Thursday, February 25, 2010

#12 The Walking Dead: Book One

The Walking Dead is by far the coolest thing…ever. Well, I suppose that would only apply to someone who is completely obsessed with zombies. Were it not for legal matters (I.e. I’m bleeding money) I would probably be getting my horror movie half sleeve right now, a large part of which would be a zombie. However, that’s beside the point. When I first got into the series it was via the paperbacks. They weren’t comic book size, nor were they apt to be considered a novella, more like a short story. I didn’t even realize they published the walking dead as a comic until much later. They are also a rather expensive hobby. Anyway, they combined several of these into book form, each of which contain 12 issues of the story. There are currently five books out, but if what ashes told me earlier is correct, the fifth one is sold out. As the creator Robert Kirkman says in an “Afterword” at the back of the book, the series is intended for zombie fans to show you what happens at the end of a zombie movie, never ending, continuous. You will, should you be a zombie fan, a comic book fan, a horror fan, or all of the above, quickly become engrossed in the series. When I started reading the paperbacks my friend only had a few of them and I devoured them. Instead of hanging with him that night at his house I sat in a corner with some beer and read them all as quickly as possible. Absorbing them in and tossing around ideas in my head of where these characters were going to end up. It begins, in a familiar way…

With a dude waking up from a coma in a hospital. *does a quick check* Well, 28 Days Later was released in 2002, the first issue of The Walking Dead was in 2003. Rick (the main character and former coma patient) is a police officer injured in a shoot out. He awakens a month later to find himself in a deserted hospital, deserted that is until he walks into the cafeteria. Being by himself he actually takes it in stride, he certainly doesn’t flip his shit and piss himself. Nor does he turn into a babbling crazy person that rocks in a corner. Which would be understandable. Instead he tries to find out what’s going on. It is while he is in the process of searching his abandoned house that he runs into a father and his son (who, in the first book have a short story about them in the back). It is with them that he learns about what has happened (which is basically jack shit, because like any good zombie movie they don’t even attempt to delve into what caused it), and also that the people were told that it was safer to go to the large cities. Because it was here that the government can protect you and keep you safe. Naturally, you can imagine what a cluster fucked idea that was. Way to go government! The city he figures his wife would have gone with his son? Atlanta.

As you can imagine this is where the story really picks up. Soon Rick meets a group of survivors on the outskirt of Altanta, included in this group are his wife Lori and son Carl (who I am assuming will be the main characters throughout)…how lucky is that? Well, maybe a little too lucky. Now, from any of you that are a fan of the zombie genre you can kind of see where this is going. People will be added on to the group, people in the group will die, the group will fight, the group will struggle, the group will attempt to survive. It is here that The Walking Dead really shines. The story manages to give each member of the group their own distinct and unique personality. There are no two people who are really alike. None of the men are the same, nor are any of the women. Each has their own personal back stories and personal battles. Not only does the The Walking Dead accomplish this wonderfully but it is how it manages to tell so many different stories in such a small amount of time that makes it unique. Stories that are very realistic possibilities. Whether that be the jealous single man that covets another mans wife. A teenage couple attempting to still uncover the mysteries of love and life despite what is going on around them. An old man finding comfort in the arms of a much younger woman. Children trying to still be children. Married couples that strive to maintain their marriage in the shadow of the horrors going on around them. Starvation. Isolation. Depression. You have a man who refuses to kill family members that have turned because he can’t comprehend the fact that they are dead. You have another that can’t stand the loss of a loved one while others are able to summon up some inner courage and continue. The group is fighting for a new place they can call home, a new place that can remind them of what they once had.

Of course you also have axe blades slicing open a zombie skull at the same time a hammer claw sticks into another one. The artwork of The Walking Dead is just as captivating as the story itself. I never really realized it while reading but the damn thing is actually in black and white. I have no idea how I didn’t notice that but for some reason it works beautifully. Displaying the gore and violence in a black and white format somehow makes it a little more brutal and wonderful all at the same time. There is no red blood splattered all over the page. No green tint to a zombie face. You don’t have to see the colors of the chunks in a characters vomit. Nor the blue of their tears streaming down their face. In a way this also helps to convey the emotions going on with the characters. You rely on the look in their eyes, the way the artist portrays a clinched fist, the fact that their teeth are grinding together. While it has its fair amount of dialogue the book relies on this imagery a lot. A lone figure standing in the rain. A hand on a shoulder. The original art was done by Tony Moore (known for Battle Pope and also work with Ghost Rider and Punisher) but he was later replaced by Charlie Adlard (who has done work with Judge Dredd, The X-Files, Batman/Scarface and many more).

Bottom line, it’s pretty, brutal, honest, and amazing. If you say a Graphic Novel isn’t actual literature…take a look at The Walking Dead.

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