By Jared Cornelius
Welcome back to Typing on The Dead, Bleeding Cool's recap and dissection of the latest issue of The Walking Dead. Of the eleven years that Image has been publishing The Walking Dead I don't think anyone would take umbrage at the claim that this was the most transitional year for the series. With the addition of a ton of characters, even more communities, and the return to some form of civilization the series has gone from a traditional zombie survival tale to an exercise in world building. Change and transition aren't necessarily bad, but in the issues following last summers All Out War story some fans have complained of the books sluggishness and loss of horror. While I don't necessarily support that notion, I think it's always important to remember the series has specialized in long term payoffs and reveals. So as always *SPOILER WARNING* for the remainder of the article. The Walking Dead #142 by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard
Picking up directly from last issue, Gregory's lifeless body is lowered from a tree. The crowd looks on in silence until Maggie decides that something needs to be said about the punishment. Maggie tells the crowd that most of them stood with her on the decision and Gregory's death isn't the start of something more. Maggie recommits to the communities pledge of not killing, telling them that if they work with her and together it will be the last time it has to happen. The somber crowd of familiar faces only look on in quiet reflection.
We switch communities from the grim hanging tree at the Hilltop to a bright sunny morning in Alexandria. Rick is getting to sleep in while Andrea gets ready for the day with a big grin on her face. She's greeted outside by one of her construction workers, Siddiq, who's pleased to inform her that they labored into the night and were finally able to finish the construction projects for the fair. Neither one of them can believe the event is actually happening and Andrea comments on getting a month worth of sleep after it's over. Siddiq needles her over who put all the work in, but Andrea gives it right back telling him that keeping people busy is a full time job. The two talk about how crazy the event will be, with Andrea getting a good look over the finished fairgrounds. She glances over a few booths and is so happy she does something I don't think we've ever seen before.
Andrea sheds an actual tear of happiness. Siddiq asks if everything's ok. Andrea tells him that it's a strange sight and It'll take some getting used to.
Meanwhile, we see a corpse laid out on a log, and a group of men start slicing it down the back while pulling it apart. Carl and Lydia watch as someone off panel asks if she likes the skin, specifically referring to her as, "kid". The Whisper tanner, tells her it could be hers and it's about her size too. Lydia tells him she'd love that, while Carl asks why no one refers to anyone by name.
Carl isn't thrilled about what's going on and says that everyone has lost their minds. He tries to remind her that her name is Lydia and that she really doesn't buy into the Whisperer philosophy, saying that they can go back to his people who'll protect them. Lydia starts telling Carl that the Whisperers are her people and she doesn't feel like she can leave, but before she can finish, she's interrupted by Alpha who's come to talk about Carl's people. Alpha starts off with a little flattery, calling Carl smart, and wants to know how he survived up until now. While Carl could regale her with a rich and interesting backstory, he instead says it was his dad who kept him alive and that he did so by acting like a person not by using Halloween masks made of people. Alpha reminds Carl that he's a captive and had hoped that seeing how they lived would help him understand that The Whisperers were to be left alone. Carl understands, but won't leave until he's sure Lydia's not in danger, Alpha asks what kind of danger, and gets a steely eyed response from Carl that she knows exactly what kind of danger. Alpha now knowing that Carl won't cooperate decides she needs to know more.
Back in Alexandria, Siddiq is showing Maggie her accommodations. The two exchange pleasantries for a moment with Siddiq reminding Maggie that he was the one who found the fisherman at the Oceanside community. Maggie asks Sophia to watch Hershel while she goes and talks with Rick, they speak very briefly before being interrupted by Dante who kindly offers to share Maggie's room. Maggie declines, but gives a coy smile before sending him on his way. Jesus pops in for a visit as well, he tells Maggie that Dante continues hitting on her because she likes it. Maggie shrugs it off and says it amuses her before the two friends overlook the busy fairgrounds.
