What They Say:
Trapped in a town surrounded by madmen, Rick must find a way out or die trying. Meanwhile, back at the prison, the rest of the survivors come to grips with the fact Rick may be dead, and a major turning point in the series is reached.
The storyline involving the prison and then the Governor has been fascinating to watch unfold. Seeing the way that the prison was cleaned out, the drama that ensued and the breakdown that flared between Rick and Tyrese was intense on so many levels. So when the last volume brought us to the little town of Woodbury where the Governor has run a good show, albeit one built on fear and entertainment, Rick and the gang were pretty much set to be the catalyst to its downfall. But not without losses on their side as the Governor has been running a number of psychological games with them as he wants to see what he can get out of them just for his own amusement, but also for future gain. The idea that there’s a safer haven out there that he can attempt to take over and gain more power and security is intoxicating for him to be sure. But it’s also laced with the way he’s becoming more and more unstable as we’ve seen through the young girl he keeps and the games and entertainment he puts on for those in the town.
Most of this set of issues focuses on Rick and those that are in Woodbury up until towards the end and that feels a little off at first until the intensity of it ramps up. We’re exposed to a very different dynamic here in how the Governor runs the place and Kirkman takes us through the cast easily, making it accessible while still having its own complexities. With the doctor and his assistant there, who ends up rather well fleshed out by the end of it, and a man named Martinez who is seeing the way that the Governor is going crazy, there’s wheels within wheels as Rick sits through much of it feeling powerless. It’s only when Martinez offers him a way out of all of this for a chance at real safety, something that definite resonates when you really think about how difficult it must be to live under these conditions in the impossible to truly fortify town, it’s almost intoxicating watching the escape attempt unfold.
Chapter thirty-three is the standout here though, but not exactly in a positive way. This is almost like a sidebar, a cathartic piece that one can be drawn to but also disturbed by, as it follows Michonne exclusively as she gets her revenge, or justice, against the Governor for the way he so thoroughly used and abused her. He was brutal from the start with her, though she has a certain endurance that wears him out, and what she does to him over the course of this chapter is stark and has no holding back at all, visually or with the actual content of it. And she does most of it rather calmly and at times with a bit of a jovial nature depending on what she’s about to do. It’s a warranted piece, one that’s usually given over to happening off camera so to speak, but laying it all out on the line here really drives home the situation that she’s in mentally and makes things even clearer later on when she deals with the internal fallout from it all. There’s something truly haunting about her and how far she’s gone over the edge in the seven months or so since the end of the world.
When the book gets back to the prison, it’s a radically different world there for awhile and you have to love the terror that is put upon everyone when they see the gate down and the Roamers wandering about in the yard and between the fences. The not knowing about what’s happened to their loved ones for Glenn and Rick is powerful and Michonne has a whole lot more anger to work through as she’s ready to slice down more. She’s quick and precise, not reckless and ruthless, but that just makes her all the scarier. The character drama picks up in a different way here as they work through the prison again, and there are some differences to it all compared to the first time, but it goes by quickly since everyone has picked up more experience since coming to the prison. And they now have a real home to protect which helps to drive them to doing it all much more efficiently. Letting most of it play off camera helps a lot since it keeps its focus more on the characters and how they cope with it afterward as they finish it off.
There are some wonderful character moments to be had with this as they ease back into their lives to some extent, now facing a greater threat over the horizon that they’re aware of. Glenn and Maggie in particular really shine here and the new doctor that they acquire does a bit of an infodump on her past with the gang but it helps to cement her reasons for being there and she does prove to be quite useful from the start considering they have a pregnant woman there. Tyrese and Rick have a much needed moment as well that helps to set things straight between the two of them considering how off the rails their relationship went. The best part of this though in a strange way is the side story attached to one chapter that takes us back to the father and son that Rick met at the start of the series and lets them have a little Christmas story that’s heartwarming and ultimately quite sad at the same time.
This graphic novel compilation contains issues thirty-one through thirty-six of the series in one file via the Comixology service that has a total of a hundred and thirty-five pages with no extras, alternate covers or anything else.
There’s so much packed into these chapters that it’s pretty much intoxicating while reading. With previous volumes, I was able to read a chapter or two and put it down, still curious and interested, but not in a must-read-now mentality. From the start of this volume, I couldn’t stop reading and had to get to the next chapter and the next and the next. I only stopped at the end of the volume because I didn’t want to read the next without writing this up, because I’d never make it back afterward since there are many more still to go. Michonne really shines in a beautifully awful and scary way here and the whole deal with the Governor opens up so many possibilities. Every page here has you wanting to get to the next one while still savoring what’s in front of you. It’s crazy addictive at this point and it hits so many great points in these six chapters that it’s almost boggling. The crazy gets extra high here with Michonne but it’s a non-stop ride of intensity from start to finish here.