Contributing Author: Jove Rodriguez
Release Date: July 11, 2012
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer(s): Robert Kirkman
Artists(s): Charlie Adlard
Cover Price: $3.99 (variant covers vary in price)
At the end of issue #99 the protagonists of our fair story, although alert, are seemingly and unknowingly about to enter into a nightmare, one of hyper-violence, pain, rape, savagery and despair. Issue #100 opens with the cliché montage of scenes describing who is where and what they’re doing: such as Andrea patrolling the Alexandria perimeter and the homosexual couple, Aaron and Eric, grimly confirming what little ammunition they have. While the Alexandria Safe-Zone Community goes about their busy bid for survival, outside the gates Rick and the rest of the original survivors (+1) are headed to the newly allied community called the Hilltop. Rick’s mission being the acquisition of more men and Glenn’s being a strong desire to leave Alexandria and join the Hilltop, for the safe and better future of his growing family. With hope, determination, and worry expressed we are quickly reminded that atrocity awaits.
The Saviors, the new antagonists, begin to mobilize so that they are ready to launch an assault against Alexandria at dawn. On the road to the Hilltop, night falls and the survivors are forced to stop and wait out the night. As per the rules of story telling, every major character has entered a situation in which, like a porn star, they’ll have to be fucked. But, this isn’t going to be the acceptable mainstream pornography; it is going to be the desensitized type, the type that has been the basis of the past 10 years of horror, prison, and Deadman’s favorite films. Negan has his goons line up Maggie, Glenn, Carl, Sophia (whom never died on Hershel’s farm), Rick, Michonne, and the black replica of Glenn, on their knees ready to be butchered. Then Negan—like every villain in the history of fiction—tells Rick and his endangered colleagues how things are going to be from that moment forward. And so follows the child killings, the rape of the men, and the enslavement of the women… actually everyone is going to get raped and killed there and then, if not used up more elsewhere and then slaughtered. At least this is what Negan promises in a monologue that is composed mostly of the word “fuck”. The other 30 percent of his vocabulary articulates fully, that the situation Rick has gotten his group into is one they are going to suffer. Nothing is going to stop what is coming. It is the proverbial moment when a protagonist is going to be broken. No one knows yet how, but it is always something to fear.
Yet, while reading the issue, the looming dread had evaporated and something else settled in, not a fear for the characters, but one for the The Walking Dead series itself. During this series hopes have been crushed, shock has been achieved, and desires for villains to be eliminated violently had been stoked and fulfilled. But during all this time these events and others have been repeated. It begs the question, “what now the goal of the storyteller?”. The replayed elements that stand out correlate with issue #100′s grand promise of terrible violence. The looming attack, the capturing of members from the Survival Group, the villains threatening and the eventual doom of a beloved character. The fact that events such as these happen is one reason that The Walking Dead is an amazing series, but with these being repeated the bane of a good series looms, and this bane is named stagnation.
Readers have experienced the killing of the role of the Lieutenant repeatedly. They’ve witnessed the actions of mad men and the harm they brought to the group. And time and again they would have to move on from a potential sanctuary in search for another; followed by having all of these events washed away by a tide of zombies and mayhem. This time, so far, it is not different. This time, the villain of the story threatens a slew of past occurrences. Other than threatening Rick with the Aceveda situation(see episode 5 of season three of The Shield). He threatens Michonne with what happened back at Woodbury. He threatens Carl with what almost happened to him on a highway to Washington D.C. And implies the basic “what happ’ns round hurr tuh wimen ‘n these parts” towards Maggie and Sophia. But, what brings about the fear of stagnation is the appearance and demeanor of Negan.
Negan is reminiscent of Chris, leader of the hunters, (the ones that ate Dale’s leg after they captured him. After he was bitten and wandered off to go die, alone. Not wherever he died, by whatever fucking means he clocks out in the show.) and of the Governor of Woodbury. Even though each of these bastards differ in appearance and expression they all represent the survival of the fittest mentality. It just happens to be that Negan is a gang leader that extorts survivor communities, Chris lead a group of cannibals, and the Governor lead a settlement in which he murdered survivors to keep his citizens entertained. Each of these psychopaths have presented terrible realities to the Survivor Group and each has made good on hurting Rick’s Aftermath family.
And this is what may be the problem. One may not accurately guess as to where the story is going but at one time the perception was that the series would end at issue #100. The flow of the series did point to such a thing with events like the discovery of Alexandria, said safe-zone’s imminent fall, and the bullet wound that made Carl a corpse… correction—cyclops. At that moment, the feeling was like the story would be one of a journey with a positive/negative climax, or one that the audience would be left to imagine an ultimate end. Instead it happens that Kirkman has ultimately settled to continue the series. In doing so he has to fight off that dragging feeling. The one that claimed that shows like Lost, The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica and a myriad of others were lame. Is it possible that the supreme antagonist was revealed too early in the Governor? Or with the styles of hunter, tyrant, gangster, and bandits having been presented, which villain archetype is to follow? Will it be the warlord, paranoia or the fabled champion falling to the Dark Side? As such he will have to be vigilant until he can bring about a conclusion.
Even though there is some repetition, the one thing the story of The Walking Dead has in its favor is the realism of an apocalyptic aftermath. The thing the story does so well, arguably the best, is presenting what the real danger in such a world is, other people. On the side of Romero, 28 Days Later, The Road and several other stories, Kirkman has got it right when it comes to “what dangers lie in a world after…”. And whether by accident or calculation the medium affords him to express events, though similar, and vary them through scale. With the series maintaining a supreme rating for entertainment thus far, this issue has lived up to the story arc’s title in more ways than one. Hopefully, the story will progress further into a positive world where the remaining survivors can finally rest. Or will it end in a prolonged engagement of horror and sadness that is the world of The Walking Dead? Either way, it is up to Kirkman to keep it fresh and not let anything bring the life of this story to a grinding halt. Like when Negan ended [SPOILER]Glenn’s story by spilling his brains out like a thick gazpacho onto the street.[/SPOILER] It was fucked up. [SPOILER]Glenn was crying out for Maggie[/SPOILER] and everyone had to watch. I’d equate it to someone ordering sweet ‘n sour chicken and throwing it on the ground. Everyone had to watch.