“The Walking Dead” always has a fairly nice rhythm of horror, panic, and anxiety followed by quiet, recovery, and re-building. After the most brutal horror over the past few issues since perhaps since the Governor and the subsequent raid on the prison, we’re back into a period of quiet and, as always, it’s a much needed respite.
Rick alternately waits by the bedside of his comatose son, tours the community making grand plans for re-building and the future, and re-connects with long time companions Michonne and Andrea, who are engaging in their own versions of recovery and re-building.
Though “The Walking Dead” is the comic that years ago single-handedly brought me back to reading monthly comics, Robert Kirkman has not always been able to deliver for me. But that is the downside to being a largely great book; it’s hard to always be great. “The Walking Dead” does it with surprising consistency, and issue #86 on its own is a solid well-executed comic book about characters that readers care about immensely. However, Kirkman is setting himself up for a possibly brilliant arc for Rick as a character, and I hope he’ll be able to pull it off, as it requires some brutal story decisions. Kirkman has never shied away from those brutal decisions in “The Walking Dead,” and if he can hold onto that now I think he’s presented us with a powerful potential story. But there are two paths here, and one, for my money, is much more interesting than the other.
As always, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn deliver compelling work that makes even talking heads and quiet issues beautiful and loaded with significance. Adlard delivers some particularly good expression work in this issue, and it’s the kind of attention to detail that really raises the book up to another level and makes us feel so powerfully for these characters. Adlard finds a particularly wonderful dichotomy as he contrasts things like a solemn beautiful moment between Michonne and Rick at Morgan’s snowy grave with brutal visceral target practice on zombies with Andrea.
There are times when I’ve felt that Kirkman’s attention wasn’t fully on “The Walking Dead” and that some issues or arcs suffered because of it. But nearly 90 issues in, juggling multiple projects, including a television show, Kirkman’s eye seems well on the ball in even these important quiet issues, and it feels like a good time to love this book. I’m on the edge of my seat to see if he can deliver the arc I’m hoping to see for one of the more layered characters to come out of comics in the last decade.