As Solid As Ever
When I got back into comics, the reason was Walking Dead. No other series commands my attention as much as this one. I used to travel the not-inconsiderable distance from my small town to the nearest comic shop in order to purchase each issue, never regretting it for an instant. I guess the reason I'm saying all this is because you may find a slight bias in this review. I'll try to stay neutral as well as I can.
The survivors of Walking Dead have had quite a journey. Although this series is known for having a plodding, deliberate pace, it's only when you look back on their adventures so far that you see the full extent of their trials and tribulations. Despite this, Kirkman has the skill of making even the most mundane of story arcs seem tense. It's in this arc, with the survivors at their most safe, that the strength of Walking Dead shines.
To recap, the survivors have been led by some seemingly "good people" to a walled-in town of sorts. Children play in the streets. Cultural events are held, such as Halloween. The locals are unarmed; they do not seem to worry about the zombies outside the walls at all. For the world-weary survivors that we've been following, it seems too good to be true. This arc deals with the fact that maybe, safety can be as off-putting as constant danger. We watch as the characters either grow used to the comfort of the town or grow paranoid. The readers know that this respite from danger won't be long-lived but the fun is in seeing just how the survivors end up in the shit once again.
Surprisingly, from how Kirkman seems to be writing this arc, he's been making the survivors seem like the bad guys. We watch Rick plot to take over the town from the locals. We watch Michonne get repulsed by gossiping women. It seems as if, after all that the survivors have went through, they've become addicted to the danger that the outside world has given them. They can't trust anyone; in fact, they can't trust themselves. This is a fascinating character study and Kirkman has to be congratulated for handling it as realistically as he can. Charlie Adlard's art continues to have the subtle power that it always has. It manages to carry the long conversations between the survivors with grace, making each smirk or frown carry weight. I still wish Rick didn't shave his beard but what can you do...
There are problems with this issue, however. The plodding pace that Walking Dead maintains has all but ground to a halt and sometimes, I found myself impatient. Knowing that this idyllic situation won't last makes the small-time drama between the survivors and the town locals seem unimportant, at least to me. In saying that, I couldn't be more excited to see how things change over the next few issues. With the survivors going from righteous "good guys" to conniving potential villains, it will be intriguing to see how the relationships built up so far fracture and fall apart over the next few issues.
Overall, this series remains very good, if a little slow. I feel that Kirkman may be stalling in order to focus on other projects but with such well-written characters already established, I will happily watch them sit and eat breakfast for the next few issues, if need be. The art is superb and the tension remains high -- buy it.