You are warned, here be spoilers.
The intent of Robert Kirkman’s wonderful The Walking Dead is to show the long-term consequences of a zombie apocalypse – a zombie movie that doesn’t stop, doesn’t wrap up neatly, and doesn’t let you out of the theater. A classic ending for a zombie movie is for some subset of the characters to survive a particular encounter – usually a zombie-siege on a particular building – and then escape. Kirkman asks where they escape to, and what happens then. Because the zombie apocalypse isn’t undone by the successful defense of a particular farmhouse.
By The Walking Dead #65, our ragtag band of survivors have been making their way in the post-zombie wilds for a few years. I know they’ve been through at least one Christmas, possibly two, and it’s currently summer-ish. They’ve been through a fair amount of turnover, and a number of home-bases with varying degrees of comfort and security. At this point they’re on the move again.
The problem you sometimes run into with this series is slow, stagnant navel-gazing – whole issues of characters spouting backstories, and arguing about what to do next. It’s a very talky series. This can work well – it lets us get close to these characters, even if we always maintain that certain distance inherent in an anyone-can-die series. But when Kirkman’s not careful, the story drags. (It occurs to me that it’s the antithesis of his Invincible.)
This issue is a bold and satisfying break from that – we see awesome committed. I think I’m ready for a new change in the status quo – a new settlement, or a meeting with a new group, or something – but this was damn cool.
Charlie Adlard’s art is the same in this issue as it has been all along. It’s rich and detailed, yet light and flexible, and gives us a sense we’re looking at real people, rather than superhero-extras. My perpetual complaint with this series – and I know I’m not alone – is that some of the characters are hard to tell apart. This has been partly alleviated over time by cast turnover and by having certain characters mutilated in various ways, but I’d still dearly love a dramatic personae.
There’s no question of stopping now, of course – although the series isn’t at its most exciting at the moment, it’s still wonderful, and I still want to know what happens next.