Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's "The Walking Dead" #115 brings both the calm before the impending battle, as well as the opening gambit to a perhaps unwinnable battle. There aren't very many surprises in the opening chapter to "All-Out War", but not every issue can be a brilliant cliffhanger of a book -- nor should they be.
It's the quiet moments that won me over, especially those between Rick and Andrea. Those moments speak volumes about how well Kirkman has built his characters. We don't need a lot of words to understand what's going on with them, and the quiet is a nice contrast to some of the more talky sections of this issue, which were a bit clunky.
This issue is in some ways an odd mix, because it is both the "quiet before the storm" and also the opening call to battle. The two don't pair as nicely together as I would have liked. There are some good insight into Rick's fears and insecurities, but I'm not sure it's needed. Stronger are the moments between Carl and Andrea, where Andrea cleverly helps reinforce Rick's confidence in his son. A quiet issue before battle is all about nerves and anticipation; anxiety and fear; about reminding characters what matters most and why they're fighting for it. This issue takes that concept and adds the awkwardness of pre-battle, but they don't draw as poetic a contrast as expected. "The Walking Dead" has long been a solid comic book with strong visuals and a story that barrels on regardless of consequences.
Adlard, with inks by Stefano Gaudiano, has been on this book for more than 100 issues, and it's amazing that he can still bring his A-game. While Kirkman's good character work is a big part of why the quieter moments in "The Walking Dead" #115 work, Adlard's pencils do the heavy lifting. Adlard is incredibly careful with expression and illustrates with an lovely nuance, but nothing about his work feels fussy or overworked. The characters are continually beat up (and beat down) and Adlard knows just how to render them to illustrate that emotion -- not just on their surface, but in their souls. Cliff Rathburn's gray tones in this issue need a bit more drama, but on the whole it's a lovely book.
"The Walking Dead" #115 is not by any means my favorite issue of the series, nor is it a particularly brilliant book, but it's a solid comic that knows exactly where it fits in -- one puzzle piece that will complete a much larger and more fascinating whole. Sometimes, with an ongoing series like this, that's exactly what a book should be.