The Walking Dead
Created by Robert Kirkman
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Jon Minners
I used to be an avid comic book collector. Twice in my lifetime, I would go out every week and buy a stack of comics. The first time, I was a kid; it was what we did. The second time, the 80’s retro series of GI-Joe, Transformers, Voltron, Thundercats, Micronauts and Robotron sucked me back in. Then I stopped. It was too difficult to keep up with the thousands of titles devoted to one character. I stopped collecting comic books all together; all except one.
To me, The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, is not even a comic book by the stereotypical definition of what a comic book is. The Walking Dead series are tiny graphic novels that sometimes get collected into semi-annual masterpieces. The Walking Dead is a literary tour de force that plays on your pages like George Romero’s classics played on your screens; if not better.
I am a zombie freak and always have been. Whether it was Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead 3, Zombie, 28 Days Later and even Resident Evil; if it has zombies in it, I am going to check it out. You get lucky sometimes and catch a zombie film with an excellent storyline for its genre, but you never get anything like The Walking Dead. I would go out on a limb and say The Walking Dead has done for comics what Lost has done for television.
The story revolves around Rick Grimes, a small town police officer who has been in the hospital, in a coma. As the dead suddenly begin to rise, Grimes, too, awakens (hmmm…could there be a connection?) and discovers an epidemic around him. A man who never fired a shot in his life and has only seen one dead body in his time, suddenly must fight for his life against a swarm of walking dead. Everything is gone. The life he once knew has been taken from him, but his wife and son may be alive giving Grimes a reason to fight at all costs.
The first story arc introduces you to this world Grimes has been forced to live in. Discovering more survivors, Grimes finds his wife and best friend from the force, but all is not like it once was. His wife is pregnant, but who is the father? Will there be a showdown between Grimes and his friend or will the officer ever discover the truth? What is the truth? Most importantly, how will the group of survivors co-exist and live in a land of the undead?
The second story arc takes you on a journey as Grimes and his new “family” search for a place to start over, battling zombies that they call roamers, along the way. New characters pop up to strengthen the cast and give readers more reasons to care, other than what will happen to Rick Grimes and his family.
The third story arc finds the travelers a home inside a prison complete with food, shelter and weapons, but their new friends, four prisoners locked inside, turn out to be worse than the zombies outside. Someone is killing the travelers one by one, but when Grimes asserts control of the situation and accuses the convicts, the ones who opened their home to the new guests, tempers flare and the welcome mat is pulled away…violently.
A fourth story arc has since begun, featuring a strong woman who seems to have won control over at least two zombies. The mystery begins and if there has been any indication from the series so far, the story will only get better with time.
There is something very special about The Walking Dead. As you turn the pages, Kirkman fleshes out each character’s background. Every character has a unique story; a reason why they continue to fight when everything appears bleak. Friendships are formed. Lovers unite. New love is discovered. Life continues to move on and that is where you start to realize that The Walking Dead is not really named for the zombies, but the people who, faced with death around them, must finally start living again.
This is one title that transcended my collection. I can never miss a volume. I love the black and white layout of the series. It sort of reminds me of the original Night of the Living Dead and also seems more descriptive, more artistic and rather unique to a tale where character design would just state the obvious. In addition to the great character development and artwork, the great character design gives a previous life to each zombie around the survivors and the graphic brutality that goes into every action scene; whether it is a gunshot, someone’s head being sliced off, a zombie biting someone or a zombie being killed.
This is the way zombie tales should be told from the classic slow crawl of a zombie to the sheer terror of seeing large numbers of zombies surround you as you try to save bullets in fear of not having enough for the next encounter with death even though the ordeal you face right now could be your last. It doesn’t matter that the reader is safe outside the pages; that fear still resonates and consumes you. You don’t need flashy color to bring all that out; just perfect craftsmanship.
But probably the best reasons for buying a book about the dead are the living. I have never been so shocked to see a major character die or been so saddened to think that a favorite character was next to be written out of the series only to breathe a sigh of relief and excitement to find him alive. Kirkman makes you feel something for everyone of these survivors who hope to one day find peace among the living instead of fearing death around each corner. It’s just dead on writing and maybe in time, Kirkman will make you feel something for the dead, which is exactly how I did feel, briefly in issue 19, but then again, every issue brings something new.
In a day and age where death seems only one symptom away, The Walking Dead serves as a reminder at how valuable life truly is and also serves as an inspiration for writers everywhere to become creative once more. In a sense, The Walking Dead has brought new life to the comic industry and so, my collection continues.
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