THE WALKING DEAD #171 focuses entirely on the group heading for Ohio. Robert Kirkman introduces a quirky new character, and the drawings and inks from Charlie Adlard and Stefano Gaudiano are as stellar as ever.
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THE WALKING DEAD #171 is an entirely dialogue-driven issue. There’s hardly any action, but that certainly isn’t a bad thing. It also focuses entirely on the group heading to Ohio. This is a nice change of pace from Robert Kirkman’s previous scripts, as it helps move this particular plot along instead of dragging it out too much. If you’ve been enjoying the direction of this series thus far, you’re going to enjoy this issue as well. If you haven’t, then maybe the introduction of the new character, Princess, takes center stage.

READ: Need catching up? Here’s our review of THE WALKING DEAD #170!

New Characters Create Intriguing Plot Lines

The plot of THE WALKING DEAD #171 is simple enough: Siddiq explains himself to Eugene about Rosita. If you missed it, last issue ended with Siddiq confessing his romantic relationship with Rosita. Eugene is hurt by this reveal, but ultimately makes a joke and makes peace with Siddiq. The team sets out to leave, but Michonne decides to scream into the empty city for signs of life. Instead of zombies or a group of scavengers, a young girl appears holding a semi-automatic. The girl’s name is Juanita Sanchez, but she goes by Princess. “Because queen makes [her] sound old.”

Image courtesy of Image Comics

Princess seems like a real firecracker of a character. She’s unpredictable. She claims to have not seen a living human in over a year. That’s a hard concept to swallow considering she has all of Pittsburgh as her playground, but who knows? Our protagonists certainly don’t, which is why they are consistently on edge while talking to her. Michonne specifically has the most intriguing interaction with Princess, going from rejecting her request to join the party to agreeing with her acknowledgment that the term “minority” is rather mean when you really think about it. How does this second bit even come up? Princess compliments the group on being so ethnically diverse (only two whites!). It makes Michonne chuckle, and Princess capitalizes on this and persists that she joins the group. But the Princess’ lightheartedness and joking behavior is almost too much for the group, as a final prank concludes the series leaving the entire group nearly speechless with anger.

Characterization in THE WALKING DEAD #171

While the plot is relatively straightforward in this issue, the characterization is rather all over the place. I like what Kirkman is doing with the character of Princess. She seems like a free-spirited young girl who’s been alone for quite a long time. Of course her behavior is erratic, and of course she doesn’t know how to properly act around a band of individuals on horses carrying weapons. But I was rather confused by the interaction between Siddiq and Eugene. It seems as though Eugene forgave Siddiq much too quickly. There couldn’t even be a blow-up? Or is he that defeated? Or perhaps he’s planning for something in the future? Regardless, I feel this type of calculation would occur during or after an expected meltdown. But we don’t get that.

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And then there’s Michonne, whom I’m rather disappointed in. I found her much too willing to accept the company of Princess. Instead of leaving her, Michonne listens to Eugene and agrees to take Princess in. And, what’s worse, they all agree to follow Princess. Considering this group has gone through countless betrayals, I found this odd. If anything, I would expect Michonne to simply say, “If you’re coming, you’re coming. There’s no need for us to follow you into a potentially chaotic mess.”

Image courtesy of Image Comics

This may appear as though I’m nitpicking, but it’s what I’d expect from these characters. Instead, Kirkman writes them with skepticism, but he doesn’t have them follow through with that skepticism. It’s not lazy writing, but it’s not going as deeply into the complexities of the paranoid persona I think Kirkman is trying to create. To be fair, this is what happens with a series that is on issue #171. We grow to expect certain traits in these characters we see so often.

Artwork in THE WALKING DEAD #171

It’s tough to talk about the artwork in this series. It’s consistently top quality, as Charlie Adlard is always drawing these characters with such intense wonder. So maybe we should focus on our new character, Princess. Adlard’s depictions of her hair really make her stand out. This is where Stefano Gaudiano’s inks really stick out, as you can see how thick and loud her hair is. Princess’ goggles remind me of Jubilee from the X-Men, and I’m curious if Kirkman or Adlard was inspired by this mutant when creating her. It’s also hilarious how big Adlard draws her weapon, as it’s almost the size of her. Other than Princess, the facial expressions are on point. And that’s very important in such a dialogue-heavy issue.

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Final Thoughts

Overall, THE WALKING DEAD #171 is an average issue in the series. It’s great to learn about such an interesting new character, but I found the characterization in some characters great while subpar in others. But the plot is certainly moving along, and the decision to focus entirely on this group instead of going back to Alexandria or the Hilltop allows us to gain more ground in this journey. What will become of Princess and our protagonists? I’d be extremely pleased to get another issue completely devoted to them again in issue #172, so we shall see.

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