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When you read a comic for a 107 issues you develop a tendency to read into every panel. In that regard, issue #108 is a treasure trove of Robert Kirkman being very aware and constructing the scene for the next story arc. This review will focus on reading into the little bread crumbs that are scattered throughout this issue. It probably goes without saying but, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As I’m sure you know, from reading the previous 10 issues, Negan is a foe unlike any that Rick and his group have every encountered. He has power in his standing army of Saviors, control over every known settlement of survivors (in which he takes supplies as insurance against, himself), and understands the relationship between power and control. The last point is probably the most significant. The demise of previous foes has usually come at their inability to stifle their greed or desire for revenge – a position that Rick has been able to benefit from at each turn despite the hardship and casualties that each conflict has inflicted. While Negan began his control over Rick’s group with the killing of Glenn, he made sure to return Carl unharmed knowing that anything less would bring conflict from Rick’s group and instability to his overall control of the known populations around him.
It is fitting that the first panel of this issue is a full page of just Negan exclaiming “Let the slaughter begin!”. He is referring to his domination of table tennis but the foreshadowing is there. Within a few panels we see that Negan has an unknown job for Dwight and
makes sure to show his control over Dwight’s wife (Sherry) before Dwight departs on the mission. While we do not know exactly what
Negan has Dwight doing, we do know that Negan makes it obvious that he has control over someone close to Dwight – which I took as a hard handed showing that Dwight better follow through.
Of course the main focus of this issue was the introduction of King Ezekiel. First off, the naming of Abraham, Ezekiel, and Jesus should not be overlooked. While it may be part of an over-arcing view of this world that Kirkman wants to communicate, I am far more interested in how they are all connected and suspect that there is far more to their story than simply having coincidentally themed names. This is compounded by the lack of citizens in Ezekiel’s Kingdom. We are told they sleep inside during the cold months but the only people we are shown are the two guards and Ezekiel himself. Perhaps it is my lack of trust in those that reside within the Walking Dead world but it sounds suspect to me. Jesus also warns Rick to never come to the Kingdom without an escort. This could be for Rick’s safety or it could be to hide something Jesus doesn’t want Rick to know about the Kingdom.
It is also in the Kingdom that we find Dwight. Supposedly coming to seek the aid of Ezekiel in an effort to kill Negan but we do know that Negan had a mission for Dwight (as previously detailed). Again, my lack of trust has me not willing to believe Dwight for a single panel. The timing is too suspect. It reeks of there being a mole within Rick’s group or something more devious involving Ezekiel. After all, Ezekiel abhors violence and why wouldn’t he? Conflict entails a losing side and a winning side. If you are on the side of staying in power, conflict runs the risk of you losing power.
We are also given a few small bits of information to chew on in this issue. Carl almost dies because he has a blind spot due to the lack of an eye, Spencer asks God for the strength to “do what I know must be done”, and Michonne shows that she too can be fragile. None of these panels should be overlooked as idle chatter to provide transition. This entire issue was set up for something big that is coming. While the narrative would like us to think it is a war with the Saviors and subsequent death of Negan, I can’t help but try and pay attention to what is happening outside the misdirection.
Let me know what you think! What do you think of Ezekiel? Do you completely trust Jesus?