Eric's Comic Review: The Walking Dead #81
Published: February 15, 2011 - 8:26pm
The Walking Dead #81 is the second in the No Way Out story arc. Rick is making out with a widow, Andrea is stuck outside of the walls of the community, and the builders of the survivors' fortified dwelling may have cut some corners. Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn combine forces to tell a well told, fun adventure.
What I enjoy most about each of Kirkman's various writings is his sense of balance, which is on display in this issue. There is drama, horror, adventure, and some self-referential humor to be had here. Of the latter, I enjoyed acknowledgment of the difficulty that readers may have remembering the names of the ever growing cast of characters within the community. This could be seen as a point of criticism for the series, but it adds to the element of survival found within the title which perfectly frames the last issue's beginning and this one's end. In a world where death is constant, moving on emotionally has to be fast. It's important to portray this in a sympathetic manner, which is done well here as different coping mechanisms are on display (sex being a chief one). “We're alive..so we live. Can we just go by that rule?” are lines found within the comic that captures that well. There is a lot of potential for cheesy melodrama here which is present, but the context frames each line well where it is given a proper amount of weight. The fact that my attention was kept during four pages of characters in bed speaks well to Kirkman's skill.
While the issue starts at a relaxed dramatic pace, it quickens immensely with a half baked plan to get the stranded Andrea supplies. Charlie Adlard does very well putting the plot to action as it crescendos. Swashbuckling is the best adjective I can find to describe this suspenseful mission and a last minute rescue. Adventure supersedes the horror elements here, which is captured in some very well detailed and sequenced panels that show just enough to keep the pulse rate up and a smile on the face.
That's the only real criticism that can be made for this book as the horror element, which is the basis of the series, doesn't really become palpable. This critique is half hearted due to the fact that the fun I had reading this left little room for the scares to sink in. The undead threat was there and the issue's ending has some appropriately gory illustrations, but it brings to mind more of a castle siege situation which adds more to the adventure feel. Again, this is all well executed and the point can only be seen as a slight negative for those only delving into the title exclusively to be frightened.
Overall, Kirkman and company show again why The Walking Dead has garnered so much positive attention. The story is well paced and balanced, the characters are relatable, and the art keeps the action rolling along. There's too much fun in this issue for the horror to really take hold, but that shouldn't keep readers away at all. It's a great read in a great series.
On a side note, the preview piece for Elephantmen: Man & Elephantman by Richard Starkings and Axel Medellin peaked my interest quite a bit. In it, a group of anthropomorphic animals are bred for war. In peacetime, the beasts are forced to integrate into human society. One of them has taken a job as an investigator. On one fateful day, a hippo creature finds himself inexplicably turned into a full fledged human. For such a silly concept, the five page co-feature left me wanting more of the new Image title coming March 30th.
Writers: Robert Kirkman
Artists: Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn
Cover: Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn
32 PAGES / FC
On Sale Wednesday February 16