A Look at The Walking Dead #170: “On the Road”

Time for a road trip.

So with things having settled down, The Walking Dead begins its expansive journey as Michonne, Eugene, Siddiq, Yumiko, and Magna head out to explore new territory.  All in all, it’s a solid issue, though it’s over before it begins.  More than that, time seems to fly by and for a storyline where characters are heading into the unknown, you’d hope the story could take its time.

Not that Kirkman needed to tell this story at a slug’s pace, but having characters head into the unknown is a big deal.  Take some time with it.  Then again, this is just the first issue with the characters exploring, and the comic does still have to balance this alongside what’s going on with the communities, so this could all change going forward. But let’s start from the beginning.

After the confrontation from last issue, Rick asks Jesus to keep an eye on Dwight. It makes sense: Rick has his hands full running things, not to mention still recuperating from Andrea’s death, and Jesus is great at watching over people from afar when you think he’s not looking…yes, I realized what I did as soon as I typed that.  But anyway, it makes sense that Rick would keep tabs on Dwight in light of their argument.

Though given how Jesus didn’t want to go on the trip with the others, not to mention how serious his relationship with Aaron is becoming, part of me wonders why Rick didn’t pick someone who might have a bit more time on their hands.  But hey, Jesus hasn’t let Rick down with this sort of help yet, so at least Rick has gone with a safe, yet still reliable option.

Sticking with Rick, he gets a very touching moment in this issue that I love.  After Annie has asked him to check on Mikey, who lost his mother, Paula, the two have a short, but sweet scene.  In times of loss, it’d be easy to fall into despair, feel that all is lost, and wonder if things could have gone different.  Dwelling on that sort of thing can eat at you, and despite how tough Rick is, he knows the pain of loss.

Hell, he’s lost plenty of friends, family members, and allies up until now and he’s been dealt a vicious blow with Andrea’s death.  Hell, he’s slept on her grave.  He knows all too well what it means to lose someone close and I’m sure he would do anything to have her back.  But she’s dead and all Rick can do is move forward.  It hurts like hell, but like Rick, Mikey has to realize that he’s not alone in this.

We don’t often see this softer side of Rick Grimes because he’s so busy being the leader and backbone of what’s being built in this community, but it’s nice to see him lower his defenses once in awhile and relate to someone who is also reeling from a major loss.

Continuing with what’s going on in Alexandria, I must take issue with Dwight for a moment.  I get it- he’s also healing from losing Sherry, but when he tells Laura that Rick and Negan are the same, I question if he means that or if he’s still so wounded that he’s not thinking straight.  Negan ruled by fear and got off on people fighting against him. All done in the name of protecting those under him.

Sure, Rick may be a hardass and difficult to work with, but he’s not to rule anyone.  As he told the Saviors, it’s their choice whether they want to work with the rest of the communities.  If they choose not to, it will be their loss if trouble comes their way, but they still would have made that choice on their terms.  Negan, though, will force you to comply or die.

Now again, this isn’t applicable all of the time.  Both Rick and Maggie have killed or shown the willingness to kill people, even those who work or live alongside them, if they step too far over the line.  Granted, in Maggie’s case, Gregory tried to poison her and turn the Hilltop residents against her.  He wasn’t going to turn a new leaf, so Maggie had him hanged to send a message.

The difference is that these occasions are rare.  More than that, neither Rick nor Maggie have members of their communities raiding random areas for their supplies in exchange for service.  And even between that and everything else he knows about them, it’s ludicrous for Dwight to claim that Rick and Negan are no different.

Now let’s leave Alexandria and hit the road, Jack.  We’ve got Maggie preoccupied with thinking about Negan since Dante is still trailing him, but then we get her running into William, who has come with supplies for the Hilltop.  This is something I’d like to see more of, as we haven’t seen a lot of the Kingdom since the time skip.  Plus, William says that the Kingdom is looking to expand and has been gathering supplies for a year.

With that in mind, coupled with the leadership changes, I imagine the Kingdom is a very different place than what it was before and I hope Kirkman shows us some of that in issues to come.

And since I’ve brought him up, let’s transition over to Negan.  True, he’s not in this issue very much, but I enjoyed his two scenes.  I especially enjoyed how he acknowledged that he has to save his foul mouthed lines for when people are actually around.  I mean, what’s the point in having a great line if there’s no one around to hear it.

But then he arrives at Lucille’s marked grave, where he pays his respects.  It’s another touching moment that, like Rick, shows a guarded character lowering their defenses and allowing themselves to emote.  Since Dante was told to find where Negan would settle, what’s his plan after that?  Report to Maggie?

Because if something happens and shit hits the fan that involves the two of them, I don’t expect Negan to just abandon Dante.  Not after he’s made such a big change.  Hell, I could see him coming to Dante’s rescue if the occasion rises, though he’d no doubt be suspicious as to why he’s being followed.  But we’ll get to that when we get to it.

Now onto the main adventure.  The team of Michonne, Eugene, Magna, Yumiko, and Siddiq hit the road, leave the border, and enter new territory in what seems to be days, going off of Eugene’s dialogue.  At one point, they’re attacked in the woods by roamers. This is something that could’ve gone on for awhile.  Consider: in their own territory, they’re more prepared to handle the dead because they know the terrain.

They can still take them on here, to be sure, but they’re still in unknown territory.  Time could be spent here with them just surviving and going through the woods.  Would’ve cranked up the tension rather than speeding through it, as was the case here.  Even when Rick and Carl were on the move after the prison, they didn’t reunite with everyone and end up in Alexandria one issue later.  Rather, it was spread out.

Here, though, the attack in the woods is over in a few panels, as if we needed to rush through this just to get to the abandoned city.  I’d have much preferred it the bulk of this issue was just spent with the group on the road and traveling, then arriving at the city could be saved for later.  But that didn’t happen.  Not a huge problem, but again, just an issue on the story’s pacing.

Then we arrive at the city, which I feel could’ve been a moment in which to end the issue with this reveal.  Okay, I need to stop rewriting the comic.  It is, admittedly, a nice reveal, as we haven’t really explored this kind of landscape before.  Whether Woodbury, the prison, Alexandria, and so on, it’s all been relatively contained.  But here, we have a big city to explore.

To jump to another medium for a second, this is something I believe could work well on The Walking Dead on television because the show does enjoy spending time letting the audience soak in a new location.  And to be fair, you have more time and methods at your disposal on television to showcase a new territory versus reading a comic book.

But then, Kirkman does let the characters go through the city for a bit before we jump into the big reveal.  Well, I say reveal, but there are only a handful of candidates that Siddiq had to be high up on the list, if not number one.  Now…this reveal just happens. Eugene and Siddiq have a few moments in this issue where they talk, but no sign of tension.  And up until now, I never got the impression that guilt ate away at Siddiq.

So when he just drops the reveal that he and Rosita had an affair, it’s such an odd end point that I wonder why Kirkman chose this point in which to conclude the issue.  If it’s meant to be a cliffhanger, it’s a strange one because it comes out of nowhere.  More than that, why now?  Rosita’s been dead for some time.  Was there never an opportunity for Eugene and Siddiq to cross paths between then and now?

My problem isn’t that Siddiq revealed this to Eugene.  It’s nice to know the actual father, not that it matters at this point.  And Rosita did tell Eugene that he wasn’t the result of her pregnancy, so at least we know who was responsible.  But to just drop it at at the end of the issue is so sudden.  But hey, it’s out there now, so now to wait until next time to see how Eugene reacts to this news.

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