This issue opens by checking back in with the folks back “home.” After church, Abraham speaks to Maggie who suddenly becomes sick to her stomach. We all know what that means, but she lies and says she’s just been feeling sick and has seen Doctor Cloyd. Abraham then goes to Eugene’s, where his ex-girlfriend, Rosita is staying but she isn’t present. Eugene says he’s located nearby places that might have supplies they can use to make their own ammunition. Eugene takes a few potshots and says Rosita is happier with him. After Abraham leaves, Rosita reveals she was there all along. She insists that they are not “together,” but poor deluded Eugene replies, “Not officially, you mean.” Heath, by the gate, has spied some walkers which he plans to take care of later.
We check back with Rick and his party. Rick is still walking on sunshine after their successful encounter with the people from the Hilltop. Andrea is surprised that his optimism is spreading to her, but Michonne is still wary. Then they encounter the soldiers of the infamous Negan, the seeming terrorists who have been “protecting” the Hilltop in exchange for half of their supplies (a role Rick plans to take over). Four men on motorcycles cut off their path and order them to give them all of their supplies. “Oh we’ll give you everything,” Rick counters. You can probably guess what happens next. They take out three of the men with minimal effort. Andrea gun. Michonne sword. Rick tells the lone survivor that he and his people will now be protecting the Hilltop and offers Negan the same deal, protection in exchange for half their supplies. The man departs.
Suddenly Carl remembers an incident a while ago, when he, Rick and Abraham were attacked on the road and Carl was almost raped, while Rick would have been forced to watch. But Rick and Abraham got free and Rick brutally stabbed one of the attackers. Carl somberly states, “He deserved it after what he tried to do. These people deserved this after they killed that man’s girlfriend and made him try to kill the leader at the Hilltop.” Rick looks alarmed as they depart. Shortly afterward, in a very ominous scene, walkers swarm the area and devour the remains of the three dead men.
Heath kills a bizarre looking zombie, badly mutilated with black skin. “Must have been around for a while,” he concludes. It’s then that Rick and the others return. Maggie rushes forward and tells Glenn she’s pregnant. Rick holds a town meeting at the church and informs the town of his agreement with the Hilltop and asks if anyone objects. No one does. Later, Andrea and Rick have an awkward talk about their relationship and Andrea says they’re all dying, so what the heck. Not in those words. Her words were a lot more awkward. The book closes on a doozy of a cliff-hanger as Abraham and Eugene head out to get the ammunition supplies.
I know a lot of people read this book (and watch the show) to see zombie slaying and get frustrated when there isn’t enough of it. There’s only the one slaying here, of the black-skinned zombie, and it’s pretty slow and unexciting. But if you’re a fan of the character-development and storyline advancing, this is a pretty big issue. If you missed out on the previous story, “A Larger World,” it’s nicely summarized in this issue, so it’s a good jumping on point. As far as starting a new story, the darkly titled “Something to Fear,” it’s a bit slow, but things are nicely set up and the cliff-hanger ensures that we’re going to see plenty of action very soon. The walkers descending on the corpses of Negan’s dead troops also foreshadows lots more zombie action. This is issue #97, so we have three issues until #100, and you know something huge has to happen in that! Negan may prove a bigger threat than The Governor!
It’s a tad slow, but this is a kick off to what is sure to be one of the biggest storylines in this book’s history! Jump on board!
THE WALKING DEAD #97
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art and Cover by Charlie Adlard