By Jared Cornelius
Welcome Back to Typing on The Dead, Bleeding Cool's Walking Dead recap column. Last month lots of pieces started falling into place as to where the story's going, and one revelation in particular threatened to change the game completely for Rick and our favorite survivors. This month two characters mention playing a game of chess and it feels like we're seeing pieces moved around the board for a big setup, so as always *SPOILER WARNING* for the remainder of the article.
The Walking Dead #131 by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard
We pick up the issue with Maggie trying to calm down the just awakened Marco. Maggie doesn't believe that the dead were talking and asks him what really happened. Marco responds by grabbing Maggie's collar like a lunatic and asserting that he did hear the dead whispering only to fall back on his worry for the still missing Ken. Doc Carson intervenes and tells the group Marco needs rest, not provocation, and Maggie assures Marco they'll find Ken, but Marco doesn't look hopeful.
Maggie wastes no time on following through with her promise and sends a group out to find Ken and multitasks, getting Carl a room as well. Rick offers Maggie help but also assures her he'll stay out of the way, and Maggie graciously thanks him for the offer and parts ways leaving Rick and Carl to deal with their business. The father son duo comment on how crazy Macro seems but Carl can't stick around either as he has a letter to deliver for Jesus. Before he goes, Rick asks about Carl's apprenticeship with Blacksmith, Earl Sutton, but is left hanging.
We can see the world hasn't changed all that much since a young boy is being chased by two other young men. Brian, the boy being chased, told on the other two boys for trying to harm a young girl, the other boys don't care about being right or wrong, so start beating Brian for telling on them. All the sudden, the two bullies are clocked in the back of the head and shoved into a wall, the one boy finds he's got a bloody nose. We find it's all thanks to Sophia Greene: Bad Ass!
Sophia tells the bullies she can keep the pain going, the other bully tells her he'll hit a girl, but doesn't get to finish the sentence since Sophia promptly kicks him square in the nuts. Sophia helps Brian up and comments on how tough he's getting, but she's caught off-guard by someone from behind and cocks her arm back for another punch that ends up landing straight on Carl's face. Sophia realizes her mistake and immediately says she's sorry. Carl comments on how it's nice to see her as well and leans on his ocular disability. Sophia find's he's laying it on thick and tells him the son of Rick Grimes should be able to handle a sucker punch from a girl. Carl retorts that his expertise isn't in hand to hand combat and recruits her into helping deliver a letter.
We're introduced to a couple of new characters, Louie and Larry, who're giving Hilltop resident Dante a taste of their homebrew hooch. Dante comments on how the booze is actually good and requests a bottle, but no can do as the recipe has to be replicated and reproduced for the upcoming fair. Louie and Larry talk about how they'll be rich, but get interrupted by Maggie who needs Dante for a more important mission than tasting. Maggie tells Dante she needs him to get a posse together and find Ken. Dante is shocked and asks if it's a wasted effort being that Marco didn't even know where he left Ken. Maggie's not happy about being questioned and gives him orders to ride out West until he finds a barn. Dante agrees remarks about Maggie sending him out into unknown danger without hesitation. Maggie tells him that's how it is and Dante decides to ham it up.
In a different part of the Hilltop, the community is gathering for a huge meal. Among the group is Earl Sutton, who comments on the roasting spits he's made, as well as Maggie and Rick, who comments on how much he loves the sense of community in the Hilltop. Maggie tells him that community dinners are only three times a week, but Rick enjoys the closeness of sharing a meal, along with the frustration of not knowing everyone.
Carl doing his due diligence, delivers Jesus' letter to Alex, who's assured by a friend that Jesus still cares for him. Earl Sutton pops up again and tells Carl to join them, but Carl's not really interested and Earl sees that something's off in the young man. Carl confides in Earl that he was moving to the Hilltop to accept his offer to apprentice and didn't know it was a limited time offer. Carl believes he would've been a good apprentice and is good at crafting but is sad that he missed the opportunity. It's then that Earl decides to let Carl in on a secret;
The two friends share a smile and Carl remarks on how stupid he feels. Earl asks if he can start tomorrow to which Carl tells him absolutely. A now jubilant Carl clears his plate and catches up with his dad about the ordeal. Carl lets his dad know everything went well but he was being stupid about it at first. Rick feeling proud of his son, asks about the letter he was given back in Alexandria, but Carl doesn't want to open it as he feels like the day couldn't get any better, only worse.
