Walking Dead #97 should have been titled “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” The last few issue of the series have wavered in quality, but issue #97 reminded me why I’ve been following Walking Dead since the beginning. This is the turning point for what’s to come with issue #100. Rick Grimes and his crew are standing before a new threshold of death and loss while at the same time basking in the glow of hope and redemption. It’s these greater themes that have always made Walking Dead so much more than just a zombie story.
The story opens back at the community Rick Grimes leads. They are awaiting his return with news about the new group of survivors who may be their salvation. In issue #96, we saw the new community, which was a gigantic plantation complete with hotel, crops and enough supplies to create open trade between the two communities.
After some initial problems, Rick has struck a bargain with the leaders of this new group to protect them. Seems a group of aggressive attackers, led by someone or something named Negan, has been taking half the new communities provisions. Rick, who sees this community as the first step towards normalcy, agrees to protect them if they trade with his group.
Making their way back home, Rick and his small group are set upon by followers of Negan. A short and violent battle later, the Negan followers crawl away screaming that Negan will have revenge. Walking Dead mastermind Robert Kirkman begins setting his pieces up here. Rick believes that the walkers will begin to rot and die off and the world can be human again. At the same time, one of the original group comments how he’s seen these walkers that look like they’re rotted all the way through. Could Rick be right? Could there be hope on the horizon?
Kirkman also strains relationships, especially between Abraham and Eugene. That relationship dictates the end of #97, which will leave you begging for #98 to come out. Has Rick underestimated Negan and his group? Is violence the only way for their salvation and will this new community truly be the first step towards reestablishing humanity. Kirkman is dealing with some heady issues here and he does it with great style. I’m also enjoying the character of Rick Grimes again, something I haven’t been doing for the last ten or so issues.
What will come of all these storylines is anybody’s guess. Kirkman has laid down really strong groundwork but without exposing his end game. All the questions go unanswered but still push the story forward. I’m left wondering if Rick will be all that’s left of his group and sets out to become a leader for the new community. Where is his relationship with Andrea going? Are the walkers dying off? What is going to become of Michonne? They wouldn’t dare kill her off. Would they? We won’t know anything concrete until issue #100 but the ride is going to be amazing!
I still hate the art.
(5 Story, 2 Art)