I really wanted to hold off reviewing THE WALKING DEAD, after reading my previous entries and finding that I have yet to trash a book. It has all been high praise for the past month, and writing about Robert Kirkman’s zombie epic was just going to be more ass kissing to the creators, and lots and lots of “this is why you should be reading this book” moments. Unfortunately, whenever there is a holiday on a Monday, New Comic Book Day gets pushed back to Thursdays. Since there are no new horror comics on the stands yet, it is time for: The Many Reasons Why You Should Be Reading THE WALKING DEAD. (I think I should be getting kickbacks from the guys over at Image Comics)
At this point, THE WALKING DEAD has reached it’s 50th issue. For a non-superhero comic, published by a company that isn’t Marvel or DC, that is an amazing achievement . THE WALKING DEAD is a phenomenon, which increases its readership every time a new trade paperback, collecting the single issues, comes out.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but when it comes to comics, that old truism is actually false, especially when it comes to THE WALKING DEAD. There have been two artists that have worked on the book, so far. The original artist was Tony Moore, who is most recognized for his work on the pulp space adventure book, FEAR AGENT. His human survivor characters are chiseled, yet smooth, in a stark contrast to the decomposing zombies that stalk them.
The way the zombies look in this comic is quite different from their Hollywood counterparts. You want to stare at the zombies, instead of look away. They are so detailed, from their permanently pulled back lips that showcase their buck teeth, to their mottled flesh and ripped clothing. The book is in black and white, yet your mind inserts the green tone to their skin and the purple hue to their wounds. You can imagine the sound of the flies buzzing and the god awful stench of their dead bodies.
Charlie Adlard, who was the artist behind the super successful X-FILES comics in the nineties, took over when Tony Moore left the book, after issue seven. Adlard’s pencils are similar in style to Moore’s, so there wasn’t a drastic change in the look of the book. If anything, Adlard has made the main characters look more serious, which has fit with the direction that the story has been going.
The art is what will draw you in, but the main characters are what will keep you dishing out your $2.99 every month. For fifty issues, we have been following the story of Kentucky police officer Rick Grimes, and it is hard to find a character in any medium who has suffered as much as he has. On the very first page of the first issue, Rick is shot by an escaped prisoner. He falls into a coma, which is actually one of the least horrible things that happens to him in this book.
Similar to the main character in ‘28 Days Later’, Rick wakes up from the coma, after sleeping through the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. When he realizes what has happened to the world, he sets out to find his wife, Lori and their young son, Carl. Lori and Carl are part of a group of refugees who have set up camp outside of Atlanta. Rick, using his experience as a cop, become the unofficial leader of the group. Over the course of the next forty issues, Rick has to lead these refugees to safety and make some truly difficult decisions. This is where the WALKING DEAD hits it’s highest points.
According to the introduction to the first trade, DAYS GONE BYE, series creator, Robert Kirkman, believes THE WALKING DEAD isn’t about jump scares. It is about people dealing with the most extreme of situations and how they adapt. The zombies become the enemy in the background, while the humans deal with the issues that come along when fighting for your very survival.
In that same introduction, Kirkman says “The idea of The Walking Dead is to stay with the character, in this case, Rick Grimes for as long as humanly possible. I want The Walking Dead to be a chronicle of years of Rick’s life. We will NEVER wonder what happens to Rick next, we will see it. The Walking Dead will be the zombie movie that never ends.”
For myself, and the thousands of THE WALKING DEAD fans out there, that is just fine with us.