Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Walking Dead, Volume 25: No Turning Back Review (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)

It should’ve been a time for celebration but Alpha and the Whisperers have brought tragedy and horror to the townspeople of Alexandria. Now, the friends and family of the victims demand action from their leader Rick Grimes - instant retaliation - especially against the one former Whisperer in their midst, Lydia, Alpha’s troubled teenage daughter. With pressure building each hour he doesn’t act, Rick turns to an unlikely advisor for answers. 

I’m definitely not a Robert Kirkman fanboy who five stars everything he puts his name to and The Walking Dead has been a very uneven series with some seriously awesome and terrible books, the large majority being mediocre; BUT, all that said, credit where it’s due: he really hits a home-run with this one. 

No Turning Back isn’t a plot-heavy book, it’s a character-driven episode specifically focused on Rick that’s never boring. Kirkman has in the past fumbled some crucial character moments and key speeches (he’ll never live down the “WE are the Walking Dead!” splash page) but he’s gotten much better over the years. More importantly he’s really gotten to know Rick inside and out - and it shows. 

Rick faces some tough choices but Kirkman shows him working through his thought-processes and complicated feelings through some superb one-on-one conversations with Maggie, Andrea, Michonne, Eugene, and, yes, Negan. All are utterly compelling and convincingly-written and Negan is really becoming a likeable villain in his role as dark advisor to Rick - the voice giving substance to the hard decisions Rick has to make. Negan’s still an evil fuck though - never forget what he did to Glenn! 

Though most of the book is The Rick Grimes Show, Kirkman doesn’t forget to show us the other plates he’s got spinning. We see Alpha’s reaction to losing Lydia, Carl and Lydia’s blossoming relationship (ah, to be in love during the zombie apocalypse!), Eugene’s tinkering with the radio (that you know is going to come into play big time soon), and even Dwight, Negan’s former lackey, continues his strange journey. When he’s on, he’s on, and Kirkman does a fantastic job of keeping all those storylines going strong. 

There’s really no part of the book I’d say was weak or uninteresting - I was in for the whole thing and loved the finale and the direction the series is taking. The Walking Dead is at its best when it’s got an Us vs Them storyline and Rick’s people vs the Whisperers looks to be something special. And there wasn’t even a single freakin’ zombie in this one! 

Kirkman’s got a great balance at the moment - tease out enough story, let it settle and show us the characters’ reactions, then let loose more story, then settle, and so on. It really builds up the tension well and keeps the reader fully engaged. 

Against all odds, the series keeps going, better than ever. Unless you hate Rick Grimes (why are you still reading the series if you are?!), you’re gonna love this one.

The Walking Dead, Volume 25: No Turning Back

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