Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Tony Moore
The story starts with a funeral. Yet, while the refugees mourn their fallen companion, there is danger festering in their midst. Jim's been bitten by the zombies. Now, he's changing. So, what's the group to do? Tough situations require tough answers, but what's the humane thing to do?
To make matters worse, the safety of the group is again in question. Rick wants to move the group far away from the zombie-filled city of Atlanta, but Shane wants to stay nearby so that the authorities will have an easier time finding and rescuing them. But what if there are no authorities to rescue them? What if they are the last living people in the world?
Guilt, resentment, sorrow and distrust, these emotions all threaten to tear the group apart. But their survival depends upon cooperation. As calamity and resentment bring the group to yet another crisis, the hope of returning to their old way of life is shattered. With this issue, the first story arc comes to a powerful conclusion and it's never going to be the same again.
"I don't want to risk being out in the country…I don't want to risk being left behind."
The plot is fairly straightforward, with subdued action, which isn't to say that it's uneventful. The primary conflicts are emotional, rather than external. The sorrow over Amy's death, the concern over Jim's zombification, and the tension over the group's future, these all create for an understated but poignant drama.
Especially worth noting is the contrast between Jim and Shane. Due to the events of the previous issue, Jim is becoming a zombie. Yet, he seems to flourish as a person. Previously uncommunicative, Jim delivers a touching eulogy at Amy's funeral. As his life comes to an end, he harbors hopes for reuniting with his deceased family. His passing is treated with quiet tenderness.
Also due to the events of the previous issue, Shane's hope that the group could stay close to Atlanta, so as to make rescuing them easier, has also met a violent end. But unlike Jim, Shane doesn't accept the inevitable with grace. Anger and resentment come boiling to the surface, with tragic results for the refugees.
The art in this issue is solid, but not as powerful as in previous issues. The facial expressions are strong, especially in the climactic scene with Shane, but the overall compositions aren't compelling. There's an unfinished quality to it. This is exacerbated by a tendency to use repetitive imagery in a few scenes, which depends on powerful composition to pull off the scene's intended resonance.
"I thought I could…and I did. Everything was going so good. She would have come around eventually…I know it."
In the past, I've griped that this comic was becoming an adventure title with only the trappings of horror. In this issue, we have a powerful and dramatic return to the horrific, but not the expected horror provoked by gory violence, which is a hallmark of zombie stories. Instead, it's the subtle horror of "self."
Shane has a vision of himself as a strong and heroic man, guarding the refugees until they are delivered from the madness of a zombie-fill world by the forces of safety. He hopes to have the respect of his peers and receive treatment befitting a hero, including female companionship. But the world isn't bending to his wishes.
As guilt and envy eat away at him, his image of himself as a heroic leader falters. He starts to see himself as he really is, and the truth isn't flattering. Rather than accepting the situation, he gives into violent denial, with deadly consequences.
The disintegration of a person's sanity is a horrific thing, which Kirkman starkly depicts with narrative severity. With a new understanding of this comic's title, I give this issue a high recommendation. Don't miss this dark gem of horror comics.
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