I had been putting off my usual catch up reading, but was taken by surprise when the series ended abruptly (like everyone else!). I decided to go ahead and read the next three collections so I’ll be ready for the final one–which includes the expanded final issue–when it comes out in a few weeks. As before the biggest obstacle to getting back into the story was the ever-increasing divergence between the comics and the television series: the presence of Rick Grimes alone makes this look like an alternate reality. But there was something about knowing the end was near that relaxed my expectations. Although I was also struck by the deliberate pacing of the storytelling. There are eighteen monthly issues in these three collections. They introduce the Commonwealth and explore the implications–but it’s not nearly over. I’m looking forward to the final collection for closure on this arc as well as the series as a whole. Picking up the pace would seem to be unavoidable for all that to happen.
The Walking Dead Vol. 29: Lines We Cross
This arc opens with everyone totally bummed out. All of the communities have to be rebuilt in the aftermath of the gigantic walker herd; Rick and Carl are mourning the loss of Andrea; and Dwight is upset about the loss of Sherry. So much so that he threatens to take over the leadership role from Rick, saying that he is past his time.
In the midst of this Rick finally asks Eugene who he has been talking to on the radio. He convinces Eugene’s ham radio friend Stephanie to arrange for a meet with her community, on their turf. This requires a trip to Ohio, and at first he has no takers. Finally Michonne volunteers to lead a team (with Eugene, as he’s the only one Stephanie trusts). Along the way they meet a chatty young Latina named Princess, who calls herself “the Princess of Pittsburgh,” as she is apparently the last living soul in the city (she’s the one with the spear on the cover).
The Whisperers (or what’s left of them) show up briefly, but their menace (including their powerful leader Beta) is quickly defused by new couple Jesus and Aaron. Negan has been kicked out of Alexandria–Rick just can’t see keeping him imprisoned indefinitely, which also contributes to the tension–and makes his way to a solo encampment away from everyone. Not trusting him, and still looking for revenge, Maggie confronts him alone. It does not play out as either of them expect, and Maggie leaves him alone with his guilt. So apparently that major bit of character motivation is off the table.
The Walking Dead Vol. 30: New World Order
This collection is all about contact with The Commonwealth (which is what this new community calls themselves). The advance group from Alexandria agrees to travel to the community. The first thing they see is a stadium, and they are told it hosts sports and concerts. Then the “Wall of the Lost,” which turns out to include Michonne’s daughter Elodie (I don’t remember if she thought her daughter might still be alive, but she certainly was not expecting a reunion). They proceed through streets that look like a pre-Apocalypse civilization.
Michonne and daughter reunite, and her daughter’s happiness in the place is enough to convince Michonne. But there are disquieting aspects about the social order: talk about “upper classes” and “knowing your place.” Nonetheless Michonne elects to remain in the Commonwealth with her daughter, sending back her sword to demonstrate that she feels safe there (and later officially accepts the offer to practice law). The Commonwealth’s leader, Governor Pamela Milton, returns to Alexandria with the group to meet with Rick.
Rick shows her around Alexandria, explaining how all of the citizens are equals–including him. Milton opines that class distinctions (like the ones in the Commonwealth) have always been part of the World Order. Rick replies, “Then maybe we need a New World Order.” Perhaps the clearest meaning in any of the collected edition subtitles to date.
The Walking Dead Vol. 31: The Rotten Core
Rick takes Pamela on a tour of the other communities. After the TV show, it is strange to see Maggie in charge of the Hilltop (not to mention Carl there) and the Kingdom without Ezekiel. Rick returns to the Commonwealth with Pamela, only to be greeted by a riot. A man has been severely beaten in a disagreement with the police. Michonne is given the defense of the police as her first case.
All of the members of Rick’s group are disturbed by the inequality in this society, but Dwight is obsessed with doing something about it. He is convinced that the citizens of the Commonwealth are fed up with the police state they are living in, and tests his theory by causing a disturbance on the street. When Rick and the group meet with Michonne and Pamela shows up with bodyguards, Dwight puts a gun to her head. Rick stops him, setting up what we now know is the final arc for the series.