Cracking The Fourth Wall – A Review of The Walking Dead #100
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead #100***
While answering a fan question in the “Letter Hacks” section of The Walking Dead #100, series writer and co-creator Robert Kirkman says the following: “A good indication that we’re not going to do something is if hundreds of people predict it. If it’s obvious, we’ve probably already decided not to do it…because it’s obvious.”
That’s something fans of this series (or at least I myself) should have kept in mind when opening the long-awaited issue #100. Prior to this issue, Kirkman penciller Charlie Adlard had taken Rick, Karl, Michonne and a few other more prominent characters, and split them off from the homestead where Andrea and the rest of the group were. They’d done all but erect a giant neon sign to suggest that Andrea’s group would be attacked and likely all killed by a character named Negan and his gang of tyrannic thugs. He’d built up a new romantic relationship between Rick and Andrea, gotten most of the A-listers out of dodge, and even shown us a few gang members near the homestead where the characters were staying. It looked like the stage was set for yet another big, bloody massacre where Rick would once again lose the woman he cares for.
Cue the swerve. Negan and his goons found Rick and the others in the van, and Negan ultimately beat fan favorite character Glenn to death with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire. More than half the issue consists of one long scene where Negan not only kills Glenn, but says things like:
”We pissing our pants yet? Oh, boy–do I have a feeling we’re getting close. It’s going to be pee pee pants city here real soon.”
- “The new world order is this, and it’s very simple…Give me your shit or I will kill you. You work for me now. You have shit–you give it to me. That’s your job.”
- “I just hope–for your fucking sake, you’ve finally realized how things work and where you stand in all this…Whatever you had going for you–that’s over. You answer to me. You provide for me. You belong to me.”
This is one of those twists that you kick yourself for not expecting, because it retrospect it seems so obvious. Yes, Kirkman and Adlard were heavily hinting that Andrea and the rest of the crew were going to bite it. But all the characters that I as a reader care most about (Andrea being the sole exception) were also placed in a van and sent out into the wild. Given that this was the 100th issue, and we were expecting an important character to die, the odds of said fatality happening in that van were 10 times higher than the homestead.
Mind you, I don’t say this in anger. When you’re so wrapped up in the story that you can’t see the bigger picture from a deconstructionist standpoint, that’s a great thing. A lot of fans were no doubt expecting that homestead to go down in flames. Instead, Kirkman and Adlard gave us something much smaller in scale, but much more important and impactful: The introduction of a new villain who, when push comes to shove, may be worse than the Governor was.
The Negan character has only been around for one issue, but I love him already. He’s exactly what this book needs to inject some fresh life into it. He’s an obnoxious bully with an entitlement complex who’s not afraid to beat you to a bloody pulp, assuming his thugs are there watching his back. He’s also not afraid to pick on guys smaller and weaker than he is…like poor Glenn.-
Glenn’s death is another “should have seen it coming” moment for me personally. He was one of the few characters left who’d been around since the start of the series, so fans were pretty invested in him. We’d also recently found out his wife Maggie was pregnant, which gives us an additional element of tragedy. That’s enough to point the proverbial scithe at him, but when you throw in his nice guy attitude, he’s the perfect victim to establish the horrific Negan. His death also makes the Maggie and Sophia characters much more interesting. The advantages to killing Glenn far outweigh the advantages of keeping him alive.
Glenn got one of the most unapologetically graphic death scenes I’ve ever seen in comics. Negan smashes his skull with his first shot, making his left eye jut out, then cracks him across the jaw, and finally just knocks the hell out of him until his head is essentially hamburger meat. Adlard gives us a nice look at that eye again, as it literally sits on the ground beside what used to be Glenn’s skull. This is good not only for a little shock value, but to put Negan over as sadistic bastard he needs to be.
Interestingly enough, just before Glenn’s death Kirkman cracks the fourth wall a bit. Through Negan, he seems to let the audience in on his thought process on who to kill in the big 100th issue. He looks the characters over one by one, and thinks out loud…
- Carl: “I can’t kill you before your story ends. Too fucking interesting.”
- Michonne: “There’s a lot of things I’d like to do to you, and killing you is at the absolute fucking bottom of that list.”
- Rick: “How stupid do you think I am? You’re practically invincible.” (He actually seems to be talking to some of the fans on this one.)
The Walking Dead #100 gave the series the shot in the arm it needed to freshen it up. There certainly hadn’t been a lag in popularity up to this point. But the series had reached a certain creative high back during the Governor storyline that it had yet to equal. Now we have a new villain who appears to be as sadistic as the Governor ever was, not to mention much more irritating. Negan now has Rick’s group outnumbered, and under his thumb. This obviously puts Rick and the others in a position where they have to endure even more adversity, and grow as characters. This issue was exactly what it needed to be.
Front page image from dreamwidth.org. Image 2 from roamersandlurkers.com.