By Jared Cornelius
Welcome back to Typing on The Dead, Bleeding Cool’s recap and review of The Walking Dead. After a few months of up and down content, this issue provided a return to form for Robert Kirkman and the gang. With the narrative all over the place thanks to the ever growing cast, the story has mostly been told through one or two page segments, making me long for the days of a handful of survivors for a more cohesive narrative. But this issue was very different, this issue was absolutely stunning and was an exercise in suspense, shock, and loss and is a shining example that the series can still pull off big moments well. As always, *SPOILER WARNING* for the remainder of the article.
The Walking Dead #144 by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard
Picking up right where we left off, we gaze upon a writhing mega herd of zombies settled around a building complex. Alpha warns Rick to stand back as she doesn’t want him getting their attention. She tells Rick that members of her Whisperers are among the dead, to try and corral them, but apparently there’s only so much they can do to control them. Rick asks what Alpha wants, but that’s the thing, Alpha wants nothing from Rick or his people.
Alpha remarks about how she’s been to Alexandria and walked around telling him his people have built a shrine to a long dead world. She continues to taunt Rick saying he’s playing a game of make believe and goes on a diatribe about how they’re really animals who pretend they’re not. She further espouses the virtues of her Whisperers, telling Rick they’re living as people were meant too, not as his people are as slaves to petty desires. Alpha’s biggest point is her people have accepted the gift of freedom the world has offered them. Rick gets agitated and tells Alpha she’s full of shit, asking if the people she led felt free. Alpha replies that they are, but Rick asks if the freedom to wear human skin, sleep in the cold, and answer to her means freedom. Alpha lives up to her name as she explains that every pack needs a dominant alpha and if there is no alpha it creates chaos, saying she’ll only keep the role until another steps up to take it from her.
At the Whisperer camp, Carl’s trying to assure Lydia he’s not leaving without her, but Lydia’s not concerned about that as she tells Carl to run if he gets the chance. Carl slyly smiles and tells her she’s not getting rid of him, but Lydia isn’t joking as she says that her mother hates outsiders, and has only been toying with both Carl and his people to find out how dangerous they can be. Lydia continues by informing Carl his father’s presence and threats have only made it worse, claiming the outcome will be, “…really bad.”
It’s time to hit the road for Carl and Rick as he tells his son to pack it up. Carl is still steadfast in his decision not to leave Lydia, but Rick tells him they have a chance to leave in peace and he’ll carry Carl out if he has to. Carl finally pulls out his trump card and lets Rick know the men rape Lydia and Alpha allows it. Rick offers up a horrified gasp then asks Alpha if it’s true. Alpha shrugs it off, explaining that it’s part of nature, and far older than a word they’ve given power too. Lydia finally chimes in and tells Alpha that it wasn’t something she wanted to do, but her mother told her it was necessary and it shouldn’t bother her. The bigger issue is now knowing that Carl’s people won’t allow it and protect their people in a way her mother won’t clearly hurts the young girl. Alpha, now upset by this display of emotion says it’s weakness they can’t afford, grabbing Rick’s neck and squeezing. She tells Rick to remember the pain and remember how it made him feel.
Alpha continues on about how it’s not a world for emotion and not a world for victims and how it’s really a world for the strong. Lydia tries to console her mother, but gets a backhand for her troubles. Rick breaks up the mother daughter fight, and Alpha grabs him and brings him in for a parental chat.
She tells her men to stand down, and exiles Lydia to live with Rick and his weak ways. The visibly shaken Alpha turns her back to her daughter and tells the group she’s marked the boarder and they are not to cross it or her zombie horde will cross into theirs. The three walk off as Carl offers Lydia an apology, but she’s having a tough time as they walk away from the camp. They return to where Dante, Andrea, and Michonne were being held to find only a couple of dead bodies and the horses. Rick can tell there’s been a fight and orders the kids to grab the horses. While riding back, Carl asks his dad what he’s upset about, Rick replies that Alpha said something about marking the boarder, had blood on her machete, and they can’t find their friends so yeah, he’s a bit worried. Rick stops himself as they’ve arrived at the boarder of Whisperer territory, marked with severed heads on spikes.
The first marker is Olivia, who’s gone missing at her bread booth in Alexandria. Carl’s friend Josh, is also a marker along with Doc Carson’s brother. Tammy the mother of one of the boys Carl beat up, Luke from Magna’s group, a woman named Erin who was involved in a bake sale, Ken who you may remember from the first Whisperer encounter, another random woman named Erin who’s boyfriend believes she’s run off. One of the brewers from the Hilltop, who’s partner said he followed a bald headed woman to get some action, Oscar one of the horse wranglers from the Hilltop. Our final two are the big shockers, as we find Rosita’s head on a spike, and the final tragic nail in the coffin is King Ezekiel. Rick falls to the ground at the sight of his dead friends while Carl gives his father condolences. Our issue ends with Andrea, Michonne, and Dante arriving and asking what they do next.