Off at Rick's house, Jesus and Maggie have given him the abridged version of what happened with The Whisperers. Rick's a little upset that he wasn't told sooner, but things are about to get worse. Maggie continues with how they captured and returned Lydia but Carl wasn't happy about the exchange, believing Lydia had been mistreated and took off after her. Rick is predictably unhappy about this, Maggie tries to calm him down and explains that they searched two days for him. Rick is even less happy that they only spent two days searching for Carl, but Maggie reminds him that she can't put her people in danger because Carl wouldn't listen and continues with how it's not all that different from Michonne taking off. This explanation doesn't alleviate Rick's concerns.
Maggie explains that she was dealing with some big issues, but Rick again isn't having any of it. Jesus gently reminds him that Gregory tried to kill her, and Rick finally snaps back into being a bit more compassionate. Rick tells them that he needs to speak with Andrea and tells his friends he needs to go after Carl.
A short while later Andrea and Rick are loaded up and ready to go. Andrea asks Eugene to take care of Alexandria while they're gone. But not so fast, it's Michonne who's not about to be left out of a rescue mission. Rick says she doesn't have to go, but…
Maggie shows up with Dante in tow as well. Dante tells Rick that he followed Carl's trail and knows about what they're heading into, including how The Whisperers attack. Dante doesn't really want to go, but let's Maggie know he's doing it for her. He gets a thanks and a smile as the group rides off to find Carl.
Meanwhile, at the Alexandria fair Magna's group is enjoying the sheer scale of the event. Magna comments on her missing members Kelly and Connie whom Yumiko outs as a couple in a less than subtle way.
Magna says that she doesn't have an eye for that sort of thing, Luke mutters "tell me about it" looking sad. While they go off in a different direction, Earl Sutton is explaining his setup at the Hilltop to a curious customer. He tells a mysterious figure about his forge work and the items he makes, he politely asks what community the mystery figure lives in, but that mystery figure is revealed to be Alpha, passing herself off as a member of the Alexandria community.
There's no getting around that this issue was all about setup. It lacked the sense of urgency a great issue of The Walking Dead has where every page puts you on edge. While the issue started out strong with Gregory's body being taken down, it never really felt like we had a lot of suspense or conflict, culminating in a somewhat lackluster cliffhanger. This issue was an underdog from the beginning, last month's revival of fan favorite Negan gave readers a taste of the good old suspense the series is known for mixed in with a dash of that charming profanity we've all come to love.
With little to no fallout over Gregory's death, Maggie and the Hilltop community felt like supporting players in a situation that warranted more of a reaction. Gregory was the first person in Ricks post All Out War society to be put to death and it's kind of a big deal. Shockingly when Jesus reminds Rick that he tried to murder Maggie he implies that he knows what happened. I can't imagine they would've told Rick about the situation without telling him the whole story, including his punishment, or at least Rick asking what she was going to do with him. It made the situation feel disconnected from how important it actually was.
It also seems crazy that the much talked about fair finally arrived. With little to no warning the big day is here, it was the crown jewel of Rick's new world and while impressive, I can't help but feel like it was missing something.
The issue's biggest moments were from the brief time we spent with The Whisperers and Alpha. Ever since her reveal they've been the most interesting plot point of the series. A group of skin suit wearing naturalists who act like a cross between Native Americans and Leatherface. That's a great premise and something I've been eager to find out more about ever since they were revealed. Unfortunately their story line is still tied mainly to Carl who I was growing a bit cold on after his domination of the books story for several months.
Alpha however continues to intrigue me. With the vast number of people these communities now house it's easy to believe that outsiders could sneak into an event like the fair. Alpha taking it upon herself to sneak in is not only brash, but shows the leader wants to find out about the communities first hand. Although you'd think that most people would recognize a female in their community with a shaved head. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, Sigourney Weaver made it look great and so did Demi Moore, but it's a very recognizable hairstyle for a lady, you'd think she would've grabbed a wig.
Overall, this month's issue was one of necessity in moving the story along. We needed these beats to continue, but it seemed like they were all jam packed into one issue. I still subscribe to the idea that the long term planning and setup of Kirkman's story will inevitably pay off, it's just how much time will it take.
That's all for this week folks, why not be a sport and pick up the new issue of Bleeding Cool Magazine that features my interview with Chris Warner about the revival of Barb Wire. You can also check out my regular column, Sweet Release! every Wednesday morning.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast who was up way to late drinking, send him your hangover remedies on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.