The Walking Dead has chronicled the survival of a small, but ever growing band of people in the face of appalling danger and casualty rates, gradually encompassing enough folk to have several communities. Whether intended that way from the start or not, it’s certainly developed into a compressed allegory of human progress over millennia, or alternatively as the progress of the USA over three centuries. However, looking at it that way results in some unpleasant recastings. No Turning Back instituted a major step with the decision to progress from safety patrols to an organised army. As Charlie Adlard’s sample art shows, an early training exercise was perhaps too ambitious, and underestimating zombies can always be fatal. After 25 volumes it’s impossible to consider The Walking Dead drawn by another artist, and thankfully Adlard is around to the end.

Openly hostile resentment erupted in No Turning Back, and that’s still an issue, one that results in an old danger being restored. A clever aspect of Robert Kirkman’s writing is how natural the major dramatic developments seem, and this is another instance of that. Also fascinating are the new methods Kirkman conceives to trouble Rick Grimes. A book after his revelation that he’d found a happiness above the level of his pre-zombie existence, along come more circumstances to challenge that. When he claims “I became a better leader”, long term readers of The Walking Dead realise the cost. Rick’s life isn’t one defined by choice, but by duty, and that’s reinforced further as The Walking Dead continues.

Shockingly introduced two volumes back, the Whisperers remain a threat for another day. However, by the time Call to Arms finishes, they’ve either been diminished or become even more dangerous. A reckoning is coming, but how long is Kirkman going to tease? That’s not the issue it might otherwise be because Negan’s back in a major role. Of all the people good, bad or middling introduced in the series, he’s been the most compelling. Everyone loves an irredeemable villain, and he’s back in all his redneck, potty-mouthed, manipulative glory, given much of the final chapter and utterly remorseless. His wild card makes The Whisperer War something to look forward to and no mistake.

The Walking Dead Book Thirteen presents this and No Turning Back in hardcover, or it’s combined with that and the following six volumes as the fourth Walking Dead Compendium, wrapping up the series.