Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trade Waiting – The Waking Dead Vol 13: Too Far Gone

By this stage, it can be hard to review a trade of this series. Robert Kirkman doesn’t write in defined arcs that can stand alone, though this trade does encapsulate what I would call the second half of the introductory arc for this new status quo in the title. It’s a solid trade that shows this title is still on top of its game even while the TV show hogs all the limelight. Hit the jump to see what I thought of Too Far Gone, and expect there to be some spoilers.

The Walking Dead Vol 13 – Too Far Gone

Written by Robert Kirkman
Pencilled by Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones by Cliff Rathburn
Letters by Rus Wooten

Those who are still alive and part of the main cast have wandered into a nice and safe gated community. There are homes to live in, food to eat, jobs to fulfill, and no zombies on the prowl. It’s an oasis and so Rick approaches the situation with all of the knowledge he has learned from many hard lessons; he doesn’t trust any of it. He doesn’t trust the people, he doesn’t trust the situation, he doesn’t trust the motivations or history behind it all. The fearless leader has lost trust and you can’t blame him, not if you’ve been reading closely along with the series.

One main aspect of this trade centers around the fact that the group had to surrender their weapons upon entry to the community. Rick doesn’t like this and so he and Glen set into place their plan to steal a few of their guns back. It’s a simple heist and one that is successful. It’s nice to see that Rick isn’t doing this to stage a coup, he just wants to protect his own. To boil it down, he just wants to protect his son. It’s a real mindset to have and I like that Kirkman is so adept at writing these scenes and ideas so truthfully. You can see how the character gets into the place they currently reside in and you understand their outlook on how to forge further into their world alive.

Rick has been chosen as the cop of the community, he patrols and doesn’t really need to do all that much. It’s an easy job, or at least should be except for the fact we know that in this comic the danger isn’t the flesh-eating dead that have been reanimated, instead it usually stems from the other humans in the scenery. Rick still has great intuition and he sees the worst in one of the men, a family man, and his instincts prove to be right. It’s just his methods that prove wrong. Rick brings violence into this place of peace and it could be easy to see Rick as the problem. He provokes the fight and afterward he is the unreasonable one. He draws his gun, he threatens the leader of the community, and he shows himself as a liability.

It is then interesting that the leader, Douglas, still sees the good in Rick. It would be so easy to have the two become opponents and a face off would be great drama, but it isn’t in the character. Kirkman has always been good at throwing curve balls and instead he has Douglas temper the situation and a compromise is affected. When the man Rick attacked comes back with further retribution, and proves Rick right in his assumptions, it shows them all that Rick is good at his job and is a necessity in their new society. Rick is like a mirror shown up to this community, he shows them what is wrong with them but he is also the only way to locate the problem and then lance it.

This trade ends on a great moment where Douglas realizes that Rick can do better for the group. After the community is attacked by a ruthless gang of outsiders intent on staging a violent intervention, the only cause for survival is Rick’s knowledge and diligent planning. Rick and his gang are soldiers who have earned their stripes in the outside world. Douglas and his people are too pampered, they just don’t know enough to be able to handle any situation. Rick can, will, and always does. So Douglas hands over the reins of the group to Rick. It’s a moment that must have been so hard for Douglas to do, and there’s no way Kirkman could have forced it to happen, but it all lines up to make the most sense. Rick is a leader, like it or lump it, and people respond to that. Even other leaders, it would appear.

It’s interesting to note that even while making mistakes, Rick manages to get to the good conclusion in the end. He’s a man who has cracked in the past, and even if he feels he’s got himself relatively straight you can still see the breaks in him. You can glue the vase together but you can’t pretend it’s not still just a collection of pieces now, no longer a whole. But even half a Rick is worth more than two of most other people. Though two other characters do show themselves as the possible people to usurp thrones on their own as well.

Michonne is Rick’s deputy and, while she keeps a low profile in this trade, she does pop up on occasion to tell Rick where his mistakes are being made. She’s in a place where she feels settled, she’s retired her blade, and you get the strong impression she just wants to get on with having a normal life. Rick is a constant reminder of what she had been like. She wants him better so she can feel better.

My favorite aspect of this trade, however, is the tale of Abraham Ford. He’s been set to do grunt work for the community and quickly learns that these people aren’t the hard fighters he’s used to aligning himself with. A lady finds herself in distress and his boss works to ensure the men stay safe instead of rushing to her aid. Abraham isn’t that sort of guy so he breaks formation and does what needs to be done, which he is more than capable of doing. It’s a great moment of leadership for Abraham and it shows the difference between these two groups. Abraham knows how to survive and it leads to a great line of dialogue as Abraham can’t believe how the men reacted to the danger as he screams at them, “What the fuck is a ‘phalanx?!’ It’s a great laugh, that much I’ll say.

