By Jared Cornelius
Welcome to another week of Typing on The Dead, Bleeding Cool's Walking Dead recap column. This week is a no nonsense knockout brawl between the Saviors and Rick's alliance. We also get to see Eugene shine in what could be his coming out as a major player as the series moves forward. Be warned, *SPOILER ALERT* for the remainder of this article.
The Walking Dead #124 by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard
Last issue's cliffhanger ending saw Rick take one of Dwight's crossbow bolts to the side, and Negan positive he had won the battle one way or another. We pick up nowhere near that, with Carson, Eugene, and the Savior defectors, trying to make their way back to Eugene's shop. Eugene and Carson spend a few panels like an old married couple arguing about direction and turning on their vans lights. Eugene in a rather boss manner lets Carson know that he's in charge and convinces him the lights are necessary for a moment. Oh, of course it turns out lights might not have been the best idea as the area is full of zombies.
Carson tries to get away, but the escape is short lived as someone shoots the van's front end, killing the engine. In one of the issues most surprising moments Eugene does his best impression of Rick and tells the group to follow his lead.
Back at the Hilltop we finally pick up with Rick injured and sure Dwight has betrayed them. As Rick's being helped by Nicholas the two are ambushed by a Savior lurking in the shadows. But Jesus saves the day with a flying kick to the attacker's head.
The dark is clearly becoming a factor for the Saviors as Negan and his men are having trouble making their way around in the unfamiliar territory. Negan takes stock of his men and decides to continue forward with his attack. We pick up with Rick and Nicholas in danger again as two more Saviors armed with their chemical weapons sneak attack from behind and get Nicholas across the back. The second attacker goes after Rick and makes the same mistake as every super villain by savoring the moment and pays for it when Carl shoots him in the head. Gregory helps Carl get Rick inside and is apparently still milking having to walk back from the Saviors compound. Negan is ready to end the fight, and in one of issues most striking images prepares to storm the doors of the main house.
Negan is fully ready to put this battle behind him, even referencing that he wants the Hilltop to remember so it's never tried again. But Ezekiel and Michonne have something planed and end up solving the Saviors vision problem by turning on several high beams on destroyed cars.
The Saviors are lit up figuratively and literally as Negan orders the retreat. Back at the shop with Eugene and the defectors, someone in the van is laying on the horn and drawing the attention of the areas undead. Our mysterious rooftop shooter is keeping watch, but not watching close enough to see that Eugene and his crew have snuck up behind him. The shooter is briefly identified as Donnie before Eugene takes charge again and pushes him off the roof. Eugene feels real remorse for Donnie having never killed anyone before, it doesn't last long though as Carson lets him know Donnie was kept away from other people for a reason.
Back at the yard we finally see the aftermath of the clash between the Saviors and Rick's alliance.
Jesus and Michonne survey the battlefield and surmise that the dead will be headed their way after all the noise they made. Michonne knows the Saviors have camped close and this will be a problem for them as well. The two then proceed to clean up the area the way only they can. Back inside Nicholas is suffering from the first signs of turning with sweats and fever, while Rick seems to be feeling no ill effects yet. Doctor Carson is confused by the turn of events and makes the connection that it's like Nicholas was bitten, but while Jesus and Michonne are taking care of the dead they make the discovery of Negan's germ warfare.
Jesus confirms that he's checked all the Savior weapons in the compound and Doctor Carson and the group now know that anyone who was hurt in battle will die. The issue comes to a close as Negan and Dwight are getting chummy around the fire. Negan doesn't seem bothered by the retreat and looks at the days victories. Negan checks off that the Hilltop gate is destroyed and they infected a number of Hilltop combatants and is sure that Rick is dying, sure that the Hilltop will fall once he's out of the picture.
Wow, what a nail bitter this issue! Kirkman really wanted to keep the suspense from the last issue going. So, starting with Eugene and Carson, I think they'd make a great buddy cop duo. In all seriousness, Eugene is really showing a big change in character. The once timid fake scientist has really become a star when he's given the chance, having faced down Negan's threats, and taken both charge and a life. If he survives the war I think he'll have a more prominent role in the series.
Rick's injury felt a little on the nose last issue, I think it's pretty clear he's not infected. Especially with Nicholas taking a Savior knife in the back and being stricken with symptoms by morning, while Rick appears fine. All eyes were on Rick in one of the issue's last pages, but I really think this is not where we see the end of Rick Grimes.
Negan had some really interesting moments this issue too. He shows a ton of bravado leading his men. Even when complaints of the low light commence, Negan is ready to finish the fight. One thing that stood out to me about how Negan talked about the entire ordeal was that he wanted the Hilltop to remember this. It's a small reminder that Negan doesn't want to kill these people as they help sustain his status quo. Every member of the group he kills one less person to toil gathering food and supplies. It shows that Negan has some brains about what he's doing as he knows this fighting isn't good for anyone but necessary.
The discovery of the Saviors' chemical warfare is a significant moment for the series as well. Over the Walking Dead's 10 year life span the survivors have faced incredible odds and enemies, but Negan takes the cake when it comes to fighting smart and dirty. The idea of germ warfare for the series could lead to scary new places for survivors. Even if Rick and his group survive will this become a new tactic against other foes?
Finally I think Charles Adlard should get a pat on the back for this issue. The art felt really fantastic as the dark was practically its own character. The Savior ambushes on the Hilltop felt authentically creepy every time. Negan's charge on the main house was one of my favorite images, as the group's dark demeanor matched the inky black background. Going back and reading the book a second time, I was also struck by Donnie's shadowy appearance hanging in the moon was a small touch that didn't need to be there but made the page better.
That's all for this week, keep your eyes on Bleeding Cool for other fine articles. If you like my writing you can also check out my weekly recap of the new video game releases Live(ish) From The Games Shop, which is neither live nor at a games shop.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from New Jersey's coast who's terrified of bath salt zombies. If you'd like to discuss the merits of slow zombie vs fast zombie contact him on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.