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Welcome to a new series spotlighting some of the best single issues in comics from the past decade. You will not find Watchmen, Sin City, Dark Phoenix Saga or Action Comics #775 anywhere on this list. These are comics that, with a little effort, you'll find on the Internet or lost in the back issues of your comic book store. Because this article is not a review, and since these issues are not necessarily new, any surprise, cliffhanger or death will be spoiled in an attempt to show why the book shouldn't have been missed.
So that being said, welcome to: You Missed That Issue! The Walking Dead #49.Since 2003, Robert Kirkman has been writing this apocalyptic tale while Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn have handled the art. Here is a brief breakdown of the series before this stand out issue.
Rick is shot and ends up in a coma. Upon waking up in a hospital, he discovers undead people are everywhere. Rick returns to his mangled home and decides to go to Atlanta, where the survivors were told to wait for help. Rick hopes to find his wife Lori and son Carl amongst the survivors. Along the way he discovers the city (of course) is crowded with zombies. He joins a small band of survivors and they band together for safety. Rick finds that Lori and Carl are okay along with Shane his ex-partner from the police force, who is less than happy that Rick has returned.
Add a couple of years, some survivor’s deaths here and there. Throw in tons of heavily influenced scenes and story arcs thanks to Romero, 28 Days Later and pretty much any other zombie movie to ever come out and you'll witness that Kirkman has built a zombie world that isn't about the zombies but rather about the people. A difficult task but he has somehow done a more than admiral job at it for a few years. Despite the Peter Parker Syndrome (where the main character(s) are constantly being shit on to create ridiculous drama), the band of survivors have had to deal with, they still had some glimmer of hope and fight. Rick of course being the driving force as the protagonist and the only character capable of invoke feelings from the reader.
With issue 49 everything changes, poor Rick has now lost damn near everything: His wife, his unborn child, his band of survivors /friends, the safety and the sanctuary that prison had given them. Plus he's still coping with the loss of his hand. Now physically and metal distort, Rick and Carl keep moving and make their way through a small empty town. They hold up in an abandon house for the night. With Rick out of the picture Carl does his best to protect his father. By gathering random supplies and fighting off the occasional zombie. While Rick slowly goes insane, Carl does the best he can to get them both through the night.
Here is where a wave of disappointment engulfs the series. For the next two issues you follow the breakdown of Rick, the only character you have ever cared about. Now Carl takes the reins of the protector role. It seems to be totally out of character as he kicks too much zombie’s ass. I know he was being groomed for this almost his entire life. Being ready to inherent this zombie world is his curse, why wouldn't he be ready for it? He's never done more than shoot off a couple of rounds here and there throughout the other 48 issues. He's still been protected and sheltered like most of the group under Rick's care. Let's say that children can respond to extreme situations or “grow up very fast” is complete bullshit. Carl has lost everything as well and he's a CHILD. There is no way he could digest all of this in a timely manner and still be able to go all “Daigorō” and protect his wounded father. I don't care what science says, that kid ain't doing that.
Hell, if issue 50's cover was Carl standing over Rick's grave, I would of went 100% crazy and praised this as being the most ambitious, daring comic I have ever read! It would have been some post Allen Moore–Grant Morrison in his hay-day master piece. The stupid people would of hated it and asked “why”, the smart people would of put it on a mantle and spoke of its place in comic book greatness. In years to come people would have simply called it pure geniuses. But instead we see this degeneration of Rick for a few issues until Kirkman basically gets tired of it. Then he persists to wrangle up the main characters again and toss in a few new ones for good measure. Then he puts them back on promises of false hopes and wild goose chases. Along the way the group experiences some very run-of-the-mill uninspiring story arcs. Yawn...
People might not agree due to the fact that they (most) have read it all in trade paperback form. That's the problem, in the trade paperback it looses the monthly intensity of racking your brain to see what's going to happen next. Nobody cares how things can develop when they can just flip a few pages and get the resolution. Maybe it's just me but I took issue 49 as something more. I thought Kirkman was really going to own this story. My hopes were he'd take it somewhere special and lose all the stagnant influences. As of right now this book feels like homage more than anything else. This is a shame due to the fact it could and should be so much more.