Time to tour the Commonwealth.
It’s always an exciting time when we encounter a brand new faction of survivors in The Walking Dead. The series invariably becomes consumed by questions like, “Can these new faces be trusted?” and “How high will the body count grow by the time this story is finished?”. That same appeal is currently driving “New World Order.” After making baby steps towards restoring human civilization, our heroes are learning just how much further other intrepid survivors have traveled.
There’s a welcome sense of ambiguity to this conflict. More to the point, it’s hard to gauge just how much of a conflict there actually is at the moment. Perhaps the Commonwealth is another Woodbury in the making, or perhaps this massive pocket of normalcy in a sea of the undead really is the utopia it’s made out to be. Thus, the narrative is driven by equal parts unease and an optimistic hope that life may finally start to improve again.
That being said, this issue doesn’t succeed quite as well as #175 when it comes to giving the Commonwealth characters the neutral treatment Inevitably, there’s going to be some darkness behind the pleasant facade, and writer Robert Kirkman is a little too quick to begin peeling back the curtain. Wheres issue #175 made Michonne, Eugene and the others out to be the hotheaded aggressors, #176 veers too far in the other direction in justifying their paranoia.
Still, it’s enough to take in these new surroundings and savor the novelty of seeing such a unique corner of the Walking Dead universe. Artist Charlie Adlard is already making the most of the Commonwealth. Adlard is able to focus on clean, orderly architecture for a change. There’s a pristine, untouched quality to the environments and the clothing that we rarely ever see elsewhere in the series. Adlard strikes a nicely subtle balance between highlighting the polished nature of this city and making it feel slightly cold and artificial. Clearly, something isn’t quite right.
This issue also packs a strong emotional punch as Kirkman and Adlard follow up on last month’s big twist. Any fear that the series might beat around the bush before diving back into that reveal are quickly put to rest. This new development in Michonne’s life speaks to what’s possible when one creative team commits to a project for an incredibly long haul. We’ve come to know and bond with Michonne a great deal over the past decade, and this new development simply wouldn’t have the same impact without so much history behind it.