Friday, January 30, 2015

This Is Where They Lost Me: The Walking Dead – Book Nine!

The Good: The plot progresses
The Bad: Mediocre artwork, Entirely oppressive mood, Unlikable new characters
The Basics: The Walking Dead - Book Nine marks the arrival of Negan . . . and the point where the series becomes unbearable to read.

While I was on vacation in September of last year, my wife and I visited the Mall Of America (reviewed here!). At one point, while she was shopping at stores I had no interest in, I decided to go and get some reading done at the Barnes & Noble there. I was pretty psyched at the time because there was a copy of The Walking Dead – Book Nine there (which was not available to me locally). So, while my wife shopped, I read and, alas, it quickly turned into the low point of my vacation for me.

The Walking Dead – Book Nine was unenjoyable to read because it is the point where everything in the series has built up to a point where there is such an oppressive tone that there is no joy in the experience. As horrible as what Rick and Michonne suffered at the hands of The Governor, there was at least the hope that they might overcome and thwart the leader of Woodbury. That part of The Walking Dead has a decent catharsis and it came fast-enough to make for an enjoyable, if gruesome, read. With the introduction of Negan in The Walking Dead – Book Nine, the series begins a downward spiral into misery. In fact, it becomes so unpleasant to read The Walking Dead – Book Nine that I had to pick up the subsequent volumes and skim through key plot points for one important reason: I had to know if continuing to invest in the series was going to be worth it. At the last point I skimmed to, the plotline involving Negan finally came to an end and its resolution was fairly unsatisfying. Still, I went back to finish The Walking Dead – Book Nine and it’s hard for me to imagine wanting to return to the world of The Walking Dead afterward.

On the way back to the Alexandria community from Hilltop, Rick Grimes and his party encounter a motorcycle gang. The motorcyclists are working for Negan and they demand a tribute for Negan. Michonne and Andrea kill three of the four people working for Negan. Rick sends the last one back to Negan to tell Negan to leave Hilltop alone. While Abraham and Eugene are out scavenging for ammunition, Abraham is killed and Eugene is captured. Brought to the gates of Alexandria by Dwight, Eugene is threatened, but manages to break free and give Rick’s survivors the chance to turn the tables on Negan’s people.

When Rick refuses to take things lying down, he and a small team prepare to leave for Hilltop (including Glenn and Maggie, who is now pregnant, who want to relocate to the safer location). On the road, though, they meet Negan, who menaces the group and then beats in the head of one of Rick’s closest friends with his barbed wire-covered baseball bat, which he has named Lucille. Forcing Rick into a position of fealty to him, Negan begins his oppressive reign over Alexandria. Visiting Rick’s town, Negan and his people take what they want and when Carl sneaks back with him, Carl sees just what Negan has built.

On the character front, The Walking Dead – Book Nine sees a progression of the relationship between Rick Grimes and Andrea. The change in their relationship status seems largely to provide a weird pair of mirror scenes in the book. When Carl walks in on Andrea and Rick after they have had sex, Rick avoids having “the talk” with Carl. This conversation is mirrored by a creepy “show and tell” wherein Negan gives Carl a tour of his brothel and admits that the end of the world has been better for his sex life than the world was before. The difference between the determined Rick and the sadistic Negan is played out throughout The Walking Dead – Book Nine and the genuine affection Rick has for Andrea is a foil for Negan’s careless collecting of women.

The Walking Dead – Book Nine has big, significant deaths and the siege mentality that results and the psychological torment of Carl by Negan makes for an utterly unpleasant book. There is no joy in seeing how Rick Grimes and his people survive at this point; instead, they are at a point of prolonged suffering and the sense that they will be miserable for a long time is more than just a mood in The Walking Dead – Book Nine. Rick, Maggie, Carl, and the others readers have invested their time and affection in will be suffering for books to come and given how harsh Book Nine is, it is impossible to recommend, much less recommending continuing with the series.

For other The Walking Dead books, check out my reviews of:
Days Gone Bye
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Book Four
Book Five
Fear The Hunters
Life Among Them
Book Seven
Book Eight


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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