Two leaders meet for the first time.
“New World Order” has been light on action and heavy on dialogue for most of its run, and that doesn’t change in the sixth and final chapter. The Walking Dead #180 provides some necessary character development as the leaders of Alexandria and the Commonwealth meet for the first time, but the talky approach doesn’t exactly help this arc end on the most thrilling note.
To say issue #180 serves as much of a conclusion at all would be misleading. The series’ narrative seems to be shifting to a more free-form state lately, with individual storylines bleeding into the next. That’s all fine and well, but there’s still a frustrating sense of anticlimax to this issue. With as much potential as there is in the notion of Rick’s gang coming up against a bigger and more prosperous settlement, the series is clearly in no rush to get to the meat of this conflict.
That all being said, the ambiguous nature of this conflict continues to work in the book’s favor. It’s difficult to imagine there noting a larger showdown brewing between these two settlements, but it’s not entirely clear what form that showdown might take. With Rick acknowledging his war against the previous person to call themselves “Governor,” it does seem as though Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard are mindful of not repeating themselves. For now, at least, this conflict is more political and philosophical than physical.
One element I do appreciate with this issue is the emphasis on contrasting Rick and Pamela’s strategies for leading their respective communities. This arc took an annoying turn after a few issues as it became abundantly clear that the Commonwealth is not the idyllic paradise it seemed and these new characters became blatantly hostile and antagonistic. This issue is able to walk back that approach to some extent. If Pamela is still a bit more villainy than I’d like, at least there’s a sense that she truly believes in her approach to restoring civilization. This issue points out some fundamental flaws in Rick’s egalitarian approach, calling into question whether Alexandria can survive forever moving on its current course.
Adlard does about as much as can be expected with the somewhat limited material in this issue. There’s no shortage of talking heads, though the way Adlard’s art gradually shifts from warm, inviting facial expressions to uneasy, stern looks does help heighten the growing tension between Rick and Pamela. There are a handful of opportunities for Adlard to tackle bigger, more dramatic shots, but all in all this serves as a low-key finish to quieter story arc.