Even the very issue number of next week’s Walking Dead tells you so much. One One One. Three figures standing against what is to come.
Walking Dead #111 is about leaders. It’s where this story has been heading towards, but this issue makes it very clear. There are weak leaders, strong leaders, insane leaders, but all of them men – and it is just men – who have been willing to stand on a stage and for people who are willing to listen. And so many people need a leader, to gather, to organise, to devolve power and responsibility towards.
Sometimes it’s charisma, sometimes it’s a threat, sometimes it’s because no one else will. There’s no democracy here, just what people will go along with, and why.
We have Ezekiel, a mad king with a tiger, who puts on a show that the people are happy to buy into, if only so they can share in that delusion too.
Negan, who rules with fear yet believes he is a good man, doing what is necessary but reaping his rewards.
Gabriel, whose source of power unravels, as Jesus takes the moral authority.
And then there’s Rick, with his outward plan and his inward plan, with plots against him that are beyond his awareness, yet find their own way of working out. Because no one can plan for everything.
And it’s also about their relationship with women. Loving for, respecting, being pitied by and abusing. It defines them more than anything else and, in this story at least, that’s their role, testing and defining the men. Some people will have a problem with that, but it does subvert stereotypical roles, and the flow of power, especially in Gabriel’s case. Despite Charlie’s heavily defined black on whites, the morals are still anything but.
Right now, and quite intentionally Walking Dead is as Shakespearian as all hell. Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar… Plots upon plots on plots, strategy and guesswork, loyalty and luck. Theres even a fucking King. But the best laid plans of mice, men and zombies aft gan a glae….
Walking Dead #111 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard is published by Image Comics next Wednesday.