In any postapocalyptic situation, things eventually have to stop being about mere survival for those involved. There will come a time when people have to start considering the long-term approach to not just securing a place for themselves to live, but also how they’re going to want to rebuild society. If you are among the living, these are your ultimate goals. That’s why Lori’s anxiety over whether or not to have her baby in the TV series annoys the hell out of me. Yes, it’s a bad situation, but if you haven’t already “opted out” of living in this new world, rebuilding it needs to be your ultimate goal and that includes bringing new lives into it. This particular argument isn’t the focus of this new volume, but the long-term approach to survival is.
After the catastrophic events of the last volume, Rick is convinced that more can be done to improve people’s lives here. While improved defenses are one such idea, others include taking larger groups out on supply runs, organizing community events, reclaiming more land and farming. Of course, not everyone agrees with him and some longtime residents of the settlement are making plans of their own to take it back. Then there’s the matter of the coma Carl is in as a result of the headshot he sustained. Even if he does wake up, who can say that he’ll be the same person?
Though seeing the community take steps to becoming more self-sustaining is the main thrust of this volume, it’s all of the little subplots that provide the real drama. While there should be no question by now that Rick is a born leader, his track record as such tends to support a “cure is worse than the disease” conclusion when it comes to surviving against the walkers. Not helping matters any is his increasing mental instability. His confession to the doctor in the beginning is downright disturbing, as was his latest “call” to Lori and his distress over Carl’s condition can only make a bad situation worse. That said, writer Robert Kirkman realizes this and plays against the reader’s expectations quite well in the volume’s climax.
There’s also a larger than usual amount of soap opera dramatics in this volume. This comes from the stream of breakups, hookups, attempted hookups, and the ongoing issue of “is this going to be the volume where Glenn finally bites it?” It’s not so much a complaint as it is an observation, especially since these romantic entanglements either tease out new plot threads, in the case of Abraham, or are just plain surprising... as you’ll see on the last page. As with Glenn, he seems to keep finding himself in life-threatening situations whether he seeks them out or not. Next to Rick and Carl, he’s the longest-surviving member of the cast, which means that odds of him dying keep getting higher after each situation he survives. Then again, this volume also shows that even when he does survive, it doesn’t mean that everything’s all right. Not by a longshot.
So really, all of the above is to say that this is another strong volume in an already consistently excellent series. In decompressing from the high drama of the previous collection, we get a new focus and direction for the characters and the story. As the characters themselves take a long-term approach to rebuilding society here, “The Walking Dead’s” own long-term health looks as good as ever.