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!

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 13

The Walking Dead, “Too Far Gone”

Rick and his survivors are finding their new home life oddly comfortable and while the concrete walls may have blocked off the nightmares outside, it isn’t long before old habits crop up. While Rick and Glenn formulate a plan to get their weapons back, Abraham goes out with several people to help expand the community walls. A zombie attack causes chaos until Abraham takes charge and defends the group (to their admiration) and shames the leader, Tobin. With the work completed, Tobin tells Douglas about the incident and suggests that Abraham be the new leader of the work crew given his helplessness during the attack. Father Gabriel shares private council with Douglas and recommends that Rick and his group be forced to leave because of the terrible things they’ve done. The community leader disagrees with Gabriel’s opinion, believing that Rick had to do bad things in order to survive.

Heath, one of Douglas’ scouts, announces that he is going off into the city for a supply run and Glenn, much to Maggie’s displeasure, decides to go with him. During their run, the two men spot another group of survivors that wantonly sacrifice one of their own in order to escape, an act that shocks Glenn. The two camp out for the night on a roof and share stories. Back home, Rick gets in the middle of a domestic dispute involving Pete, a father who may have hit his son (as evidence by the boy’s black eye). After speaking to Jessie (Pete’s wife), Rick brings the matter to Douglas’ attention and wonders why nothing has been done about it. Douglas admits that nothing has been done because Pete is one of the community’s medical specialists and has been afforded some measure of special treatment. This angers Rick to the point where he gets into a brutal fist fight with Pete and pulls a gun on him. Michonne steps in and admonishes Rick, who is shocked by his own behavior.

While Rick hides himself away, Douglas finds him and tells the story of Davidson, the original leader of the community. Although he initially was a well meaning person, Davidson allowed the power to get to him to the point where Douglas forced him out, effectively killing him. For the next several days, Rick becomes a social pariah and resorts to talking with Lori on the disconnected phone. Carl walks in on Rick and gets upset, believing his father might be going crazy.

Pete, who has been forced to live in a different house, grows increasingly angry with Rick and decides to take matters into his own hands. Grabbing a knife, Pete finds Rick walking with Douglas and his wife and threatens the pair to move out of the way so he can attack the man who dishonored him. Regina tries to shame Pete into dropping the weapon, but the two scuffle and Regina’s throat is cut. While Rick keeps a gun pointed at Pete, the man blubbers an apology. Douglas orders Rick to shoot, which he does without hesitation.

During a funeral service the next morning, gunfire attracts the enclave to the front gates where a solitary man threateningly asks for his crew to be let in. While Rick tells the stranger to leave, he sees a laser dot sight trained on his chest, allowing the stranger a moment to gloat over his supposed superiority over the situation. Andrea comes to the rescue and takes out the sniper as well as the bandit leader which causes a firefight to break about between the two groups. The battle is brief and while Abraham and his crew clean up, Douglas spends a moment with Rick and confesses his newfound fear of what would have happened if Rick hadn’t shown up. He admits that he has failed as a leader and suggests Rick should take over.  

Pondering this development, Rick and the Alexandria survivors are unaware that the recent spat of violence has attracted the attention of a zombie horde.

Survivors

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

Thoughts

Once again, zombies take a backseat to the action while human struggles get in the way of peace. It isn’t long before conflict begins to get in the way of comfort as Rick falls into “cop mode” when he suspects abuse being done against a boy. However, because of the experiences that have reshaped who he is and what he values and believes in, Rick takes things to the extreme by dishing out punishment as he sees fit instead of trusting in a higher authority – because, let’s face it: there is none. Does Rick overreact in this situation? He proceeds to beat the man without provocation and nearly shoots him. Pete’s medical skills make him a valuable asset, but that certainly doesn’t give him leave to beat his child. That’s the problem with this new world, there really is no black and white as everything is enshrouded in a “gray area.” Outside of the walls, Rick’s killing of Pete is easily justified, but having punishment of this caliber unleashed within the confines of the enclave is enough to force people out of the bubble they’ve been living in and realize that the world is a dangerous place, no matter how strong the walls are.  

The appearance of the bandits further drives the point home that these people are not safe. They can hold Halloween parties and social get togethers, but the fact remains there are forces outside that seek to do them harm and that they must protect what is theirs. Trust doesn’t come easy now and Douglas brings up a very important point. What if Rick didn’t show up? Andrea wouldn’t have been able to shoot the bandits and the community would have been overrun. Although it is easy to say that Rick and his crew manage to bring trouble wherever they go, they also happen to show up at just the right moment. He can almost be seen as a catalyst for change. Although we’re only getting one story in these comics, it would be interesting to see how other people are getting along. Are there more people out there like Rick? The Governor? Douglas? We’ll probably never know, but it is certainly fun to speculate.

