The Commonwealth is falling apart.
It took far longer than necessary, but The Walking Dead has finally kicked the Commonwealth storyline into high gear. Issue #189 and #190 deliver some of the payoff readers have been waiting for months to see. And even as the undead become a bigger threat to our heroes than they have in years, this issue serves as a necessary reminder that humanity is always its own worst enemy.
Long-simmering tensions have finally boiled over as Mercer leads a revolt in the Commonwealth and Rick is offered the chance to rule in Pamela’s stead. It’s the latest compelling wrinkle in a very long, twisting journey for Rick. Short of Michonne, he’s probably benefited the most from this extended story arc. His single-minded focus on preserving peace and the rule of law has continuously backfired. He’s had to make impossible choices and even kill a close friend, and the events of this issue force him to question whether any of those sacrifices were worth it in the end. For all that this series has faltered in its sluggish build-up, it has at least re-energized Rick as a protagonist.
This issue also boasts a fast-paced, eventful script that’s a very welcome change of pace from the past year or so. The outbreak of civil war within the Commonwealth would be enough to fuel a strong narrative, but the addition of a zombie herd only adds to the flavor. The book carries a strong sense of danger, with characters cowering in fear of zombies and the threat of human retaliation looming over everything. And just when the plot seems to be winding down, Robert Kirkman’s script throws in a new set of twists to keep things moving. The next few issues should be very eventful indeed.
Artist Charlie Adlard is given a very demanding chapter this time around, in terms of both the level of action and the sheer number of characters occupying most pages. There are certain sacrifices that have to be made because of that. Facial details are scant in many mid and long-range shots, and Adlard has a tendency to recycle facial expressions in various other panels.
But those quibbles aside, this is a visually impressive issue. Adlard renders the zombie herd in painstaking detail. His work has only grown as the series has gotten older, as he has to convey the idea that most zombies have been in their undead form for years now and are practically coming apart at the seams. Adlard also uses the geography of the Commonwealth to strong effect, deftly chronicling the flow of battle as the zombies are funneled down the city’s main street while characters take refuge above and to the sides. And here, too, the way Kirkman’s script leaves things, Adlard will have plenty more opportunity to flex those muscles in the next chapter.