Outside of the Hilltop, Dante's gathered a couple other men to find Ken. One of the crew brings up Dante hitting on Maggie. Dante doesn't care though, as he tells the guys he has a thing for authority figures and it keeps him entertained. We get a little more of his backstory as he lets the others in on having his family wiped out and not having much before the zombie outbreak anyway. The group continues on a different path of conversation and starts to talk about abandoning their task of finding Ken.
One of the riders brings up the danger they're in being in uncharted territory with no safe place to camp. Dante takes charge and tells the men that if roles were reversed Ken wouldn't abandon them, and the other men decide to continue on thanks to Dante's pep talk. They soldier forward as they've come across a barn. The group opens the barn and starts searching. It doesn't take them long until they come across Marco's Hat and a strange noise. The men call out for Ken, unfortunately it's not Ken, it's the undead.
Back at the Hilltop, Sophia asks Carl if he needs any help with his things, and Carl doesn't need help, but does accept Sophia's offer of a game of chess. Sophia's taken aback by how much stuff Carl brought along and is delighted when Carl tells her he's moving to the Hilltop.
Meanwhile Maggie and Rick finally get a quiet moment together and talk about how much has changed and how life is almost better than it was before. Maggie asserts that people enjoy and appreciate life so much more and they're thankful for everyday they have now. Rick tells Maggie if he'd known that this is what life would become he'd have watched more TV, but Maggie calls him out on it and tells him he wouldn't have watched any. The two reminisce a bit longer and Rick makes a curious comment about how he misses Michonne even after everything that happened.
In Alexandria, Eugene and Andrea have a heart to heart about him confessing his feelings for Rosita. The two decide to meet for lunch the next day and Eugene hopes he'll have some good news for her. Andrea makes her way home but in is grabbed by someone off panel.
I mentioned the idea of a game of chess in the beginning of the article and I think the comparison's apt. This issue was all about moving pieces in place. It wasn't about nonstop action, or horror or thrills, it was about the setup. Kirkman's clearly putting the pieces in place for another massive cross-community story and we've yet to see any of the Kingdom. I find it interesting how the series has progressed from a core group of 8 or 10 characters to what has become a regular parade of new faces and supporting cast with undoubtedly more to come.
This issue was also about character building. We clearly see that Maggie has taken her role as the Hilltop's leader and run with it, being given a bigger problem than herself seems to have taken her mind off Glen and may even lead to her finding happiness with someone else again. The Hilltop community has taken on character of its own, seemingly happy and productive, with readers getting the first real glance at the town's inner working including huge meals and barrel hooch! Carl got a lot of time this issue and actually came across like a real teenage boy. He was so laser focused on Earl already having an apprentice he never though he could have two. It's the kind of mistake I'd expect an actual teenager to make.
Oh course, I felt like the real star of the book this week was Sophia. The once shrinking violet has turned into a lean, mean, bully-punching machine. It was a twist I didn't see coming and a good place for Kirkman to take her. The Walking Dead is full of strong female leads with Michonne, Andrea, and Maggie. It would've been easy to make Sophia a girly girl and have her as nothing more than a love interest. Her being a bad ass gives her more room to grow and a tone that fits better with Rick's brave new world.
Dante had a good introduction this issue with plenty of character and personality to keep him interesting for now. His crush on Maggie could set up an interesting dynamic for the proclaimed single lady leader. More interesting for the immediate future is what happened to Ken in the barn. Dante and his group are armed so I've no doubt they'll be able to fight their way out, but has Ken turned? If so will Dante and his group be able to put him down? This could also lead to the corroboration of Marco's story of the dead talking? Nothing's been written in stone yet as far as the certainty of the dead evolving so it could be nothing more than a red herring or a trick by other survivors, but it's nonetheless an interesting direction.
Finally we couldn't leave off without mentioning Magna and her group getting their hands on Andrea. I've said since Magna's been introduced that she reminds me of a female Rick. She's brash and bold and cares about her particular group fiercely. It's only a natural assumption that a character like that wouldn't take well to the promise of a utopia, Rick certainly didn't when he was invited in to Alexandria. This could be nothing more than a one off next issue that fills in the blanks of the skipped two years of continuity or it could lead to a community revolt. Whatever the case, Kirkman's set the pieces up again, I only assume to knock them down.
That's it for this edition of Typing on The Dead, you can find more of what I do by following me on Twitter @John_Laryngitis, come tell me I'm right or wrong or your theories on the series. I also write about new release video games every Tuesday night in my column, Sweet Release! where I tell you about the weeks latest and greatest games.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from New Jersey's coast who's assuming the AMC spinoff of the Walking Dead will be called the Walking Dad and star Bill Cosby. If you'd like to suggest other Walking Dead spinoffs contact him on Twitter @John_Laryngitis