After a brief explosion of action in the last couple of issues, this month the title allows its expansive cast of characters to breathe a little bit. This is not to say there is nothing going on. In fact, the issue does a great job of showing just how busy even “off” days are for globe-guarding super-heroes.
Like much of this arc, much time is spent on the relationships between characters and their different approaches to balancing their heroic duties and finding time to invest in meaningful relationships. Rex’s struggles to cope with self-imposed distractions challenge his relationship with Amanda, which mirrors the conflict between Mark and Eve. Each couple is in drastically different places in the growth of their relationships, but the idea that committed bonds require never-ending work is a driving theme throughout. Kirkman drives these interpersonal narratives along with quickly-paced dialogue that helps to lend a sense of exactly how frantic the lives of these people are. There is a distinct feeling that they all recognize the need to take advantage of any available moment in which the world is not being invaded by an alien armada, dinosaurs, or being held captive by a mad genius.
The most interesting dynamic to observe is the most recent evolution of Mark’s relationship with his father Nolan. The two have, at different times been enemies, allies, and comrades in arms, but it has been a long while since we have seen Mark trust Nolan enough to simply absorb unsolicited fatherly advice. There now exists a mutual respect between the two of them which lends their conversations a very adult feeling. It makes for a fascinating, heartwarming read.
All of this is inherent in the script, but its excellence is brought to life wonderfully by the art of Ryan Ottley. Not that this is anything new, but his ability to convey nuanced facial expression with a minimum of line work gives these characters emotional range enough to deliver each moment’s intended message but also does so in a way that is recognizable on a visceral level without making the reader work too hard. He gives the entire cast real emotion and gives the story the emotional heft it needs to really land home.
It’s nice to see these characters get a chance to work on themselves and each other without a massive crisis looming. One thing is certain, though. Knowing Robert Kirkman, this period of relative tranquility will soon come to an end. The happier and better-adjusted these characters seem now, the more likely that the coming turn will see them crash to equal lows. Enjoy the good times while they last, because there are definitely threats building on the horizon.