TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War – Part Two
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #121-126
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASED: July 23, 2014
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
This All Out War story arc is a milestone in The Walking Dead comic book, but not necessarily for the reasons one might suspect. Sure there’s a lot of great content here, and we see some cool character stuff from Rick, Carl, Negan, among numerous others. But the six issues in this book, along with the six issues collected in the previous book, marked the only time the series has gone bi-weekly since its start in 2003. Obviously, this meant the creative team had to pump out twice their usual content over a six month period. As such, one man in particular deserves a hell of a lot of credit: Charlie Adlard.
Adlard without question proved his status as a rock star by essentially doubling his work load over such an extended period of time. And the biggest compliment you can give the guy is that the work doesn’t suffer for it. At times, Adlard even seems to thrive under the pressure.
Naturally, this book picks up where Part One left off, as Negan and the Saviors seem to have won their war with Rick’s group of survivors. Negan has found a new, horrifying way to infect those that oppose him, and at one point we see he’s willing to do something truly mortifying to Eugene. But Rick, Andrea, Michonne, Ezekiel, and the others still have hope, and the will to fight. And they’ll reap all the benefits, and suffer all the consequences that come with that.
In Part One, Kirkman fleshed Negan’s character out a bit more by giving presenting a scene where he saves Holly from being raped. He emphatically tells the would-be perpetrator that the Saviors DO NOT rape, and that after this war was over, they’d still have to live with Rick and his group. This obviously indicated that Negan wasn’t a full blown psychopath. He was a man who lived by his own set of principles. Somewhat psychopathic principles, but principles nonetheless. Oddly enough (and without spoiling anything), it would seem that those principles work against him at the end of Part Two. There’s a big climactic dialogue scene between he and Rick in issue #124, in which they essentially compare ideologies. And there’s a moment where Negan seems to have an epiphany, and finally get where Rick is coming from. I’m not sure I liked that moment. In essence, Rick gives one of his big speeches and Negan takes the pitch. I suppose it’s not impossible, especially given they’ve all been under the stressors of war. But the notion that someone as stubborn, pig-headed, and downright tyrannical as Negan could just fall hook, line, and sinker for one of Rick’s speeches is somewhat hard to swallow. Perhaps it speaks to a lack of intelligence on Negan’s part. Either way, I didn’t take Rick’s bait quite as easily.
Part Two is also a very important book for Eugene. I haven’t talked much about Eugene in previous books, as in all honesty, the character never did much for me. He was involved in an awkward love triangle between Abraham (another character I never enjoyed) and Rosita, in which his longing for her is never reciprocated. But when you look at how he’s developed sine we first saw him in issue #53, you can see that Kirkman, whether he intended it to be this way or not, has done a sort of slow burn character arc with Eugene. He started as a liar and a coward, and has now become someone willing to take risks and make sacrifices for the greater good. Ironically, he now seems very much worthy of Rosita’s love, and might just get it before all is said and done.
The world of The Walking Dead is a much more intriguing place after All Out War – Part Two, partially because they didn’t completely blow things off the way they did with the Governor in issue #52. But we’ve also got a more interesting cast of heroes than we’ve had in quite some time. Ezekiel has another great character moment with Michonne in this book. Maggie also steps up in a big way, taking on a hell of a responsibility. Carl, of course, is Carl. We get more of that good vs. evil inner conflict that has become so synonymous with him. I’m also interested to see what they do with Dwight post-All Out War. He’s essentially accomplished his mission. So what does he do now?
And on the subject of now, things change quite a bit after issue #126, as we do a two-year time jump. So this book, to an extent, marks the end of The Walking Dead as we know it. In the next volume, characters will be a bit older, they’ll look different, and we’ll have a brand new status quo. In Kirkman’s own words: “This will be a drastically different book starting with Issue 127.” But if we’ve learned anything from The Walking Dead over the years, it’s that no matter what the status quo is, chaos is never far away.
Front page image from thewalkingdead.com. Image 1 from maxmangas.com. Image 2 from whatelseisonnow.wordpress.com.
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