While the release schedule for The Walking Dead has been breakneck for the last six months, the story has been slightly more lethargic in terms of pace (although the letters column has been firing on all cylinders). Throughout the previous 100 issues of this title, readers have never really been strung along quite this long without a big payoff, and oh boy, was there a payoff here.
Throughout the course of 'All Out War', the characters and communities have been jockeying for position, and futures have never seemed quite so uncertain. Kirkman has played a few cards we haven't seen before, such as the mystery of Dwight's allegiance, the introduction of a substantial amount of new characters in a very short period of time and now, a dramatic shift in character for Rick Grimes.
Always one to do the tough job and make the hard decisions, it appeared as if Rick was actually going to solve this conflict in a way we as readers know he prefers, with a peaceable solution, and as little loss of life as possible. Well, it seemed that way, but then Kirkman turned our world upside down with a brutal, and violent, shift in character for Rick, illustrated brilliantly by Charlie Adlard.
As we close the penultimate chapter of 'All Out War', we get the expected "big death" that The Walking Dead has become known for, but I don't think many of us saw Rick killing Negan in such an uncharacteristic fashion. The fallout that this leaves us with going forward is more impactful than the decisions we've seen these characters faced with before. Now, it isn't where to get food, or seek shelter, or even how to overcome the droves of zombies at the gate; now the question is, who is Rick Grimes, and can he be trusted?
Once again, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard blindfold us and lead us down an all-new dark path that we've never walked before.