Robert Kirkman calls the Prison the coolest location of the entire series, and while I might have some varying opinions on that topic, one thing is for certain…
The prison is really f****** cool.
Rick and the group have left Herschel’s farm, along with Glenn who fell for Maggie, long behind. Their future lies within three heavy duty chain-link fences surrounding a massive prison. As we talked about in our previous installment, it might not look like the epitome of hope but that’s exactly what it is for our struggling group of survivors at this point. The cool factor isn’t something that is talked about much within the context of TWD with all the tragedy and shocking deaths that everyone talks about, but more often than not, Kirkman, Adlard, Wooton and now McCaig tap into something that is just badass. The prison is just one of those things.
It’s a surrounding that gives a stark visual to the messed up state of the world and what Rick and those choosing to follow him are going through. It’s a metaphor for the upside down nature of existence now, but it’s also uniquely interesting for a survival situation such as this. It’s fortified, easily defended and might even already be stocked up to hold large amounts of people. What more could they ask for? The Walking Dead Deluxe #13 uses this to catapult spirits from everyone in the group as almost all envision a better life ahead within the confines of the prison. It’s this attitude that contrasts with our own expectations of life in a prison that makes this issue feel so surreal, even reading again years later.
The surrealist nature of the issue is punctuated with an ending that is really unexpected, introducing a group of surviving prisoners. We’ve all come to love some of them from the TV series like Axel who proved more loveable than anyone gave him credit for, but like Kirkman points out in the “Cutting Room Floor” section of this issue, almost everything feels remarkably in tune with the TV series here. The prison block where they decide could be a strong option to stay in is nearly identical to what we saw in the AMC series and it really feels like a high point for both the comic and the show. To me, the struggle for their survival at the prison in a lot of ways IS The Walking Dead because their experience encapsulates so much of what the franchise stands for.
The Walking Dead is downright cool, no doubt about it, but there are also complexities to think about and subtle comments on the human experience. McCaig understands this clearly as well as anyone involved with the series because in this issue, the colors do wonders in evoking the right mood and nudging us to feel what is happening in this shift for the group more deeply, capitalizing on the storytelling elements of the prison with great tact. Even in the dangers of clearing out the interior of the prison and the hunger pains at night, there is a sense of opportunity that hangs on every panel that McCaig brings out wonderfully in his colors.
The process of creating this issue from Kirkman’s side seemed straightforward with only minor changes happening from the original plotting. There are some character beats with Dale and Chris and Julie that are bubbling and had some small adjustments, but the critical points are mostly unchanged. This is really only worth noting to acknowledge just how great of an idea this next step for TWD really was. It is a strong turning point in the comics as well as a momentous event in the series that helped to launch the franchise into a global phenomenon. Yes, there are deeper layers to the prison as a setting, what it offers the group of survivors led by Rick and what it attracts as a community in such a dangerous world but it’s difficult to get around the simple promise that the prison is just really cool. Sometimes that’s all you need.
There are no tragic deaths or heartbreaking developments in The Walking Dead Deluxe #13, and aside from the annoyances of Chris and Julie as babysitters, it’s an outwardly positive issue that packs a ton of action. It’s an issue that knows how to tap into that “cool” factor at just the right moment with plenty of zombie slaying and apocalypse planning to give readers a hell of a good time. And if there is anything longtime fans of TWD arguably know better than anyone else – it’s that you better enjoy the good times while you can!