Last issue, Rick and the gang located The Hilltop, a large, peaceful settlement of people, willing to exchange goods and help them out. After everything they’ve been through, Rick is skeptical to the end.
When Ethan, a panicked member of this group returns ranting and screaming, then stabs the group’s leader Gregory, Rick kills him without thinking twice. These sheltered citizens, however are shocked and repulsed. Guards Eduardo and Kal rush toward Rick, homemade spears in hand. (Rick, of course, has a gun.) Jesus, the man who led Rick and the gang to this village, diffuses the situation and leads Rick away. Rick asks about Ethan’s body, Jesus tells him they have “a process.” He also informs Rick “If Nagan has Crystal, she’s already dead. There’s nothing we can do for her.”
Later, Jesus informs them that Nagan and his group, The Survivors, showed up as soon as Hilltop was built and started making demands and threats and that Gregory caved and began giving The Survivors half of all their food and resources. “We make regular deliveries and they keep the area relatively clear of the dead. That’s the deal.” Rick and his people are confused. No one even knows how many Survivors there are. Andrea exclaims, “Your leader is letting a guy who may not even be a real threat take your supplies and terrify your people?” Jesus continues, “If they don’t feel like they’re getting half or if they just want to send a message, sometimes they’ll beat up the team we send to the drop off point. Sometimes worse. Like today.” Carl stuns Jesus when he says, “If we kill all these bad guys, will you start giving us half your food and stuff?” Is Rick stunned? Of course not. It’s a good plan. They roll with it.
Later, Rick wanders past as the town has gathered to burn Ethan’s body and is attacked by one of the townspeople. Once more, Jesus intervenes.
The next morning, Glenn is surveying the calm community of Hilltop. Obviously, he’s thinking of settling down there. Andrea comes out and Rick kisses her cheek which seems to startle her. Rick is then summoned to Gregory’s bedside. Gregory moans about his stab wound, but Rick just replies, “I’ve been shot… twice. And I lost the hand.” Gregory mutters, “Oh… I hadn’t noticed.” Gregory then tells Rick he agrees to the plan for Rick and company to take out Nagan’s group. In exchange for their fighting, they will be cut in on the resource exchange at Hilltop.
(SPOILERS FROM HERE ON…)
Jesus helps Rick load up on supplies. “Rick, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re starting to trust us.” Rick admits they’ve earned it and expresses his gratitude for the food. Jesus swears that when they go after Nagan, he and Kal will be by their sides. This talk surprises Andrea and Michonne, who clearly don’t agree with the deal. Michonne compares the people of Hilltop to a cult. Andrea is repulsed by how “pathetic” they were. Rick suddenly has an epiphany about his role as leader. He says that in the past, he felt he was thrust into the role due to his history as a cop or because he was a father, but he then realizes the “it” factor that makes him a leader is “the way I see things.” He points out that all three of his companions saw something different in Hilltop. To Glenn it was “something to love.” To Andrea, it was “something to ridicule.” To Michonne, it was “something to fear.” Rick sees in it, “the future… the start of something… historic.” He goes on to deliver one of his most heart-felt, stirring speeches yet. It’s clear Rick has made up his mind. “We can finally stop surviving and start living!”
Maybe I’m as hardened as Andrea and Michonne, but I don’t buy it! This is ‘The Walking Dead’ not ‘The Frolicking Content.’ This will not go well and with issue #100 four issues away, you know something HUGE is going to happen. I don’t know what to think, though. I don’t buy Jesus and Gregory. There’s something they’re hiding. I think The Survivors will actually end up being the “good guys” and the Hilltop-pers are just manipulating Rick and the others into taking them out, maybe to get their resources.
Last issue was less than thrilling. With this issue, I think the book is back on track. I can’t wait to see where all of this is going!
THE WALKING DEAD #96
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art and Cover by Charlie Adlard