Every time a big issue of “The Walking Dead” comes up, anticipation builds for a giant zombie blood bath. Time after time, Robert Kirkman has resisted this temptation and he continues that pattern with issue #150, creating a dramatic and life-changing comic at a relatively small scale.
Simmering resentments and conflicts have only grown since Alpha killed a series of Rick Grimes’ people as a warning. However, the initial death toll isn’t the highest cost to be paid; it’s the reactions to that event that expose people’s most mistrusting and vengeful responses. We’ve seen that build up in recent issues, right up to the town meeting brawl, and it continues to pay off here.
In this issue, Rick Grimes is attacked by Vincent, who lost his son to Alpha, and Morton, whose bullying son was attacked by Carl in defense of Sophia. It’s an interesting parallel where two people from two different angles blame Rick for the same failing of a lack of action and fairness. Morton leads the vicious attack, and is only thwarted when Vincent gets cold feet and Rick kills Morton by taking a bite out of his neck — a gross, but effective end to the scene.
Credit must go to Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano and Cliff Rathburn, who tell the story of that fight so strongly, alternating between silhouettes and detailed blows, from close-ups to wide shots, from larger images to smaller ones. There’s a rhythm to the scene that is carried through the art in a stunning away. Adlard’s perspective moves through the scene with the precision of a top movie director, and Rathburn’s tones add a lot of depth and dimension.
This leads to another town hall meeting, where Rick — still covered in blood and bruises — tells the townsfolk of Alexandria he’s prepared to take action now and ironically gives his attacker exactly what he wants. His speech — a classic Kirkman monologue — is enthralling for both the reader and the townsfolk. The latter end up cheering his name, excited to be forming a military organization that can fight back and “wipe the Whisperers off the face of the earth” — which Negan hears from his cell, causing him to smile and resulting in the creepiest part of the issue.
This issue raises a lot of fascinating questions. While I hope Kirkman avoids taking the easy solutions with them and doesn’t dodge with all-too-clever plot mechanics, there are still a lot of players on the board who can change everything. “The Walking Dead” is still a series with loads of opportunities and plenty of examples of events that aren’t afraid to change things in a major way. The large cast and evolving plot line that builds on itself so easily are the strengths of the series, and this issue is a prime example of that in motion. The larger events will still come, but Kirkman continues to play up to it to ensure its dramatic importance. “The Walking Dead” #150 is a great value as well as a great issue.