By Jared Cornelius
Welcome back to Typing on The Dead, Bleeding Cool's review and dissection of the latest issue of The Walking Dead. It's been a tough time for Rick and the gang recently. After almost a year of world building and character development set to a much slower pace, the series picked up again in a new interesting and potentially bloody direction. After two issues of edge of your seat drama, this issue slows the pace down, giving readers a time to mourn and giving characters time to be angry. There's a lot of yelling, profanity, and even a scuffle, so as always *SPOILER WARNING* for the remainder of the article.
The Walking Dead #146 by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard.
Picking up right after Rick's bombshell announcement to the community, the fairground crowd is gathered and weeping at the loss of friends and family. Familiar characters like Michonne, Magna, Carl and Lydia all sulk and mourn while others bow their heads, drink their grief away, or just try and bury it in day to day life.
A huge crowd of people gather outside of the church while a storm starts to brew as a few stragglers break down the fair.
From a first person perspective, a group of people begin talking about taking revenge including Magna who want to sneak into The Whisperer's camp and mentions that, "You can't keep giving that excuse". The next in line is Tammy's family who suggest putting The Whisperer's heads on spikes and Josh's family who bring up the fact that there sons were friends. Oh course the first person charade is over and the one being talked to is unsurprisingly Rick Grimes. Meekly sitting behind a table Rick tells the families he has to assess the situation and he won't risk the lives of everyone in the community until he's figured out an appropriate response. One of the mourners sums up the groups feelings pretty well.
Adding that it's time for Maggie to take over as she knows how to take care of problems. After the mourners leave Rick asks Maggie why he would've said that. Rick asks a few times before getting heated. Maggie says that Rick already knows the answer and asks Rick why they're dancing around it. Rick scowls and says he wants to hear Maggie say what she did and Rick finally gets the cold honest truth from Maggie.
Rick immediately loses his cool and flies of the handle yelling about preaching pacifism in their new world. Rick continues his verbal tirade and asks if Maggie wants things back the way they were before, to kill Negan for killing Glenn, even asking if she wanted to go back to keeping zombies in the barn like her father.
Jesus tries to cool Rick down, but he insists that Maggie is unraveling everything and the people are turning against them. Dante tries to get Rick to calm down too, but gets punched in the face for his troubles. Maggie asks how anyone is supposed to follow his lead when he's acting crazy, Jesus goes to grab Rick, but not before he cracks Maggie across the face as well. Rick tells Jesus to back off as Maggie dabs the blood from her lip and responds in kind with a punch to the face, telling Rick she didn't cause this. Maggie makes her case that Gregory tried to poison her and turn the Hilltop against her, Maggie furthers her case by asking Rick if he wanted Gregory in charge of the Hilltop again. Maggie punctuates it all by saying that she's no stupid girl and knows how to make hard decisions. She twists the knife a little deeper by bringing up a very good point.
Jesus pulls Maggie off Rick as she gets a moment to take in the beating she just gave to her dear friend. Low and behold it's actually Rick who apologies first as Maggie tells him it's not necessary while still reeling from the fight. Rick confesses that it had been so long since they faced this kind of adversity that he wasn't ready when it happened. Maggie says that no one could've been prepared for this as the two old friends hug. Jesus suggests that everyone get some rest and pick up the planning in the morning. Rick heads home, but not before every person he passes watches and silently stares at Alexandria's embattled leader. Rick arrives home and finds that he and Andrea have a guest, in the former con man, turned bad-ass Eugene. Eugene tells Rick he doesn't mean to impose, but Andrea assures him that in times like these they need to be there for each other. Rick asks how they can help as Eugene recounts about the secret between him and Rosita. He tells the two that the baby wasn't his, but they agreed to raise the child as theirs and never tell the father. Eugene says he told himself it was for Rosita and the baby, but the truth comes out that he didn't want to be embarrassed, he felt betrayed, but loved her too much to let her go. He tells Rick he knows the communities are calling for war, but knows this isn't the way to go about it, he knows they need to wait and he knows they need to plan, but wants assurances when the time comes The Whisperers get what's coming to them. Rick tells him he feels the same way and when the time comes The Whisperers will be punished, Andrea chimes in that she knows it won't take the pain away, but insists they go about their planning carefully. Eugene agrees and says that he knows they're dangerous and heard Rick talking about the massive herd, along with their method of controlling it, and brings up that they have an advantage over Alpha and The Whisperers, they have her daughter.
