Read: 23 February, 2012
The story picks up at the cliff hanger from Safety Behind Bars, and continues to cover the survivors’ stay in the prison. Zombies make very few appearances in this volume and are, for the most part, just background scenery to the real story taking place among the living.
Unfortunately, the greater focus on interpersonal relationships brings to the forefront Kirkman’s weakness in writing dialogue. Overall, I’ve found the writing in this series to be rather bland and, at times, suffering from the kind of awkwardness that an editor might easily have fixed. From a character standpoint, we meet Michonne who seems like she has the potential to be an interesting character, but she behaves erratically- alternating between character and caricature at the flip of a switch. She clearly has a history that I hope will be exposed in future volumes, but I found in frustrating that the survivors took very little interest in who she was, how she had survived for so long, or how she came to have two zombies following her around on a leash who “stopped trying to attack [her] a long time ago.” Seems like the kind of thing the survivors ought to want to know more about…
Closing the issue, we have a rather lengthy speech from Rick Grimes about survival in a zombie apocalypse that was, frankly, cringer-worthy. While it had all the markers of “the badass teaches everyone a little something about their darker natures” speeches that we get in the movies, it suffered from all the failings of these sorts of monologues – superficiality, a lack of logical consistency, and an awkwardness that turns the characters into mouthpieces for authors who want to sound cool.
This was by far the most difficult volume of the series to write so far because it had so little action to carry it through and, unfortunately, I didn’t feel that Kirkman is capable of handling the interpersonal complexities that were needed. That being said, he and Adlard’s artwork did convey some sense of psychological breakdown – that the immediacy of survival had been keeping everyone’s heads together, but that sustained (relative) safety is highlighting the cracks.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I may not be impressed with The Walking Dead, but it’s still an interesting series and I’ll be reading volume 5. It’s pulp, but it’s a very quick read and the illustrations make for a different experience than I’m used to.