Abraham then becomes the leader of his work group, he just naturally assumes the role and even the previous leader can’t argue it. He understands his men require what Abraham can bring for them. It’s a brilliant precursor to Douglas also handing of the responsibility of the larger group.

There’s also room for an Andrea subplot, and it’s something she deserves. A young buck in the community has taken a liking to her but she’s still too shell shocked to truly be able to do anything. It’s another example of Kirkman greatly writing these people and their emotions. Every decision is a state of flux and that’s a very true thing to see.

By the end of this trade, you’re in a new status quo that kind of feels like you’ve seen it before but also feels like it could go in many directions. This gated community isn’t exactly like the prison and the group is very different to all of those who lived there. This isn’t living in a location usually reserved for hardened criminals, this is trying to recreate the society we all once knew. It’s a pipe dream of something that is entirely impossible. It has to be impossible because if the characters truly return to the old ways then they’ll get soft, and soft people do not survive in this world. It should lead to great future stories.

Massive commendation should go to Charlie Adlard who completely owns these characters and constantly does so in a consistent and timely manner. The title has shipped steadily for some time now and Adlard always makes the characters come alive on the page. He paces his action well, his zombies are first rate, and there’s little to fault him about here. He is the visual heart of this title and it would be a shock to see this comic through any other lens.

Verdict – Must Read. Kirkman continues to do his very best work on this title. It’s real human emotion on every page and honest reactions and evolution for everyone on each page. It’s always astounding to find each trade of this title just as enjoyable as the last. We see here that there are many leaders within Rick’s group, and they are all much more prepared for life than the people hiding in this gated community. Rick is the new leader, for now, but certainly things in the future will change. This comic is always a perfect mixture of set up, capitalization, and just true characterization.

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Dennis N said...

The Walking Dead is the comic I geek out the most over. It's the best out there, bar none. This is and Vol 12 are good trades, clearly starting a longer arc that TWD is known for. Status quo was a good word choice. I think it's an improvement over Fear the Hunters, which was a standalone trade, which is great to push onto new readers. Despite having the trademark depravity, I didn't think it captured the strength of TWD, which is the slow, methodical length, where you know this is going over forever. This is life.

Anonymous said...

I love this series but I do not understand why they do not publish a new edition with colors. The colored covers look awesome, the full color show is amazing so the next step in the evolution ot the walking dead should be a new colored trade. I own some original issues, some trades and if a new colored series is published I wouldn't mind to own it as well as it really worths it.


Anonymous said...

i think now the characters find the new prison to live in, and its gonna be a lot of issues in this particular situation

craig said...

"a new prison to live in" actually think he would rehash that

Ken said...

Abraham is a character that revitalized the series after the drawn out Prison and Governor stories, so hopefully Kirkman doesn't screw the pooch in killing him by the end of the next arc, which has been teased in those promo pieces.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Dennis - You said it better than me, man. The Hunters was a great arc, but it felt like a breather between bigger things. I was surprised Kirkman didn't drag that one out for at least one more trade, it could have easily and well been done.

@Enrique - no way do I want colour in this series. The B&W works just perfectly for it and I feel that if colour were injected I'd just be out of my element with it.

@Ken - I am absolutely loving Abraham. The man is just something special, that's for sure, and I definitely hope they don't kill him off - though that's half the fun of the series, no one is safe.

Dennis N said...

Craig, I think #3 was saying that the town they're in now has become a new prison, no matter how idyllic it appears. I'd say that's a really good insight into what's going on and how the characters have been acting.

Daryll B. said...

You'll like this one Ryan. Yesterday I was at the local Barnes & Noble picking up the first Ultimate Comics Spider Man trade when a man and woman approached me about Walking Dead. I told them to just thumb through the first trade to see if it is to their liking....

Later that night my sister is relating the story of her day, and she told me she went in to pick up the latest Anita Blake collection and told me about a couple who were reading through stacks of the Walking Dead...

I laughed out loud saying "I guess I am no better than a "comic drug pusher" at this point....

As far as this new situation goes Craig, Rick may indeed feel that this is a new prison. One that is better looking with a better climate but due to prior experiences (see trades 9-11 for that) he will never feel comfortable in ANY situation.

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