My knee-jerk reaction when closing the page on The Walking Dead #100:
Take it away! Get it away from me! I never want to see it again!
End quote, verbatim.
This was perhaps the most disturbing single issue of any comic book series that I’ve ever read in my life. Halfway through the issue, I closed the pages for a moment, needing to let what was about to happen sink in. When I had finished, I flung it down feeling genuinely angry, and even a bit betrayed.
Honestly, deeply upset, I ranted about it, objecting that this isn’t what I read comics for, that this wasn’t what I want to experience for escapism. I spent hours thereafter trying to wipe my mind clean. Being unable to,however, my thoughts began to shift and develop.
In a way, this issue encapsulates what The Walking Dead is really about. It’s a neat summation of the overall theme that in a book where flesh-eating zombies roam rampant, true evil in a lawless society always comes in human form.
The Walking Dead has never shied from going that step further toward depicting true human depravity and despair. It has been a while though since an issue of it came close to this kind of absolute awfulness.
There were a number of ways issue #100 could have gone, and conjectures have been piled upon it. A major character seemed destined to die, of whom there are plenty to choose from. Guesses were aimed at protagonist Rick, for added boldness and shock value. Another theory was that most of the group would be killed, as teased at on the cover by series artist Charlie Adlard.
The plot has been shaken up again recently with the introduction of another group of survivors called The Saviors, who work under a mysterious figure called Negan. After some bullying and shoving back, Rick’s group and Negan’s look positioned for a confrontation. In issue #100, the two leaders finally come face to face, and things hit the fan in a bad, bad way.
The beginning of the issue hints that a battle may break out between the two groups, and an action-packed bloodbath was going to take place.
What happened instead worked on a small scale, which only made its impact far greater. It was sad, intense and horrific, and incredibly unpleasant to read.
When I say horrific, I don’t mean because of the gore (there’s plenty) or even the actual violence. I went into the issue expecting extremes, but what I got I just wasn’t prepared for.
What really pulled the rug out this time was the sheer hopelessness. These characters, over a hundred issues, have proved themselves time and again to be nearly unstoppable in battle. For a very long time, since the Governor era, there has been no antagonist that seemed able to match them, much less best them. Now this.
Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard may have delivered their finest work yet. I hated it. I also kind of love them for it. It’s that kind of read. It’s going to haunt me as few single issues have ever done. Bravo.