Typing On The Dead #138: Karate Jesus & The Alpha Dog

By Jared Cornelius

Welcome back to Typing on The Dead, Bleeding Cool's recap and dissection of the newest issue of The Walking DeadLast month's issue was a bit of a relief for me.  After what seemed like forever we got a really focused on point issue of The Walking Dead that didn't stray from character to character.  This issue follows suit with more action, more suspense, and more romance.  Although the romance this issue is further from Degrasi and closer to Special Victims Unit.  As always *SPOILER WARNING* for the remainder of the article.

SPOILER

The Walking Dead #138 by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard

COVERWe pick up after Gregory's poisoning attempt with a little of that karate Jesus action.

KARATEGregory's knocked to the ground, caught off guard by Jesus's flying kick.  He asks why Jesus attacked him, but Jesus isn't having any of Gregory's excuses.  Gregory claims that Maggie passed out and was just on his way to get help.  Still not believing Gregory's lies, Jesus makes it clear that if Maggie dies so does he.  Gregory asks if she's still breathing.  Jesus tells him he's a dead man, but Maggie weakly interjects says that no one's killing and that she thinks she's alright.  Maggie starts giving out orders, telling Jesus to take Gregory to get Doc Carson, throw him in the brig, and come back so they can search his house for the poison.  Gregory pleads that he had nothing to do with it, but Maggie has some harsh words for him, including that he can't even poison someone right.

Out in a field somewhere Carl and Lydia are finishing up from where they left off last issue.

NICELydia tells Carl how nice it was and although it was clumsy, it was sweet.  She goes on to explain that sex was never like that before and "it's not how we do things."  Carl asks for some clarification and Lydia explains that sometimes she doesn't want to have sex and it hurts, but it's ok because that's not what happened this time.  Carl's incensed by the fact that Lydia's people rape her, but Lydia explains that it's not rape because they don't recognize rape.  Lydia tells Carl that rape doesn't exist in nature (clearly she doesn't know about ducks) and it's something people made up to convince them they're not animals.  Carl insists that it's not the word he has a problem with, but the fact that her people are forcing her to do something she doesn't want to do.  Lydia wasn't finished making her point and says that Carl and his people are showing her there's another way, and she's seen the light so to speak.

GOBACKCarl asks why Lydia would ever want to go back and promises he won't let it happen, saying he'll speak with Maggie on her behalf.  Carl grabs his glasses and goes to leave, but Lydia stops him, asking that he not put them on.  Carl's caught off guard and doesn't understand why, but Lydia tells him not to hide who he is, and that she thinks he's beautiful.

Back in the brig, Gregory is getting adjusted to his new living arrangements.

DIEMaggie comments on Gregory's whining, while Jesus prods Maggie to get checked out by Doc Carson.  Maggie tells Jesus that she's fine and whatever Gregory poisoned her with must've run through her.  They don't have time to get Maggie checked out anyway as someone named Oscar tells them they have an emergency.

After what feels like a lifetime of waiting, we finally have our first confrontation between the Hilltop and the Whisperers.  A group of whom are gathered outside the gates of the Hilltop and looking to make a statement.  A lone member of the group meets Maggie and asks if she's the leader.  Maggie claims leadership of the Hilltop and comments on the impressive nature of the Whisperers force, but tells the leader there's no need for conflict and they are capable of defending themselves.  The leader tells Maggie that if they kill Whisperers or come into their lands there will be conflict, but today they mean the Hilltop no harm and as a gesture of peace unmasks.

ALPHAMaggie quizzically asks if Lydia is Alpha's daughter, she responds with, "That is her given name." Maggie informs Alpha that Lydia was part of a group that killed her people.  Alpha says that Maggie's men were attacked for intruding on and compromising the safety of their lands.  The two women inform each other that their captives have not been harmed, and we see a couple of familiar faces.

DANTEThe two women agree to a trade, Ken and Dante for Lydia.  Maggie tells Alpha she needs a few minutes to gather Lydia's belongings.  Alpha responds by telling Maggie that they have a deal and as long as they stay out of Whisperer territory there won't be further problems.

Seems like everyone's fine with the exchange, except for young Carl, telling Maggie that Lydia doesn't want to go back.  Carl delicately tries to explain that the Whisperers hurt her, but the gain of not having to fight plus getting back two of their people is too good an offer to decline.  Lydia steps in and decides that the best thing for everyone is for her to leave.  Carl's devastated by her response and says that he'll protect her.  Lydia responds with a kiss, but tells Carl that the Whisperers are her people and she has to go.  Carl tries to change her mind, but even though Lydia likes being at the Hilltop with Carl, she misses her people and has to go back.  Carl argues all the way to the gate, where Lydia meets with her people.

