This brings us up to issue #150 of the ongoing series and it’s a much happier milestone than the previous major one. You know, where Negan beat Glenn to death (which is still what I’m expecting to see happen on the TV show, but that’s another story). After the stealth pre-emptive strike against Alexandrea by Alpha, the leader of the Whispers, that left a lot of people with their heads on pikes as a warning, Rick now has to preserve order in a very frightened and angry community. The panic manifests in ways both subtle — a distraught Eugene noting that they have Alpha’s daughter to use as leverage — and violent as Rick is beaten nearly to death one by some citizens who want to send a message. It’s a very credible look at mob violence and even as you hope for Rick to find a way to get things under control, the feelings and (to a certain extent) actions of these people ring true.
That Rick does find a way to unite everyone and set forth a plan to take out the Whispers should not surprise anyone. What should give readers some pause is how Negan figures into it. Kirkman has sworn that the former leader of the Saviors will never leave the cell he’s currently in. However, we’ve already seen that’s not going to stop him from messing with the minds of anyone who decides to pay him a visit. Or, in this case, offering Rick counsel on the crisis at hand with possibly a side order of manipulation. What Negan has to say about the threat of the Whispers is really on point and delivered with the same kind of entertainingly foul-mouthed magnetism that has always made his appearances memorable. I’d say “fun,” but you also have to consider the times he shows up to murder characters I like.
Even if it is mostly just setup for the next major phase of the series, this volume shows that you can still deliver worthwhile and compelling material in the process of doing so. There’s a lot in this volume that speaks to the current state of our own world, and as ugly as things are with “The Walking Dead” it’s still reassuring to see that Rick Grimes is around to lead the good guys. At least, until Kirkman finally decides to kill him — because that’s what happens to reassuring things in this world.