I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
As I continue with my unnecessary reboot and renumbering of the Longbox Junk blog (All New! All Different! Pretty Much The Same!) in celebration of the landmark 175th post, I'm beginning to realize that (when it comes to comics at least) nobody gives a flying frijole about hitting 175.
I THOUGHT that since comic companies seem to be eager to push ANYTHING that will make collectors grab a copy of something they don't normally buy, that hitting the One-Seven-Five would be a little bit bigger of a deal. It just seems sort of strange that it's pretty much ignored.
THAT SAID. . .
I ain't a quitter, son.
I SAID I was celebrating Longbox Junk's 175th post with an unnecessary reboot and renumbering, featuring 9 Variants of comics from my (and my daughter's) collection that hit #175, and by God, that's what I'm gonna DO!
So let's get to it.
The comic at hand is a bit more recent than the others I've looked at so far. The creators still don't seem to give a crap that it's #175, but at least it's the beginning of a huge new story arc, so there's that. I'm not sure if it's a small nod to the number or that's just how it ended up, but here we are.
So it's a Walking Dead comic. Let's talk about The Walking Dead in general for a moment.
The Walking Dead is a legitimate pop culture phenomena, both in comics and in the hit AMC T.V. adaptation. I think it's safe to say that you cannot exist in the United States without being at least aware of The Walking Dead. You may not like it, but you know about it. Let's go from there.
The main concept of The Walking Dead is that it's about survivors of a zombie apocalypse led by a former police officer, Rick Grimes. . .but the zombies aren't the REAL problem.
The REAL problem and narrative drive of the comic and show both is that HUMANS are the real monsters when they suddenly don't have to follow any sort of law, and that narrative drive makes sense. The stories in both comic and show may go up and down in quality, but the underlying structure is an extremely solid one.
I have my own theory about The Walking Dead. Sit back a minute and allow me to muse a bit.
I believe that the "heroes" of the story (in both comics and the show), the ever-rotating band of survivors surrounding Rick Grimes, are ACTUALLY the villains. The zombies are there in the background, sure, but the underlying concept is that humans are the monsters, and believe me. . .Rick Grimes and Company are the WORST monsters roaming post apocalyptic America.
ANY pocket of civilization they come across, whether it's just a camp of a dozen people trying to get by in the wilderness, or a fortified town with hundreds of people, eventually is either destroyed or assimilated by Rick Grimes and his roving band of Merry Murderers. No exceptions.
If Rick Grimes doesn't like the way you're running things, you WILL change to accommodate HIS way of thinking. If you do not comply, he will first disrupt your status quo and cause dissent. If you still are not coming around to his satisfaction, he will begin killing your leadership.
If you STILL don't want to do things his way, the next step is total destruction. . .with the few survivors being assimilated into his band of killers before moving on to the next pocket of civilization.
The characters and storylines in the comic and T.V. show diverge quite a bit from each other, but ONE thing remains true in both. . .you WILL do what Rick Grimes wants or you WILL no longer have what you had before he arrived. Once again. . .no exceptions.
And it's not that he's looting resources or being "evil". It's just that Rick Grimes wants you to act like HE wants you to. . .or you're done for.
Am I wrong? Think about the story cycles in both the comics and the show. Can you see it? Rick Grimes and Company will totally destroy anyone they come across that doesn't want to do things their way.
The storyline beginning in this issue of The Walking Dead comic is no exception. What? You thought I'd NEVER get around to it? Well here we are! Let's do it. . .
LONGBOX JUNK #1
SPECIAL COLLECTOR EDITION
(Variant - D)
THE WALKING DEAD #175
New World Order Part 1
SCRIPTS: Robert Kirkman
PENCILS: Charlie Adlard
COVER: Charlie Adlard
First, let's take a look at the cover. In my extremely humble opinion, The Walking Dead has never really had outstanding covers. Maybe a handful of standouts in the entire run. Generally speaking, this title's covers usually have more to do with the actual story inside more than most comics. This cover is no exception. As Walking Dead covers go, this one is pretty good. Nothing I'd put in a frame, but not bad.
Let's get into the story. . .
Prior to this issue, Eugene (Rick's resident Mad Scientist) had received calls over a radio that turned out to be from a fairly distant outpost of survivors. Rick decided to hang back this time out and detailed a scouting party to go make contact and decide if the new group needed a Murderous Morality Adjustment or not.
So the scouting party heads out, led by Michonne (sword-wielding bada$$ and Rick's main enforcer), Eugene (the aforementioned Mad Scientist), and Siddiq (Combat Medic), with a couple of cannon fodder supporting characters (Magna and Yumiko) along for the ride.
On the way, they meet what has to be THE most annoying character in the comic's entire run. Called "Princess", she's a diversity checkbox Bisexual Latina Teenager™, which is okay because The Walking Dead has always been a pretty diverse comic, but EVERY bit of her dialogue is SO cringeworthy in a "Middle Age White Guy Trying To Write Like A Bisexual Latina Teenager" kind of way that I'm REALLY hoping a goddamn zombie eats her face soon.
BUT I DIGRESS!
So Rick's scouting party picks up an annoying passenger and they finally arrive at the pre-determined meeting place where they're supposed to make contact with the new outpost. Unfortunately for them, what they find isn't quite what they expected. . .and we'll start from there.
