The battle has begun in this issue of The Walking Dead, and it’s a messy one. Dwight has done the best that he could for Rick’s army, but the sheer number of walkers and the tactics employed by the Whisperers evens the odds and makes this messy. We also catch glimpses of the various communities, including some who refuse to help Rick, which leaves open what will happen if the war goes pear-shaped in subsequent issues. Warning: I will be discussing spoilers.
Gabriel, who spotted the oncoming horde last issue panics and tries to flee, but breaks his leg and is killed by Beta and the coming walkers. While some of the communities refuse to send aid to Rick, most notably Dwight’s old group, the Hilltop and the Kingdom do send people to help. When Dwight’s people finally encounter the army, it’s a bloodbath on both sides: the walkers are easily mowed down, but they provide enough cover for Whisperers to close the distance and begin picking off soldiers. In the course of the battle, Negan and Beta come face to face, ready to fight to the death.
Gabriel’s death was a messy and inglorious one, but that was basically in keeping with his character. He’d fled or been a coward before, and seeing that kind of horde closing in on you tests just about every character’s nerves in this issue. That aspect of the battle really felt right, actually. Despite all of the training and preparation, everybody was nervous going into it, and it wasn’t some easy target shoot for the survivors. On the contrary, it goes right to a messy place.
I did feel like the large number of panels on a given page was less effective in this issue than it was last time. In #157, we were waiting for the battle to begin, and each panel helped to build the tension, as well as let us see what key characters were doing. It doesn’t work quite as well here, in part because the non-battle sequences keep interrupting the flow of the battle, and in part because we visit so many characters who we don’t really know that it doesn’t feel very personal. It’s a different story for the battle, where at least it allows for a lot to happen (albeit at the expense of artwork depicting the battle).
I’m surprised that we’ve gone to a Negan-Beta fight so quickly; it’s hard to imagine any fight ending before one (or both) of them is killed, and it would make for unusual pacing. But maybe Beta’s death wouldn’t actually mean very much. With the horde unleashed and his men wearing down Rick’s army, even if the Whisperers are killed or driven away, the walkers can remain and wreak havoc in what Rick built. If that happens, any victory will be a Pyrrhic one.
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Walking Dead #158 Writer: Robert Kirkman Artist: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn Publisher: Image/Top Cow Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital