The Walking Dead 29: Lines We Cross – Robert Kirkman

Whilst the battles and terror are no doubt thrilling reading the intrigue and suspense between them is just as captivating. So much happens in this volume it is wonder there is space for it. Plot hooks and teasers pop up like a demented game of Whack-a-Mole with dozens of characters having emotional scenes now the bullets are no longer flying.

Negan has gone through a huge character arc and Kirkman was right to keep him around to reveal he was not just a despot of the week. One of the most admirable parts of this work is the complex way different characters are emotionally tied together. How the behaviours of one directly affects another, even if it takes months or years to yield a payoff. Whilst the dead are always present it’s nice to see the living have a moment to themselves.

This book reminds us what a living, breathing tale The Walking Dead is. We see another new character introduced, but one who is quirky, funny and definitely unique, and not just there to supply whatever skill is needed or joining the red-shirted cannon fodder. The settlements too don’t just have a status quo and aren’t run by perfect necessity but by bickering human beings. The characters are still exploring the world, meeting new people and being surprised.

The art is great. There are some exciting splash pages and eye-opening juxtapositions and plenty of creative angles. The black and white is a great choice and a hallmark of the book, doing so much for the tone. But when you need colour to reveal something about hair or clothing then you can’t show but have to tell with clunky dialogue. Thank goodness for the colour covers.

This is a superb volume that answers many questions and resolves a lot of sub plots and has you on the edge of your seat for the next one.

Double Thumbs Up!!

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The Walking Dead 28: A Certain Doom – Robert Kirkman

This volume feels thicker. Side by side with the last one it looks thicker, but it still has the regular six issues. Despite the size it flies by as the Whisper War concludes and a tragedy happens. A real tragedy. Spoiler warning!

People die all the time and you have stopped learning the names of the minor characters as you know they won’t be around long. In this world it is hard to make death shocking, meaningful, and impactful. Kirkman finds a way and bravely reinforces the core maxim of The Walking Dead, that no one, literally no one, is safe.

The art is great and you would think after so many books that this straight edge panel format would become formulaic. But there are lots of exciting, emotional close-ups, clever perspectives and a very fluid panel count changing the pacing of each page where necessary.

Thumbs Up!

The Walking Dead: Here’s Negan – Robert Kirkman

Origin stories are for heroes. Whenever a villain gets one it always diminishes them as their sense of mystery and fear is gone. As much as you want to know where Lucille came from and how she got her name perhaps it is better if you don’t know.

This isn’t a bad volume but it is a little thin. Both in page count, which can’t be masked by the slightly oversize format and hardcover, and in content. Kirkman skips Negan through the 100 issues of time that Rick got to grow and develop, but does so aplomb. We also see some familiar names along the way.

The art is the same high standard as it the same people as the main issues.

As a fan of The Walking Dead you will want this and it is a lot more convenient than tracking down original issues. It’s a shame that it is so thin however.

Thumbs Up!

The Walking Dead 27: The Whisperer War – Robert Kirkman

This is another action volume as you can probably tell by the title. It is a good job Kirkman is good at action as this now makes up almost 50% of the content. The series is now less zombie apocalypse than war movie. But we don’t mind.

Even though a hell for leather extended battle scene would be enough for most authors there is a lot of stuff going on in the background. Seeds are being sown for the future. A lot of them. Kirkman isn’t just using this engagement to take a break to search for new ideas. He is piling on plot after plot like there is no tomorrow. Making the end of the Whisperer war look even more dangerous than the thick of it.

This book contains a lot more blank backgrounds and tiny panels than usual. Which is handy for keeping the pace up and dealing with dozens of characters split up in various locations. There are less cliff-hangers and splash pages but still a few tense page turns.

The pinnacle of Thumbs Up!

The Walking Dead 26: Call to Arms – Robert Kirkman

This is a quiet volume for the most part. There are a couple of peaks but most of it is the gearing up for the future war. It is very much an ensemble of vignettes as people talk through the issues of the day.

Eugene starts a new arc and you can see Kirkman planting seeds that won’t sprout for several books to come. Negan also comes to the fore. You had forgotten just how interesting and unpredictable a character he is. Right up to the last page…

The art is great but there was nothing memorable or dramatic which complimented the ‘ticking over’ vibe of most of the book.

A superb Thumbs Up!

The Walking Dead 25: No Turning Back – Robert Kirkman

This volume explores grief and fear and the consequences of those powerful emotions. After the disaster of the last volume people are scared and it threatens to tear everything apart. There is also a subtext about how leaders and politicians prey on these fears and Negan, who has become the devil on Rick’s shoulder points this out.

