Written by Guest Contributor: Jordan North Robert Kirkman has balls. Big ones. Who else do you know in a comic that without reservation makes the villain the most undeniably entertaining guy on the page? I haven’t loved to hate, (and hated to love) a character so much as Negan in recent memory.
Taking place in essentially one location, instead of outright action the issue favors master-class tension building. Rick Grimes is in a bad spot. A really bad spot. The actions he took last issue didn’t pay off, and how spontaneous and badass those actions were makes the scene we’re given here all the more trying to witness. I shouted with joy with everyone else last issue when Rick decided enough was enough and orchestrated an impromptu attack against Negan and his forces and while it was a superior act of badassitude it just... wasn’t enough.
The funny thing is I’m kind of okay with that, if only to get to see an irate Negan redefine the nature of the term “Batshit” for a bit longer. This is a character that can make a nursery rhyme joke just before vowing to beat a child to death with a baseball bat. And the terrible part is—you laugh. Very few characters are written with such a unique voice. I simultaneous am telling myself how I’ll never meet someone like this in real life and thinking how I wouldn’t be too surprised if the guy came around the corner any minute. He’s just that convincing as a real person. It’s chilling. It’s entertaining. It’s great writing.
While Rick is at the whim of Negan on the ground Andrea is dealing with a shit-show all her own in her sniper tower. As a guy with a machete creeps up behind her Andrea begins a fight for her life. The struggle is symbolic for Rick’s group. Overpowered, overwhelmed, Andrea refuses to give up and in the end, when all looks lost and it appears the woman’s limp body falls from the tower we get the line that I think will represent Negan’s undoing. “We. Don’t. Die.” Despite it all, despite being bloodied and broken Andrea just... refused to let it be her. That’s what Rick and his group have always been about. It’s their ace in the hole.
As always with Kirkman’s writing it’s the little things, the bit of human psychology and interest that make this issue shine. Andrea’s tormentor telling her, “ I really feel bad about this”, telling her he understands how much she’s gone through and how it’s a pity for her to have to die even as he chokes the life out of her. Negan’s humanizing of his baseball bat, Lucille, “I’d fuck her if I could” he even admits to rubbing little Negan against the bat sometimes which is disturbing enough before you remember it has barbed wire covering it. Negan hilariously making fun of Carl for having one eye. The chills of seeing Andrea, beaten to hell, still clinging onto hope after beating her attacker. Adding to the mix is Charlie Adlard's minimalist and always spot on face/body artwork. All this comes together to make this universe feel real, which is so important for a book that is, ultimately, about people and how they deal with seemingly insurmountable circumstances. In this, as usual, Kirkman and his team knock it out of the park.
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Skybound Entertainment and Image Comics
Release Date: 8/14/13