"The Walking Dead" has held great promise in recent months as Robert Kirkman has started to move the ship along a new course. With issue #95, it feels like the ship is pointed in the right direction and things are starting to happen because of it. We're not marking time to hanging in suspense anymore. "The Walking Dead" delivers a couple surprising moments in this issue that actively threaten everyone -- and it doesn't even involve a single zombie.
Rick and the gang enter the new compound and meet some of the 200 residents there. The tour includes bored sentries at the gate, a large mansion, trailers used as homes, an active farming community and a governing leader. If you were worried about the cast of the series being too large to keep track, this issue might not calm any of your nerves, though Kirkman only focuses on two or three of them.
It's when a messenger returns to the town and warns of danger to a captive community member that things go sideways in a very surprising way. Kirkman doesn't hold anything back here. Actions are quick, decisive and consequential. While it isn't obvious what will happen next, you'll want to turn the page to the next issue quickly. Suffice it to say, this is another group of people living by their own code whose politics and relationships are clearly askew from what you might initially assume. Rick, being Rick, jumps right into the middle of things.
Charlie Adlard gets a bit of a spotlight in this issue. Besides drawing an action scene in the second half, he gets a couple of double page spreads to show off his skills. The first is a "quiet" wide-angle zombie killing walk that highlights the surrounding landscape and the new town's wall. The second is an establishing shot inside the new community, complete with chickens, curious onlookers and rows of houses. He even gets a chance to shine inside the mansion, illustrating the spacious mansion-turned-hotel with some solid black areas that help define the space and guide the eye into it very well.
Leading up to the hundredth issue, it's interesting to see how much of this particular movement of the series looks set to depend on the people and not the zombies. While they might come into play later on, for now this looks to be more about how two communities might be able to mind the intricacies of coming together at a time when trust is low. It's informative how much of this issue's big conflict is between the people, while the zombies are quickly and cursorily sliced through like butter.
"The Walking Dead" is well on its new course now with a direction as unguessable as issues that have come before it. Kirkman and Company aren't yet afraid to mix things up before letting things settle down, which is the book's real strength.