Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Walking Dead Vol. 1#: Days Gone By review


    I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead television series. However, as with any adaptation, there's going to be lots of changes from one medium to the next. I suspect this comic would have been as shocking as the television show (if not more so) if I'd come into it unspoiled. As such, I'm still very impressed with the work done by the writer. The art, too, despite being in black and white.

    Before I get into anything, I'm going to say upfront this is one of the definitive works of zombie fiction and anyone who is fond of the genre should consider getting the trades or the compendiums as a "must have." While fans of the television show will get almost everything the comics bring, they're different enough that I still recommend this as a prospective purchase.

    The premise of The Walking Dead's first volume is pretty simple. Kentucky Sheriff's Deputy, Rick Grimes, is critically injured during a shoot-out with prison escapees. Going into a coma, he wakes up days after the zombie apocalypse. It's a lovely Day of the Triffids homage and works well here as it does in so many other stories like Resident Evil: Apocalypse or 28 Days Later.

    The heart of this volume is Rick's search for his family and how he deals with them once he finds them. It's a very elemental story, working on a lot of primal archetypes. A man attempting to protect his family during war and/or natural disaster is one of the most relatable stories in fiction. It's not the most progressive of tales but we see how author Robert Kirkman lays seeds for the story to progress in unexpected ways along this front too.

    The characters of The Walking Dead are lovingly realized in the short time we get to know them. Glenn the pizza-delivery boy, Andrea the lawyer, Lori the housewife, Dale the cantankerous old man, Shane the jealous alpha male, and others. Quite a few of these characters, I won't say which, will end up as zombie chow over the course of the story but the fact Robert Kirkman is willing to kill his darlings is a major appeal of the comic.

    There's too often very little sense of real danger for horror story protagonists and this series blows that idea out of the water. You like the heroes of the Walking Dead and want them to survive. When they don't, you mourn them. When they do, you cheer them on.

    Which is how you do it in horror.

    While the majority of story was familiar to me as a fan of the TV series, I still enjoyed reading it and am glad to have purchased it. The introduction by Robert Kirkman where he explains the "essence" of the zombie's appeal, was almost worth the price of the volume ($10) alone. He says, as should be obvious but isn't, the zombies are never the stars of good zombie fiction--the survivors are.

    I think what I liked best about The Walking Dead volume 1# is all the human elements. Robert Kirkman takes time to have the characters chat about their previous lives, have arguments over teaching children to carry firearms, and share their fears for lost loved ones as well as what they'll do when everything gets better. These are the most moving moments of the book for me.

    I will say that I wasn't 100% sold on all the decisions in the story. The character of Lori is hard to like with the majority of her dialogue being about nagging Rick, how she couldn't finish college, how she's fine doing so-called "woman's work", and how it's a bad thing to teach 7-year-old Carl how to shoot. The death of a very interesting character at the end of the volume also feels like a wasted opportunity. These are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things, though.

    As mentioned, the art is in black and white but Tony Moore's work is quite striking. He manages to make each character distinct and believable. His expression was great and add much of the humanity the book needs to survive. Really, the monochromatic color scheme makes the comic feel more stark in a way. I don't think the comic would be nearly as entertaining without his great work here.

    In conclusion, great stuff. Not much more to say than that.

9/10

Buy at Amazon.com

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