The Walking Dead #86 is a slow down issue, a way to let everything that’s happened over the last few issues sink in and resonate. Writer Robert Kirkman has always structured the series this way, with long stretches where little happens other than the characters relating to each other. While issue 86 seems to be a jumping off point for that, it doesn’t ring the same as the others. Periods of calm were usually short lived and filled with the dread of the next attack or tragedy that would befall Rick Grimes and his crew. This time the calm is tempered with a bit of hope; something The Walking Dead series hasn’t exactly been rife with.
Don’t misunderstand. Things are still pretty grim. Rick’s son Carl remains in a coma, the roamers continue finding new ways into the gated community that Rick is trying to mount a defense against and there is still a lot of terror going around. That being said, the folks who remain are dug in and committed to fight for their community, something we haven’t seen in Walking Dead characters since its inception. They’re tired of running, tired of forgetting the past and fearing to look to the future. The characters don’t want to just survive anymore, they want to live, and they want their humanity back. None more than Rick, who spends most of the issue pontificating on his mistakes and reconciling to become a better person.
Throughout the issue, we get glimpses of people trying to reconcile who they were, who they are and who they want to be. Andrea has a nice moment with Rick where they bring up Rick’s old partner Shane, a name we haven’t heard in a long time. The exchange between Rick and Michonne is well executed, with the former relaying how her time with Morgan opened her to actually setting up a life for herself with somebody else. Everybody seems to be taking stock of their lives and putting more and more into the plan of living in the gated community for good.
There are really only two directions Walking Dead can go from here. The first is to resolve itself, let the series wind down into Rick and the gang making this area their home and maybe reaching out to other communities that are doing the same thing. End the series with a sense of hope that mankind will make a comeback. The second is to pull a bait and switch where, just as it all seems okay, the reality shit sandwich gets forced down everybody’s throat. Kirkman’s got everything teetering right on the edge here, especially with Carl being in a coma. If he dies, there’s no telling what Rick is going to do or how far off the reservation he’ll flip. Even if Carl comes around, Kirkman could have a new and rich surprise just around the corner. It’s the first time that kind of tension has been built into one of these slower periods and it really works.
Art-wise… its The Walking Dead. I don’t like the art, I have never liked the art, and I will never like the art. I will not like it on a plane, I will not like it in a train, I will not like the art I say!! Some people find this art to be exactly what the series needs; I find it dull and repetitive. Regardless of my problems with the art, The Walking Dead continues to be a series that’s head and shoulders above the rest. With this new direction Kirkman has given rise the tension. I’m excited to see what happens next, and you can’t ask much more from a comic book.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8/10