When Walking Dead first came out I remember vividly discussing it with the owner of my comic book shop. Our question was simple, how would Robert Kirkman keep a story about zombies going? How would he keep it from getting old? How would the plot develop at all?
Walking Dead #82 is a prime example of how Kirkman has kept the series going all these years. After lulling readers into a false sense of security by drawing us into these relationship stories and the struggle for control over the gated community Rick Grimes and crew stumbled upon, Kirkman has just yanked the rug out from under us.
Walking Dead 82 opens with an all out zombie attack and the fall of Morgan, Michonne’s current lover who has been bitten by one of the onslaught of zombies. From that grueling opening sequence through to the end, this issue of Walking Dead is a balance of both action and the human frailty that comes when all hell breaks loose. Kirkman does a great job of isolating different characters and allowing them to devolve into total panic. From panel to panel Kirkman builds up the tension and when he delivers the final splash page, it’s heartbreaking.
One of the best scenes in Walking Dead in recent memory happens in this issue between Rick’s son Carl and the dying Morgan. Carl has been left to watch over Morgan so if he turns he can be dealt with. Imagine a world where an eight-year-old boy is left to kill a man if he turns into a zombie. The scene is mostly Morgan talking but it’s clearly all about Carl. For the last couple of years a war has been raging for Carl’s soul.
At times he seems too cold and calculated for an eight-year-old boy, at other times he’s just an innocent child. His future is as up in the air as the future of mankind and Kirkman brings that fight up every so often. In issue 81 it’s part of the central theme of what people will do to protect themselves and their families. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of zombie killing action, but Kirkman never loses his focus on characters. Kirkman is a master of getting you to care about people, lulling you into a false state of security and then lowering the boom. It’s a formula that has kept Walking Dead exciting and relevant for all these years.
I won’t bitch about the art even though I’m not a fan and never will be. Each review my critique is always the same and so rehashing it doesn’t do anybody any good. By the end of Walking Dead 81 the wheels for the next phase of this story arc have started spinning. Its clear Kirkman wants his readers to be as flustered as his characters. The people we root for will do things we hate, characters will die, lives will be altered and all of it happening in the framework of what is mostly seen as a throw away and silly sci-fi plot device.