The Walking Dead vol. 1# (reviewed here) ended with the survivors on the road as winter fell in Atlanta. With their first losses from both zombie attacks and internal struggles, the survivors need some place they can hold up in order to survive. But in a world overrun by the Living Dead, is any place safe?
I'm fond of Miles Behind Us because it deals with as much the issues of day-to-day survival as it does the zombie menace. While the Walkers are certainly a threat, a bigger problem is the fact food can no longer be bought from grocery stores and things like heat during the wintertime are now issues of vital importance.
We also get some answers to obvious questions which emerge in the zombie apocalypse like--why not find a well-fortified location and hold up there. The answer in this is "what qualifies as well-fortified?" Seemingly secure locations can turn out to be in severe danger of being overrun by the Walkers and their surprising ability to hide in the most innocuous locations can get people killed.
The majority of Miles Behind Us deals with the interaction between the Survivors and the family of Hershel Greene. A kindly veterinarian and farmer, Hershel is ill-equipped for the apocalypse in sense but well-equipped in position. His farm is well-defended against the Walkers due to its fence and the ample food supplies growing around him. The Survivors want to settle there but their (sensible) practice of killing Walkers offends Hershel.
Hershel wants desperately to believe there's some trace of the original humans inside the Walkers and that things aren't nearly as bad as they've become. His patriarchal control over his extended family threatens everyone, both Atlanta camp survivor and Greene, due to how terribly wrong he is about the Walkers' menace.
It's interesting to have the primary enemy here be compassion and hope as opposed to something more malevolent. It is becoming a running theme in the comics that a balance has to be struck between pure ruthlessness and a person's higher ideals. Being a good person will not save you in the zombie apocalypse and may destroy you. Being a bad person won't protect you any better.
It seems Team Neutral is going to win the day for once.
A running theme of this volume is also how people cope with grief. Hershel's belief in the humanity of Walkers is motivated in large part by his denial over the deaths of so many loved ones. Other characters who have lost close loved ones find themselves unable to function and resent the implication they need to "get over it." In real life, a lot of people don't get over grief and it destroys them. Others have it change them, turning once-benevolent and good people into angry individuals looking for someone to strike at.
Such is the case in The Walking Dead.
Surprisingly, this volume contains quite a bit of sex. Characters attempt to find something to distract themselves from the destruction around them. Some of them find love (or at least think they do) while others just sink further into oblivion. I found this to be quite a human reaction and am pleased Kirkland addressed it so early. I'm also fond of the newly introduced character of Tyreese, who is every bit as capable as Rick in surviving.
The books art remains consistently good and the sight of Atlanta in winter contrasted against the rural paradise of the Greene farm. I am amazed at the artists' ability to capture so many expressions and convey the emotions of our suffering protagonists. The black and white art also manages to make the images more emotional as colorized zombie attacks would probably distract a person from the event's meaning to focus on the gore. At least, IMHO.
So far, still one of the best comics I'm reading.