Walking Dead #84 is a clean up issue. Thus far, Rick Grimes and his gang of anti-zombie survivors have been trying to fend off an onslaught of “walkers” descending on their new home behind the walls of a gated community. The past few issues have been fraught with peril, tension and devastating plot developments. Being the consummate writer that Robert Kirkman is, he knew it was time for things to slow down emotionally and ramp up action-wise. This is not just a bloody final stand but also a turning point for Rick, his crew and the future of the Walking Dead series.
Opening just after Rick’s son Carl was shot, the end seems near. Carl is laying on an operating table as the community doctor uses rickety lighting and old tools in an attempt to save Carl’s life. Meanwhile, the undead have stormed the community, forcing a gory and vicious battle. Rather than chop their way through the attack and hit the road, the community decides to stand up for the new home they’ve found. It’s an interesting turning point for the entire series as it has solely based on the constant running of the core characters. Even when they were holed up in the prison, Rick and the group knew they wouldn’t stay there forever. This not only changes the slant of future stories, it could indicate that Kirkman’s end game is in sight.
Nothing happens plot wise with issue #84 but it’s still a solid issue. Not only is there constant shooting, bludgeoning, chopping and slicing of zombies, but also the race against time to save Carl. The thing that makes this issue work so well is Kirkman’s history of pulling the rug out from under the reader. So much sudden death has happened and so many seemingly untouchable characters killed, it’s never really clear what will happen to Carl or the rest of the community. Usually in these kinds of stories we have no real fear that the main characters will die, so there’s little dramatic tension to the issue. With Walking Dead #84 there’s no clue who will live and who will die, so reading it is a test of how fast pages can be turned.
There are only two flat points to the issue, one within its pages and one that lies just outside them. The first is the two-page speech Rick gives at the end to a wounded Carl. Kirkman spent the entire issue showing us how important the new community was and how everyone had made a choice to fight for it. Rick’s ramble is melodramatic and unnecessary; it seems beneath the usual crackerjack writing. The second problem is Kirkman’s peaks and valleys approach to Walking Dead. Often for several issues after a major turning point, the entire story grinds to a halt. I have runs of six to ten issues of Walking Dead that are boring to a point it’s hard to read. With such major changes, how long until the series hits another dry spell?
Charlie Adlard’s art is as good as it can get for what he does. It’s no secret I’ve never been a fan of Walking Dead’s art, it’s all too similar for me. Adlard does make the violence jump right off the page and he has a great gatefold, which shows the devastation of the battle. I’m still not a fan of what he does, but there is some nice work here. Walking Dead #84 is an action comic that manages to transcend standard action comics.