Okay, so Kirkman totally got me with the last issue's ending. I bought the fake-out. The gang sees Maggie's body and we assume she's dead. The story assumes she's dead. A full twenty-eight panels later, Rick suggests she might still be alive HOLY SHIT! (Kind of a dick for not piping up earlier, huh?) Anyway, he HAD to wait that long to allow a very tired five-page argument on whether or not to shoot her and also to make sure he timed the "What if she isn't dead?" to be uttered just before she sits up, gasping. Clearly, Kirkman is throwing a new wrench into the works: Rick is psychic!
Also a wrench: The handlebar-mustache guy must have sustained damage to his hippocampus in some previous, unexplored occurrence because his memory is shit. A couple issues back he delivered a dramatic speech about the danger of using guns, whose sound can draw more walkers, when a silent weapon would suffice. He emphasized his point by needlessly firing a gun, and was then shocked when the undead showed up. "I hate it when I'm right!" Ugh. If that wasn't enough evidence of brain damage, take issue #56 as another example. Offending his own position, Handlebar pulls A GIGANTIC FUCKING CANNON to take out a motionless corpse. This results in a little showdown and marks an emerging enmity between Rick and Handlebar, which is actually pretty exciting.
Props time: Also in this issue, we got to see some realistic ramifications of Maggie's attempted suicide, touch base with some neglected characters, and get a quick reminder of little Sophie's mental instability.
I'm estimating that about one in five panels in this issue is free of dialogue. I wish it were more. I wish somebody had the balls to tell Kirkman to axe some ham.
"Only a matter of time before she turns into one of them now." Shameful that anybody in this far-gone world could even be imagined to utter such a thing.
A tense nose-t0-nose staredown panel between Rick and Handlebar, newly made foes, is cluttered up with "What?! You gonna say something? Make a move, tough guy" and "Asshole..." These accomplish nothing that the staredown itself does not, and are a vivid example of the need in literature to omit needless words, strip down scenes to their barest and most effective.
Maggie, clearly unstable, humiliated and terrified, instead of remaining silent in the semi-stat panels of the night, manages to spell out, "Even if I could talk about it, I wouldn't want to." Then there's the white-knuckle confession by Handlebar to Posing-Sexy-Even-When-I'm-Looking-At-A-Corpse Latina: "I'm--I'm full of fucking rage."
There are more examples, but with the exception of a few WTF faces and phrases, #56 is actually not a huge offender in either art or writing. Still, the series continues to coast along on an outdated reputation. Understandable enough--hell, it's the only game in town and has a rabid circle of supporters who are unlikely to ever utter the phrase "overrated". Still, with this, another weak, padded entry, I'm getting closer and closer to saying just that. At the very least, it seems that it's best read in TPB form, where the pace seems less glacial.
Still looking forward to the gang hitting DC. Seems like it'll happen next issue.