WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead #183, by Robert Kirkman, Charles Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Rus Wooton and Cliff Rathburn, on sale now.
Apart from providing a means of escapism, from their earliest days comics have been used as a platform to tell stories that speak out against injustice and make important calls for social change. The Walking Dead has been stepping this up as of late, with the most recent arc tackling classism, which still exists even in its zombie-infested world.
For the most part, this takes place in new society known as the Commonwealth, a rare paradise in this post-apocalyptic realm. Issue #183, though, adds another dimension to prejudice and oppression boiling under the Commonwealth's surface by focusing on another societal ill we see every day -- police violence.
Now, the concept of an official police force is different depending on which part of the TWD universe you look. The Kingdom's official military is filled by soldiers dressed as knights, while Alexandria (which is run by Rick Grimes, a former sheriff) and the Hilltop (run by Maggie Greene) more or less utilize normal citizens as police. Of course, there are those people who were actually cops and soldiers in the past who signed on with these various factions. Others turned into villains, aligning themselves with the likes of the Governor and Negan. But in the Commonwealth, everyone can resume their jobs of old, which means bad officers get a chance to continue their wicked ways.
The latest issue brings Michonne front and center as she witnesses cops brutally beating down a man named Anthony Keith. Now that she's moved to the Commonwealth officially, she's still adjusting to the classist and elitist vibe of the people there, which, luckily for her, sees her living a fine life, resuming her pre-apocalypse duties as a lawyer. But her moral compass doesn't allow her to ignore wanton hatred and she tries to stop the beating, especially having noticed one of her cop friends, Jerome, in the mix.
Later, Lance (the deputy mayor of the Commonwealth) reveals Anthony succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital. The kicker is the elites don't view him as a victim and are spinning a narrative he attacked the cops after finding out one of them was sleeping with his wife. Michonne is shocked because even if they're right, it didn't warrant an excessive use of violence and abuse of power, and now the incident is either being trivialized or worse yet, covered up. This reeks of corruption, which she tells her daughter Elodie is wrong, no matter if its their people who are trying to conveniently protect the cops and maintain a facade of order.
Things boil over as the middle and low-class citizens begin turning on the upper-class, which leads to a full-fledged riot at Michonne's home. She and Elodie flee, but witness the mob attacking Jerome and other officers, realizing the time for silent protest has come to an end. Michonne is left torn because while she was considering turning down the case (which would have gotten her booted from the Commonwealth), she did not want to see innocent cops have their reputation dragged in the mud, especially as she knows how valuable they are in such a dark, dangerous world.
With riots incited, Rick and the Commonwealth leader, Pamela, show up to see infighting and buildings in flames. The scene draws parallels to incidents such as the Rodney King beatdown in Los Angeles in the '90s, as well as when individuals like Trayvon Martin were gunned down.
Kirkman may not have been directly making a statement towards any one real world situation in particular, as it doesn't seem that Anthony is even a person of color or a minority, but the message is pretty clear. Police officers overstepping the line shouldn't and won't be tolerated, even if it means breaking the Commonwealth's peace and shattering everyone's dreams of utopia.