“The Walking Dead” #92 is a great case of a comic that excites the reader more for the next issue than for itself, but that’s not such a bad thing. Robert Kirkman is clearly setting up the Next Big Thing, by introducing a new character we saw briefly on the final page of the previous issue. In a way, this whole comic is standard superhero fare: two strangers meet, they fight over a misunderstanding, then talk and possibly team up. On the last page, with three word balloons’ worth of understated dialogue, Kirkman opens up a whole new world for the series to move into. It’s tense, it’s logical, and it’s exciting.
Michonne and Abraham head out looking for supplies, food, etc. A brief scene back at the camp once again reminds the reader that supplies are running low. Canned foods are expiring or disappearing. Recently-made plans will take some time to come to fruition, and while things aren’t desperate yet, you can sense Rick’s uneasiness over the situation.
When Michonne runs into the cloaked figure from the end of last issue in the city, a scuffle breaks out and Michonne ends up on the wrong end of her own sword. Abraham runs back to grab Rick, who defuses the situation with some quick thinking and talking. It turns out that the cloaked bearded figure, referred to as “Jesus” by his friends (nickname echoes of “The Governor”?), represents another enclave of people looking for a trade partner. Not only that, there are at least two other enclaves, all of whom trade goods back and forth. It sounds like they’ve all set up the kinds of living arrangements Rick's group are attempting to start on their own. Could this be the kickstart the cast needs to get started? Could is serve as inspiration for more of their own plans? Could this be the start of a new civilization?
Or is it the set-up for a big blow-up in the hundredth issue when everything falls apart, neighbor fights neighbor, and everyone runs screaming as a throng of zombies attack? We’ll see by the summer.
Pity poor Charlie Adlard, who could be on the line to draw two new “cities” of people, one of which numbers at least 200 people. People worried that Kirkman’s cast of characters in “The Walking Dead” too often expands to a number that are not easy to track might worry about what this next movement for the series holds in store.
Adlard gets the chance to let loose in this issue, with plenty of scenes of action and even a light-hearted and humorous scene between Michonne and Dwayne discussing her loneliness. There are zombies, rubble, guns, swords, and a fairly limited number of people to draw. The action scene has to be choreographed more than the usually frenetic All Zombies Attack type of scenes Adlard's had to draw recently, but the job is well done.
It’s not all perfect. An early scene between Rick and Carl feels repetitive, like the Carl storyline has stalled and will be on hold until it’s needed again as a plot point in a few issues. Rick’s scene to discuss supplies also feels redundant at first, though it’s a strong reminder of an on-going issue to set up the later bit of dialogue. The opening page is redundant to the last page of the previous issue. And the big “twist” at the end is just a clarification of dialogue on the previous page. I’m not sure it needed a full page splash, either, for any reason other than “Walking Dead” tradition.
But all of that is nit-picking on an issue that’s important to lead the series in a new direction, in a manner that includes some action and a reminder that everyone is suspect and nerves are still strung tight. Now, finally, we have our first hints that they are not as alone as they had thought they were, and perhaps a new world order is coming. Or not. But it's that tension that continues to drive the series, 92 issues later.