The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain trade paperback
The Walking Dead #s 55, 56 & 57
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Charlie Adlard
Gray tones: Cliff Rathburn
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Aubrey Sitterson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $14.99 US (trade)/$2.99 US each (individual issues)
I’d missed an issue or two of this series last year and lost touch with it for a while, but last week’s release of the latest trade-paperback collection offered me the chance to get caught up. I opted to read them all in one sitting the other night, right before I went to bed. Big mistake. My God, the nightmares — they were unrelenting. And really, that may be the best compliment I can give to storytellers Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. The horror — both physical and psychological — bored into my brain and was persistent in its successful to influence my unconscious thoughts. After reading Here We Remain and subsequent chapters in the ongoing zombie epic, I was reminded of the powerful plotting and characterization that have made The Walking Dead such a success, and of the synergy between writer and artist that’s been an integral part of that success.
After losing friends and family members when their group lost control of their prison sanctuary, Rick and his son Carl wander out into the world once more, ever on guard of the threat of the undead and their infinite hunger. Rick desperately tries to teach Carl how to fend for himself in case the unthinkable happens, and the boy faces a terrifying time when that unthinkable possibility seems awfully possible. Before long, the father and son reconnect with other survivors, some familiar and some strange. A new plan is hatched, involving a dangerous road trip.
Adlard’s sketchy style remains a great fit for the gritty, sometimes gross circumstances of this title. While his decomposing zombie figures are appropriately disgusting and ghoulish, the rougher look of his style more importantly brings a grizzled, fatigued and worn look to the various characters. Over the course of this new direction for the title, the characters are really starting to fall apart more than they ever have before, and thanks to Adlard, they look it.
Of all the chapters in the lengthy run I read the other night, the second one in the trade (which would have been issue #50, appropriately enough), was the strongest. It was entirely from Carl’s point of view, and perhaps for the first time in the entire series, we got a perspective of the character as something more than a motivating factor for the central protagonist, Rick. Carl’s emotional journey in that one issue is riveting. From sheer terror to self-satisfaction and confidence, we see how much he’s had to grow up as a result of his unimaginable life, but we also see that he remains a little kid as well. Perhaps more than any other issue in the series, that one really rang true, and it holds up well as a self-contained story all on its own.
One of the strengths of this series is that Kirkman’s able to complete alter directions, even cast members. Just when the audience is getting comfortable with the status quo, Kirkman tosses it out and creates a new conflict or scenario for the characters to contend with. The new “road to Washington D.C.” premise is a thoroughly logical one, and I love how Kirkman introduces new ideas and explores logical avenues in an impossible world through the new characters.
Ultimately, if there’s one central theme that defines this new plot direction, it’s the psychological deterioration of the various characters. Rick’s lost his nerve and is on the verge of losing his mind, and others around him as falling apart mentally as well. Their fractured psyches mirror the disintegrating corpses all around them. The comfort and community that defined the previous prison base camp direction for this title have been replaced with chaos and confusion, and that’s reinvigorated the drama. 9/10