The Walking Dead is a series I'm greatly fond of but I am forced to take in small doses. I am a great fan of bleakness and uncompromising narrative, but I have to spread out my appreciation of such. That's my excuse for why I haven't reviewed a trade since July of 2014 and I'm sticking to it. Totally not me getting caught up in other things.
I liked this volume because it's a follow up to Safety Behind Bars. The book begins when Rick Grimes takes his first step down the road to Hell by murdering a fellow human being in order to keep the prison for the group. Said human being was trying to force them out but "the greater good" is a very flimsy justification for doing so, especially when they'd just accused him of murdering two girls for no real reason.
Much of this book deals with the fallout from Rick's choice, culminating in the group losing faith in his leadership. Rick doesn't really want to be the sole leader, anyway, but is outraged at the idea he's losing it. Rick needs the reassurance everything he's doing is for the greater good and having the group question that is far more hurtful than the idea he's the leader. Rick wants less to be the leader than to be "right."
We also get the arrivel of series staple Michonne. Said character arrives with her pair of chained up zombies, a katana, and almost no past. Michonne is an interesting character because she seems to come from a different genre than the otherwise realistic survivors. Several months in and Michonne has adapted to becoming a superhero-esque zombie-slayer.
Michonne's presence is both a blessing and a curse for the group. She brings a considerable boon to the group's security but she also seduces Tyreese within hours of her arrival. This disrupts the group's dynamic as Tyreese was in a relationship with Carol. It's not like on the outside where a break-up is a bad thing but people get over it. Everyone's hope for the future is hanging by a thread.
One of the most memorable moments in the entire series, iconic even, ends this volume as it also reveals one of the fundamentals of the comic's "rules" for zombies. I'm not a suicidal man by nature but, I've got to tell you, this revelation would have me contemplating taking a bullet over continuing.
I think the best part of this volume is the fact it manages to find the sweet spot between gritty depression as well as humanist hope. There's deaths in this book but they're not so overwhelming or bleak we lose hope for the survivors. Instead, it's an almost cerebral meditation on the basic questions of how much our survivors want to give up of the old world in order to survive in the new.
In conclusion, this is one of my favorite volumes in The Walking Dead. The focus is on the characters and the situations which arise as a result of the apocalypse. It's a rather slow volume but it's entertaining, believable, and full of hints for what is to come. I'm also a fan of the Michonne character as her out-of-genreness works with the fact everyone reacts to her like she's a crazy yet awesome person.