Robert Kirkman has been writing The Walking Dead for over 13 years now. He started the black and white comic book series back in 2003. Since then, it has been adapted into video games, two television shows, spanned over 176 issues, 30 paperback volumes, 14 hardcover books, 7 spin-off stories and it received the Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series in 2007 and 2010.
You would think that a comic that has been going for as long as the Walking Dead might begin to go a bit stale after 13 years, but Kirkman's zombie apocalypse story still has life left in it.
Book Fourteen contains the second half of the Whisperer storyline. The Whisperers are a group of survivors who adapted to the zombie apocalypse by wearing the skin of zombies and learning to live among them. In Book Fourteen, tensions between Rick's group and the Whisperers have reached boiling point. The Whisperers attack the Hilltop and send a horde toward Alexandria.
I found the Whisperer storyline to be a little weak compared to previous storylines in the Walking Dead. It seems like Rick and his people are always facing new threats from outside groups and it is getting a little repetitive. What made Book Fourteen stand out for me were the characters and the relationships that unfolded.
Negan is one of the best things to happen in the Walking Dead. He was the charismatic villain in the storyline All Out War, who killed people with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire that he called Lucille. After the end of his storyline, he was imprisoned in Alexandria rather than killed. This was a great move on Kirkman's part. Negan is a fantastic character and extremely popular with fans. I love his profanity, his childishness, his maniacal grin and the vacant look in his eyes.
In the Whisperer arc, Negan breaks out of Alexandria and seeks out the Whisperers. He finds their leader and chops off her head and then returns to Alexandria with her head in a bag to give to Rick. Negan wants to be Rick's friend and thinks if he kills the leader of the Whisperers he will see how much he has changed and will start trusting him. But Rick is repulsed by him and rejects his friendship.
Does Negan stop there? Oh no. He stays in Alexandria. When a horde attacks Alexandria he jumps in to save Rick and the two end up spending some time hiding in a house together trying to avoid the Walkers. Negan is a lot of fun. He pushes buttons and he's inappropriate and rude. He knows he is a monster. He knows he's a little bit crazy. When he looks at Rick he sees the sort of man that he wants to be. I am looking forward to seeing what happens between these two.
Another highlight of Book Fourteen for me was the death of Andrea. Andrea was one of the original characters in the Walking Dead and about half way through the series became Rick's romantic partner. Andrea was a law clerk before the apocalypse then she met Rick and the others and slowly turned into a horseback riding, sharp-shooting, zombie killing warrior.
Her death surprised many. It came out of nowhere. Andrea gets bitten while steering away a horde from Alexandria. Her death is long and painful and Rick spends the whole time holding her hand and sobbing that he cannot go on without her.
And what does Andrea do? She lurches up in bed and screams at him that she isn't anyone special and that he shouldn't put her on a pedestal. She tells him to get back outside and keep doing what needs to be done.
I really liked how her death was handled. The Walking Dead had a rough start when it came to writing female characters in the beginning. The writing at times was a bit sexist. But it improved over time and started to treat its women characters better. Andrea was an excellent character and a wonderful feminist role model. I loved how she told Rick to cut the bullshit when he poured his heart out to her. It was a bit harsh but she gave him the strength to pick himself up and continue doing his job.