Tuesday, 19 July 2011

‘The Walking Dead Vol. 14: No Way Out’ – Robert Kirkman/Charlie Adlard (Image Comics)

When was the last time I reviewed a ‘Walking Dead’ book? Feels like an absolute age... As it turns out, with the last review coming way (way) back in November last year it has been an absolute age since I’ve had a decent dose of zombie goodness to cover on the blog. Publishers and their schedules eh...?
It’s not like there haven’t been enough comic books to cover in the meantime with my local library confirming my fears about jumping headlong into long established series (as well as throwing some nice surprises my way). Conan has also featured heavily here and I’ve found myself with yet another title where I want to hoover up everything I can find. All the while though I’ve had ‘The Walking Dead’ at the back of my mind, especially when a chance glimpse at one of the comics (in Forbidden Planet) showed me what was on the horizon. Talk about a cliff-hanger! Times like that will see me pick up a few copies of the comic (just to tide things over, you understand...) but this time I held out and resolved to wait until Volume 14 made its way onto the shelves. A cliff-hanger like that has got to mean that there’s something really special in store, doesn’t it? In the case of ‘No Way Out’, it most definitely does.

The safety of the community comes under the worst kind of threat when shots are fired which attract a herd of zombies up against wall that suddenly don’t seem as sturdy as everyone thought. When a section of wall collapses the outside world makes its presence known in the way that only a herd of zombies possibly can. Something has to be done, and someone must take charge, but how can this happen when stepping outside your front door means certain death? Rick must step up to the plate but when the bullets start flying again will he have what it takes...?

If things felt a little flat in Volume 12, and Volume Thirteen was all about setting things up for the main event, ‘No Way Out’ balances everything in some style. Kirkman promised us something big and he delivers on a scale like you won’t have seen since the big showdown in the prison.

The build up is evenly paced and balanced nicely so that the payoff hits just the right note of adrenalin and fear. No-one is safe and this is a lesson you find yourself learning along with the rest of the cast. Things are fast paced and frantic as always and you can’t help but get caught up in what could be the death of one man’s dream. Death by zombie appears to be a fate reserved for the lower key members of both Rick’s group, and the community at large, and you could argue that Kirkman is afraid to go that extra mile here (despite the fact that he’s done it before) and really stick the knife into a character that you’ve grown to care about. I can see why you’d think that, I was thinking the same kind of thing myself in the earlier stages of the book. And then...

Robert Kirkman has had several volumes now to get us all used to the idea that he is the man to come to when you’re after really getting to know a character and then seeing them eaten alive in front of your eyes. He takes a slightly different tack here; there’s still plenty of bloodshed to contend with but this time he takes you right inside Rick’s head and gives you a ringside seat while he proceeds to really mess things up.

Rick has a really hard choice to make and only a matter of seconds to make it in. You’ve got to feel for the guy but the bottom line is that you know it’s a decision that Rick will make in a heartbeat. What happens just after that though...? I can’t give it away as you really have to see this one for yourself and experience not only your feelings but what Rick goes through in the aftermath. I sat there and just stared at the pages for what seemed like hours; I literally couldn’t look away and all credit to Kirkman and Adlard for delivering one scene that makes the entire book. In my last review I wondered if Adlard was growing complacent with this gig; I totally take that back now.

Lessons are learned but you can’t help but wonder if these have been learned too late on a number of levels. That uncertainty is only part of what will have me back for Volume 15 and beyond. What Kirkman and Adlard do in ‘No Way Out’ isn’t far off masterful, words fail me at what this book did to me while I was reading it.

Nine and Three Quarters out of Ten

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