Walking Dead #69

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard
32 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

I have a confession to make. I stopped reading The Walking Dead a few years ago. As much as I’d enjoyed the early storylines, the series started coming across a little too grim and unforgiving. That’s a slightly strange comment to make about a story where the world is taken over by zombies, but it just got to be too much. For better or for worse, Rick and company simply couldn’t catch a break at any time. Everything always went badly before too long, and it was an ongoing crawl through barbed wire. But when I heard that The Walking Dead was (at least temporarily) locating to Washington DC, I had to give it another shot. The lure of the book being set where I’ve lived for over 35 years was a little too hard to ignore.

The comic starts off with a self-aware moment that simultaneously reassured and worried me; The Walking Dead‘s protagonist Rick is being rebuked by some of his fellow survivors for being unable to trust the new group of humans who have offered to take them in. "Now matter how hard I try—I just can’t take that at face value," he admits. One of the characters agrees, noting, "You can be skeptical all you want—by all means be miserable at this place. Just don’t ruin it for the rest of us." It’s as if Kirkman has turned to the audience and admitted two things. First, the ludicrously high level of disaster that seems to follow Rick, and second, that it will probably come again. Like the historical Typhoid Mary working at a new kitchen, it makes you wonder if these new people see the black cloud hovering above Rick’s head, letting the bearer of disaster into their home.

That said, I found myself excited in spite of my concerns. Charlie Adlard has taken great care with photo references of the DC area to get it "right." Buildings are the correct height, the Beltway, even the Tidal Basin. The expedition into DC itself to rescue trapped members of the new community is exciting and gets your pulse racing a little bit; I’d forgotten how much fun an issue of The Walking Dead could be. So while I got the added bonus of seeing my home town overrun with zombies and our characters trying to dash in and out, it’s still strong overall. When the mystery of how this new group of survivors has survived is finally revealed, it felt like a bit of déjà vu to an earlier set-up, but at the same time it’s still believable. I’m hoping that future issues have more about "what life is like here" and less of "must keep fighting zombies" going on; it’s the ideas of pockets of survivors and how they get on with their lives that ultimately enthralls me.

Adlard’s art, as mentioned before, captures the DC area surprisingly well. I don’t want to take away from the fact, though, that in general it’s excellently drawn. I didn’t recognize half of the characters but they were all distinct from one another, looking like real people instead of faceless masses that surround Rick. He’s also good with action, something I hadn’t remembered from my earlier The Walking Dead experiences. You can practically see the people sprinting and scrambling in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where the rescue takes place; a combination of tight focused drawings, large wide shots to show the entire scene, and a strong sense of movement keeps the reader’s view of the action forever shifting and bobbing around, never letting you get complacent as you read the book.

This was a startlingly fun comic. I’m afraid that in time we’re going to end up with everything in ruins and Rick and company back on the road again, but until that happens I think I might just have to stick around and see what happens next. I’m kicking myself for having given my old The Walking Dead collections to a friend a few years ago, but perhaps this is an excuse to finally pick up some of the newer, slick-looking hardbacks. Congratulations, Kirkman and Adlard, you’ve pulled me back into the fold.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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