The art is superb. Many of the panels contain large amounts of black, highlighting the sadness and trauma being felt. There are some superb silent montages too as you see the different ways people try coping.

If there is one fault it is more the medium than the creators. Kirkman has people talk through important issues and concepts which leads to a lot of extended talking heads. There are some good glances and facial expressions but this is definitely drama around the kitchen sink.

Obviously it is a Thumbs Up!

Walking Dead: Volume 24 Life and Death – Robert Kirkman

WD24This is a superb volume with plenty of character and drama. You aren’t expecting much from this volume as you think we are at a quiet point in the story with the first market happening. Oh dear.

The Whisperers present quite an existential challenge. Kirkman shows that antagonists don’t have to be cruel despots or megalomaniacs or even conquerors. They are definitely one of the freshest zombie ideas and they have a few surprises.

Everyone seems to get some screentime in this book. Carl continues to grow and become his own man, Negan gets one of his awesome speeches and Maggie faces up to the hard side of leadership. This is an amazing foundation and would make a great book but the rug-pulls make it fantastic. Kirkman shows that he needn’t kill characters to shock you. And then he kills characters and you are shocked again.

The art is amazing and it is always worth stopping to appreciate just how good it is and how much is done with black and grey. This has never been a normal gig for Adlard. He never phones things in. Each panel is well thought out and even after two dozen books he is still experimenting and there are some really sharp panel structures here.

Walking Dead is everything a graphic novel should be including rising to new heights.

Double Thumbs Up!

Walking Dead 23: Whispers into Screams – Robert Kirkman

WD23How does he do it? There are so many balls in the air in terms of the philosophy, ideology and practicality of a post-cataclysm world, so many questions. This is truly the area that Walking Dead set out to explore and as other zombie stories never get to 23 volumes they never pay any heed to.

Any normal writer would have run out of BIG idea by now and it is hard to believe that Kirkman is still pulling the rug out from under us with things we never even considered. There is genius at work here. But he is limited by his canvas. A monthly comic is not big enough or regular enough for him to keep up with the massive world he has created.

What has Negan been doing? What happened to the new arrivals? What about the other settlements? All the things that piqued our interest last volume are missing in favour of the new big idea. And it is a killer idea. But we as readers are greedy and want it all.

I can’t say anything about the art as we have all grown so used to it that it has replaced reality. It is a testament to Adlard that with the high turnover of characters new people still look different and existing characters grow and changeup their appearance.

Thumbs Up!

Walking Dead 22: A New Beginning – Robert Kirkman

WD22The title says it all. Time has passed and the communities are thriving. Our characters finally have time to more than catch their breath and you begin to see them (as they themselves get to) finally remember they are human beings.

The dead haven’t gone away, there are some strangers just arrived, and of course you know the ticking time bomb that is Negan will eventually blow it all to hell. But Kirkman shows you just what we have been fighting for, the valuable peace that All Out War has secured.

We get to see emotions other than fear, grief and terror, and that is very valuable in storytelling. Characters get to show their wants and needs and so become much more rounded and dear to us. Making it all the more tragic when Kirkman decides we have had enough of our happiness ration.

The art is superb and Adlard clearly pushes himself hard using lots of strong techniques in lighting, framing and visual exposition. He must also do a lot of research making the characters, props and environment look just right.

This volume simmers. It is the perfect blend of gentle storytelling and lush characterisation contrasted with building tension and subtle danger. It does seem to cut sharply and almost haphazardly between the different threads but not to the point of frustrating you.

We also have another superb cliff-hanger as Kirkman’s imagination pulls another rabbit out of the hat and shows us something terrifying.

Thumbs Up!

Walking Dead 21: All Out War part two – Robert Kirkman

WD21This is the conclusion of the war. Just like the first part, horrifying new weapons are revealed as the humans show us just how much worse than the dead they are.

The ending is what will really surprise you. Kirkman specialises in his shocking twists and sudden moments of terror but now he manages an intellectual or ideological sleight of hand. Negan has been a great antagonist not because he is a bit crazy but because, in a distant way, you can see his point of view and his motivations. Rick thrives on him and his contrasting philosophy and grows as a character and a leader. It’s not weapons but ideas and belief that are the keys to victory.

The art is great and seems to have more splash pages than normal. This does feel more as if it is to hit the issue breaks rather than for dramatic tension but more art and less words is welcome. Particularly for a volume emphasising concepts and sociology.

Thumbs Up!