Artwork

There isn’t anything too notable in this volume artistically speaking, although “Too Far Gone” probably has the least number of zombie appearances. Much like the volumes involving Woodbury, both “Life Among Them” and “Too Far Gone” show that there are far worse and deadlier things in the world than zombies.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 12

The Walking Dead, “Life Among Them”

Life continues to throw all sorts of twists and turns at Rick making survival increasingly difficult, but there appears to be a faint light at the end of the dark tunnel. As the group continues to make their way towards Washington D.C., Rick wants to examine Eugene’s radio in order to see if any broadcasts are coming through. Eugene gets defensive and attempts to hide the radio, but the two men struggle over it. The device hits the ground and exposes an empty battery case which causes Abraham to lose his cool and assault Eugene who reveals that he isn’t a government scientist but merely a high school science teacher. He lied in order to protect himself because he carries no skill with a weapon, is slow moving and cannot hold his own in a fight. His best option was to lie and place himself in a role of some importance in order to survive.

That night, while Rick and Abraham are met by a man named Aaron who, in a show of good faith, approaches with his hands in the air, a smile on his face and a request to speak with their leader. Instinctively, Rick punches Aaron and Abraham blinds and binds him before taking Aaron back to camp to have his fate decided. After everyone calms down, Aaron presents himself as a “recruiter” for an established community in Alexandria. Before Rick has a moment to process this information, the camp is attacked by walkers and Aaron helps defend the camp which convinces Rick to accept the offer. In private, Rick says to Abraham, “I trust this guy and it scares me.”

Before they can reach the Alexandria enclave, Aaron meets with his partner and the group helps out one of their scouting teams that have met with some trouble in town. The Atlanta survivors are welcomed into the enclave built from a large housing community powered by solar panels and surrounded by a series of concrete walls. Rick speaks with Douglas, the community leader and share their experiences before welcoming Rick and his crew into the community where they will be given their own homes. In return, Douglas asks Rick to be their sheriff. While playing with other children, Carl gets into a fight with another boy over his gun. This forces Douglas to order the confiscation of their weapons, as he enforces a strict “no weapons” policy. Although extremely resistant, Rick allows he and his crew’s weapons to be locked up in an armory.

Life almost seems normal within the community as Halloween festivities are launched, complete with kids going door to door for candy, an activity that upsets Carl who is angry that people are taken in by the “fake” community, a feeling that is shared by Andrea and Abraham. During a dinner party, Douglas makes several advances towards Andrea who rebukes him and Michonne gets angry with several housewives. The party is disrupted by Glenn and Maggie who get into an argument. Rick takes Glenn home and reveal that the fight was a ruse in order to gather intelligence on where the weapons are kept and how to get them back.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Andrea, Glenn, Maggie, Morgan, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Douglas, Aaron, misc families
Children: Carl, Sophia

Thoughts

This is one of those rare opportunities in which nothing really happens to the survivors. When the group reaches the enclave in Alexandria, they don’t have to fight for their survival. This is offers up a nice change of pace for Rick and his crew because they are coming into a pre-established and (seemingly) friendly community unlike Woodbury. However, the cloud of peace that hangs over Alexandria makes Rick, Andrea, Abraham and even Carl uneasy and they can’t help shake the feeling that everything seems so forced and artificial.

The title of this volume (and the two that follow) is telling. For the first time, Rick is welcomed into a community that doesn’t require cleanup, exploration and a plan on how to live day by day as those who came before have already done the heavy work. This makes Rick uneasy and when his weapons are taken away, his instinct kicks in and tries to find some way to get them back. Although he has been welcomed by these people, Rick knows that they are different. In his mind, they aren’t “us” – they haven’t suffered as he has. They haven’t lost a limb or saw their wife and child murdered by other people. In a town filled with people who carry on like nothing has happened, Rick can’t help but feel like an outsider. Try as Rick might to fit in, Carl quickly acknowledges that the Alexandria enclave is a farce and wants no part of it. Despite his age, the world has certainly forced the boy to mature quicker than normal.

Rick and Carl aren’t the only ones having difficulty adjusting to the relative security of the enclave. During the dinner party, we get to see Michonne very much out of her element – wearing an evening dress! – and experiencing flashbacks of her former self. When the two women chatting near her complain about housekeeping concerns, she lashes out at them. She’s in a position to do so because these people, these outsiders, have no idea about the hell she was forced to live through as the Governor’s prisoner. Like Rick, she’s got an “us” versus “them” mentality and struggles with the notion that they could truly be safe for the first time since the outbreak started.

