By Jared Cornelius
Welcome back to Typing on The Dead, Bleeding Cool's dissection and recap of the latest issue of The Walking Dead. After last month's issue I know I was left wanting in both the action and answers department. This time around we do a little better with a healthier mix of both high stakes drama and story progression. Questions will be answered, lives will be changed, and someone will give a speech that's kind of like the one from Varsity Blues. As always, *SPOILER WARNING* for the remainder of the article.
The Walking Dead #143 by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard
In typical form, we pick up immediately where we left off last issue with Blacksmith Earl Sutton making small talk with Alpha. The two exchange pleasantries, but are interrupted by Ezekiel who asks about how blacksmithing is treating him. Earl answers but is a little caught off guard by the strange bald woman he was just speaking with. Earl asks if Ezekiel needs anything but from one interruption leads another as Pete, one of the fishermen, comes over to talk. The two make small talk about boating, but Ezekiel is really more interested in Michonne and her whereabouts. Pete tells Ezekiel she's somewhere at the fair, Ezekiel tries to play it cool telling him that he only wanted to make sure she was ok, but Zeke isn't fooling anyone including Pete who outs Michonne's true feelings to him.
Ezekiel smiles back at Pete with a glint of hope in his eyes. Pete rolls his eyes and hopes Zeke won't cry all over him, and gets a big hug from the former king. With a renewed hope of finding love, Ezekiel takes off with a spring in his step to search out Michonne.
Out in the road, Rick and his rescue crew are trying to figure how much longer until they reach Whisperer territory. Dante tells the group that he was further out before he was attacked but they will reach the area by the end of the day. Rick takes time to apologize to Dante for snapping at him earlier, but Dante lets it ride as he says he understands how Rick felt and feels like he let him down before. Rick tells Dante he doesn't expect people to risk their lives for his son and knows he tried looking for him. Dante tries to put on a brave face, but give the group an overview on his experience with the Whisperers.
Michonne tells him not to get captured again and Dante explains how the Whisperers terrified him, explaining how they don't even seem human, calling them unnatural. Rick postures that the Whisperers haven't attacked since and thinks they can be reasoned with, hoping that Carl is still alive and well. Dante tries to assure Rick that'll be the case, with Andrea interjecting that Carl is "Badass" but the group gets a surprise as a Whisperer sneaks out into the open calling Carl, "Quite a handful." Rick pulls a gun on the lone man, giving him one opportunity to take him to his Carl, but the Whisperer chastises him for speaking so loudly out in the open with little regard for who may be listening.
Back at the fair, Jesus asks Maggie if she's planning on telling Rick about Gregory. Maggie claims that she wasn't avoiding the issue with Rick and has sovereignty over the Hilltop claiming she can do what she wants. Maggie apologizes for not telling Rick during the debriefing, but felt that his attention needed to be on Carl and getting him back safely. Jesus reassures Maggie that Carl will return safely and that will happen to him is get stronger.
At the Whisperer camp, Carl is having a bit of a fit over what Alpha's up to. Lydia asks Carl to calm down and reminds him he's not supposed to yell. The Whisperer Carl's talking to is into the group's philosophy and implies that Carl spends too much time caring about what others are doing. Still frustrated Carl asserts that he cares when it could affect the well-being of his people. Off panel a voice says they caught one on the road, and it's none other than Rick Grimes. The father and son have a quick reunion, where Carl apologizes for what happened. Rick's happy to see his son, but asks why he's not wearing his glasses, a point that will come up a bit later.
Over at the fair Eugene and Rosita are having a wonderful time and shopping for clothes. Eugene is a little wary about loading up on clothes, but Rosita is incessant that she'll need them as incentive for getting back into shape after the baby comes. Eugene tells her that shouldn't be an issue as he'll love her in whatever size or shape she's in. Rosita has a little bit of a breakdown as she's still upset at herself for cheating on Eugene. He gives her a comforting hug but she tells him that she needs to get away for a while and he should enjoy the fair. As Rosita leaves sobbing, Eugene picks up and goes over to a vendor trading CB radios.