Clap, clap, clap, clap, that was a tremendous issue. I’ve been bemoaning the fact that the larger cast was feeling like a hindrance to Kirkman’s story telling, and while I think there may be truth to that, this was a prime example of how great he can be when focused on a few characters. This issue was a return to the great feeling of classic Walking Dead, knowing that any time, any place, characters can die. While the significance of some of those characters could be called into question, we did have two major deaths that will no doubt have far reaching affects.
We might as well start with arguably the most interesting characters of the issue, The Whisperers. While being built up as a major threat, they often felt less dangerous than say the Governors men, or The Saviors and this issue changed that. Not only did we see Alpha’s nuclear option of the mega herd and find out even she didn’t have a complete grasp of it, but we also found she’s not afraid to make big bold statements to her people or her enemies. In a single issue she showed her daughter love by giving her a place where she could have some sort of life, but also took the initiative to decapitate a lot of people to make it known that The Whisperers weren’t to be trifled with. It was a very emotional issue as Adlard’s art shined thorough and showed the emotion and turmoil Alpha was feeling. You could see a person who was torn by the love of her daughter and the devotion to her principals. It’s another one of those little moments that goes a long way into making this an A+ issue.
So we already talked about the severed heads, let’s dive into that a bit more. Last time I said I didn’t believe Alpha had actually hurt anyone Rick was traveling with, and while that’s technically true, it didn’t stop her from murdering some people I really liked. By far the biggest death was the former King, Ezekiel. The jovial king as a terrific mix of George Clinton, Steve Irwin, and a little King Arthur. While it’s been some time since he used the actual king moniker he was a character that felt like a real and worthwhile addition to the expanded cast. The death of his tiger Shiva was a big hit, but Ezekiel’s death leaves a bigger hole than his beloved tigers. The big question is who’ll run The Kingdom now that he’s dead, and will his people want retribution? The obvious answer to the second question is yes, but being that we’ve yet to see The Kingdom in this brave new world, what has become of it since the jump forward in time? Michonne will obviously hit hard as when we’d last seen him, he was ready to try and reconcile with her, so my guess is she’ll be out for blood as well. Goodbye King Zeke, you were a fun character and a bright point in the series.
Our second big death was Eugene’s lover Rosita. While I’d been hot and cold on Rosita, I enjoyed her time traveling with the group before they arrived in Alexandria. She’d grown a lot since then and found an interesting niche with Eugene a man she could barely stand when they were on the road together. Her death will no doubt take a toll on Eugene, but also destroys the very interesting sub plot of who was the father of her baby. I’m sure it’s something that will still come up, I just thought that it would’ve been far more interesting to see Eugene try and cope with raising someone else’s child. While Rosita didn’t have the story beats that Ezekiel did, she too was an important member of the cast for some time and will be missed.
I feel like for most of the other characters it’s like the theme song version of Gilligan’s Island where they say “and the rest“. Sure Olivia, Carson, Luke, and Tammy had some significance, but no one else’s death hit as hard as Rosita and Ezekiel and no one was as important as Rosita and Ezekiel. Plenty of characters will be out for revenge you can be sure of that, but those deaths were really the trailers before the movie. Another Kirkman kudos while we’re talking about this, I read this issue digitally and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the next reveal. It’s a small thing, and something only a fraction of the readership will appreciate, but I enjoyed the tension.
So now as we’ve reflected on the deaths, we must look to the future. The obvious point of interest is a future conflict between the communities and The Whisperers, but will everyone be on the same side? We know Maggie has violated Rick’s sacred no killing rule and hasn’t told him yet, we also know that the Kingdom is now leaderless and The Saviors seemed to be unhappy in their current iteration. Will sides be drawn? Will new alliances be made? My biggest question is will Rick be willing to grant our dear old friend Negan a parole if it comes to war? Who knows but I sure do hope so. As we look to the future of The Walking Dead, some will say that the book lost its way, but I’m more inclined to say it’s going to bold new places. Yeah, I think the story takes a hit when it’s divided into too many directions, but I like the way Kirkman’s going with this and I’m eager to see what the future holds.
That’s all for this week folks, check out my other regular column, Sweet Release! where I talk about the weeks new video games.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast who’s in the full swing of summer. Come swing with him on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.