CALLMEALPHALydia and Carl exchange one last glance before the Whisperers take off.  Back inside, Maggie is trying to calm Carl down, asking him to be reasonable.  Carl's not only upset that they let Lydia go but believes she's in danger from her own people.  He's up on a moral high horse telling Maggie that she sacrificed Lydia and that she didn't know her like he did.  Maggie responds that Carl spent a single day with her and he has no idea if what Lydia told him was true.  Carl asks what if Maggie's wrong, and what if she sent a victim back to her attackers.  Clearly frustrated by his line of questioning she tells Carl she has other business to attend to and he needs to drop it.  Maggie really did have something to attend to, checking on Dante and Ken at Doc Carson's office.  Doc Carson gives her an update and is actually impressed how well Ken was treated medically.  Dante and Ken spill what little information they have on the Whisperers including what they were fed, and their constant movement.  Dante punctuates how dangerous the Whisperers are with his belief that they could number in the thousands.

We move on to a bandaged up Sophia, who's been sent to check on Carl.  She knocks on his door, but after getting no response just enters to a shocked look.  Meanwhile out in the woods, Alpha tells Lydia to stay near the center until they can get her a new skin.  Alpha says she's happy to see Lydia well, but she has to keep her voice down, Lydia acknowledges her and looks down sadly.  But off in the distance someone is surveying the woods.

SURVEYIt's Carl with a pack, no glasses, and a determined look.

If I'm being completely honest with you dear reader, I'm left feeling a little let down.  In a lot of respects this was the anticlimax issue, starting off with Gregory's botched poison attempt.  The master politician impressed me over the last few issues, it felt like he could've had a genuine shot at re-taking the Hilltop via pointing out Maggie's failings and endangerment of the community.  Instead his ill-conceived poison plan fooled no one into thinking Maggie was in any real danger, especially when Jesus appeared in the background of Gregory's home after he poisoned her last issue.  While parts of his contention like endangering Dante and Ken wouldn't have been as poignant anymore, there's still the issue of releasing Carl so soon, releasing Lydia into Carl's custody, and playing favorites in the Hilltop.  It feels like a little bit of a missed opportunity to play out Gregory's character a bit more.  Obviously he's not going away, and I doubt he'll be killed, but Gregory will certainly have lost a ton of credibility among the Hilltop folks when his murder plot gets out.

Speaking of Ken and Dante, the two Hilltop residents were returned with little to no damage making all their peril for nothing.  Finding them healthy and well treated after the Whisperers killed others for intruding on their land seems like it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  I'd understand how they'd want to keep at least one of them alive as a bargaining chip or source of information, but both being returned without barely a scratch left me wanting.  The Walking Dead was built on uncomfortable scenes and acts of violence.  From the Governors aquariums to cannibal hunters, we've seen some horrible things, it feels like more of a missed opportunity than anything else.  A scene of Dante or Ken being tortured, or psychologically tormented could've made all the difference and been a genuinely creepy moment that's been missing from the series for a while.

The most anticlimactic scene for me was the first encounter with the Whisperers.  Kirkman's been dropping little hints about who the Whisperers are, but the vagueness left me wanting more and more.  This felt like the wrong way to have them confront the Hilltop.  A simple trade and warning to stay out of their lands felt almost too friendly for a group that wears zombie skin.  Could Kirkman have done something different? Sure, but you only get one chance to introduce an enemy.  I'm reminded of how Negan was built as a major character, he was talked up for months as the big bad.  People were genuinely frightened of him, but Rick and his crew thought he was going to be a pushover.  When Negan was finally introduced in issue #100 it was a true coming out party, he was the bad guy everyone talked about and more, so when I think back to how Negan was introduced Alpha just seems disappointing.

However with all the problems I have with the issue, I have to tip my proverbial hat to Kirkman for his continued depiction of Lydia.  I wrote last month about how much I enjoyed the vagueness of her character.  That while some story beats had been telegraphed from a mile away, Lydia always remained difficult to read.  This issue furthered the excellent storytelling with her character, the real suppressed emotion she showed when talking about the sexual assaults she suffered and the genuine disappointment on her face when finding out she was going home helped make her stand out again.  It seems to answer my question of was she a spy, and now that we have a better read on her, I'd expect to see more and more character development that will resonate with readers.  I don't always talk about the art, but Adlard did a remarkable job of having Lydia say so much with a looks of disappointment or a smile.  It's a small thing, but I always appreciate little touches like that.

Finally we'll end this month talking about Carl.  I'm of two minds about Carl, in one case I think Kirkman's doing a great job of making him feel like a real teenage boy.  But in feeling like a real teenage boy he's getting on my nerves.  I think he's had some great moments over the last handful of issue, we've seen him grow up and gain some real depth as a character, but at the same time his willfulness isn't nearly as endearing as Ricks.  Setting out after Lydia wasn't a real shock but I'm still open to the idea it could lead to some interesting encounters and perhaps a real confrontation with the Whisperers.

I think the series is going through some growing pains, but this lull could be leading to another great story arc for fans to enjoy.  Kirkman's managed to entertain us for a long time now and I'm confident the tables being set for something massive down the line.

That's it for this month, if you're so inclined check out my weekly column, Sweet Release!  Where I preview the weeks new video games.

Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast who's just glad it's in the fifties.  To tell him the small things you're thankful for, contact him on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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