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article imageReview: Walking Dead Graphic Novel, Volume 23, Whispers Into Screams

By Holly L. Walters     Jun 12, 2015 in Entertainment
Volume 23 has no zombies and very little of its main protagonist Rick within its pages. Interestingly enough, the premise still works and manages to pull off an entertaining storyline and some great artwork.
The story’s main focus centers around Carl, Maggie, Jesus and Sophia this time around, and the recent story finds Maggie the leader of yet another makeshift civilization.
You would think Rick and his group would learn by now that casting his lot with the people in these permanent settlements never ends well, and one of the teenage characters even warns Carl in the story that,
“Moving a lot is the key…Keep moving. You’ll see this place won’t last.”
Wise words. And whether Rick’s group is the catalyst that causes these places to come unwound or not, they are always caught in its cross-hairs when it does. You know the drill: Well-functioning compound grudgingly takes Rick and his group in, and then they start to wonder how the place ever survived without their walker-killing street smarts. Said compound usually goes up in flames and/or with a lot of explosions later.
Unfortunately, we’ve found through reading volumes of the crazy Walking Dead universe, that when the group settles in, it’s a sign that a lot of folks are going to become walker-chow. It’s simply a matter of time, and we get to tensely watch them enjoy a little normalcy before it probably happens again with their newly found home in Volume 23.
Who are the Whisperers?
Volume 23, Whispers into Screams picks up close to the end of Volume 22. That volume detailed conflicts within the various settlements and a new threat, a group called the Whisperers. The main focus of Volume 23 starts out with Jesus leading a small group on horseback outside of the settlement to find one of the sentries that hasn’t checked back into their post yet.
A band of Whisperers later attacks Jesus and his group. They followed closely behind the riders in plain sight for quite a long time before they did it, too. To be fair, the Whisperers, who were introduced at the end of last issue, wear dead zombie skins over their bodies whenever they scout and hunt on their land. It’s an ingenious tactic that fools zombies and humans alike, but it’s probably no picnic to be in those gross outfits on hot summer days.
Nevertheless, the disguise is enough to fool Jesus and his men, and when the Whisperers get close enough, they rush and ambush them with knives and swords. Jesus and the rest of his group quickly realize that what they thought were garden-variety shambling walkers are actually fast-moving bad ass walkers brandishing weapons. What freaks them out further is that the gooey, fleshy group can actually speak, feel pain and have even named each other.
Jesus Discovers the Truth
Jesus and company quickly recover from the attack and kill the entire marauding group, except for one female that pleads for Jesus to save her life. They take her captive and take her back to the settlement, strapped to the back of a horse…where Jesus later realizes she is wearing a stitched on mask. They quickly throw her in a prison cell until they can find out what to do with her. They take one of their men who was stabbed by the Whisperers to the infirmary to be attended to.
At the same time that the girl is put into her cell, Carl Grimes is also locked up in the adjoining cell for his part in a skirmish that almost killed two other boys in the settlement. Carl had taken a shovel to the two boys after they bashed his head with a brick and began severely beating Sophia. Maggie, who is Carl’s guardian now, punishes him by locking him up for not stopping when the boys were incapacitated, almost killing them. It's a gentler, kinder world now where people abide by the law, she tells him.
The fact that the teens were beaten to within an inch of their lives doesn’t escape the attention of the boys' mom and dad who are drawn to look like characters out of a Here Comes Honey Boo Boo episode. These parents look like they’d still be hanging a rebel flag outside of their house, even after the zombie apocalypse. "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn like a redneck," seems to scream out from the pages.
The white trash parents and some of the others in the settlement begin scheming with their former leader, Gregory, to kill Maggie because they think she isn’t fit for leadership. Gregory is the one who suggests murder as a way to oust her from the position, and they go along with it. The father of the boys is definitely in, he says, as long as they kill Carl, too.
Carl Finds His Soul Mate
In the meantime, the girl Whisperer has been talking to Carl from her cell. We find out she is 16, and her name is Lydia. They’ve become fast friends. Carl later convinces Maggie that she isn’t a threat, and she eventually lets both of them out. Lydia probably smells like rotten walker skin and weeks of stale sweat, but she quickly grows on Carl Grimes. The call of the wild quickly ensues between the two of them as they get to know each other better. Later in the story she French kisses Carl’s ruin of an eye socket, and he’s instantly smitten.
We also find out Carl is a virgin and that Lydia is often raped by the Whisperer clan through their dialogue. The two then have sex. Let's hope those supply runs in the novels include condoms, because Carl and Lydia seem awful young to be having kids. During this time, the parents of the boys are not happy at all about Carl's release on good behavior, and after an argument between the mom and Maggie, she calls Maggie a very, very bad name.
After this, Gregory lures Maggie away and tries to poison her. Jesus finds her incapacitated on the ground and gets her away after smacking Gregory around the room a little bit. Fortunately, Gregory isn't very adept at poisoning and Maggie recovers just in time to meet the huge band of Whisperers that have collected outside of the settlement's gates.
Apparently, momma bear is the leader of the one of the groups and she is after her cub, Lydia. The leader, whose name is Alpha, does her best 'I don't want any trouble speech' and offers a trade for some of the settlement prisoners they had taken earlier for Lydia.
The trade goes well for everyone except crushing Carl as Lydia leaves reluctantly with her mother, batting doe eyes at Carl as she leaves. Alpha lets the settlers know that they won't attack anyone unless they intrude on their land again. Since there are no property markers or maps offered by the Whisperers, that might be problematic later. They leave with Lydia, but later Carl sneaks out of the camp, presumably to be with Lydia. See? Problems already.
There's also a few other minor storyline plots in the story. One of them is about Rosita's pregnancy, and how she breaks it to Eugene that it isn't his. Another is about Rick planning a fair. Pretty tame for Rick, but it's about time he took a vacation. We don't want him phoning home to ghostly Lori again.
The climax of Whispers into Screams issue isn't as dramatic as some of the others in the series, but the overall story structure is pretty solid and one of the aspects that keep you coming back for more.
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