The second part of "All Out War" sees the kind of big action that's been missing from "The Walking Dead" for a while: it uses the zombies as a weapon in a war against other humans. Rick's plans were a little more complicated than initially thought, using a horde of zombies to flush Negan out of his secure bunker. Of course, not everything goes according to plan.
Robert Kirkman's script for this issue is smart. It uses every facet seen of the series so far. The actions taken by the characters are dictated by their shared history and struggles. There's politics and logic at play in the battle of wits between Rick and Negan.
When that doesn't work out -- as expected -- the second part of Rick's plan is put into motion and a car is used to ram the gates to let the zombies in after Negan. Even that part of Rick's plan was carefully choreographed to provide the greatest chance of survival.
Kirkman portrays Rick as a thinking fighter without making him too smart, like one of those writers who's so in love with his character that the character begins to show smarts beyond his level. Rick is still human. He doesn't have the ability to read ten alternate time lines at once and plan five steps in advance of all of them simultaneously.
But Rick didn't see how adamant Holly would be about being the one to take out Negan, and her patented crotch kick (from an issue in the mid-'70s somewhere) returns, with Rick being on the receiving end. Her fate remains unclear at the end of the issue, but it seems clear that she'll be a bargaining chip for Negan in the issues ahead. Right now, she's the only loose end from the first part of Rick's war plans.
Charlie Adlard's storytelling is exactly what you've come to expect in the series. More than 100 issues in, he's sticking with the same look and feel in the storytelling. It works. The addition of Stefano Gaudiano in this story arc is a smart one. His ink line perfectly complements Adlard's pencils, giving it a more defined look that's tighter. It's like the final inks laid down on the page are done with slightly more precision, but without robbing the artwork of its energy.
Adlard's inking has always felt loose, like they're put down as part of the penciling process. Gaudiano's lend a cleaner look with harsher edges and a little more noodling in the smaller details. Adding him as the permanent inker to give Adlard more time to pursue other ventures would be a smart idea.
"All Out War" is off to a strong start in these two issues. We haven't seen mass carnage or a crazy turnover of the status quo, but there are plenty of scenarios still perfectly plausible that could bring the book there. Kirkman proves he still has some surprises up his sleeve with this issue as far as using the mythology of the series to his advantage. And Adlard with Gaudiano (and mainstay Cliff Rathburn) take us through it with added drama and emotion, thanks to their emotive faces and strong body language.
So far, this bi-weekly event is living up to its name and expectations.