This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on October 14, 2015.
With the return of The Walking Dead on AMC this week, everyone seems to have zombies on the brain. While what’s happening on television has taken some dramatic liberties from the source material, it continues to pull inspiration from one of the longest running creator-owned comics series ever. While the comics series is more popular than ever, issues likethe Walking Dead #147 reveal that it may be in decline while its inspiration appears to only be improving.
The Walking Dead #147 continues to directly address the fallout of #144’s brutal conclusion. Everything in the issue reads like a logical next step in the wake of a mass murder, it also squanders the excitement and chills created only a few months back. The majority of the issue is composed entirely of dialogue. People talk in living rooms, kitchens, and on the road. All of these characters are left to consider what they want to and what they should do next. This much chatter makes for a deflating issue.
There’s nothing wrong with talk. Even in a horror comic, it’s possible for long conversations to be the source of excellent tension, scares, and even catharsis. Robert Kirkman aims for all of these emotions in his script, but never manages to communicate more than the words on the page. At the beginning of the issue Eugene confronts Rick with a plan to get revenge. There is anger and sadness present in their faces, but Eugene’s reaction fails to be frightening and Rick never passes off his disturbance. Instead their back-and-forth simply relays this new conflict to readers and moves onto the next logical step.
All of the dialogue in The Walking Dead #147 functions this way, moving characters from point A to point B effectively, but never summoning a reaction. Nowhere is this more obvious than in a long overdue change of direction for Michonne. Rick tells her exactly how he feels about his situation and she states how she hopes to change. Their interaction is communication as blunt instrument. There’s no doubt as to what happened between these two and where their head’s are at, but none of it feels human either. This isn’t how people talk and that poses a barrier for readers to experience these moments.
Charlie Adlard’s artwork does a much better job communicating feeling in these scenes, creating an edge that is not present in the scripting. Eugene is able to present genuine, almost frightening rage. Michonne showing tears in her eyes in deeply humanizing, especially considering the context of who exactly is crying. These emotions are big and broad, but Adlard serves them up well. It’s only in the quieter scenes that his work is unable to make up for weaknesses in what is being said with character work that fails to subtly create much needed emotion and subtext.
There’s also a taut, almost entirely silent sequence in the middle of the issue that creates a quick jump in both pacing and heart rate. Adlard’s standard page layouts work very well in a scene like this, slowly dropping panels like pieces of a puzzle for readers to guess what happens next. It’s almost a non-event, but its presentation helps mix up an otherwise tedious issue. The quality of these few pages also makes some wonky anatomy and posing on the final page a bit more forgivable, something that will most likely look better when constricted to tighter panels next month.
For fans of the show looking for a place to jump on and longtime readers of the series, The Walking Dead #147 is an issue that is probably best read as part of a broader collection. It moves characters and plot points in potentially interesting directions, but makes for a dull read on its own. Kirkman’s strengths do not lie in dialogue and Adlard can only do so much with almost twenty pages of the stuff. It is an issue that rests between better things, which might to make its notable weaknesses a little easier to forget.