Comic: "The Walking Dead: Book 1 (HC)"
Published by: Image Comics
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
Plot: A small band of survivors must face the daily challenges that the Zombpocalypse brings.
Review: People have been asking me to get off my ass an review this book for years, but the truth is, I hadn't bothered actually reading it until fairly recently. It had been on my to-read list for a long time, and I figured with all the excitement brewing about the upcoming Walking Dead television series on AMC, it was high time I finally got around to checking it out.
And I must say, it doesn't disappoint. The Walking Dead is a highly enjoyable zombie comic that in the first twelve issues doesn't really offer up anything new or particularly innovative to the genre, but what it does do, it does quite well. And that is to show a small band of characters who have survived the early stages of a Zombpocalypse and how they continue to deal with the challenges of survival in such a ravaged, hostile environment. Robert Kirkman says in his afterward that he was always disappointed whenever a zombie movie would end, because he would want to know "What next?" This series attempts to answer that. But throughout its first year of publication, it had only just begun to really address those long-term survival issues, so at this stage still feels like a typical zombie movie.
The series starts off feeling a little too similar to the beginning of 28 Days Later, a comment I have heard echoed by several others who have read the book. Police officer Rick Grimes (great name for a zombie-genre character) wakes up alone in a hospital, with no idea what's going on as he explores the abandoned landscape. He quickly encounters a couple zombies, and then a few other survivors and the picture becomes clear. The first couple issues have him traveling alone as he makes his way to Atlanta to attempt to find his missing wife and son.
The story actually threw me for a loop and surprised me by having their reunion occur extremely early--what I suspected would be an extended searching quest is not really the point at all. The readers are quickly introduced to the band of survivors Rick joins up with, and we'll be staying with this group for the remainder of the first volume. Kirkman does a good job of trying to differentiate these characters so they each have their unique definable traits, but despite these efforts, I found myself constantly flipping back to their introduction sequences to keep straight who was who, for at least the first several issues. With so many characters tossed into the story all at once, it's inevitable that some mental mix-up will occur. And like any zombie story, the group changes over time, as members come and go, departing through violent ends or mere attrition as they decide to go their own way. Like most zombie movies, some of them you really grow to care about before they leave the book; others, not so much.
As for the art, Tony Moore who does the first six-issue arc is fantastic. He does a great job of conveying a wide range of expressions, as well as making all of the characters visually distinguishable. And best of all, his zombie gore is highly detailed and extremely realistic. Charlie Adlard, who takes over the book with issue 7 and continues as regular artist from there, doesn't quite appeal to me as much. His reliance on heavy inking and black space make for less detailed zombies and gore, but hopefully his work will grow on me as I continue to read the series. The decision to feature the art in black-and-white has its ups and downs--on one hand the monochrome art gives the book more of a classic Night of the Living Dead horror feel. But the lack of color could detract from the gore, which would certainly look more spectacular in full color.
If you like zombie movies, you will certainly enjoy this book. But if you aren't fond of them, there is certainly nothing in this comic that will win you over. As a final note, one other thing I found somewhat puzzling was that the band of survivors are based just outside of Atlanta for part of the first book, dealing with the harsh Atlanta winter. It certainly makes for a better dramatic atmosphere to have zombies attacking during an evening snowfall, but given the general lack of snow in Atlanta, I'm surprised Kirkman didn't move the setting a little further north.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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