I’ve spent a lot of time wondering, hypothesizing and drawing diagrams attempting to figure out when Robert Kirkman might end his Walking Dead saga. After reading issue #89, I’m hanging up the guesswork. Does Kirkman have a master plan? Who knows. He might, or he might be winging it. Sure, the idea has worn thin and the plots seem to get a bit on the repetitive side (calm-conflict-roamer attack-betrayal-calm) but the bottom line is Walking Dead continues to be a great read. Thin plot or not, Kirkman knows how to deliver with tension and dialog, so who the hell cares when he ends it?
Issue #89 comes in the “betrayal” stage of what I now call the Kirkman Loop. We had the conflict within the new community Rick and his team has entered, then came the roamer attack and now we’re in betrayal. This time from the people who have been living in the gated community the longest. They’re scared, death has hit them hard and, like all human beings, they need somebody to blame. Cue Rick, as good a scapegoat as any. The problem is, the ringleader of said coup has a big mouth, which gets him in trouble with a long time member of Rick’s crew. There’s a fight, guns are drawn and when the coup is exposed, we get a final splash page of Rick that could be one of the coolest scenes of the last twenty issues.
What makes that scene work is all the meat going on behind the uprising. Rick is coming apart at the seams. Not because of the roamers, the death, the loss of his wife and baby, but because he sees his son becoming cold and dark because of all that’s happened. Rick is facing the real fact that his son might be better off dead, a thought no parent can usually even fathom. Kirkman handles Rick’s monologue with his usual razor sharp sense of drama. You feel for Rick, you kind of hate Rick for saying it, but above all you don’t want Rick to turn into a blubbering mess. Tie that in to the very last splash page and you’ll see why it’s so incredibly badass.
This new betrayal re-opens questions as to where the future lies for Rick and his crew. Kirkman had played into the idea that he might be setting up for the end, then pulled the rug out from under us. After so many years, it’s apparent that Walking Dead is about human beings and relationships, not zombies. Having made that Walking Dead’s core, Kirkman opens himself up to staying with this tale for as long as he can. There are always new relationships to be made, new heroes, new villains, and new lovers. The backdrop of the zombie apocalypse is barely a whisper to the real story of regular people being forced into an irregular situation.
Walking Dead #89 sets the stage for the next arc but also reminds us that, despite the familiarity and the Kirkman Loop, few can create characters as memorable as Kirkman’s and even less can kill it with dialog. After 89 issues I’m still guessing what will happen next and that makes me amped on the next 89.
I just wish the art were better.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8/10