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.
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.
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.
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.
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.