Artwork

Moving into the Alexandria community has done wonders for the look of the characters as hot showers and a barber has given Adlard the chance to show off our heroes after being considerably cleaned up. Rick is no longer the scruffy, feral looking man we’ve gotten used to seeing. Michonne also cleans up quite nicely and looks lovely in an evening dress. However, much like the community, their cleanliness seems…off. We’ve gotten so used to seeing these characters dirtied, bloodied and beaten that viewing them otherwise is slightly unnerving.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 11

The Walking Dead, “Fear The Hunters”

At the end of “What We Become,” we started seeing some dark changes in our character’s demeanor in the face of their everyday survival. During a confrontation with a gang of rapists, Rick managed to tear the throat out of one and stab another repeatedly with a rather vicious hunting knife. Morgan, whom Rick met in volume one, hardly resembles the man we used to know as he kept his undead son chained and fed by animals and other humans Morgan had trapped, believing them to represent a significant danger to him and his son. In “Fear The Hunters,” Rick finally takes a stand against those who wish to do harm upon his own and one of the survivors that has been with Rick since the very beginning doesn’t live to see Washington D.C.

“Fear The Hunters” begins on an ominous note as Andrea stumbles upon a grisly scene: Ben has stabbed his brother Billy to death. Shocked by this terrible sight, Ben tries to assure his “momma” that because he didn’t stab Billy’s brain, he will “come back.” This horrible act forces Abraham to call a meeting with the adults and decide on how to handle a situation – made worse by the fact that Ben doesn’t truly comprehend what he’s done. Recognizing the child as a danger, Abraham suggests that he be dealt with accordingly and makes the point that Ben could easily kill them but before a decision can be reached Rick suggests everyone sleep on it. Their slumber is disturbed by the sound of gunfire – Ben has been shot and killed and no one knows who did it, although the shooter is obvious to the reader. The next morning, a priest named Gabriel Stokes wanders into Rick’s camp and joins their group, pointing them to the direction of a nearby chapel they can use for shelter.

While out searching the woods, Dale is knocked out and kidnapped by two men who bring the old man back to their own shelter. After coming to, Dale is met by a man named Chris who leads a small group of men and women who have resorted to cannibalism. To the old man’s horror, his remaining leg has been cut off and eaten and after getting over his initial shock, he bursts into laughter and gloats to Chris that he and his brood have eaten “tainted meat,” revealing a zombie-related injury he received during an earlier skirmish, but he had kept it hidden from Rick. This angers Chris who proceeds to beat Dale unconscious and decides to take him back to Rick’s camp in order to “scare the game” as it were. If it were any other group, Chris’ gang would have no trouble killing and eating the survivors. As we’re about to find out however, Chris is about to tangle with people who are at the end of their rope.

The next day, Andrea discovers Dale unconscious body near the chapel and after getting him to safety, she angrily storms out to search for those who brought him harm. Rick manages to calm the woman down and suggests they wait for Dale to recover which soothes Andrea and offers to stay by his side until he comes to and recounts his experience with Chris. Allowing his anger to get the better part of him, Rick decides that he’s had enough of people pushing him and his people around and searches for Chris’ camp with Abraham, Andrea and Michonne. At the house, Rick approaches Chris’ gang alone and calmly asks for them to leave his people be. The man laughs off the suggestion and the two talk about Chris’ descent into cannibalism and how it was done out of necessity (the grim confession reveals that their own desperation forced the group to even eat their own children). Disturbed but not phased, Rick gives Chris one last chance to leave his people be.  Chris denies this ultimatum causing Rick to signal his people to attack the group. Andrea, proving to be a fantastic shot, takes off the ear and a finger of one while Abraham and MIchonne take care of the others while leaving Chris alive. In tears, the man begs for his life and promises to leave the others be. Instead, Rick tells his team to “hold him down.” We don’t get to see exactly what Rick has done to Chris, only the aftermath: Rick, Michonne, Abraham and Andrea stand defiant as they watch the bodies burn in a pyre.

With the dark deed done, everyone returns back to camp. Andrea rushes off to be with Dale and Rick informs Stokes of what they did to Chris’ gang, mortifying the priest. Andrea and Dale share a tearful and tender moment before he asks to be killed, lest his wounds cause him to change and become a danger to her. A gunshot rings out, but no one reacts. Stokes, still shaken by Rick’s actions, presides over Dale’s funeral. The final pages of the chapter feature Rick speaking with Carl about the deep remorse he feels over the recent acts of violence and how he is haunted by all the grisly scenes of death around him. Carl begins to cry and tells his father that he was the one who shot Ben.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Andrea, Glenn, Dale, Maggie, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene
Children: Carl, Sophia, Billy, Ben

Thoughts

Losing Dale made me sad. He was one of my favorite characters in the series and to see him go out the way he did was pretty depressing. Still, Kirkman said that no one is safe and although it is easy to tell me not to develop emotional ties with the characters, I find that a difficult task. How can you not feel something for these characters? My ability to feel pain and loss for these people speaks volumes about the quality of the writing.

