[Some Spoilers Within]
There’s always been one constant in Robert Kirkman’s award-winning and fan favorite comic book series for Image Comics. The Walking Dead is not all about the zombies which dominate the background and always present an ever-looming danger to the survivors. No, the series has always been about the characters of the survivors and how they’ve had to cope with the apocalyptic setting that’s turned their world upside down. While the ever-present danger of the zombies have inflicted on Rick Grimes and his band of survivors their fair share of casualties it always falls to other human survivors to take the greatest toll on everyone.
Volume 11 of The Walking Dead has been titled “Fear the Hunters” and that is quite an apt title to the story-arc which dominates this volume. Collecting issues 61 thru 66, this volume brings the danger of other humans to the forefront. We’ve spent the last two volumes dealing with the ramifications and after-effects of the Governor’s attack on the prison and the subsequent fleeing of Rick and those who remain in his group. We’ve seen how the loss in life has finally taken enough of a toll on Rick that it’s started to manifest itself and he’s not sure how to deal with it. His son Carl has also shown that he’s had to grow up fast in this new world. While it’s definitely shown him to be a hardened survivor it has also shown how humanity and innocence has no place in this new world. Either one grew up fast to deal with the problem or become victim to it. Carl has chosen to be the former even if it means he’s trodding down a dark path his own father has tried to shield him from.
“Fear the Hunters” will end up taking several more original members from Rick’s group. All three deaths had a sense of inevitability to them but now they died still doesn’t diminish the shock of Kirkman once again proving that no one’s truly safe. The fact that Carl becoming used to all the violence around him was directly responsible for one of the deaths remains one of the most shocking sequences in a series full of them. It definitely brings up a possibility that father and son may one day come at crossroads when something will put them at odds with each other.
The one other thing about this volume which brings the darker side of humanity to the forefront is the aforementioned “Hunters” themselves. A band of human survivors whose will to survive has taken them past the precipice of whatever human decency they had left and brought them to a place which has made them worse than the zombies around them. They harass, terrorize and inflict damage on Rick and his people to the point that Rick’s own retribution once the two groups have finally come face-to-face for the final time will probably shock some readers. Readers who may still believe that decency and humanity still has a place in a world which has none.
As I read this story-arc I came to the conclusion that if I was in Rick’s shoes I don’t know if I would’ve done what he did. To say that his actions (though only hinted at in the illustrations) went beyond the pale would be an understatement. But I did understand why he did what he did and also why those who went with him either assisted or didn’t stop it. I feel like this story-arc has finally shown how those who have disapproved of Rick’s methods to keep the group alive have finally come to their very own conclusion that he has taken it upon himself to do some evil to protect the group and that it has taken a toll on him. The rest are now willing to take their share of this if just to help relieve Rick of some of the guilt he carries with him for his past actions.
This volume has been one of the strongest one in the series and shows why Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd fell in love with the series to adapt it for tv. The Walking Dead is all about the characters and has tapped into a rich source of material about how people in general deal with adversity and how some rise above it while most fail in their attempts to remain human. Rick and those with him remain on the precipice but so far has kept enough of their decency not to go over it the way the “Hunters” obviously had done so. But they remain balanced on a razor’s edge and sooner or later Rick or someone he’s close to will go over and that would make a tragic situation that readers will have to deal with whether they want it to happen or not.