Though the series is always growing and expanding, it’s probably been about 3 years since an important character has been introduced in The Walking Dead. It’s hard to say if Princess, the purple haired, pink jacket wearing Latina badass introduced in issue #171 will be the next Michonne or Negan, but it’s clear that Kirkman has high hopes for the newest addition to the TWD roster.
The issue itself follows Michonne’s group of survivors as they head toward the mysterious new colony Eugene discovered on his CB radio so long ago. It is while traipsing through the ruins of Pittsburgh that the group encounters the eccentric Princess, or Juanita Sanchez if you’re a square, who has been on her own for around a year. Though still relatively put together, she is far too excited to speak to another living soul and emerges as sort of a hyper-active (and somewhat obnoxious) child archetype. Unfortunately, this means she’s brusque, tactless and without subtlety – something made most obvious when she points out the complex ethnic makeup of Michonne’s party (of which, Eugene is the only white male). The series developing a robust and diverse cast over the years has been a gradual and somewhat justifiably unique development of the series. If I’m honest, the introduction of Princess feels like an indelicate means of drawing attention to that fact.
Princess may feel like a more organic character if her design didn’t seem a touch cliche as well. Yes the interiors are black and white, so Sanchez’s unique color scheme is relegated to the cover, but her appearance and color scheme is reminiscent of Michonne’s introduction all the way back in issue #19. She feels more like a replacement for the recently deceased (relatively speaking) Rosita (the series’ most prominent Latina to date) than an interesting take in her own right. That’s probably harsh to say since this is her first appearance, but this issue doesn’t do a lot to develop her into something more than that. She could emerge as an entry point character for younger readers perhaps, but currently reads as a byproduct of corporate marketing, rather than an organic creation.
Speaking of Rosita, we get a bit of a payoff to last issue’s reveal that Siddiq was (likely) the father of Rosita’s baby, not Eugene – and by “a bit” I mean very little payoff indeed. In probably the most flagrant differentiation in characterization between the comic and the TV series besides Carol, Eugene shows that he’s the bigger man and not only accepts Siddiq’s apology for violating the sanctity of the man’s relationship, he actually comforts the crying man about his feelings of loss. That’s pretty huge for someone. Yes he shows some anger at the initial reveal, especially when Siddiq implies that Rosita had planned to leave Eugene, but he actually chokes back any emotion and shows his development into a mature and rational man who refuses to live in the past. It’s rare that a character can be this open and mature without coming off like a doormat, but this was well done, brief thought it may be.
Overall, I don’t know that I’m too into this issue. Time will tell how Princess plays out as a character, but for now she feels like The Walking Dead version of Poochie, which isn’t ideal for a book that prides itself on it’s tone of severity and consequence. The art is the same as it ever is, and the story developments are few, so this is a hard issue to recommend for anyone that wasn’t going to pick it up anyway.