“Fear The Hunters” ranks pretty high on my list of favorite Walking Dead chapters because we get to see Rick stand up against those who wish to do him harm. For the most part, Rick was a naive fellow who wanted to see the good in people and often expected others to get along in order to survive the greater threat. The Governor, the prison inmates, the highway rapists and Chris’ cannibals have proven Rick wrong time after time and after Dale’s attack, Rick finally says, “You know what? No more. This ends now.” Previously, Rick would have attempted to negotiate with Chris or move onto another camp site, but considering the state of things he’s instead opted to confront his tormentors head on and deal with them accordingly. When the attack leaves Chris as the only survivor, old Rick would have let the man go – earning him a few shakes of the head from certain followers – but new Rick chooses to kill the man in a (supposed) brutal fashion. Chris certainly deserved the actions committed against him, but it’s hard to not feel even a shred of pity for the man and those under his charge. Like Morgan, they all entered into a phase of their life where they grew desperate and fearful in the face of the apocalypse. As we’ve seen before, desperation makes people do terrible and questionable things.

Artwork

Rick’s defining moment in this volume gets a large, two page spread. In most comics, a two page image would usually be a close up the character’s face and a large, stylized word bubble with lots of thick black lines and a bevy of exclamation points. What we get here is a small, conservative bubble with the words, “Hold him down” in a small, almost somber-looking font. A wise move, considering that the latter would have been considerably out of place for this scene.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 10

The Walking Dead, “What We Become”

The latest volume of Walking Dead begins with a dream: Rick saves Carl at the last moment before he is hit by a passing car. Rick shares his fear of losing his son to Lori and while the two share a tender moment, Lori turns into a zombie and begins tearing her husband apart. He wakes up, finding himself back at the camp he, Abraham and the rest of the group have set up. Taking over guard duty, Rick spends the rest of the night trying to communicate with his dead wife over the telephone.

While running through a small town gathering supplies, Porter makes an observation that the zombies in the air are weaker than any they’ve come across before and, as a scientist, he wants to stick around to study them but is vehemently denied by his fellow survivors. Back at camp, Glenn discovers that Maggie has hung herself in grief over the death of her family from the Woodbury assault. Rick and Abraham come to blows when the solider suggest they kill Maggie before she returns as a zombie appears, the two men exchanging blows just as the woman wakes up from Glenn’s resuscitation. Tensions remain high between the two men, but in a private moment with Rosita, Abraham confesses that he feels remorse for the assault and for almost getting Rick get killed by a creature in an earlier encounter.

As the survivors make their way to Washington D.C., they find their journey stymied by the hundreds of abandoned vehicles on the highway. While Michonne settles in with the survivors, Rick, Carl and Abraham scout on ahead for supplies. Their mission is stymied by three individuals who take their weapons and gleefully promise to unleash unspeakable horrors to Carl, who’s frantic screams and look of pure terror invigorates Rick, allowing him to turn on his captors and save his son – all at the risk of succumbing to barbarism. The morning after, Abraham confides in Rick, retelling the story of how he lost his family due to people in his own grown going mad and brutalizing his loved ones. The three continue their search for supplies and realize that they have stumbled into Rick’s neighborhood and are greeted by Morgan who has taken on a more feral look since he and Rick last met.

Morgan’s disheveled look was due to the loss of his son, who was attacked an infected by a roamer and spend the rest of his undead existence chained up and fed anyone who happen to wander around his house. Rick is mortified by this revelation and offers to have the father join his group, but only after he puts his son out of his misery. As Abraham questions Rick about Morgan’s mental health, they hear a gun go off and assume Morgan has killed his child, but instead he has shot the chain restraining him, allowing it to shuffle away into the wilderness. On the way back to Michonne’s camp, Rick and crew are held up by a massive herd of zombies numbering in the hundreds forcing them to flee into a nearby house until it passes. When they eventually make it back and force everyone to pack up and leave, Dale begins to show a measure of frustration and anger towards Rick for what he perceives as putting everybody’s lives in danger each time he runs off.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Andrea, Glenn, Dale, Maggie, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene
Children: Carl, Sophia, Billy, Ben

