In the world of The Walking Dead, shit just got real.
Issue #98 is fucked up. Violent and merciless in its set up of the dark times ahead for Rick Grimes and his band of survivors, this an issue you won’t soon forget. I must warn you, there is a huge spoiler in my review so if you don’t want it, read no further. Trust me that the issue is golden and go get it. For the rest of you, strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Eugene and Abraham have headed out on a mission for supplies. Issue #98 opens with the two of them discussing their bizarre mutual relationship with Rosita. Here’s where things turn ugly and writer Robert Kirkman handles it beautifully. Abraham, the ultimate tough guy, the bad ass we thought would be fighting to the end, is murdered. No big battle, no final throw down or ultimate sacrifice for the good of the community. Instead an arrow that enters through the back of the head and goes right through his eye kills Abraham. What’s even more powerful is that Abraham doesn’t stop talking. He has no idea he’s been mortally wounded until he falls down dead.
Kirkman deftly shows the true horror of war with one panel. The splash page of Abraham talking with this arrow through his eye says that nobody is safe, that death will come for anybody in the group. That safety blanket we have, the one where we know that certain characters will always live, is ripped from us. Now the set up for issue #100 is even more disturbing. Now we really have no idea what’s going to happen or who will see the sunrise. This scene also reminds us how rough this post-apocalyptic world really is. Kirkman seems to think we’ve all become complacent with The Walking Dead and it was high time to shake the tree.
The rest of Walking Dead 98 is a ballet of violence, blood and death. Followers of Negan, the group Rick and his crew attacked on behalf of the new and larger community that Negan’s people were terrorizing were responsible for killing Abraham. With Eugene as a hostage, Negan’s people attempt to force Rick’s crew to abandon their home. From there, the issue explodes into gunfire, testicle biting, zombies and general chaotic bloodshed. By the end, Rick and his crew are a little less sure of themselves and their stance against Negan. A storm is coming and who lives through it is now anybody’s guess.
I love how Kirkman uses real life rules in a fantasy setting. If a real zombie apocalypse came down, the world would become a brutal place where death was constant. Just because a character is our favorite, doesn’t mean he won’t die at any second. It’s that dedication to drama and tension that has kept The Walking Dead on another level above most other comics. I’m waiting for issue 100 with equal parts excitement and dread.
I still hate the art, but a little less this time.
(3 Art, 5 Story)