The Walking Dead #144 Comic Review
I always like to give a spoiler warning before my review… I figure that it gives you one last chance before you ruin what could and/or should be a wonderful experience of revelation. Unfortunately, there are people who actively seek out spoilers and revel in sharing those with people who may or may not wish to lose that initial experience. I do not agree with that… so, don’t read any further if you have not read The Walking Dead #144:…
Being bowled over by anything in The Walking Dead should not surprise me in the least at this point. I should be used to the notion that every expectation that I have at any given point may be completely upended and subverted, while at the same time, completely living up to my expectations of shock and awe.
The last few issues taunted us. Made us curious and concerned for many of our protagonists. Kirkman played with the idea that once someone is happy… dead. Two weeks ago, on my weekly podcast Under the Comic Covers, one of my top moments of the issue was Ezekial’s unfettered joy. I honestly never even considered that his head might literally be on the chopping block any time soon. Andrea, Michonne, even Rick or Carl… I went into this issue believing that one of them might come to a grisly demise. But never did I consider the wholesale slaughter of so many characters at once. Even the title of this issue, “…”, simply ellipses, felt ominous to me.
Some characters were largely unknown to us as readers… others, such as Olivia and Rosita have been with us for quite some time… and Ezekial, the man I initially mocked for being a ridiculous character with feathers in his hair and a flipping tiger in the zombie apocalypse… come on… and I grew to love him. He was more than a single note. He began as a powerful figurehead, wilted in the harsh light of war, and continued to grow and evolve in a way many characters never get to. To go from unbridled passion to having his head on a pike was a unsettling.
All of the events in this particular issue carried a particular weight to them. Alpha’s menacing approach towards Rick, Carl’s insistence that Lydia be rescued, and the eventual and somewhat confusing turn that Alpha takes in releasing Lydia into Rick’s care. The image of Alpha’s blood coated machete never once left my mind while reading this; her shotgun a terrifying reminder that she and her people have separated themselves from what we would consider humanity, and the horrific visage of a zombie mask, eyes shaded over, dark, unknown. All conspired to allow this issue to drip with tension, to plant the seeds of fear and dread into each turn of the page.
To finally see the border… to begin going from head to head… to put two and two together… Alpha was never alone at the Fair. She was marking targets. Anyone who had wandered off for any reason became fair game for she and her minions to pick off one at a time. Olivia, who we had last seen in tears after Rick chastised her for what happened with Negan… Dr. Carson’s brother… Carl’s buddy Josh… even Tammy, the annoying mother of the boy who tried to beat down Carl and Sophia… all dead. A dozen heads, a dozen characters… gone.
It’s been some time since we’ve seen such a culling of the herd. I had thought the All Out War arc might be something akin to this, but it felt as though it fizzled out a bit. A few prominent secondary characters died, but it wasn’t the battlefield littered with bodies that we imagined it could be. I believe the last time we saw something like this would have been the fall of the prison, where we saw the deaths of many secondary characters (Alice, Axel, Billy) and even more major characters (Lori, Hershel, the Governor)… and it left our group withered, crazed, and separated.
This is something altogether different. This is one group establishing their borders, setting boundaries in place, and letting the other group know who holds the cards. We have been complacent in believing that Rick’s newfound community is safe, that strength in numbers and communal cooperation could keep everyone out of harm’s way… hell, ever since Rick realized that the zombies were a manageable threat, the fear was always coming from within (in the sense that Negan was still a part of that particular grouping of communities). Now, with the Whisperer’s horde, and their willingness to kill as many people as they deem necessary to send a message, the threat to our protagonist’s way of life is palpable.
Andrea asks the final question, “What do we do now?”, and it’s a very important question. What do you believe they should do? Is this where Rick sics Negan on them like the rabid dog we know he can be? Is it better to do as Alpha asks, or will the desire for vengeance be too great to ignore? Michonne may want blood for Ezekial, Eugene will most certainly demand some justice, not just for Rosita but for her unborn child, and what of the killing of young kids? Alpha may have set some very clear physical boundaries, but she obviously knows no moral boundaries… for as she proclaimed, our concepts of morality are over. How will our group react when they discover that Rick and Carl are returning with the daughter of the leader of the group that just murdered 12 of their people?
So many questions, and the end of an amazing arc. What at times felt disjointed, and I heard some complaints over what appeared to be smaller moments, tiny vignettes of what people were doing at the fair, turned out to be a plan to highlight the individuals who would eventually end up on pikes. Now Magna’s group has skin in the game, and anybody who was put off by Maggie’s decision to kill Gregory can regroup and join together in their mutual hatred of this new brutal group.
For as little we have known about the Whisperers since they first appeared, I think it’s fair to say we now know enough about them to form an opinion… and it can’t be a good one.
The Walking Dead never ceases to surprise us… well played Mr. Kirkman, well played indeed.
Mr. Blahg can be heard, along with his co-host Grace, weekly on Under the Comic Covers, a podcast dedicated to independent comics, as well as Game of Microphones, a podcast dedicated to Game of Thrones. Both of these podcasts are part of the Podcastica Network. Have any comments or questions for Mr. Blahg, he can be reached at [email protected].