Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Walking Dead, Volume 20: All Out War Part 1 Review (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)

When superhero comics do purely fight stories, they tend to be pretty terrible (like Marvel’s AVX or DC’s Trinity War), but when The Walking Dead does it? Home run!

Maybe it’s because Robert Kirkman’s built up the characters over so long that we now care about them, or maybe it’s because the characters aren’t decades-old superheroes who will never die. Maybe it’s a more tense situation as Kirkman’s shown that he has no issues with taking out major characters to shake up a story. 

Or maybe it’s because the story is more realistic – if a character gets shot, they go down, they don’t keep going because they don’t have superpowers. I think it’s because we all know Rick’s going to kill Negan and we’re waiting for that moment to come. At any rate, The Walking Dead’s latest and greatest storyline featuring a very small scale war between Rick’s group and Negan’s is completely engrossing.

Kirkman wastes no time in sending Rick out to formally declare war by striking first against Negan’s factory, and from then on the rest of the book follows how Rick’s forces fare against Negan’s outposts, the two characters pitting their tactics against one another in a desperate fight to the death. Lots of characters die followed with lots of twists and turns – I don’t want to give away details but I thought Kirkman’s plotting was absolutely first rate. I especially liked how Rick uses the zombies as tools in his plans!

The “Part 1” of the title might annoy some readers who were looking to see this conflict resolved in one volume, like when the Governor attacked the prison earlier in the series, but Negan has proved to be a more resilient and complex character than the Governor who won’t go down so easily. Plus this conflict is a much larger and more ambitious story than any other attempted so far and Kirkman crams in so many awesome set pieces that there’s no way this could be a done-in-one story.

Even though Kirkman skims over certain plot obstacles for those surprise moments when characters seemingly pop out of nowhere, there’s still so much happening in this book that you need at least one more volume to do the arc justice. And really, when you hit a rich narrative vein like this, why would you want it over sooner rather than later? Especially when things get turned up to 11 in the final act when Negan reveals a secret weapon that completely changes the balance of the war in his favour…

Jesus continues to be awesome in his action hero role, I love that Maggie’s playing a bigger role, Rick continues to flourish as a leader, now assuming the role of military commander, and Negan continues to baffle with his behaviour – he doesn’t condone rape but he doesn’t blink when it comes to murdering his own people? What a bizarre morality he has! I can’t nail down his character nor guess what he’s about to do next which is a big part of his appeal.

All Out War Part 1 is a fantastic read – it’s all killer, no filler and longtime readers of the series will love it. It’s blisteringly paced and you’ll fly through this in one sitting, wishing you had the next volume to hand immediately after (and if you’re reading this in the future, grab all parts of All Out War and read it as one!). Totally thrilling stuff, the series is at its best the more Rick and co. are up against it and never before have they been in more trouble than with evil Fonzie at their gates - 20 volumes in and the series has never been more exciting!

The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War Part 1

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