By Robert Larson
The war with the Whisperers becomes more serious in this issue. At first, it was a battle between the Whisperers and Rick’s army, and the people who were dying were soldiers. Their deaths could be expected to a certain extent. But now that both the Whisperers and Rick’s men have split up, the individual communities are being forced to man their own battlements against the enemy. Just how violent it will be is still unclear, but it’s going to be hard to undo this damage, especially since Rick is now facing a new internal challenge. Warning: I will be discussing spoilers here.
Dwight’s scheme to infiltrate one of the groups pays off and he and the others make short of the Whisperers there. But that’s only one of the groups, and when Beta recovers from his duel with Negan, another larger group makes its way to the Hilltop. When they get there, a volley of flaming arrows sets the colony in flames and brings the gate crashing down, leaving Maggie scrambling to save her children and loved ones. The Whisperers think they’ve come for Lydia, but Lydia makes it clear that she doesn’t want to leave by killing one of the Whisperers. Elsewhere, the refusal of the Saviors to join the fight means that some people are already afraid that they might try and make a grab for power once the war is over.
The attack on the hilltop has a cinematic quality and improves one the battle scenes from earlier this arc, which have suffered from having too many panels all the time. We get a few nice big shots of the attack, the flaming arrows, and the melee between survivors and walkers. Elsewhere, the sixteen-panel style is still around and still bothering me, but they’ve at least dialed back a bit on it.
The battles themselves aren’t the most interesting parts of the issue, though. There aren’t any major deaths, though we’re certainly set up for a few more. Lydia taking a stand and shooting down a Whisperer pretty well answers which side she’s on. How is that going to affect the Whisperers? At least some of them thought they were coming to rescue her because it’s what Alpha would have wanted, but that just exploded. Will they withdraw and say they’ve had enough, or double down on this destructive war?
And more interestingly to me, what about the Saviors? We don’t really have strong insight into what they want, and I think that’s the point right now. They’re holding back their troops at a time when everybody else is in crisis, which gets everybody else thinking about what their next move might be. It could undo all of the trust Rick has tried to build up among these people, feeding simultaneous resentment and distrust about what the Saviors are planning. With the communities vulnerable after this war, it could be the bigger disaster from all of this.
That would be an interesting lesson from all of this. Rick gambled that the threat from the Whisperers would make the community stronger by giving them a threat to unite against, but maybe that threat will ultimately end up dividing them all. Wouldn’t that be an interesting lesson?
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Image Comics