THE WALKING DEAD #172 isn't the most striking issue, but the character development is key. Kirkman shows some humor while also hammering home crucial themes. The artistic duo of Adlard and Gaudiano continues to flex their skills.
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Crucial Character Development
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THE WALKING DEAD #172 is very much a house cleaning issue. There are a lot of plots that move along, but the overarching story of the Hilltop’s rehabilitation is finally complete. Robert Kirkman has been spinning many threads since “The Whisperer War,” and we still see that spinning happening with each monthly issue. It allows for much development in our characters, but it can almost feel as though nothing is really happening; since Andrea’s death, things have been relatively calm. Much of that changes with the last page in this issue, and everything beforehand seems even more critical than ever.

A Plot Filled With Crucial Filler

The issue begins with Princess retrieving her weapon of choice — a gigantic spear that’s good for “keeping your distance in a fight.” Princess receives an eye roll from Michonne but words of approval from Yumiko. As this pack moves on, Yumiko asks Magna when she’s going to stop hiding their relationship. Magna explains that it isn’t easy, but Yumiko refutes this and explains Magna’s conservative relatives are long dead. Magna still expresses hesitation, but Yumiko simply blurts out to the crowd that they are both gay and together.

Image from THE WALKING DEAD #172, courtesy of Image Comics

This is rather insensitive, but the result is rather humorous: nobody is really surprised, nor do they care that much. While Magna is stunned by Yumiko’s rude behavior, the scene appears to be a nod from Kirkman himself saying, “With so much going on in the world, whether it be real modern social issues or fictional apocalyptic zombies, why should we care who is in love with whom?”

THE WALKING DEAD #171 Review: A New Friend

The metaphor is subtle. It works well: it’s scripted and paced nicely, and it’s a nice break from the rest of the issue’s plot. But while it’s a break, it still flows well with the comic’s common theme: relationships. Carl and Lydia go over their relationship; Carl and Sophia talk of theirs; Jesus and Aaron leave Alexandria and head for the Hilltop; and Rick continues to grieve over Andrea. THE WALKING DEAD #172 really hammers home the idea of how crucial human contact is. It’s all there is to live for at this point, and whether it’s love or friendship, it’s the only thing keeping these characters sane. Kirkman’s continued depiction of Rick’s grievance — his loss of a specific human contact — shows how broken he is.

Kirkman’s Themes and Characterization are Top Notch

Overall, I enjoyed this issue. It certainly contains some filler, but, as stated, the themes highlighted are crucial to the series. As with most issues in this series that don’t deal with a crazy death or unforeseen threat, everything is plot building. Maggie is seen becoming a sterner leader, Michonne and company continue their trek west, and the Hilltop is finally ready to be functional again. I wish the threat seen on the last page had more depth to it, but that’s become standard in THE WALKING DEAD. Kirkman has me looking forward to issue #173, and that’s quite okay.

Emotional Artwork From Adlard and Gaudiano

Image from THE WALKING DEAD, courtesy of Image comics

Charlie Adlard and Stefano Gaudiano’s artwork is as consistent as ever. That’s almost standard to point out in these reviews, so I think it’s important to state the highlights. The scene between Carl and Sophia in the dead of night is stellar. The emotions on their faces show how deeply connected they are. Having read this series for as long as I have, I often forget that these two were there from almost the beginning. Carl witnessed Sophia’s first mother go insane, and Sophia witnessed both of Carl’s mothers die. And of course there is Maggie’s solemn composure as she takes this all in. These feelings are shown in this scene, and it takes a special kind of artistic duo to capture that on paper.

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THE WALKING DEAD #172 is certainly a filler issue, but it’s a crucial one, as they all are. If you’ve been digging the group that’s gone out to Ohio, you might long for more action. But if you’ve been invested in the Hilltop, or Rick, or even Lydia, you’re going to be pleased with this issue. And, again, the final page will make your heart jump.

These characters really are never quite safe.

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