Review – “The Walking Dead”

Review – “The Walking Dead”

For those that don’t know, “The Walking Dead” is a long running comic series that is being adapted into a television show this fall by Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”).  Casting has come along quite nicely, and we are all in store for the first primetime zombie show that I can remember.  It’s enough to warm even an undead heart.  If you’ve read my other reviews, you know that I am a zombie fan.  I’m also an avid comics reader, yet somehow I have managed to miss “The Walking Dead” for the past 5 years.  Luckily for me, Image collected the first 48 issues together in one easy to read place – and I was able to jump right in and get caught up.

“The Walking Dead” tells the story of a group of survivors, making their way through suburban Atlanta, during a zombie apocalypse.  Officer Rick Grimes has been shot and awakens from a coma, alone in a hospital room.  He searches the building, only to find everyone gone – everyone but the zombies.  Rick gathers his wits, gathers supplies from the police station, and sets out for Atlanta in search of answers.  Once there, he finds a small group of survivors who, against all odds, includes his wife and son.  What follows is the group’s attempt to make sense of the new world they are caught in, and find a way to survive.  The tale has it all – zombies, survivors, a prison, love and betrayal, a gated community, hammers and hatchets, maniacal warlords, guns, grenades, a tank, – you name it and this story has it.

The other thing this story has, that I enjoyed, was a true sense that anything could happen.  When you read a “Star Wars” novel, or watch an episode of “Fringe” – you know that there are certain people that just are not going to die.  The writers spend too much emotional capital on them to scrub them from the story.  Not so here – everyone is fair game – everyone.  Much like watching “Lost”, after a while you realize – “I don’t really know what’s going to happen to these people.  Anything could happen.”  For me, that makes for entertaining reading, and not a few surprises.

The zombies themselves are never explained – and I think that’s a brilliant move on the creator’s part.  It cements the fact that, while this series is about surviving in a world filled with zombies, it’s not really about the zombies – it’s about the surviving.  I think that’s one of the reasons that I like zombie fiction so much.  Zombies are nameless, faceless, merciless, without passion – everything that vampires are not.  They are a force of nature – an unstoppable progression.  When you read about them, write about them, watch them on the screen; it’s not really about them – it’s about the people they are chasing.  How do they deal with the adversity?  How do they choose to live, or choose to die?  Who are they, really?  You don’t get that introspection with anything other than zombies.

One thing about reading a comic compendium as opposed to a proper novel – the flow is different.  “The Walking Dead” is an ongoing series, with issue #73 due out soon.  While story arcs do ebb and flow, while some are resolved; there is always something new being explored.  Be warned, this story doesn’t really have an ending.  It has an end (this collection stops at issue #48), but it doesn’t have an ending.  There is a LOT left to be explored.  Everything is not wrapped up nice and neat with a bow on top.  In fact, you are left with more of a noose than a bow; and your expectation of what could and should happen to the survivors next, dangling by its neck from the nearest tree.  And trust me, you are going to want to know what happens next.  I know I do.  The good news is – there are 25 more issues that I can go get my hands on.  Looks like I’ll be making a trip to my local comic shop soon.

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