My goal with the Comic Book Club is to talk about comic books and graphic novels that I’m a huge fan of and that others may not have heard of. Today’s Comic Book Club comic is The Walking Dead, a series that may not be as obscure as I originally assumed (and certainly not as obscure as it was when I read it last year). Much of this is due to the phenomenal live action TV series on AMC, but let’s not even get into TV for the moment. Let’s just take a look at a comic with a very simple premise and why it works. Here’s The Walking Dead.
A roommate of mine introduced me to The Walking Dead a few years back. This was around the time that I was ravenously mowing through any comic book or graphic novel I could get my hands on via my local library. After gaining a foothold in everything but zombies, I spied my roommate deeply entrenched in this new series. He told me that while it was about zombies, it wasn’t just hopping on the zombie craze popularized by The Zombie Survival Guide. Rather, this was a wholly unique story with its own set of rules and its own set of troubles. It took me a while but when I decided to jump in headfirst I was more than pleased with the results, even though it resulted in some nasty head-bites.
The Walking Dead comes to us from writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Morse (up until issue #7 and then covers through #24), and Charlie Adlard. Kirkman’s concept is extremely simple but it works perfectly. In one of the forewords in a deluxe volume of the series, Kirkman mentions how he loves zombie movies but hates that they end when, for instance, a group of survivors escape an overrun mall. To Kirkman, this didn’t feel like an end to the story, so he set about making a comic series that has no end in sight, which certainly becomes apparent having read through the first 11 volumes.
The story itself primarily follows officer Rick Grimes as a zombie outbreak occurs and persists for far longer than anyone would prefer. Everything starts with Rick getting shot in the line of duty and then waking up months later from a coma, only to find zombies littering the hospital. The story doesn’t let up since that initial “oh crap, zombies!” moment, sending him in search of his family and some sort of long-term shelter.
What’s probably most startling to learn is that the zombies themselves are rarely the cause of all the greater strife in the characters’ lives. Sure, zombies are the reason why everyone has been thrown into situations where bad things will inevitably happen, but instead of having zombies pop out of closets every single panel to create tension, it’s the individual characters, the humans, who are to blame for every single really stressful moment that occurs within the plot, more or less.
And stress is really what you’re going to have to become used to with The Walking Dead as moments to breathe are few and far between, if even existent at all. This is both the material’s greatest strength and worst quality. On the one hand, the feeling of suspense is palpable in every volume. You’re always, ALWAYS on the edge of your chair as you read what’s coming next. Even better, no character is safe from tragedy, an aspect that my roommate used most to convince me to read the damned books (cursing used properly in this case).
However, as I mentioned, this is also the downside, too. Sometimes it helps to be able to catch your breath every now and then, but The Walking Dead isn’t about making you feel warm and comfortable. As you read through each volume, you’ll constantly have a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that just refuses to go away. Why? Because on the very next page you could find a character you love getting shot, stabbed, or eaten, and sometimes a combination of all of those. Simply, this isn’t a comic series for the faint of heart.
Don’t let me dissuade you to give it a try, though. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better example of a zombie story done right and more realistically in execution. Despite being a severe downer, you’ll actually care about the problems each character faces and want to see them succeed. And when they don’t, the impact is even stronger. Everything is done brilliantly here, so give it a look.
And that’s all I have to say about The Walking Dead. Anyone out there already a fan of the series? Or is anyone out there considering giving the series a try? Leave a comment and let me know, and while you’re at it, suggest something for Comic Book Club. C’mon, let’s all just try and get along, shall we?
Want more comic and book suggestions? Check these out: