|THE WALKING DEAD No. 122, February 2014|
Whilst Issue Two Hundred and Twenty Two of “The Walking Dead” more than lives up to franchise creator Robert Kirkman’s advance warning that ‘at times the plot would slow down’ during the marathon multi-issue event “All Out War”, the sense of anticipation throughout this storyline’s eighth instalment is actually pleasingly palpable in places. And whilst little, if any action, actually takes place within its twenty-two pages, the periodical’s plot development does promise plenty of profanity-laden violence in the near future.
To begin with the “Image Comics” partner shows just how much the ever-loathsome Negan’s once unquestioning rule over The Sanctuary has quietly eroded behind the foul-mouthed tyrant’s back, as his lieutenants Dwight and Carson agree to ‘fight’ for “a chance to be [their] own man again.” The Saviour’s sadistic leader also features in a disturbingly grotesque scene where he demonstrates to his men that they will wield “space-aged zombie bacteria weapons” when they next confront Rick Grimes’ forces, by rubbing his barb-wired baseball bat Lucille up against the slavering face of a walking cadaver.
But most of the tense atmosphere, and thus enjoyment from this magazine, is actually generated by the constant vigil of the guards sat atop the barricade protecting the Hilltop colony. For with every turn of the page it seems likely that the reflective peace of the survivors is going to be suddenly shattered by either an attack of the Undead or Negan.
Unfortunately whilst such narrative growth is both essential and engaging, there are still far too many quiet moments of dialogue-heavy contemplation within this comic book to make it an especially worthwhile read. Particularly as Kirkman seems perfectly content to ‘fill up’ the vast majority of the magazine with a seemingly endless parade of page-long snapshots within which ‘couples’ simply talk to one another. Indeed it could be argued that the 64,810 readers of this particular issue could quite easily have given it a miss, and be no worse the wiser.
Charlie Adlard’s artwork is also a somewhat inconsistent ride, especially at the start when his opening illustration of a strutting Negan appears disproportionately tall and thin. Indeed the British artist would appear at his most effective when the panels focus in upon his character’s faces. The hatred and venom glowering off from a captive Eugene’s aspect being an especially impressive example of such strong pencilling. Disappointingly though Adlard’s single and double-splashes are dishearteningly lack-lustre with the exception of a two-pager depicting Negan lining up a troupe of manacled zombies.
The gray tone work of Cliff Rathburn is also worthy of a mention, especially as the colorist seemingly creates some nice three-dimensional effects by fading some of the panels’ background artwork.
|Writer: Robert Kirkman, Penciller: Charlie Adlard, and Inker: Stefano Gaudiano|