A beautifully drawn story that bares little resemblance to what this series once was.
The Walking Dead #100 was promised as a game-changing issue for the months leading up to it. The brutal death of fan-favorite character Glenn at the hands of the new, psychopathic Negan character fulfilled those promises of change in a big way.
Now, “All Out War” is hyped to do change the series in equally drastic ways.
Halfway through the event, you’ll find that the creative team is mostly living up to the hype. One much more so than the other.
First off is Charlie Adlard. Adlard is one of the absolute best in the business to me. I was surprised to read an old issue of Peter Parker: Spider-Man recently with art by Adlard. It was a story (not a particularly good one) involving Peter saving Mary Jane who had been held captive by a villain for several months. What struck me about that issue is how similar Adlard’s style remains to this day while also translating well to a different genre.
What that story showed, in conjunction with some 100-plus issues of The Walking Dead, is that Adlard is a master of bringing out the darkness in humanity. He has a way of drawing characters expressions that reveal deep dark secrets.
His work blows me still blows me away to this day and it’s testament that his work remains this strong with the increased shipping schedule. Part of that credit has to go to Stefano Gaudiano, who has stepped in to the inking duties for Adlard. I don’t want to say that the book necessarily looks better with Gaudiano inking than Adlard, but it at least looks just as good in a slightly different way. Lines and shading feel more sure in Gaudiano’s hands. The book has a clearer and crisper look to it.
Now that we’ve covered the art side, the writing deserves a mention as well. Robert Kirkman never seems to run out of ideas and I find that really impressive. The idea that the rebuilding of humanity will first take a war to accomplish is a really interesting idea, and as cynical as to be expected of this book.
The way that this war is advancing is a sight to behold. The amount of strategy that had to go into this story to pull it off must have been insane. And Kirkman always introduces a new wrinkle into the combat. The grenades added a new terrifying element made me tense reading any scene, just waiting for an inevitable explosion.
Negan is as hilariously demented as ever. But while I like the idea and execution of his character, I still find it hard to reconcile the dark comedy of Negan with a world that used to so closely resemble our own. And I think that is Kirkman’s point about how far down humanity has gone in recent years, but the new lows of humanity aren’t as gripping as the more human drama in the farm or prison.
The characters have lost their nuance in the last year. Kirkman keeps putting them in a spot to either kill or be killed, but that’s not compelling anymore because we already know they are capable of killing. We aren’t learning anything new about what they’re willing to do to survive.
At the same time too many characters have been introduced too quickly for us to really care about their fates, and those that leave a lasting impact (like Ezekial or Negan) are often too over-the-top to believe in as a real character. I’m also tired of Kirkman going to the old well of characters and realizing that the only way to create drama is to threaten Carl’s life. It’s been done too many times before to care when he suffers burns from a grenade. It feels like it has all gone too far. In turning the characters into ultimate badasses who can kill anyone and are missing eyes or hands, all impact is lost when a character once again suffers yet another in a long line of injuries.
Ultimately I like the darkly comic war story, but not as a new chapter in The Walking Dead. My hope is that when this story is done it will leave our characters in a place where they have to rebuild. A place where we can get back to the character study that this book once was, with stories of living, breathing human beings fighting to stay alive in a world where the dead walk.
Robert Kirkman (W), Charlie Adlard (A) • Image Comics