At a time when it seems like most landmark comic book issues are merely designed to get to as many printings as is humanly possible, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Image Comics seem to have actually found a way to justify the term with The Walking Dead #100.
Warning! Spoilers and Graphic Cartoon Violence Ahead! I’m not messing around, don’t keep going unless you’ve read the book.
Picking up the day after Abraham died, we immediately see a group of Nagan’s foot soldiers watching Rick lead a small group away from the compound toward the Hilltop in an effort to get re-enforcements. With him is Carl, Heath, Maggie, Glenn, Michonne, and Sophia, leaving Andrea and the others exposed to an attack that Rick thinks is unlikely. Obviously, Rick’s estimation of Negan’s forces is inaccurate and we find out later exactly how true that really is.
The trip to hilltop is supposed to take less than a full day but on the way it seems like Rick and company have gotten lost and will have to camp out overnight in the van. Michonne takes first watch, followed by Rick, who seems to nod off and is then lassoed and pulled off the roof of the van by one of Nagen’s supporters while Nagen hangs back.
Here we get to the meat of issue 100. Ever since our survivors left the prison and aimlessly roamed until they finally found refuge in Alexandria the book has been missing something. Sure this band of survivors has struggled with a return to something approaching normality and that has served as a sort of a villain — their uneasiness and their paranoia wearing on them — but it isn’t nearly as frightening as someone like The Governor was and with Nagen, we have a return to that kind of terror.
Introduced with swagger and with unbelievable, almost unrivaled violence, Nagen rounds up the small group that has accompanied Rick on his mission. There they rest, on their knees by the side of the van while Nagen begins to speak as Rick, his group, and about 50 of Nagen’s believes listen in as Nagen explains the kind of New World Order that is about to fall down around Rick’s head. It is a Warlord’s Symphony, a speech of chilling congeniality and breathtaking threats of violence.
In many ways, they deserve this — Rick and his group because yet again, Rick underestimated his enemy and overestimated his understanding of this world. Nagen gets it and he sizes up Rick quite accurately as he “iny meeny miny moes” a victim — choosing Glenn and bringing him up front.
We never know how far Kirkman will go, we never know if that which seems sacred will survive. Infants have died, beloved father figures, lovers, young stupid teenagers. There is an unsettling randomness and no comfort, not ever. Rick could die, I believe this in the back of my mind, and in believing this, I know and you know, deep down, that when Nagen holds a barb-wire-wrapped baseball bat up above Glenn’s head, that that is the end of his journey.
*Thwack* His skull is crushed, his eye is hanging out of his head. *Thwack* he keeps trying to say Maggie, our hearts break. *Thwack* *Thwack* there is almost nothing left of his head.
It is one of the most violent and brutal ends ever handed out in a book that is known for them and Glenn is as beloved a character as we have seen. The Walking Dead, both the comic and the show, has a knack for wiping out the beloved in that way — it’s as if Kirkman likes to punish us for caring about one character more than the next, but really it is more likely just him pronouncing loudly what we know in the back of our minds — no one is safe.
I honestly don’t know where we go from here or where Rick goes from here. Is he going to be the defiant leader and reject Nagen’s claims that 50% of everything the Alexandria group produces belongs to him? Is he going to reject enslavement and fight back or is he going to accept the reality of the situation, which is that right now Nagen has the numbers and he has the power and he has instilled fear into everyone who saw what happened to Glenn and everyone who will hear about it? As I said up front: clearly Rick underestimated Nagen and his entry into this world is an interesting one that could change the balance of power and make this a book that is less about Rick’s defiant leadership in the face of zombies and a world gone mad and more about sacrifice and fear. A story about being tied up and unable to get out. A story about loss and losing. A story about a fathers limits and a son watching his hero get bent in two.
However this shakes out, however these next 100 issues go, they will have been shaped by this issue, this one that has shaken the foundation of this series and for that, you have to respect Kirkman and fear the wrath of his pen.