Here there be spoylers. Thou hast been forewarned.
First up, the cover: a very nice shot of a determined-looking Carl leading Rick by the hand - but Rick's upper body is obscured in shadow. When this cover was teased a while back, many people figured it meant Rick would die, and Carl was leading Zombie Dad around. We've seen pet zombies in this book before (the Governor's daughter), and even tame companion zombies (Michonne's entourage when we first met her), so it isn't a huge stretch.
On the inside front cover, we get a great "previously", listing dead characters: "Tyreese is dead. Herschel is dead. Patricia is dead.", etc. The list of the dead includes Judy, Rick and Lori's newborn daughter, just to put the speculation to rest. The two survivors of last issue's prison attack, Rick and Carl, are noted, and the issue proper begins.
The issue starts with a small prologue. George A. Romero has touched on what happens to a zombie whose head is severed (as opposed to the brain being destroyed) - the head lives on, eyes darting and jaws snapping at anything that comes within reach. Kirkman apparently agrees.
Remember what happened to Tyreese a couple of issues back?
Anyway, Michonne comes along and puts an end to that unpleasantness. It's nice to see that she's clearly not going to vanish from the stage, as after doing what needs to be done, she begins following tracks leading away from the now-devastated prison compound. Hopefully she'll meet up with Rick and Carl - or, well, whoever's left - in the near future.
Oddly, after dealing with the Tyreese problem, she then dispatches another zombie by decapitation, presumably leaving its head lying there in a field trying to look around.
We then rejoin Rick and Carl, who obviously got away after the end of last issue. Carl, quite understandably, isn't dealing well with what happened. I've lost track of how old he is, but he's clearly being written as eight going on forty-six at this point. Kirkman is painting a compelling portrait of the effects of unthinkable trauma on a boy.
There's a scene where Rick asserts parental authority and demands Carl's gun. Carl protests but hands it over. The scene is made poignant by our realization that Rick is no longer in a position to take care of Carl, and if either is to survive their roles will need to reverse in the near future. Rick, missing a hand and with fresh gunshot wounds, had already shown signs of mental and emotional breakdown; even if this issue's ending is a tease (and I suspect it is), then he simply won't be capable of leadership - even of his own young son - for much longer.
Then comes a scene where I'm not sure what readers are supposed to think - Rick may have done something shocking (but understandable), or he may have simply intended to alleviate a problem. (I'm being as delicate as I can here, to minimize spoilage.) The glance toward Carl leads me to think the former was intended, but I could be wrong. Hopefully we'll find out next issue, but again, that would require that this issue's cliffhanger ending (yep, there's yet another big one) be a fakeout.
On to the extra stuff after the story. There's a nice long letters page, as usual, but this one is infested with people saying very silly things to the effect that Robert Kirkman is a racist because bad things have happened to minorities in this book. One particularly ignorant person (man, it's hard to keep this blog to PG-13 sometimes) actually says, in the middle of a ludicrous semi-literate rant, "...if Mr. Kirkman you haven't noticed we may be putting a person of color in office. What does that mean? It means you schmuck, that we are not stupid either."
I'm glad Kirkman didn't edit this letter to make it sound like it was written by a high school graduate. My preschool son handles punctuation better than this writer does.
Anyway, there are at least a few such letters this issue. I thought this topic had already been beaten to death in the Walking Dead letters pages, and I'm glad to see that Kirkman says he won't bother defending himself against this foolish charge anymore. Hopefully he'll also stop printing those letters. Yeah, letterhacks, we get it: you're determined to prove your racism by accusing Kirkman of being a racist.
Kirkman treats all his characters brutally. That's the kind of world they live in. He doesn't care about their skin colour, because the circumstances don't and the zombies most assuredly don't. By complaining about the fact that characters aren't handled with kid gloves due to their ethnicity, these writers are demonstrating that they're concerned with ethnicity where it isn't relevant. That, my friends, is a pretty good field example of racism.
Moving on. This is too big a topic for me to rant about just now. Besides, I've had a major essay on this exact topic partly written for weeks. One of these days I may finish it up and get it posted.
There's an ad for a really spiffy cast t-shirt at the back of the book. It looks really cool, even if a large percentage of the depicted cast got wiped out in recent issues. Well, Tyreese made a cameo this issue, but he won't be back again....
Finally, the next issue plug. Bannered "All alone now", the illustration shows Carl, alone, brandishing his gun against a surrounding horde of zombies. We've learned by now that the art teases are as misleading as the cliffhanger endings (and I love both), but maybe, just maybe, the twist here is that this issue's "cliffhanger" is exactly what it looks like, and the teased illustration is exactly what's going to happen.
I expect that if Carl is alone now, it won't be for long. Michonne is on her way. Besides, I doubt that Kirkman is going to leave just Carl from his original cast to start over with a fresh group. Carl and Michonne together, perhaps with some of the other prison refugees who are still unaccounted for, could easily form the nucleus of a new cast, though.
Anyway, I fully expect that Kirkman will surprise me. He has pretty much every issue so far. (For this issue, it would be with what Michonne does at the start, and what Rick may have done in the bathroom.)
Enough rambling. Here's a picture of another cartoon that some people think is worth rioting and murdering over. Man, some people just can't resist proving the point their opponents are making.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Here there be spoylers. Thou hast been forewarned.