Saturday, October 25, 2008
Word Balloon: The Walking Dead
For October I thought I would pick a book with a horror theme and that meant there was really only one option for me, Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard's The Walking Dead, from Image Comics. Started in 2003, writer Kirkman and original series artist Tony Moore wanted to do a black and white series about what happens to people trying to survive in a world stricken with zombies. Its a story of continuing horror survival.
What sets this series apart is the sense of depth and evolution in the characters. The book starts out with police officer Rick Grimes in a shootout with his partner Shane. Rick is shot and hospitalized only to awaken from a coma completely alone in the hospital. As he leaves the hospital he finds that zombies have overrun the facility and flees to his home, barely escaping alive. At his home he is hit in the head by a father and son team of survivors who mistake him for the dead.Once they fill him in after realizing that he is still alive, he decided to set out for Atlanta, where he believes his wife and son had retreated to.
Upon arrival to Atlanta, he discovers that the town is overrun, but a group of survivors had taken up residence on the towns outskirts, survivors that included his wife Lori, his son Carl, and his partner, Shane, among others. Quickly assimilating to the group, rick becomes the de-facto leader of the team of survivors, leading raids into Atlanta for supplies, and training the group on gun use, including his young son Carl against Lori's wishes.
Rick and Shane come to a disagreement after a zombie raid on the camp kills two members of the group. Shane wants to stay behind believing that rescue will come closer to town, Rick believing that they are in to much danger that close to the horde with winter approaching. They get into a fight with each other that ultimately young Carl gets involved in, all the while Rick unaware that Shane and Lori had an affair while Rick was "dead."
The story of The walking Dead (or TWD as its readers call it) isn't about what caused the plague or what happened after it first broke, the story is in the survivors continued plight. Writer Kirkman has kept his promise that no man is safe in the book and he has repeated shown throughout the books current 53 issue run that he keeps his word. There are times where he decompresses the book to get in characters heads, or issues that have little dialog and are just action. Its a blend of great character development and action.
Each member of the very large cast of characters employed are distinctive in their personality and you really get into the ebb and flow of the cast. Deaths are abundant throughout the series and characters that you have loved for 20 or 30 issues sometimes die in an instant. Its not just about the inhumanity of zombies, but what the effects of living in a post apocalyptic world can do to the survivors. Humanity can sometimes be worse than the things it rails against.
Let's talk about art. In the beginning, artist Tony Moore gave the series a very well defined and polished look. About 15 issues in or so, Charlie Adlard took over and gave the series a very washed out look, heavy on grey tones. It was a jarring change and many of the supporting cast, who were new to both artist and reader, were not as well defined visually. As the series progressed though, Adlard really makes the book his own, with a unique style that upon my reflection is more suited to the books tone.
The series draws definite influence form the like of George A. Romero's Living Dead films and classic zombie films. following the same sense of "rules" established by Romero. Zombies are slow moving, incapable of higher thought or motor function, and can only be killed by brain trauma. Even decapitation will allow the body to continue. TWD is about what happens to the characters after the movies over. What does a survivor due when the world is overrun by something you cannot stop?
I can tell you that TWD continues to excel past the first trade. The survivors look for a place to flourish but everything eventually ends. From safety in a community home, to a prison, to an encampment, can you ever be safe when the dead still walk?
The Walking Dead is a great series by one of the best new writers in comics today. his influence at Image is so profound, he was recently made a partner in the company. The first new partner since the original seven members left Marvel to form the company back in 1992. It's Halloween and the perfect time for a little zombie fun. The fact that it is possibly the best book being published by Image to date doesn't hurt. Check out Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Volume 1 : Days Gone By, collecting the first six issues, from Image Comics. The perfect treat this Halloween.
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