This isn’t going to be another post on how good the series continues to be. Yes, this volume represents a major turning point as Rick and co. manage to not kill the emissary from another encampment and find out that there are a lot more survivors out there than they first imagined. It all leads to our protagonists finding an actual self-sustaining community that isn’t run by a complete madman. This is progress. After a deal is struck, and everyone heads back to their base, we’re treated to a lengthy monologue from Rick that really sorts out why he keeps finding himself in these leadership positions and his thoughts on what this community means for everyone. The volume ends with a full-page close-up of Rick’s that really manages to make you wonder about what he has just said.
It’s that image that really sticks with me. Instead of a visage that should inspire hope or comfort, you get one that shows, if not exactly a madman, then someone at the end of their rope. One who doesn’t fully believe the words that are coming out of his mouth, but is determined to commit to them because he sees no other choice. Though the blacks are in all the right places for Charlie Adlard’s illustration to give the picture this air of uncertainty, they’re used sparingly and instead your attention is drawn to Rick’s eyes. There’s this hollow deadness to them that you don’t usually see with his work, leading me to think it’s intentional, and that emotionlessness also carries over to his mouth as well. It’s a haunting image and even though the volume ends with the very real possibility that things are going to get better, you’re still left with the feeling that everything is not going to be all right.
Though I tend to regard most script-to-panel pages in trade paperbacks as negligible bits of added value, I would have loved to see Robert Kirkman’s original script for that page. Did he have very specific instructions for Adlard? Was it just a one-sentence description that the artist extrapolated from? I doubt that this was some kind of accident, or disconnect between the writer and the artist, if only for the reason that any writer/artist team that puts out ninety consecutive issues of any series has to have a great working relationship, if not be completely in sync with each other. I’d really like to ask Kirkman about it if I ever got the chance to see him at Comic-Con, so I’ve got a little over two weeks to figure out how to phrase it.