The Walking Dead #170 Review

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A critical new journey begins.

The Walking Dead is in the very early stages of crafting a new status quo. There’s plenty of uncertainty as various groups of characters go their separate ways to seek their respective fortunes. And even if that means a slow, methodical build-up to the next big conflict, uncertainty is usually a good thing with this series.

Granted, this issue does take a little time to find its groove. Robert Kirkman juggles quite a few different groups of characters in the first half, leading to a fairly plodding, dialogue-heavy opening. It is somewhat interesting to see parallels drawn between these various groups of characters, but at some point the sluggish pacing and emphasis on interpersonal chatter grows a bit tedious.

Fortunately, things pick up the farther removed the story gets from the Alexandria setting. Negan, as usual, is a fascinating character to follow, though not for the usual reason. He’s a very subdued character following his banishment.

There’s something sadly depressing about the sight of this normally boisterous villain reduced to talking to himself in the wild while stabbing zombies. Negan isn’t Negan without other people to torment, and it should be very interesting to see what he does to climb out of this rut.

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Michonne and Eugene’s expedition is easily the highlight of this issue, however. This is where the series has its greatest sense of urgency, both because the characters are making their way though uncharted, zombie-infested wilderness and because of the ambiguity surrounding their destination.

Are they about to forge a new alliance with like-minded survivors or stumble right into a trap? Again, uncertainty is a valuable asset for this series. Not to mention the sheer novelty of seeing an urban setting in this book for a change.

The comic has unfolded almost entirely in the rural Southeastern US over its long lifespan. We’ve seen little of how the zombie outbreak affected large cities, and this new status quo is affording Kirkman a valuable opportunity to make up for lost time. Charlie Adlard’s art experiences a similar rise in quality over the course of this issue..

Early on, the talking heads approach gives Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Stefano Gaudiano little to work with. But as the setting shifts, they’re able to craft some eye-popping, dramatic pages. A starkly rendered zombie attack set in the middle of the night serves as an excellent reminder of how well Adlard and his partners make use of lighting and shadow.

And their detailed rendition of a post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh also impresses. This new storyline promises to push the series in unique directions, and that’s promises to benefit the visual side of the equation as much as Kirkman’s scripts. The Verdict

The Walking Dead is entering a very intriguing and unpredictable new phase, even if this issue takes some time to really get the ball rolling.

The decision to shift focus away from the usual crew in Alexandria to other uncharted territories adds an even greater sense of danger and excitement to the book.

There’s no telling where Kirkman and the gang are headed right now, and that’s a very good thing.

References

  1. ^ Jesse Schedeen (people.ign.com)

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