|THE WALKING DEAD No. 123, March 2014|
Despite arguably being the instalment where creator Robert Kirkman finally starts to make good on his promise that “there are going to be a lot of deaths” during the multi-issue event “All Out War”, this particular edition of “The Walking Dead” still seems to take quite a while to warm-up. Such an impression appears to be predominantly due to the American author seemingly being far more interested in scripting short one or two-page character-driven dialogue-heavy scenes than actually progressing the inevitable final confrontation between Rick Grimes’ survivors and the brutal gun-toting Saviors.
As a result for the opening third of this comic book it isn’t actually all that clear as to whether Negan’s climatic assault upon the Hilltop colony is going to occur within its pages or not. For rather than start with the foul-mouthed psychopath bringing down the Virginia fort’s corrugated iron gates with a rampaging truck, the reader has instead to wait and wade through a series of depressingly dreary soul-searching scenes involving Carson, Eugene, Carl, Sophia, Maggie and Andrea first.
Fortunately when the action does arrive it is fast and furious, containing bullets and screeching motor vehicles enough to rival a “Mad Max” motion picture. Indeed the sheer amount of flying hot lead whizzing from panel to panel during this firefight is rather spectacular, especially when it turns one of the Savior’s truck cabs into so much Swiss cheese.
Sound effects also dominate during this issue, as the periodical’s pages are covered with “Brakka! Brakka! Brakka!”, “Pkow!”, “Vroom!!”, “Blam!” and “Skkrrgh!” Not to mention the occasional sickly “Slissh!” as Michonne’s sword slices through a bad guy or “Shukk!” as Dwight’s crossbow sends a zombie-contaminated bolt into one of Grimes’ unfortunate people.
The Sanctuary’s despot, unaware of the mini-revolt taking place back at his home base, is clearly in his element during all this chaos, swearing and cursing as he leads his men forward intent on ‘mowing his opposition all down’. Once again though the Kentucky-born writer is quick to highlight that his homicidal creation isn’t just a one-dimensional murdering maniac, and bestows Negan with some genuinely ‘human’ moments as the tyrant repeatedly tries to convince the former Police deputy to surrender. The dictator's pained facial expressions and profanities when despite all his efforts Rick refuses to ‘hang his bare backside over the side of the Hilltop’s wall and let Negan climb up and slap it red” shows genuine emotion and makes it clear that he’d rather not assault the settlement.
Charlie Adlard’s pencilling is equally as dynamic, once the battle begins. His page composition, using a series of small square panels to illustrate quick-paced action, and then larger, almost splash-pages for the bigger events, such as Rick Grimes leading his ‘army’ out against the Saviors guns blazing, really imbues the struggle with fraught energy and a sense of urgency bordering upon panic. Things move very quickly during the conflict and at no point does the British artist let it slow down.
|Writer: Robert Kirkman, Penciller: Charlie Adlard, and Inker: Stefano Gaudiano|