Back at the Whisperers camp Carl and Rick catch up. Rick asks if they've hurt Carl, but he replies that they haven't done anything to him. Rick realizing they're deep in enemy territory tells his son that if they get an opening they need to take it and get back to their group. Unfortunately for Rick, Carl isn't interested and won't leave without Lydia, asking his dad to leave him. Rick isn't too happy about the prospect of leaving his son and tells Carl he won't leave him, but again Carl insists that he's not leaving without Lydia. Rick tries pulling the dad card but Carl is having a teenage angst moment.
Carl explains that he makes his father uncomfortable when he has his glasses off. Rick tries to quiet the conversation, but Carl doesn't who hears or what they care, the only person who's opinion matters is Lydia.
Carl knows that Rick tried his best to protect him and did the best job he could, but he got hurt and he has to live with his scars for the rest of his life, knowing that he's not normal and he knows how he makes people feel when he's around. Carl comes around to his point that Lydia is the only one sees him as normal, that she cares about him and has accepted him for who he really is and he wants to hold onto that. Rick is silent for a moment but finally tells his son he understands. After a few more moments of silence Alpha has returned from her fact finding mission.
Rick tries to take his son and leave, but Alpha confronts him about coming into her territory and not wanting to have hostages. Rick is a bit distracted though as Alpha is holding a bloodied machete. Alpha informs Rick that she ran into some trouble up the road, Rick demands answers but only gets a punch in the face. Alpha decides it's time to assert her dominance over Rick and tells him they'll be taking a walk. Rick refuses to leave Carl, but is offered a walk or death with Rick reluctantly choosing the walk. Rick and Alpha head out to a remote location ending up in an abandon building. Rick's lead to the edge of the building roof as Alpha shows him she means business.
And business is good as Rick and Alpha survey an army of several thousand zombies as far as the eye can see.
Hey zombies! I remember them. In all seriousness this was a pretty solid issue. It still suffered a bit from the large cast, but overall it was an improvement from last issue.
The biggest moments were spent in the company of the Whisperers. As we've seen more and more of them it's easy to become desensitized to how dangerous they really are, but this issue confirmed they're a real threat. With a series of guerrilla tactics and now apparently an army of the undead they're looking more dangerous all the time.
The return of zombies felt like a significant milestone as they've largely been window-dressing ever since the leap forward after All Out War. The Walking Dead has always been a book about the dangers of people pushed to the edge. While zombies have almost always been a plot device or a secondary threat to the survivors, there presence as an ever present danger was always something I appreciated. Kirkman did a great job of evolving the zombie threat overtime, including the horrifying idea of a "herd" but in the last year some of that felt very lost. With a massive army at the Whisperers disposal I don't believe Kirkman would tease us with an amazing setup and not use it.
Speaking of the Whisperers, Alpha continues to impress as the new big bad for the series. While she's yet to do anything truly horrifying I believe it's only a matter of time before she lives up to her name and asserts her status as leader of the Whisperers. In all honesty though, the bloody machete is misdirection, I don't believe she's hurt any of Rick's party or any important characters.
I've got some minor grips that are mostly the same as the ones I've been spouting every month. With the increased character count the story still feels like it's a bit all over the place. With Ezekiel ready to win Michonne back, and the trials of Eugene and Rosita's relationship back at the forefront of the book it felt like filler away from the much more interesting Whisperer section. Don't get me wrong, I think both of those subplots are interesting, there's a ton to be said about the background of who Rosita cheated with and what it'll do to Eugene, and I understand the importance of long term planning, but I feel it often takes away from us getting more meaningful content out of the main story.
Despite my complaints I really enjoyed the issue. The thing with most issues of The Walking Dead is even the "bad" issues are pretty good by most standards. The continued setup for the obvious things to come is still intriguing and worth the long term investment.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast who's a little behind. Send him time saving tips on Twitter @John_Laryngitis