Series: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

I’ve read sixteen of these things now, so I think I’m ready to comment on the series as a whole.

This graphic novel series is about Rick Grimes – a police officer in a past life, but now simply trying to survive in a world overrun by the walking dead. Early on in the series, he is reunited with his wife and son, as well as a small group of survivors, and they travel around the Atlanta/Washington area trying to find a safe home.

There’s some good character development in the series. It’s not an easy thing to take a reader who feels reasonably safe and secure, and make them believe that someone is, if not justified, at least understandably turning into a monster. Rick’s progression is slow, and – at first – his increasingly unhinged decisions seem justified. And maybe they are in book 16 as well, but it’s sure clear enough that he’s lost that wide-eyed innocence that made him so compelling in the first few books of the series.

The plot is quite interesting. There are many twists and turns, and there’s no holding back on killing off main characters so there’s a real legitimate fear of main characters dying when things get hairy. Taking the survivors through a number of different locales keeps in interesting and allows us to see all the different ways that the people in Kirkman’s world have found to survive. There are some overly convenient bits – such as when the group is separated and then just happen to stumble on each other later on – but it’s easy enough to ignore.

The big issue with the series is the dialogue. It lacks flow, people say painfully artificial things (particularly the monologues, but this happens in conversation too), and the phrasing is very stilted. Some of the errors could be solved easily with an editor, but this seems to have been bypassed. The central theme of “humans are the real monsters” is spelled out over and over again, which is terribly unnecessary given that a) it’s an easy enough theme to convey through subtle means, and b) anyone familiar with the zombie genre is already going to be expecting it since wowzers, can anyone say “overdone”? I’m not really into graphic novels, but given that Kirkman’s only job is to write plot and dialogue, I’d expect him to do the latter much better.

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The Walking Dead #5-6: The Best Defense & This Sorrowful Life by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

Read: 29 March, 2012

In The Best Defense and This Sorrowful Life, we continue with the survivors’ stay in the prison. When Rick sees a helicopter going out just a few miles away, he takes Glenn and Michonne to see if anyone survived the crash. But what they find instead is a whole town of the living, reminding us once again that the greatest danger in a zombie apocalypse isn’t the zombies.

These two issues suffer from most of the same problems as the others, namely the shoddy dialogue. The pacing does seem to have slowed down considerably, and we actually get something resembling an arch. We start off nice and slow with the short term goal of getting the prison’s generator running, which requires leaving the safety of the fence to syphon gas from nearby cars, and then we move into the hope/trepidation over the helicopter. The actual encounter with the living doesn’t begin until quite a ways through The Best Defense.

There are other classic storytelling elements that we haven’t really seen prior to these volumes. Rick is now given a foil, known by his followers as the Governor. He is the Rick that might have been. If you’ve recently finished watching Season 2 of the AMC show, one might say that the Governor is the Rick that Shane wanted him to be.

But these two volumes are incredibly brutal. The series has always been fairly graphic (it is a zombie series, after all), but these volumes have crossed the line between violence as a necessity for survival to violence as sadistic pleasure. It’s necessary to the story and character development, so I’m not saying that it shouldn’t have been included, but D and I both agreed that it didn’t need as much panel time as it got. And oh boy, major trigger warning!

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The Walking Dead #1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

Read: 1 February, 2012

I’m enjoying AMC’s The Walking Dead TV show, so I thought I’d give the graphic novel a try. The beginning of Days Gone Bye is very similar to the beginning, although differences do start to creep in.

The artwork is gorgeous. Tony Moore’s work is at once realistic and expressive. The zombies are rendered in far more detail than the living, making their grotesqueness stand out from the page. Injuries, rot, flies burrowing under skin, all is meticulously drawn for maximum effect. Walking Dead isn’t a “jump out and get you” horror, but the artwork adds a creepiness to the zombies that drew me in to the story and to the fear felt by the main characters.

I was a little disappointed by the lack of depth. The TV series gives far more time to each episode and allows for more character exposition, while the graphic novel seems to glide through at a much faster pace. As a result, I’m not feeling like I know the characters the way I did while watching the show.

It’s a good series and I’ll definitely be reading more.

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