Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Revisit The Walking Dead Issue 100

This was originally posted on my Tumblr back on July 13th, 2012. This will be important to read as context for my upcoming take on The Walking Dead season 6, which should be posted in the next day or so. Interestingly, I didn't read this again until after writing most of the show post. 

Comic of the Week - No Contest

I was always a big fan of Nirvana. One thing Kurt Cobain always talked about in interviews was the “loud quite loud” dynamic in his music which he attributed to the Pixies. Basically, the idea is that by having this dynamic in music, it makes each part stand out and have that much more impact, be it the loud part or the quiet part. The loud makes you listen more closely to the quiet. The quiet lends gravity to the loud. I believe Robert Kirkman has been brilliantly following this dynamic in The Walking Dead and issue 100 was about as loud as it gets.

Sometimes big milestones happen in comics and it turns out to be more hype than anything else. The Walking Dead hit 100 issues this week and it was one of the most tense, gut wrenching, harrowing issues I’ve read of anything in a long, long time (probably since some other issue of The Walking Dead, if I were to really think about it). By now, anyone reading the series knows that it’s not about the zombies or the gore. The horror, the fear, the nauseous feeling you get sometimes when reading this, comes from the humans. And more importantly, it’s as a result of emotional investment in the characters. Just like the events of issue 48 would have had less impact if they happened sooner, the events of issue 100 work because there are 99 issues of build up behind it. In the time this series has existed, people have often complained that nothing was happening for long stretches. But by now, you should be prepared for anything to happen after a long stretch like that. Yes, there’s a formula at play here, but Robert Kirkman uses that formula like a master.

Right off the bat (no pun intended) the issue opens with scenes that imply, somehow, that something horrible is about to go down. Sure, we know this is true because it’s been hyped, but even if we didn’t, and didn’t know that this was a big milestone 100th issue, there is something about the way the scenes are presented that just ooze tension. There’s a threat looming behind each group we see. They are, for the most part, saying they are optimistic about the future, but somehow, you know they’re really not. They feel it and you do, too. Charlie Adlard, through lines on a paper, in black and white, conveys a sense of doubt and apprehension behind the eyes and through posture that rival the best actors. The subtlety is amazing and yet the feeling is impossible to miss, so your stomach starts getting tied into knots as you turn each page. And yet, you’re never really prepared for what happens.

By the time we find out which group is in danger, the scene plays out slowly and horrifically. You know something is going to happen, but you aren’t sure what and once you do know what it is and even to who, you still aren’t sure how much you’re going to see or where it will end. But you see everything, in heartbreaking, agonized detail. And once it’s done, the threat of more stays hanging there. I for one felt just as powerless as the characters I’ve gotten to know for 100 issues. It was like I was right there with them, unable to stop what was happening, witnessing and getting very nauseous. Once I closed the book, I was not entirely sure what to do next. I eventually read the next book in my stack, Batman, and as good as it was, I still couldn’t shake The Walking Dead. I guess that, much like Macho Grande, I’ll never get over The Walking Dead.

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