The group gets hit with spotlights, and when their eyes adjust, they find themselves confronted by a cadre of very well armed and armored troops who not only outnumber them more than 2 to 1, but look like they definitely mean business. Bad news. . .these guys don't look like gunmen. They look like soldiers.
The group is disarmed and taken at gunpoint to a modified train boxcar, where a sort of cheesy guy named Lance Hornsby informs them that he'll be interviewing them prior to admission to "The Commonwealth". Eugene and Michonne start pushing back and making demands.
Lance politely informs them that if they don't want to do the interview, or if they try to leave, they'll be shot and he doesn't really care either way. . .he's just there to do a job. They can do things the easy way or the hard way.
Once Michonne and the rest of the Morality Patrol realize that, for once, THEY aren't going to be the ones asking the questions at gunpoint, they settle down a bit and get interviewed by Hornsby. He seems to be satisfied with what he hears and gives the group the good news. They can enter "The Commonwealth", but on probationary terms. . .and so they all set out on their way.
While travelling to The Commonwealth, one of the soldiers reassures Michonne that Hornsby is just sort of a jerk who likes his job too much and that everything is going to be just fine. You can see the "I like you. I'll kill you last." look on Michonne's face as she thanks him.
Suddenly, the caravan is attacked by a mob of zombies (called "Walkers" in the world of The Walking Dead). The soldiers quickly move into formation and attack. . .first with bayonets, but as the herd's size becomes obvious, they open fire.
The scouting party looks on as the soldiers decimate the walkers, and the caravan continues on with Hornsby seemingly unconcerned about the attack and leaving most of the soldiers behind to deal with finishing clearing out the walker herd.
As the sun rises, the caravan comes in sight of "The Commonwealth". The first thing they see is a stadium, which Michonne assumes is the settlement. . .but Hornsby tells her that's just where they have concerts and football games.
Impressed, Magna asks just how many people there ARE in The Commonwealth, Hornsby tells her there's about FIFTY THOUSAND, then sits back with a smug grin as Michonne, Siddiq, and Eugene do a "Say whaaat?"spit take on THAT piece of info. . .
But that's not the only kicker in this issue. As they approach the gates of the city, they pass a big board covered with pictures that have been placed there as a memorial or in hopes of new people bringing information on lost loved ones. And then there's this. . .
It looks like Michonne might be reunited with the daughter she thought was dead.
To be continued. . .
Okay then. Let's break it on down!
Overall, I found this to be one of the better recent issues of The Walking Dead except for ONE thing, which I'll get to in a minute. Kirkman does a great job in this issue of flipping the script on Rick's posse, who are used to being the ones in charge.
It's actually pretty funny seeing Eugene make demands while surrounded by soldiers and Hornsby facepalming with frustration. Eugene is just SO used to having Rick Grimes and the rest of his Moral Murderers at his back that it's impossible for him to believe that HE'S the beyotch this time until the point is reinforced by Hornsby flat out telling him he's going to get himself shot if he doesn't settle down.
The disciplined and well-armed and armored military-style forces of "The Commonwealth", along with the sheer numbers of the settlement, are presented as something Rick and Company haven't had to deal with yet. . .and I like the direction this issue seems to be pointing The Walking Dead toward.
BUT. . .
SPOILER: In issues after this, Rick comes on the scene and yeah. . .he's challenged by the sheer numbers involved, but his followers deduce that the military is the key to taking over and begin the usual process of causing dissent and taking out the leadership in The Commonwealth's armed forces. In the most recent issues, The Commonwealth is collapsing into full on civil war. . .in other words, once again, if Rick Grimes doesn't like the way you do things, he WILL find a way to destroy your way of life. Sort of a shame, because THIS issue set up a very promising direction away from the usual cycle of destruction.
BUT I DIGRESS!
What I DON'T like about this issue is the whole "Michonne miraculously discovers her daughter is alive" cliffhanger at the end. One of the things that make The Walking Dead great (both comics and show) is the constant aura of death and loss that surrounds the survivors. Everyone has lost someone. Main characters can die at any time. Humans are an endangered species in general. I realize that Kirkman was trying to inject some hope into an otherwise extremely bleak comic. . .but it just seems forced, flat, and fake.
All you get here is a single page, but the whole "Michonne's daughter" story thread in upcoming issues is pretty cringeworthy. It just feels like a ham-fisted emotional grab that's probably just setup for either Michonne or her daughter dying sometime soon (in interviews Kirkman has hinted at some major deaths in issue #200).
I really liked this issue. It sets up a situation that Rick Grimes and Company haven't had to deal with before. It points The Walking Dead in an interesting direction. . .even if future issues fall back into the same familiar cycle seen previously. It has moments of humor (thanks to the smug Mr. Hornsby) and a great action scene (The Commonwealth Soldiers easily decimating a walker horde). The cliffhanger reveal of Michonne's daughter being alive falls flat, but otherwise this issue is a great introduction to the new story at hand.
The Walking Dead (comics and show both) vary wildly in quality. . .swinging from fantastic to forgettable issue to issue (and episode to episode). It's a pretty uneven ride, to say the least. Fortunately, The Walking Dead #175 is one of the more recent high points. It's just a shame that the promise of a new direction sort of fell back into familiar territory as the story went on in the months to come. That said, this is one of the sort of issues that keep me reading this series.
Up Next. . .
LONGBOX JUNK #1 SPECIAL COLLECTOR EDITION
Variant E - Spawn
Wait. Cowboy Spawn? Alrighty then. . .
Be there or be square!
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