Thoughts

The title “What We Become” speaks volumes of what this issue of The Walking Dead has to say about Rick and those around him. Abraham, Rick and Morgan experience a moment in which the walls they’ve built up around themselves to safely protect their and humanity have begun to break down due to the constant stress, fear and paranoia of having to live life not knowing if you are going to survive the night and constantly be surrounded by death and madness. Up until now, Rick has had to deal with people who have lost their minds and no matter how bad things got, he managed to keep himself together and brave horrors around him. That was, however, until his wife and child were killed. In the previous volume, we’re forced to question Rick’s health when after he believes to be talking to his dead wife on a disconnected phone. Here, we get to see Rick embraces animal savagery when Carl’s innocence (well, what’s left of it) is threatened by the gang of rapists. This is a significant change in our hero and a distressing one at that. Rick has lashed out before, but never this violently. He’s no longer willing to accept immoral behavior

The reappearance of Morgan is very interesting for two reasons: (a) his actions mirror those of The Governor and (b) he the personification of a “what if?” moment – what if Rick had lost Carl? Would he turn out the same way? Having been forced to witness seeing his son turn into a zombie, Morgan kept his child chained up and fed him those who happened to wander near his home. Unlike the Governor, however, Morgan doesn’t do this out of pure evil. He simply doesn’t know what to do and when you’ve suffered as greatly as Morgan has, it can be difficult to make rational decisions. With his son now undead, Morgan experienced a breakdown that led him to hurting (presumably) innocent people because he simply couldn’t accept that his son, his sole reason for survival was gone. It makes you wonder how different things would have been if Rick found the corpses of his wife and son after escaping the hospital or not finding them among the Atlanta survivors in “Days Gone Bye.”

There’s an interesting scene towards the end of the chapter involving one of the twins pulling out the innards of a dead cat in the field – was the cat already dead or did the boy kill it? Clearly, the events that occur in this volume seem to be leading our heroes toward a considerably dark path and it makes you wonder just how bad things are going to get.

Artwork

So…how about that scene with Rick tearing that guy’s throat out? Holy cow.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 9

The Walking Dead, “Here We Remain”

After the devastating attack on the prison by the Governor from Woodbury that claimed the lives so many, Rick and Carl find themselves adrift. The two claim an abandoned house in order to rest and regroup, but they find it difficult to cope with the loss of Lori and Judith. When Rick succumbs to a fever from injuries sustained in the prison battle, Carl is forced to see the world for what it is and the face the possibilities of life without his father. Thankfully, a steady dose of medication allows Rick to recover from his illness. For the most part, life is seemingly uneventful as Rick attempts to hone Carl’s survival skills but it is not long before things take an odd turn when the house phone rings. Rick is thrilled to hear the voice of another survivor and asks to join her group, only to be denied. After a few days of conversation, Rick asks for the woman’s name and is shocked to hear the name “Lori.” Despite ripping the phone cord from the wall, he can still hear the voice of his dead wife.

Disturbed by this, Rick and Carl pack their things and leave using an abandoned car near the house, using it as an opportunity to teach Carl to drive, but the lesson is cut short by an attack from roamers and are rescued at the last minute by Michonne. The three eventually meet up with Glenn and Maggie who have been holed up with Dale, Andrea, Sophia and the twins at Hershel’s farm. After a tearful and somber reunion, Rick patrols the farm’s perimeter and catches Michonne talking to herself and although she initially denies it, Michonne tells him she is speaking to her dead boyfriend. Rick understands and tells her about his phone call with Lori, showing the phone he took from the house on the day he and Carl left.

The next morning, Rick is woken up by the sounds of gunfire as Andrea keeps three human survivors attempting to loot Hershel’s barn at bay. After a tense standoff, the survivors, Sergeant Abraham Ford, Rosita Espinosa and Doctor Eugene Porter, reveal their honest intentions of seeking supplies for a trip to Washington D.C. where Porter hopes to find a science lab in order to study and cure the plague. Porter claims knowledge of the outbreak, further revealing that he was part of the science team developing a similar biological attack. This angers Rick and his group, but after much deliberation (and a few zombie attacks), they ultimately decide to pack up and head out to Washington D.C. with Abraham’s crew.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Andrea, Glenn, Dale, Maggie, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene
Children: Carl, Sophia, Billy, Ben

Thoughts

After the violent, maddening storm that was volume eight, “Hear We Remain” is a much more quiet affair for several reasons: we are given a chance to catch our breath after the culling of Rick’s survivors and it allows for the father/son bond between Rick and Carl to grow. Up until now, Rick has had the best interests of the group in mind and didn’t have many moments with Carl, opting to have others look after him while he went out to gather supplies. I’m glad that they finally have this moment together, but the circumstances are certainly a shame. While his father was ill, Carl experiences a moment of not wanting to be afraid any longer, that he wants to be a much stronger person, should his father die. However, he does falter a bit when he believes Rick has become a zombie, asking what he thinks is a roamer to just get on with it and eat him. But with Rick cured and things quieting down, they can focus on each other.

