He’s Dead Tired: The Walking Dead #103 Reviewon October 18, 2012 at 9:03 am
I am not going to recommend that you read The Walking Dead #103 as an individual issue for two reasons. The first being that this issue is all setup for seeing the gang’s nemesis, Negan, eventually take his rotten barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille, somewhere south of Tainthattan (and that is, by the way, my official prediction as to what happens to the greasy bastard).
The second reason is that, since this is all setup for that inevitable, yet eventual, beatdown, it is an issue designed to make us hate Negan even more than we already did for killing Glenn. Which means that we spend 22 pages here watching Negan be a colossal asshole and get away with it. Which will make Negan’s inevitable defeat all the sweeter, but seen on its own, as an individual issue?
God damn, what a bummer.
This issue continues showing the fallout of Rick and company crossing Negan and his army, the murder of Glenn, and Rick’s apparent rolling over and giving up in the past few issues, by finally showing Rick rolling over and giving up. Kinda. Sure, Rick tells Andrea that he’s got a plan brewing, and Jesus is shown out following Dwight, the prisoner Rick released last issue, back to Negan’s camp to do a little surveillance, but the bulk of this issue is Negan and his goons showing up at Mr. Rick’s Neighborhood, throwing their weight around, stealing shit, and generally being a pastel sweater and a can of hair mousse away from being the dick boyfriend in an 80s teen movie.
Make no mistake: The Walking Dead #103 exists only to make the reader hate Negan more, to drop in a possible hint or two as to some moving parts behind Rick’s plan to take Negan on, and show a few concrete actions of capitulation on Rick’s part to sow the seeds of possible insurrection on the part of Rick’s crew before Rick inevitably drops the hammer on Negan. As such, this issue is not really all that necessary: we already hate Negan. The fucker killed Glenn wth a baseball bat in about the most gruesome manner possible back in July; it’s not like absence was gonna make our heart grow fonder for that prick. Further, we already know that the gang is pissed about Rick’s apparent decision to play ball with Negan; we saw it in the last issue, and while having more concrete reasons for people to start getting uppity in future issues will help cement those actions, what happens here just raises the stakes on things that we knew already.
And frankly, seeing Negan wander around with all his settings cranked to full douche marks one of the few times where I felt like I could see writer Robert Kirkman behind the curtain, trying to push my buttons. This character is so over the top and so cranked up to be a dick that he really feels like a two-dimensional bad guy in a direct-to-VHS 80s action flick. All he needs is a moustache to twirl and a child to indiscriminately kill… which is the one really interesting potential development that this issue sets up. Kirkman goes out of his way to show Carl just seething over Rick’s announcement to roll over for these pricks, and Carl even makes an aborted confrontation with Negan. So I’m guessing that Kirkman might be setting up Carl getting whacked before this is all said and done… but even if he does that, it means that Kirkman’s transformation of Negan into a stereotypical Schwarzenegger villain will be complete. And if that happens, we might see Rick stick Negan’s baseball bat up his ass, smirk and say, “You picked a fine time to cleave for me, Lucille,” and then it’s time to switch to the AMC show to see if Carl has the wherewithal to learn what “Stay inside” means.
Charlie Adlard’s art, as always, is a selling point for any issue of The Walking Dead. While there are a few panels of minor zombie action to break things up here, a big part of this issue is talking head action, which means Adlard has a lot of heavy lifting to keep things interesting. And he accomplishes it with damn expressive faces – you can see the relief on Andrea’s face when Rick tells her that there actually is some kind of a plan to deal with Negan, and the smirk on Rick’s that he thinks he has everything well in hand. As always, Adlard’s panel layout is clear, and he moves the camera around and uses shadows and silhouettes to keep a story about dudes talking visually interesting.
I hate to say this, but this feels like a really unnecessary issue of The Walking Dead, one that exists to pad out the trade and to simply hammer home character points that we already know. We know that Negan is a prick, and we know that the gang is gonna get prickly over the idea that they need to give half of their stuff to this fuckwit and his boys; it’s not entirely necessary to see those obvious things reiterated. And while there’s a possible setup for Carl to take another bullet, and that comment that the bad guys took all the drugs “that can be abused” is a little too on the nose to be anything but foreshadowing, it doesn’t feel like anything in the story really advanced here. It’s depressing, it puts the antagonist on the level of a William Zabka role, and it generally just reiterates things that we already knew. If you need to save yourself three bucks this week, this is an issue that you can pretty safely skip.