By Robert Larson
This is an oddly lifeless issue of The Walking Dead (har har). The battle between the Whisperers and Rick’s people ends in a kind of stalemate, which makes most of the fighting filler for what comes next. Paradoxically, the most interesting moments occur off the battlefield, as there’s a hidden threat in the Kingdom that might derail some of Rick’s plans. But that can’t change the fact that this is a thoroughly middling issue, some filler on the way to something else. Warning: I will be discussing spoilers in this review.
The battle resumes, with Negan and Beta dueling for a while before Negan gets the upper-hand. Just as he’s about to get the upper-hand though, Lucille shatters, and Beta’s followers manage to drag him off the field. Facing a second wave, Dwight and his men split off into different groups to try and draw the hoard away, while targeting a few of the Whisperers to try and steal their masks. Back at the Hilltop, Lydia tells Carl that she doesn’t actually love him, despite him claiming that it’s just an attempt to make sure she doesn’t get hurt, and members of the Kingdom argue over whether it was a good idea to send their best men to help Rick.
Dwight’s plan to infiltrate the Whisperer’s ranks is a good one, and one I didn’t exactly see coming. As for the rest of the issue, it fell kind of flat. I get that Lucille shattering was supposed to be sort of shocking, but it just seemed like an easy way to get Beta out of trouble. It’s not as though the average reader is likely to be sympathetic: it’s the same bat that killed Glenn, after all. And Negan’s reaction is more of the same “Negan is crazy” moments that have been everywhere in the last few issues. They’re fine, and I like the complicated, possible redemption of Negan, but I can’t really care about his baseball bat.
I find myself starting to get tired of the sixteen panels in a page. It was really effective for the first issue of this arc because it built up the tension before the battle began, as well as made room for additional dialogue. But it’s not being used for the latter right now, as the non-battlefield sequences are more traditionally presented. Instead, it offers little snippets of battle, but I don’t want those: panoramas are good for battle sequences. In cramming too much into the issue, they’re omitting quality scenes that would be more fun to read.
And what about Carl and Lydia? That to me might be interesting, assuming that Lydia wasn’t lying when she said that she doesn’t love him. I mean, why should she? She’s an incredibly traumatized girl who barely knows him. But then, what’s the point of this arc? I used to think that she was playing a game by trying to work her way inside Rick’s group, but everything Alpha said really threw a lot of doubt: she seemed genuinely interested in Lydia’s safety, not in planting a mole. Is she just a confused kid? Honestly, that’s the most like explanation, but it doesn’t exactly make for riveting reading. It would be a poignant tragedy if this girl helped start a war and she wasn’t even sure what she wanted by running away, but it makes for dull reading in the meantime.
Perhaps next issue will be a little juicier. Dwight’s attempt to try and eliminate the Whisperers from the inside probably won’t be that neat, but there should at least be some drama with it.
Walking Dead #159
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Image Comics