A spoiler free review!
Image solicited this book promoting the idea that this could be a new #1, jumping on point for the comic. At 102 issues in, that can only be said for so many comics. And considering that the very successful Season 3 of the TV show premiered this week, this issue is timed very nicely. Having just concluded a major story line that including their best selling issue, and highest selling single issue of the year, this issue has a lot to prove to live up to the description of “jumping on point.”
I still think that prior knowledge of events is going to be needed to fully grasp everything that happens, but the book does live up to that hype in part. There is a short recap on the cover that catches new readers up to recent events. Although honestly, “new readers” for this book are simply readers who haven’t been caught up to speed by reading all the previous issues as quickly as they can. This issue has the right amount of excitement to it that should be enticing enough for new readers to want to jump on board and see how this all started.
Walking Dead has always been about moments shared between characters, and this issue is no exception. There are some tense moments between father and son in this issue when Rick and Carl are involved. This dynamic comes from the philosophy of the characters. Carl sees things as very black and white. Rick sees things with a lot of gray areas. You can’t help but wonder who is right in this case. New readers are sure to wonder where Carl, simply a kid, got this idea of how things work and just how far he would go with threat that he lays down. Old readers, myself included, get excited by what could happen, especially when you know Carl’s history and see the covers for the next couple of issues.
Another character relationship that this issue displays perfectly is the one set up between Negan and Rick. Ultimately, this is about power struggles between the two, who have both been the leaders of their respective groups. These characters need to put on a show in order for those around them to gain an understanding of what roles they are playing. You can tell that Negan, with the assistance of Lucille, has played this game before and knows exactly what notes to hit. You get the feeling of an experienced veteran at the top of his game. With Rick, his expressions and body language, courtesy of artist Charlie Adlard, demonstrate how forced and uncomfortable he is in his position.
The threat of the zombies hasn’t been something that this book has dealt with in recent issues and it instead focused on a human threat to the camp. This issue started off with some much needed zombie action and even showed how Negan and his men deal with the zombie threat, which helps to show that they are pretty effective at the “service” they provide camps. But even with the new human threat to the main cast, the appearance of small zombie groups like this one usually means that some major zombie action is coming soon.