It’s a general rule of The Walking Dead that nothing good can be allowed to last without some dumb human being either intentionally screwing it up or doing so by virtue of sheer stupidity.
This latest issue really drives this home, as we see how petty squabbles, greed, and ambition have begun to creep their way back into society. What seemed like a throwaway line in the previous issue, as two newly minted moonshiners crow that they’ll get rich, is the key to this. Now that survival isn’t something to question on a daily basis, people have begun to want more. The ambitions of thwarted leaders, whether incarcerated or not, begin to bubble to the surface as men who lacked either the vision or the ability (or both) to build a better world want to control it now that people like Rick and Maggie have done the hard work of building it. It is even present on the micro-scale, as the jealous children who assaulted Carl and Sophie are seen to be the spawn of despicable parents who would capitalize on their children’s misdeeds and subsequent injuries to better their own personal lot in life.
One thing this issue of The Walking Dead really showcases is the continued growth of Carl Grimes. For the first time since the death of Ben, we’ve seen him come face to face with someone who may actually be more damaged than he is by the world of the dead. Where Carl’s support system has always struggled to find a place where he can enjoy some semblance of pre-change normalcy, the group which Lydia has been surviving with has embraced the walk. They have chosen to become more like the dead who dominate the landscape than the living who shrink further and further into obscurity.
Lydia is a walking example of the fear which comes of no stability in life, the idea that only continued movement provides safety.
The final panel is a beautiful way of expressing what Carl is trying to do for her. The hat, in many ways, represents what Rick has been trying to throughout the series. It is an artifact of order, a symbol of law and the sort of structure which he is trying to recreate in Alexandria. For Carl to present it to Lydia is his way of shrouding her in that order. As he begins to embrace the idea of reconstruction, of salvation, he shares that symbolic hope for the future with her by sharing its talisman.
It would have been very easy for The Walking Dead to go off the rails with the jump forward in time. With far less in the way of immediate danger from roamers, the page-to-page stakes don’t seem nearly as high. Instead, writer Robert Kirkman has opted for a much slower burn, first establishing the scope of the new world which the survivors have managed to construct, it’s value, and finally its fragility. Where before only individual and small-group survival was at stake, now The Walking Dead is placing an entire (and perhaps the last) civilization in the balance. Whether Rick, Maggie, and the people of this new world can fight off disaster is plenty of reason to come back next month, which I will most certainly be doing.
The Walking Dead #136 gets a solid 9/10.