What is the final straw that will break a human spirit? That seems to be the subtext of Walking Dead’s latest story arc "A Larger World." It’s subtle what writer Robert Kirkman is doing, but still effective. The long time zombie story hits issue #94 and begins to shift the focus to Rick Grimes’ darker side. So far he’s been the voice of reason, the protector, the family man keeping his rag tag post zombie apocalypse family on the straight and narrow. We’ve seen Rick in many facets, but here is the first time Kirkman has begun to shed light on what could finally break Rick. Granted, this a bit of conjecture but the events of issue 94 unfold in that direction.
The opening shot is of Carl, bandaged eye, trying to recover from being shot. He’s hard now, less a child than a small adult. Still wearing his father’s hat, Carl discovers Jesus, the man his father is keeping prisoner until the story of this larger community checks out. This is the first clue to where the series is heading. Carl is still Rick’s son – the hat is a subtle indication of that – but discovering Jesus and deciding to talk to him is a step against his father, something Carl hasn’t readily done before.
Cue Rick and the gang as they gather to check on this larger community Jesus keeps talking about. Rick’s extended family still trust him but they also see the cracks in the armor. The climax of this is Rick discovering Carl talking to Jesus. Kirkman sets it up as a slight dig at the solidarity of father and son relationships. That natural rebellion is so much more dramatic in the current circumstances. Jesus seems so calm and focused. He isn’t shaken by events; he doesn’t have the nervous twitch Rick is getting. Rick tries to exercise his control over the group by denying Andrea the chance to check out Jesus’ friends. The attempt fails; Rick has once again overshot the mark because of paranoia. Cracks in the armor get deeper.
During the trip, the chasm between Rick and Carl grows when Carl stows away in the van. Rick is losing control of his son or at least he thinks he is. The pinnacle of the entire issue is a zombie attack in which Jesus helps defend the crew with his hands tied behind his back. It’s a visual representation of how much more powerful Jesus seems and how threatened Rick is. With the zombies beaten, Rick discovers that Jesus has only been pretending to be bound, he untied himself at the start of the trip. It was Jesus’s test of how much he could trust his captor. Arriving at the community, Rick is facing a rebellious son who is curious about a stranger that might be a better leader than Rick ever was. If all of that collapses around our hero, could it spell the end of Rick as the leader? How would that affect Rick? It’s a pretty heady issue.
It’s a pretty sure bet that issue #100 of The Walking Dead will be a game changer and Kirkman seems to be putting pieces in play that will test Rick Grimes beyond anything else. Will he survive? Will he maintain his sanity, or could issue 100 be our last dance with a man we’ve come to know and love over the last several years? This kind of smart writing and layered plot is what keeps Walking Dead so interesting.
I still hate the art.
CraveOnline Rating 7/10 (5, Story. 2, Art)