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CARL SMASH!

 

The Walking Dead #105
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones by Cliff Rathburn
Letters by Rus Wooton
Review by Joey Braccino

The Walking Dead has consistently been one of the most twisted comics on the stands. And I don’t just mean in the whole let’s-kill-off-beloved-main-characters way that Kirkman goes back to every other issue, but in the whole cerebral, what-morality-exists-in-dystopia way that has really made The Walking Dead such a genre-crossing phenomenon. In this issue, Kirkman eschews zombie-killing for a more cerebral one-and-done that takes us deep into the Negan’s Savior stronghold.

Issue #105 picks up immediately after the bloody closing to #104. After gunning down several of Saviors, Carl is captured. Instead of being killed by the rest of Negan’s men, Carl is instead brought in by the deranged leader and given the grand tour of the compound. Kirkman scripts Negan’s tour perfectly, layering in subtle moments between Negan and various members of the community that suggest the unstable, unsettling status quo. We learn about an oppressive work-for-points system that determines who gets resources and who doesn’t. We learn about Negan’s wives—yes, wiveS—that are “wed” the dear leader “voluntarily” so as to leave the aforementioned work-for-points system. We also learn about what happens when anyone gets out of line in the community (hint: it involves an iron).

As is often the case, it’s Kirkman’s script that really shines here. Negan’s dialogue is deliriously unstable and profanity-laced. His interactions with the 12-year old Carl are unsettling and cerebrally violent. This issue’s stand-out moment features Negan “persuading” (re: threatening) Carl to pull off his eye-bandage, resulting in not only an emotionally devastating moment for long-term readers and Carl fans, but also one of the more visually disturbing moments since #100.

And, as always, Charlie Adlard’s black-and-white, gritty realism captures the dystopic melancholia perfectly. Adlard’s single-page panel featuring the aforementioned moment with Carl is both unnerving and heart wrenching.

Verdict

Buy it. Each time it seems that The Walking Dead has run out of road as a comic book, Kirkman and Adlard put together an issue like this one. It’s ruminating, psychological descent into Negan’s sociopathy proves that this comic still has emotional depths to mine without resorting to zombie-schlock and stunt-killings.

**Also, anyone who’s behind on The Walking Dead (re: this guy ::points at self::) can catch up with the ultra inexpensive Compendium volumes of the first 96 issues of the series. Two volumes. 96 issues. Awesome.

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