Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 14

The Walking Dead, “No Way Out”

The recent outbreak of violence and the encroaching winter season serve as harbingers of things to come. While Abraham and his work crew take care of the zombies that have wandered close to the barricades, Aaron rides in with a wounded Eric who was stabbed by a woman trying to steal their horses. Aaron tells Douglas that he refuses to scout for more survivors, that they lucked out in finding Rick’s group and now is the time to dig in and sustain themselves. Douglas doesn’t agree to this, but is showing signs that he might be out of his head with grief over his dead wife.

A small herd of zombies reach the gates and while they are beaten back, one of Abraham’s crew is killed. Rick calls a meeting and tells a panicked populace that with winter playing havoc with their power supply, they must hunker down, account for supplies and prepare for the cold months. Rick allows Jessie and Ron (mother and son of Pete, who was killed in the previous volume) to move into his house while Morgan asks to stay with Michonne. Both have troubled nights: Michonne takes Morgan to task over his grief for his dead wife, Rick makes love to Jessie and says goodbye to Lori and Carl has a confrontation with Ron over his dad being shot.

Rick wakes up in the middle of the night and is approached by a concerned Abraham who leads him to a break the enclave walls that the zombies have created. Abraham parks a truck in front of the breach and hope it is enough to keep the monsters at bay. The next morning, Glenn, Heath, Spencer (Douglas’ son) and Andrea decide to run into town for supplies and materials but because of the horde outside of the gates, they are forced to make a perilous journey by highwire to an adjacent rooftop which almost gets one of the crew killed. Once they reach safety and settle in, Glenn expresses an ominous feeling.

As if on cue, the zombies manage to burst through the breach and swarm into the enclave, sending the residents into panic and causing all sorts of hell to break loose. Morgan is bitten while fighting off zombies and is taken to one of the doctors where his arm is amputated in hopes of staving off infection. In a private moment with Carl, Morgan tells him that he knew he killed Ben and assures the young boy that he isn’t a monster for what he’s done. Before he dies, Michonne spends time with Morgan and asks forgiveness for her behavior with him.

Back on the rooftops, Spencer suggests that their group just leave and abandon the community, a plan that earns him a punch in the face from Andrea. While Maggie, Sophia, Jessie and Ron hide in the house with Morgan and the doctor, Rick expresses the need for a hasty retreat. Jessie is apprehensive of leaving everyone behind, but Rick tells her that they are not their concern (this visibly upsets Maggie and Sophia). Using the trick from “Days Gone Bye,” Rick covers himself, Carl, Jessie and Ron with zombie gore in order to mask their scent. Amidst their preparations, Michonne offers to go with Rick while Maggie and Sophia decide to stay behind. The escape plan fails, as Ron’s terror causes him to earn the attention of zombies and gets torn apart. Jessie runs after her boy and gets attacked. Carl, who’s arm is gripped tightly by a dying Jessie, is in danger of getting bitten leaving Rick no recourse but to cut off Jessie’s hand with an axe.

Douglas, who has been wandering the camp in a daze is attacked and fires his gun wildly into the air and in a shocking two page spread, one of the bullets has nearly blown off the right side of Carl’s head. Rick panics and rushes back to the house, leaving his son with a doctor who frantically patches him up while Rick, Abraham, Michonne and Rosita launch an assault on the horde. Andrea, Glenn and the rest of the crew arrive to fight while Eugene and Gabriel man up to support the defenders, all of them working together to successfully destroy all the zombies in the enclave.

Despite all the violence and death around him, Rick declares that he will make a stand at Alexandria and instead of running away, they will rebuild and thrive again. The final pages of the book feature Rick talking to his unconscious son about his renewed feeling of hope he has in himself and the people around him.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Andrea, Glenn, Spencer, Maggie, Morgan, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Douglas, Aaron, Heath, Regina, Jessie, misc families
Children: Carl (?), Sophia, Ron

Thoughts

The scale of the enclave attack wasn’t nearly as massive as the prison battle, but the toll it had on the survivors was considerably larger. Just when it seemed like things were settling down, the zombies found a way into the town and wreaked havoc, resulting in the deaths of a number of good people, one of which Rick had developed a love for. It feels unfair that Rick should finally have a moment of peace (especially one that allowed him to say goodbye to his wife) only to that taken away from him so harshly. And not only is he forced to condemn his new lover to the zombies but he nearly loses Carl! Rick’s tenuous grasp of sanity exists in the form of his son, the boy he has done so much for in order to keep him safe and sane and now that he’s in serious danger of dying – and turning into a zombie – you have to question Rick’s mental state at this point. Admittedly, when Rick explains his newfound hope for the future, I wanted to think he finally lost it. Heck, I still do. This is a man who has seen friends and loved ones die around him, he lost his hand and he witnessed the death of his wife and baby daughter. Carl is the only thing he’s got left and to see his son inflicted with such a terrible wound, well…there’s only so much one can take before they get consumed by madness and grief. Time will only tell now.

I’ve always struggled with how to feel about Rick’s actions towards Jessie. One could make the argument that Jessie was a lost cause and he had no choice but to do what he did in order to keep his son alive. And yet, he is slightly hypocritical after making a big show about not wanting to help the others because they weren’t important to him like Jessie and Ron were. Another thing to consider is that Rick really had no right forcing the mother and her son (and even Carl) into such a terrifying ordeal in order to escape. It might have worked for Rick and Glenn (both barely escaped alive, if you recall) but that obviously didn’t guarantee future success. Forcing a child to endure such terror was a bad call on his part.

Michonne deserves a mention because of how she allows herself a rare moment of grief. Having gone through an off again/on again romance with Morgan (whom she regularly got angry with over his repeated comments about his dead wife), she sat at his bedside and bared herself to him. When Morgan succumbs to his wounds and is unable to respond to her apology, she cries. Michonne has shown herself to be the most collected member of the group and after everything she’s gone through, the walls she built to hide her emotions have developed more and more cracks which began with Tyreese’s death at the prison. It is a great moment because of the opportunity to see one of the coldest members of the group emotionally exposed.

Artwork

It made me uncomfortable then and, not that I was surprised, it makes me uncomfortable now: the two page reveal of Carl getting shot in the face is far worse than anything shown in the volumes leading up to this. Worse than Michonne getting brutally raped by the Governor, Rick getting his hand cut off, Tyreese executed, Lori and Judith getting shot and Dale getting eaten by cannibals. This is largely because violence towards children is never explicitly shown. Billy was murdered, but his body lie mostly obscured by Ben and we don’t see much of Judith after Lori is killed. Carl gets the dubious honor of being the youngest on screen maiming and it is terrible. I’m sure that this is the exact reaction that Kirkman and Adlard wanted to get from the reader as seeing the boy with a violently damaged face provides an emotional punch to the gut. It’s a brutal image that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the volume.

Ugh.

And with that, we’re going to close out this edition of Doubletake! Hopefully these volumes have got you interested in reading through the continuing adventures of Rick Grimes and his family of survivors as they brave the ongoing zombie apocalypse. Will Carl survive? Will Alexandria thrive again? Will there be a cure? Only Robert Kirkman knows!

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