Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Made to Suffer

Finally, that long-awaited siege right? The pay-off for the previous collection's slow burn, yeah? Well, no, actually.

It turns out that The Walking Dead isn't particularly good at delivering big action set pieces. It wants to have the cadence of an action film at times, but I'm not convinced it really captures motion or moment-to-moment tension very well in the way its panels are composed. But there is a lot of carnage in this collection, so we can still pick through the bones:

One thing I like about Made to Suffer is that it shows Andrea being a badass, raining death from above like some kind of law clerk-turned-Valkyrie. I might actually be sad when Andrea dies, as I have no doubt she will at some point. I'm also glad that the tank we saw in the previous collection gets used during the siege. I guess it was Chekov's Tank after all.

When Michonne goes after the fleeing Woodbury crew with Tyreese, is she really trying to winnow their ranks or does she just want another shot at the Governor? The Walking Dead plays literary notions of revenge pretty straight; revenge is a bad impulse because it is over-reaching and always consumes the person who wants vengeance. Michonne's desire for further revenge against the Governor gets Tyreese captured and killed. The Governor's need to be revenged on Rick and Michonne leads him to endanger his people and put himself in a situation where his contagious violence ultimately turns back on him.

Tyreese's beheading at the hands of the Governor is intense and disturbing, which is the point, but it's somewhat uncomfortable that the most gratuitous scenes of violence in the comic all make the bodies of people of color the occasion of torture and degradation. Michonne's violation by the governor, the Governor's torture at the hands of Michonne, Tyreese's decapitation with Michonne's katana as wielded by the Governor are all scenes in which the extremity of violence is a thing visited by one person of color on another. I'm not sure what to make of that--it could be coincidental--but I also kinda think it isn't. 

Speaking of violence, the comic uses the two-part siege as an opportunity to divest itself of some minor characters we probably aren't going to miss anyway: goodnight and thank you, Axel, Patricia, Billy, Hershel, and Alice. The sloppiest death here is Alice's because it just seems like her purpose in the narrative was to delivery Lori's baby and then die.

Speaking of Lori and her baby...okay, I can't imagine being a reader of this comic and not seeing their deaths coming. Once the minor characters are cleared off the board, you gotta kill someone important to give the reader that gut-punch feeling, right? Unfortunately, their deaths feel as cheap as Alice's death--as if the baby was introduced just so we'd be shocked when she gets caught in the crossfire with her mother. 

And we have every indication that it is supposed to be an outrage that we feel personally affronted by because that's exactly how Lilly, one of the Woodbury crew, reacts to it in our place as a fictional proxy for the read. Her reaction is at once didactic and intended as catharsis; even though she's on the Governor's side, and the one who pulled the trigger on mother and daughter, the deaths of Lori and Judith spur her to shoot the Governor and toss him to the zombies.

From the hip:

  • Lots of rhetoric used on both sides of the siege that sits uncomfortably with our modern political moment. Lots of talk about the safety of fences, lots of pleas to "think of the children," plenty of "the other side are evil savages and they are the ones responsible for the existence of crime in the world."
  • Oh hey, Rick gets wounded again. 
  • Oh hey, I guess the Governor makes out with his zombiefied niece? Like we didn't realize he was the bad guy or something, this had to be thrown in there?
  • Hah, Michonne and Tyreese ambush a guy when he's peeing. This is such a modern trope: you can tell when a drama, particularly a "prestige format" television show is trying to convince you that it is GRITTY and REAL when it includes somebody taking a piss.
  • Also, it's comical that Michonne can slice through anything in one swing with her sword, but the Governor takes forever to behead Tyreese.