After the emotional trauma he suffered at the prison, Rick is beginning show signs of change. Although he seemed to understand that no one was going to save them and the government wasn’t coming to help, he still held out hope that as a group, they could all pull together and survive. With Lori and his daughter dead and the group dispersed, Rick is becoming more world weary and, quite possibly, slipping into some sort of madness that is hinted by his telephone conversation with his dead wife. Madness? Or grief? He uses the time to apologize for Lori for failing to protect her, so perhaps this is a sort of defense mechanism? Another instance of this new Rick is his final speech with Carl, telling him that no matter what, no matter how secure they find themselves and how many humans they surround themselves with, they are never safe.

Artwork

There’s really nothing in particular to note in this volume except that the artwork mirrors the feeling of weariness and hopelessness expressed by the characters. There are very little smiles to be found here. As much as I didn’t care for the artist’s heavy use of shadows and putting characters in darkness, I felt it was pretty effective in this volume, specifically the shots of Rick curled up next to the telephone.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 8

The Walking Dead, “Made To Suffer”

The day has finally come. Armed Woodbury citizens have arrived to take the prison and kill Rick and his band of survivors. Take make things worse, the Governor has apparently survived his brutalized torture at the hands of Michonne and while wounded and left without an arm, his anger runs deep. After rallying his people under the guise that Rick’s survivors are monsters, the emboldened populace attack the prison en masse. During the firefight, Andrea and Axel are wounded, but are still capable of pushing back the Governor’s clumsy assault. After his forces fall back to regroup giving everyone a chance to breath, panic sets it once Tyreese discovers that Rick has been shot in the stomach. While the doctor prepares him for a blood transfusion, Michonne and Tyreese armor up to chase after stragglers and Dale wants everyone to leave before Woodbury has a chance to attack again. Hershel, Billy and Axel offer to stay behind with Lori and Alice to look after Rick as he recovers from his injuries.

Back in the forest, Michonne and Tyreese are able to dispatch a few of the Governor’s forces before they are overrun and Tyreese is captured. In order to convince Rick to give up the prison, the Governor threatens to kill the man with Michonne’s sword and in an surprising display of coldness, Rick does not act on the request, resulting in Tyreese getting clumsily beheaded. Angered by the relentlessness of the prison survivors, the Governor marshals his troops for a final assault with the intention of ramming the gates and killing every single living person. Michonne appears and wounds the insane leader before running off to meet with Rick. Axel is killed and the incoming fire has the rest of the group stuck in cover. Relief is found in the return of Dale, Andrea, Glenn and Maggie. Andrea’s crack shot has Woodbury running scared, leaving the Governor no choice but to steer his tank through the gates, allowing both his forces and the incoming zombies a way into the facility.

As Rick retrieves Alice, Lori, Judith and Carl from inside the prison, Hershel, Billy and Patricia are left to fend off the assault. Patricia and Billy are shot while attempting to break cover, leaving Hershel to fall on his knees and dies after the crazed leader executes him. Rick, his family and Alice attempt to flee, but Alice is killed and in what has to be the most shocking image in The Walking Dead, Lori and Judith are shot and killed. Rick and Carl manage to escape, horrified at the sight of his wife’s and baby daughter’s lifeless bodies. When the Woodbury citizens make this discovery, they turn on their leader and shot him in the head before allowing the zombies to rip him apart.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Lori, Allen, Donna, Carol, Shane, Jim, Andrea, Amy, Glenn, Dale, Tyreese, Julie, Chris, Hershel, Billy, Maggie, Otis, Patricia, Axel, Michonne, Alice, Doc Stevens, Martinez.

Children: Carl, Sophia, Billy, Ben, Judith

Thoughts

Holy cow. Where do I even begin with this volume? So much death! Made To Suffer is a significant turning point in the series because almost all of the survivors we have come to know from the first few volumes have been killed off in the most horrible and unjust way. Just as Robert Kirkman pledged, no one is safe in this world and any character, no matter how important or innocent can die. Even an infant. In some ways, Made To Suffer can be compared to the end of the Walking Dead’s first “season” because from here on out, things will move in an entirely new direction and a new cast introduced.

