Shane has had enough. The barn is full of Walkers, the search for Sophia has only become more desperate and the group needs to move on. So, it’s finally time to open the barn and…
That’s the second season of TWD series, not The Walking Dead Deluxe #11! In this issue, the entire “barn full of walkers” gag plays out in just a single issue, bringing Herschel face to face with the deadly consequences of his own beliefs. Despite an iconic line like “these zombies didn’t come with an instruction manual”, he learns the hard way what must be done in the name of safety and the tragedy runs deep. We even almost see Herschel kill himself because of it. So how did we get there?
It’s actually quite simple. Rick and Herschel blow up at each other following the cliffhanger in TWD Deluxe #10 where he reveals the walkers are in the barn. This argument takes up most of the first half of the issue with extensive dialogue laying out their contrasting viewpoints on how to handle the walkers locked in the barn. It’s our first real look at how Rick inserts himself in other situations and eventually gets everyone around to see his own way. How he handles conflict and debates others on the most basic of principles in survival situations eventually comes to define many of his interactions in the coming issues, but this is arguably among the most emotional.
After the two are able to come to terms with the situation, it doesn’t take long for everything to fall apart. This cyclical violence is a trademark of the entire franchise, with brief periods of safety interrupted chaotically with deadly outbursts and the barn is no different. It’s a sign of Kirkman and company finding their rhythm for this type of storytelling. Somehow they are able to balance pages packed with dialogue and the much needed action to deliver a satisfying story all in a single issue.
Herschel really carries the emotional weight in this issue. He convinces Rick to leave the walkers in the barn alone after confiding in him that his son is amongst the group, Shawn. When sh!t inevitably hits the fan and the walkers come pouring out, it is none other than the long-dead Shawn who shows up to take yet another of Herschel’s children Arnold in the frenzy. With Lacy also getting killed in the mix, we find a panel of Herschel even contemplating suicide as he suffers so much loss. It’s a hectic moment, one that mirrors the chaos of what we saw when Season 2 eventually got around to finally opening the barn. Though in this issue there is no Sophia, no Shane, and no entire season build up to the rewarding moment. Instead, it’s just one issue that feels like the first few seconds of a rollercoaster, the slow ticking climb up with a sense of anticipation for what is to come and then the drop. The one that takes your stomach and puts it in your throat.
In the “Cutting Room Floor” from Kirkman, we can see that this issue is very by the numbers. The scripting process is clear by this point and Kirkman seems to hit all of the beats that he originally wanted. Though it was funny to see even Kirkman needing additional notes to keep up with the size of Herschel’s family. There are quite a few more than what we saw in the show and while they do serve a purpose in this story, it’s difficult to think how the show could’ve utilized so many additional characters in a season that is already notorious for being stretched out far too long.
The Walking Dead Deluxe #11 benefits from McCaig’s colors not in the way you might expect, though the gore is uniquely expressive, here we see an atmosphere that plays into the cyclical nature of violence that unfolds. As days begin to pass almost without notice we fall into a cycle of life and death, night and day, safety and danger, that keeps us coming back for more no matter how tragic or violent the series gets.
That cycle continues in the final pages as well, following the deaths of so many and downfall of the walkers in the barn we see something curiously ominous in the final panels, a kiss. One that is sure to expose something not nearly as welcoming in the very near future!