Another strong effort from Kirkman this month. While the last two months we had a lot of story unfold, I didn't necessarily think we had time to drink it in. The silent and somber opening of the issue spoke volumes. It takes a very talented writer and artist to have scenes with zero dialog say more than two pages of exposition. The beheadings of the last few issue gave us a shocking scene, and while it did provide mourning for Rick, Michonne, and some of the other cast this issue really put those deaths into the spotlight and gave a good sense of how the larger community is feeling.
But it wasn't just sorrow this issue, it was anger as well. The understandable grief of the families turned to rage as reality sunk in for the community. Magna showed her fire again at losing one of her group as well as Tammy and Josh's families. The first person scene where they unloaded their frustrations on Rick felt like a very real, very raw use of unresolved feelings and anger upon the meek and demure Rick Grimes.
Speaking of Rick, he was in full on politician mode as he gave everyone his best non-answers and halfhearted maybes. Something I did feel was strange was Rick's handling of expectations. Clearly Rick wants full on peace, and knows that a war does no one any good at this point. He also knows the numbers and capabilities The Whisperers have, but hasn't clearly expressed that to the audience. Eugene seems to know about the herd, but was it Andrea who told him? Shouldn't the people who want to go to war know about the danger the group poses? It wasn't a big deal, it just felt like a bit of a low point in a really good issue.
Of course the biggest deal this issue was the knock down drag out brawl between Rick and Maggie. Earlier this year we saw Rick lose it at Dante out on the road when he and Carl were attacked by a few stray roamers. Rick wasn't wrong for being mad in that scenario, but clearly was way out of line so it was pretty interesting to see him go off the deep end again, attacking Maggie for what seems like an increasingly good idea. Rick brought up an excellent point that despite everything Negan did he didn't kill him, but Negan was a very obvious enemy. He was trying to outright kill Rick to protect his way of life, it was simplistically transparent. Gregory on the other hand had the run of the Hilltop and managed to cling onto some kind of loyalty from its people, his plan to breed discontent and assassinate Maggie was from within. It's a position you could argue is far more dangerous than Negan's matter of fact agenda. Rick losing it and coming to blows was huge moment as he and Maggie are two of the only survivors from his original group and they've been through so much. They've faced all sorts of dangers together, they've overcome enormous odds and yet here they are with a major difference of ideologies. It's pretty obvious that Rick's anger at Maggie is slightly misplaced at the moment and the situation he's been put in by Alpha, The Whisperers, and the loss of a good friend have clearly sent him to the brink.
Maggie certainly would've gotten an earful from Rick on her handling of Gregory but lets not kid ourselves, Rick couldn't care less about Gregory or this would've been brought up sooner. Although Maggie takes a punch from Rick this issue, the real shot is insinuation that Maggie is letting things unravel. If anything Maggie showed the Hilltop a little law and order in the last year, not only by her dealings with Gregory, but getting down to brass tacks with the families who attacked Carl and Sophia. All of this is discounting the fact that Maggie tried her best to avoid the confrontation with the Whisperers, including her peaceful exchange of Lydia the first time, and an insistence Carl not go after her. She's right this situation is on Carl and Rick and it's going to be real interesting how it plays out.
Another real interesting plot point this issue was the usually quiet and subdued Eugene ready to take some initiative and help plan out a strategy against the zombie nomads. Eugene has been one of my favorite characters since his introduction, once a sniveling liar, Eugene went through a great arc of redemption and ultimately turned out to be a certified bad-ass during the All Out War arc. In the new world we find he's been instrumental in the communities growth and well-being, but has also been suffering due to a one time affair by Rosita. It was another great character moment to see him break down and confess what had happened, but it was equally great to see him uplift himself and assert himself into the plot for revenge. Eugene's become one of the series most capable characters and has me very interested in how he might disrupt The Whisperer's nuclear option.
That's it for this issue folks, make sure you check out my other regular column, Sweet Release! where I run down the weeks hot new video games. You can also pick up the new issue of Bleeding Cool Magazine at finer comic shops everywhere, it's got a ton of great content including an interview I did with Joshua Williamson.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast who's experiencing an early cold snap. Tell him about your local weather @John_Laryngitis on Twitter.