Let’s start with the death of Tyreese, who I feel really got the short end of the stick. Rick’s coldness and apparent disinterest in his sacrifice is alarming, even if Rick had a point. They obviously weren’t going to give into the Governor’s demands (would you?), but Rick’s lack of emotion is certainly upsetting. Rick didn’t hate the man, despite being at odds with him, but this is a new Rick we’re seeing. One who has taken his own speech from the end of The Heart’s Desire seriously. Rick knows what needs to be done and is willing to sacrifice in order to keep what is his. He’s nowhere near having a similar ideology as the Governor, but the change in Rick is surprising.

Just as the Governor’s assault on the prison gets to its most ferocious level, we see the cracks appear in his foundation as the citizens begin to question their motives. While they were easily swayed in the safety of Woodbury, little did they realize the consequences of their actions and the lies perpetrated by their insane leader. After Billy is shot, the man who killed him shows terrible remorse, only to be goaded by the Governor. It isn’t until Judith’s body is discovered with Lori that things quickly get out of hand and the dictator’s fate is sealed. Up until now, there has been the constant back and forth between the prison survivors and Woodbury about what they fight for. Led to believe that Rick’s party were monsters for what they’ve done to the Governor’s troops, they are horrified to discover that they were all fighting for the same thing: survival. And once again, we find out that people are the worst kind of monster in a chaotic world. It is interesting to note that out of all the people who are killed in this volume, none of them are done in by a zombie. In fact, zombies are just window dressing at this point. The message is obvious, but to Kirkman’s credit, you’re not beaten over the head with it.

Artwork

Despite so much chaos going on in this volume, Adlard paints a clear picture of every exchange and skirmish between Rick and the Governor. Once again, the volume’s biggest moments are given full page renderings, with the death of Lori and Judith taking center stage and becomes one of The Walking Dead’s most memorable moments.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 7

The Walking Dead, “The Calm Before”

Life among the undead appears to have turned into some semblance of normalcy after the trials and tribulations at Woodbury, as Rick and the survivors adjust to life in the prison while keeping the imminent assault of the neighboring town in the back of their minds. Glenn and Maggie get married, Michonne allows herself some emotional release after her ordeal and Lori struggles with the implications of her looming pregnancy by offering to reveal the nature of her and Shane’s relationship. Not wanting Lori to actually tell him, Rick acknowledges and understands that the baby is not his, but Shane’s. Meanwhile, Andrea, Tyreese, Axel and Glenn pack up the RV and head to the outskirts of Woodbury in order to watch for any signs of movement from the enemy camp and discover that they are not far from National Guard armory. After taking all the weapons they can carry, the crew travel to a nearby Wal-Mart only to be confronted by a cadre of Woodbury thugs who are quickly dispatched, but Glenn is hurt.

Back at the prison, the remaining survivors scramble as Lori gives birth to a healthy baby girl. The evening does not pass without incident, as Dale and Billy are attacked by zombies while scouring for fuel, leaving Dale bitten on his leg. Now that they have a doctor, Dale has his infected limb removed and cared for, allowing him to survive his injuries. Days pass, with Rick and Lori caring for their daughter Judith and Carol, seeing herself being drawn away from her obsession with the Grimes family, sneaks away and forces herself on Hershel’s son before letting herself be killed by a zombie. This volume ends with the Governor, clad in National Guard riot gear riding atop a tank ordering his personal army of Woodbury citizens to kill everyone in the prison.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Lori, Allen, Donna, Carol, Shane, Jim, Andrea, Amy, Glenn, Dale, Tyreese, Julie, Chris, Hershel, Billy, Maggie, Otis, Patricia, Axel, Michonne, Alice, Doc Stevens, Martinez.

Children: Carl, Sophia, Billy, Ben, Judith

Thoughts

What a sad end for Carol. Having lost Tyreese to Michonne, she has obviously struggled with feelings of loneliness, sometimes at the expense of her daughter’s emotional state. Her desire for some sort of human contact pushed her into wanting some sort of connection between Rick and Lori. Both rebuked her advances and suggestions of marriage and although we believed her to have returned to some normal state of mind, she allows herself to be bitten. But what of poor Sophia? She’s been forced to see her mother hurt herself on two occasions, the first being her failed suicide attempt after leaving Tyreese. What does this say about her? While it is easy to say she was a bad, selfish mother, one has to consider the situation she’s been placed in. Her world has been turned upside down because of the zombie apocalypse and her rational state of mind damaged due to the constant fear of death.

