Issue #96 is the final part of The Walking Dead’s newest arc, “A Larger World”. Click “More” to read our review!
The Walking Dead #96
In defense of Gregory, Rick has killed Ethan, a member of the Hilltop community who was sent by the mysterious Negan in order to save his girlfriend (or possibly wife). After a tense confrontation calms down, Jesus takes Rick’s group to the mansion in the center of town and tells them about Negan. This roaming madman demands half of everything the Hilltop produces in the way of supplies. Carl steps up and says if they were to kill Negan and his men, why not just give Rick’s people half of what they produce. Rick sweetens the deal by saying they wouldn’t even need that much. This gets Jesus thinking, and gives Rick the chance to strike a deal with the people of the Hilltop. Now all Rick has to do is convince the battle-hardened Andrea and Michonne that this plan is the way toward a future that would be the return of civilization.
This particular issue from Robert Kirkman really sneaks up on you. It’s a conclusion to a story, but instead of the usual big finale that leaves the group obviously changed from what they were before, there’s almost a sense of hope… But what gives that hope a bite is that it could come with a serious cost. Rick is completely won over by the operation of the Hilltop. He and Glenn seem to view the place as almost a paradise or an oasis in the vast wasteland. Rick sees the place as the way of the future. These people live together peacefully and happily (aside from the menace of Negan). They produce massive amounts of food and supplies and seemed to have built a fairly serious life.
By the end of the issue, we see exactly how much each character has changed. Glenn is tired of living in fear. He wants a good life for Maggie, Sophia, and himself. He sees the Hilltop as a place where he could grow old and contented. Michonne, who’s never exactly been warm and fuzzy, sees the place as a terrifying cult-like compound led by a man who seemingly holds the place in a sway through his charisma. Andrea believes the place is weak and beneath them and can’t believe that Rick would sacrifice any of their people to protect them from someone that they allowed to take from the Hilltop.
Rick, in an effective monologue gives his side of the story. In a parallel to how the television series concluded its second season, Rick finally tells them how he’s felt being their leader. He didn’t ask for it, he can barely do it without getting people killed or losing loved ones. Here, at the Hilltop, he sees this as the beginning of a new civilization. A place where repopulation can begin.
Ultimately, the four points of view of the Hilltop actually parallel exactly four facets of how Rick runs his group. People feel safe around Rick. They follow him blindly. They are often exposed and, through that exposure, they are weakened. The goal from the very beginning was to find safety and some sort of modicum of a life. All this sneaks into this issue and leads to a rousing finish that sets up the next phase of this series, but what really stuck out for me was Rick’s big plan for the people of the Hilltop. He wants to take their some 200 people and turn them into an army against marauders and walkers to build that safe world.
Thank about that for a second… The more you think about it, it might sound relatively sensible. You can’t create safety unless you have a way to defend yourself, but at what point does that become a police state that is just as dangerous on the inside as it is on the outside. Begin teaching people how to fight and defend themselves and, suddenly, you introduce the idea of territory. The more I began thinking about it, the more bleak it became. Is there no possibility for a happy life? Has civilization truly ended? How many lives will the pursuit of this ideal cost?
It’s particularly interesting to see where we’re heading. Lots of talk has started to turn toward issue #100 and promises of surprises and shocks. And what of this Negan? Is he truly as bad as he seems or could there be more to his story? I can hardly wait to find out what happens next!
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Surprisingly deep story that doesn’t end with death or disappointment for our characters. There’s a hope for what this new world could be, but it really feels laced with barbs that could turn out horribly.||A little light on any kind of action, but what it is missing there is made up by good use of character and a promise for great stuff to come.|