Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s “The Walking Dead” #130 has an incredible plot twist that could have made for an exceptional issue, but the execution is mishandled and falls frustratingly flat.
Kirkman is a talented and experienced storyteller, but he makes an odd misstep in this issue that lets the air out of the big reveal. Page seven contains a game-changing revelation: that the dead are talking to one another. It’s the kind of epic moment that changes everything and while it doesn’t land as powerfully as it should, it works well enough. Unfortunately, Kirkman opts to use the same information as a cliffhanger and it negatively affects the entire issue. There are other solid bits of character work on display with general plot movement, but the reveal is the most major aspect of the issue, and on balance, it just doesn’t work.
Interestingly enough, an opening scene in which captured bad guy (and completely nightmare) Negan tries to trick newcomers into coming close to his cell — and convincing them that Rick is the monster — is far creepier and more alarming. It’s a well-paced, well-written and perfectly drawn scene. Compared to the other scenes in the book, which as ideas should be more powerful but fall flat, it’s an excellent argument for execution being everything in storytelling.
Adlard and inker Stefano Gaudiano do their best with what they’re given, and the initial reveal of the dead speaking as witnessed by two minor characters in hiding is appropriately creepy and surprising. Most of the rest of the issue is talking heads and Adlard showing off the various civilization development that Rick and the other camps have developed. All of this work is impressive from a world-building standpoint, but none of it is particularly exciting. Carl’s design since he lost his eye (and part of his face) is particularly awkward in this issue. Facial expressions are a little hit and miss, though to his credit Adlard nails the final look of terror and madness on the face of the man who has heard the dead speak. Most notably Adlard, Gaudiano and Cliff Rathburn on grey tones do an excellent job on the first three pages. They set a truly terrifying tone right out of the gate and easily remind readers what a threat Negan is, even while jailed. He’s a fox in the hen house and it feels like only a matter of time before he’s loose.
Kirkman is a gifted storyteller and his work on “The Walking Dead” has been consistent and impressive for a very long time, but it’s hard to see the incredible reveals in “The Walking Dead” #130 as anything but mishandled, lacking the impact and horror to make them properly land.