Friday, May 23, 2008

The Walking Dead

All right, I've got the first forty-two issues of the Walking Dead under my belt...I guess it's review time! The Walking Dead has been out for a few years, and gained an incredible fan following. The first dozen issues or so are incredibly rare, this one snuck in under the radar and although it's put out by former powerhouse Image Comics, it's still got that "indie" feel to it.

Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore have got quite the book on their hands here. It's Zombpocalypse supreme as the title befits it. We've got your basic zombie infection/infestation ripping through the heart of America with an incredible death toll and very little government support. The nature of the zombies is largely biological, with the actual cause, or source, not being 100% clear. In the overall context of the zombie mythos, these are the slow moving, they-wanna-bite-ya, kind.

You start with a police officer as the protagonist, with the overall view of the world being from his perspective. Quickly, however, the cast of characters multiplies and instead of one main character with supporting cast, you've got something akin to LOST, where you've got at least half a dozen "main" characters. This is both a hindrance and a boon. On the one hand, you've got plenty of variety, and your favorites will come and go. On the other hand, which is kind of my complaint with LOST, is that there's almost too many characters to keep up with.

The basic trials of the survivors drive the story, and they're all over the map...literally. From scrapping out supplies and searching abandoned stores and house, to eight people living in a tiny RV, they run the gamut. Along the way, they encounter other survivors that are either friendly, or more often than not, as hostile as the zombies themselves. There's also a strong soap opera vibe that holds the story together, with internal alliances and rifts, matchmaking, drama, and the like. After a while, you get caught up in the story and relationships, and the zombies themselves become almost lost in the background.

The story itself is gritty, dirty, and soiled. Sometimes you feel dirty just reading it. It is incredibly adult in nature; this is NOT a kid's comic book in the least. I need to repeat that last part; this ain't no kid's book! It's got very adult themes and thanks to pretty decent illustrations, it also doesn't hold any punches in the visuals department. Sex seems to be the glue that holds the survivors together, and keeps them from going insane. It's also not always consensual. The zombies are, well, walking dead, duh. They're falling apart and very gruesome. The violence isn't always human vs. zombie either, in fact, it's almost 50/50 I'd say, and yeah, very realistic and detailed visuals accompany that too.

In the end, and the irony is a little heavy-handed, it's the survivors that are the 'walking dead', not the actual zombies. What they have to go through, just for the pure human factor, is hell on Earth. Hell on Earth that's been chronicled. It's a good story, although dark, but that's a given for the genre. It's gritty and dark, showing mankind at its worst. The medium, sequential art, felt a bit strained for me. If done right, this story would play out better in a cable television series over a few years. I'd almost settle for a trilogy of novels even, which is weird, because I'm a huge advocate of graphic novels as a legitimate form of literature. It wouldn't work as a movie, there's too many nuances that'd get lost in a short time frame. Overall, I'd give it a seven out of ten. It's not over yet either...I'll keep reading on.

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