Artwork

One of the things I love about the art direction of The Walking Dead is how Adlard gives the series’ most arresting images an entire page – or in some cases, a two page spread. Carol’s death, the birth of Judith, the arrival of the Woodbury citizens and the reappearance of the Governor are all given big, dramatic shots which are really effective in delivering a sense of emotional impact.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 6

The Walking Dead, “This Sorrowful Life”

The horrors and indignities at Woodbury continue as the Governor puts Michonne into the arena to fight for her life, only to quickly and ruthlessly behead her opponent and all the zombies in the ring. In a strange display of compassion, Martinez, the guard who brought Rick, Glenn and Michonne into Woodbury, launches a bold escape attempt. After freeing his two friends, Woodbury’s two medical specialists, Alice and Doc Stevens accompany the escapees out of town. The escape doesn’t go without incident, as Michonne turns back to confront the Governor and Doc Stevens is attacked and killed by a zombie.

While Rick, Glenn, Martinez and Alice flee into the woods, Michonne finds the Governor in his home and proceeds to violently torture the the man, putting him through such horrible indignities that really can’t be discussed here. She does cut his arm off, but a missing arm soon becomes the least of his worries. Needless to say, she gets her revenge for the experience he put her through. Afterwards, she meets up with Rick and together they head back to the prison, only to find the gates open and zombies making their way inside. Reconnecting with the remaining survivors allows for the group to re-secure the prison, exterminate the remaining zombies and burn the corpses. Just when things are starting to look normal, Rick discovers Martinez has left the prison and fully intends to reveal the location to the Governor, but is stopped by Rick slamming Dale’s RV into him, forcing the officer to experience another instance of grief over killing another human being.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Lori, Allen, Donna, Carol, Shane, Jim, Andrea, Amy, Glenn, Dale, Tyreese, Julie, Chris, Hershel, Billy, Maggie, Otis, Patricia, Axel, Michonne, Alice, Doc Stevens, Martinez.

Children: Carl, Sophia, Billy, Ben

Thoughts

When I first read through “This Sorrowful Life,” I forced myself not to skip through Michonne taking revenge against the Governor. While it was warranted and I wanted her to have this moment, it is incredibly brutal and hard to stomach. This time, however, I skipped it because, frankly, it is just too much! Seeing people getting eaten by the undead is one thing, but in this case, the story goes a bit too far for me.

Artwork

Did I say the last volume’s artwork was disturbing? THIS one is FAR worse! The Governor’s torture scene at the hands of Michonne? Ugh.

Doubletake: The Walking Dead Volume 5

The Walking Dead, “The Best Defense”

In what has to be the most chilling entry in The Walking Dead, Rick and his band of survivors discover that they aren’t alone. After spotting a helicopter crashing nearby, Rick, Michonne and Glenn follow the plume of smoke only to discover the transport empty, but surrounded by half a dozen bootprints. Travelling to the nearby town of Woodbury, Rick is shocked to see another human settlement led by a man who calls himself The Governor. As welcoming as this man is to Rick and his friends, all is not what it seems. Despite having medical facilities and armed guards, the Governor runs Woodbury as his own personal kingdom, offering up gladiatorial-style fights that pit humans against zombies. In a shocking display of mindless violence in order to determine the location of Rick’s prison, the Governor cuts the policeman’s hand clean off, forces Michonne to endure brutal and agonizing rape and locks Glenn up in solitary confinement next to her cell. The three manage to endure their harsh confinement long enough for the Governor to attempt to trick Rick into revealing the location of the prison by suggesting that Glenn has told him everything.

Survivors

Adults: Rick, Lori, Allen, Donna, Carol, Shane, Jim, Andrea, Amy, Glenn, Dale, Tyreese, Julie, Chris, Hershel, Billy, Maggie, Otis, Patricia, Axel, Michonne.

Children: Carl, Sophia, Billy, Ben

Thoughts

Few villains in the history of comics have sent more shivers down my spine than the Governor. This is a man who is clearly mad with power, who willingly keeps a zombie child in his home (whom he feeds the body parts of strangers or those that lose arena fights) and entertains himself by watching the gurgling decapitated heads of zombies in rows of fish tanks. He is very much the opposite of Rick, who is a compassionate soul who is willing to do what he can, within reason, to protect the people under his care. The Governor has given up any semblance of humanity, choosing to exploit his position of power and becoming a heartless figure who has no problem committing horrible atrocities in order to secure his rule.

When I first read this volume, I couldn’t believe what happened to Rick. It made me realize how easy it is to take basic medical care for granted. Rick was fortunate that the Governor had doctors under in his employ, but with prosthetics or reattachment out of the question, Rick’s life will never be the same after having been mutilated. I still get chills thinking about him losing his hand so mindlessly.

Artwork

This is by far the most disturbing volume to view because of all the horrible violence committed by the Governor. Between the loss of Rick’s hand,and Michonne’s battered body, Adlard’s artwork gets more and more uncomfortable to flip through. The Governor’s act of feeding his dead child Rick’s hand is, well, pretty messed up.