for a world where people won’t simply be surviving, they’ll be living. Of course, this new positive outlook of Rick’s is blinding him and the others to the horrors right around the corner. Agreeing to be the new protectors of the Hilltop will put them at odds with the Hilltop’s original protectors, Negan and his cult-like followers who were exploiting the Hilltop for half their supplies. After a run in with members of Negan’s group, in where Andrea and Michonne remind us why they’re still alive, Rick becomes overconfident in their abilities. He’s letting his guard down and not being super-paranoid, overly-protective Rick which is going to leave the group open for attack. I fear, building to this 100th issue, we’re in for some shocking casualties.
It would be just like Robert Kirkman to mark the 100th issue with an outrageous, “no one saw it coming” moment. I think it’s likely we’ll see someone we’ve known since the beginning bite the dust. That feeling of an axe waiting to drop is palpable throughout this issue. So much good is happening throughout the group that tragedy can’t be far behind. Honestly, I’m kind of awestruck how easy it is for Kirkman to keep raising the stakes. While after following Walking Dead for so long it’s easy to spot when big changes are coming, it’s almost impossible to guess what those changes will be. Most of this issue is setup for larger events on the horizon, but with how wonderfully Kirkman is laying out the pieces you’ll find yourself gripped the entire book.
The art in this issue was on par with the work we’ve come to expect from Charlie Adlard. He’s been drawing these characters for so long, it’s almost seems impossible that he could draw a bad issue. It’s often a stretch to form a complaint, but something did look little off this time. The transitioning between scenes felt abrupt. But I’m not sure who’s at fault here. Was it Kirkman’s plotting or Adlard’s execution? For instance there’s a scene where we’re following Abraham and Maggie out of the church, then things shift to Abraham walking in on Eugene working, then Abraham’s checking up on the perimeter with Heath. I know Abraham is supposed to be the thread that binds these short scenes together, but for me, it doesn’t work. They felt disconnected and initially had me thinking I was missing a page.
The Walking Dead is a series I recommend over and over. It’s a book managing to not only be widely popular but also consistently good. “Something to Fear” might just end up being one of their best story arcs. There’s so much at stake, so much promise for the future, and yet there’s a feeling of dread permeating throughout this first act. With the 100th issue right around the bend Kirkman and co. must be planning something BIG. Thinking back on all the most shocking moments in The Walking Dead, I’m stoked for and dreading what’s next.