"Someone in the woods ... I heard them walking away after I pulled my gun out." - Andrea
Rick and crew are on the road to Washington to see if Eugene Porter is correct in his claims of sanctuary and a solution to the walking dead epidemic. Along the trail they run into a group of hunters that reinforce Romero's schlock that the zombies are going to be the least of your problems in a post apocalyptic world. Strangely they pick up Father Gabriel Stokes, a Priest who has survived the new world armed only with a Bible. Either God is strong in this one, or there's another reason for his survival strategy of non-aggression. The group as a whole face perhaps their biggest challenge when one amongst them proves to be a psychopath and kills another member of the group. Surprisingly a resolution to the problem comes from an unexpected source that shows more ruthless determination to survive than even Rick Grimes can muster.
Sanctuary proves to be on the other side of Washington in the form of a walled community who have created something of a normal lifestyle for themselves, but who harbour dark secrets and have grown too soft in their apparent safety. Rick doesn't trust the community, even with food and lodgings being offered and stays mildly paranoid within it. He hatches a plan involving Glenn recovering their weapons, kept in the community arsenal, as hints are dropped about a rogue member of the community. Kirkman is back to his best in this book, I was rocking with it, let's go for the head shot.
Naturally there are two story arcs included in Book Six that continue the saga of Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors as they journey across the post-apocalyptic wastelands in search of safety and some sort of purpose to their lives. While the previous book dropped the ball somewhat on getting things happening in interesting directions the latest book certain shows Kirkman realising that his audience requires something more than simply an ongoing road trip to nowhere in particular.
Fear the Hunters almost exists as a short story divergence within the Walking Dead Universe. The story arc starts with a shocking development that threatens to rip the group of survivors apart and develops towards one of the band of survivors showing he/she has the ability to make the hard decisions that no one else is prepared to take. We then find out that there's more to be concerned about than the shambling dead. Kirkman develops the story with an eye to keeping things hidden within the woods and hitting some shocking developments that are a jolt to the system that will have your juices flowing again. Of course there are zombie attacks and the ever present danger of sudden death that keeps the tension turned up to high. Another member of Rick's jolly band won't be making it out of the story but we do get the introduction of the enigmatic Father Gabriel Stokes who has developed his own survival tactic. How exactly someone without weapons has survived thus far remains a mystery that will no doubt spell trouble for Rick at some point in the future. At least Rick has put a halt to talking to his dead wife on the telephone he is carrying around with him, though no doubt Michonne would consider it good therapy.
Of course we also learn that a certain direction the survivors were moving in is maybe no longer relevant due to a couple of assumptions being proved wrong. Does everyone have an agenda different to the stated one in this ongoing epic?
Seems that the hunters and zombies weren't the only ones spying on the survivors from the forest, as the second story arc Life Among them introduces us to a community of survivors who have sent out scouts to recruit new members that can add to their well being. Naturally Rick is sceptical of Greeks bearing gifts but is outvoted as members of his party decide that safety isn't something to be passed up lightly. Carl is equally ill at ease as he doesn't view the community's return to pre-outbreak normality as something that is sustainable. There's also something being hidden from the new arrivals, as Rick and team are certainly not being told everything that has or is happening in the community. It makes for an intriguing next few chapters in this epic saga and I'm certainly going to be following what develops from here.
Kirkman needs to keep the mysteries flowing in The Walking Dead else he risks things simply devolving into the sort of continued trek toward nothing that has occasionally plagued previous story arcs. While Kirkman's goal of seeing "what happened next" is certainly admirably, a gradually dimension band of survivors on the road to nowhere is pretty much simply a plot device that one might expect from a slasher saga. Kirkman with the two current story arcs demonstrates he is prepared to take the overall story in new directions and get into the tension and drama to keep things fresh and interesting.
Once again I thought the artwork was slightly on the disappointing side. While overall the standard was high some of the frames should have been rejected, especially those involving Dale in the later stage of the first story arc. On the bright side of the decaying molars we get full double page frames, some mixing up of the standard frame sizes and an overall attempt to keep things rocking. Overall I'm not disappointed with the book on the art front but more care needs to be made in order to keep the standard of the publication up.
I must say Kirkman got me with the couple of story arcs he had going down in Book Six, they pretty much reinvigorated the narrative by adding a sidetrack to the direction we're travelling in and providing a framework of mystery and intrigue. Carl is developing into a more interesting character as the story continues, we continue to whittle away the less interesting characters, and the dead are becoming more decayed as time goes by. With food becoming increasingly scarce I'm pretty sure things will get even more cutthroat as Rick Grimes seeks to keep his group safe. As stated in a previous review however some sort of conclusion is necessary in this saga else it's going to jump the shark at some stage.
Once again I simply sourced the book via amazon.com due to the high Aussie dollar, quick delivery schedules, and fine selection of other titles to also include. If you simply must have the books sooner rather than later then eBay or specialist stores should have you covered.