5 Apr

The Android’s Dungeon: The Walking Dead

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday April 5, 2009 | Comics,The Android's Dungeon

The Walking DeadPsst… If you came here looking for a review of the AMC TV show premier, that article is over here. Read it now!

I remember hearing all the hype back in 2003 when Image started publising The Walking Dead but people were shocked when I would tell them that I wasn’t really feeling it. I checked out the first issue and it immediately broke some rules that I thought were inexcusable.  “But you like zombies!” They would shout. However, this is, in fact, a gross inaccuracy.  You see, everyone thinks that just because I’m a horror fan and I run a website where the bulk of the writing is dedicated to the genre that I am automatically a drooling zombie fanboy because they happen to be the monster of the moment.

I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll watch a zombie movie and some of them occupy my favorite movies list but the zombie thing is so saturated in cut-rate product that over the years I’ve come to be disillusioned with the whole thing. I just don’t care. 99% of zombie movies, comics, games and fiction miss the point. Sure, they all point back to Dawn of the Dead and paint a huge red bulls eye on it whenever someone asks them to name names when it comes to inspiration but if this is true, how come the bulk of the movie is people killing zombies? Why is everyone automatically a sharp shooter? How come no one ever seems to run out of bullets? Clearly not many people think this scenario through and unfortunately, I have. Lucky for me, I came to my senses and picked up on The Walking Dead courtesy of Johnny Raygun creator, Rich Woodall. What I discovered in those black and white pages was that series creator, Robert Kirkman had thought about it as much if not more than I had.

walking dead

The Walking Dead begins as Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital bed to discover that while he was out, the world had gone to shit. Order seems to have completely collapsed and there are zombies all over the god damn place. It’s very similar to 28 Days Later, Day of the Triffids and that whole Resident Evil business and was one of the reasons that I just couldn’t get down with it. It’s very convenient to just throw your character into the middle of this and was way too familiar for me. I was immediately given the impression that this was another lazy fanboy comic cashing in on the recent craze, but I was wrong.  I hadn’t really come around to Robert Kirkman by this point but I would shortly fall in with his other awesome book, Invincible, which is about the only superhero book I can tolerate these days. The story, which reunites Rick with his wife and son as well as a host of other survivors, evolves into a very sophisticated horror series taking the cast from a nomadic life in a cramped RV to the relative security of living in a prison and beyond. Fans of the Romero zombie cycle should be familiar with his setting since it follows the same principles and even goes so far as to borrow some familiar scenarios. The prison setting and its resolutions bears a lot in common with Dawn of the Dead.

Kirkman writes fearlessly, axing characters when he feels that the story needs the emotional impact of major character deaths. But what he also gets right, where other zombie writers fail miserably, he makes the story about the human drama rather than an action book about killing monsters.  What makes George Romero’s zombie flicks so effective and dramatic is that the movies are hardly about zombies! Sure, there’s a shitload of them, but they’re  set dressing, a looming threat. The real monsters are often the living.  Kirkman looks at the bigger picture and with an ongoing series rather than a 90 minute movie he is able to paint a picture of a situation that worsens gradually with each issue. Zombies frequently thin the herd of his sometimes overwhelming cast of characters but the real problem is often the cast’s own instability and depression stemming from living in a world where there is no hope at all.

And that’s the book’s biggest problem. The Walking Dead is a relentless bummer. It never lets up. Just when you think that things couldn’t possibly get any worse for the survivors, they do, often in heart wrenching ways.  Yet, I continue to read.

walking dead

The Walking Dead, though a tremendously depressing portrayal of the end of the world has the balls to abandon hope. I fully realize that the end of the road for these people is going to be death and that one of these days, Kirkman is going to feel as though his story has been told but I can’t stop. It is so desperately bleak and reading every issue is like watching these people twist in the wind but I cannot put it down. There’s something about the human spirit and the will to survive in the face of certain defeat that I find so deeply thrilling. Because of this, I have given this zombie apocalypse deal way more consideration that I probably should. To the point, in fact, that it really isn’t much fun to think about any more.  If you ask any jackass out there what they would do in this situation they’re all going to tell you the same thing. “I’d get some guns, yo, and then I’d hole up at Walmart and wait for all of this to blow over.” Do you have guns already? Do you know how to use one? How many bullets do you have? You know, a lot of other people are going to try and get some weapons, too. You’re going to run out of ammo, eventually. Faster if you don’t really know how to shoot. If you don’t already have guns handy, the likelihood of finding them is going to be slim. The reality of this situation is that you’re going to wind up dead sooner than you think. Kirkman considers all these factors, then he adds the element of unstable personalities, weakening mental states and the constitutional effect of undilluted despair. His vision of the end of the world at the hands of shambling mobs is probably the closest you’ll ever get short of an actual zombie outbreak and it is one hell of a compelling read.

It’s alarming to me that with the current popularity of comics to movies adaptations why cable hasn’t yet picked up on The Walking Dead for a cable series. Comics are finally being taken seriously in Hollywood and are getting the respect that they deserve in the form of Watchmen and The Dark Knight. I’m told that FX is currently developing the killer series, Powers, into an ongoing TV series. Why not The Walking Dead? All it would take is HBO or Showtime to step up to the plate. The characters are well developed and the dialog is strong enough to go to television without the usual revisions and creative liberties often taken with comics to fit the time constraints of a feature film.

walking dead

Though Charlie Adlard is the ongoing series artist and has been since issue #7 (the series is nearing issue #60) I prefer the detailed, thin-line pencils of original series artist Tony Moore.  Moore’s art was detailed and suitably nasty for the setting. Zombie decay was often illustrated with sickening detail. But this isn’t to dismiss the capable pencils of Charlie Adlard who has come to be the definitive Walking Dead artist. His art lacks the sharp look of Moore’s art, but his body destruction is horror movie grade illustration with gunshots often reducing zombies and humans to hamburger.

The Walking Dead may be a huge bummer, sometimes prompting you to consider abandoning it in the face of unwavering despair (the final pages of issue #48 nearly had me give it up for good) but fans of horror comics, zombies and good comics, in general will find one of the most rewarding comic serieses they’re likely to find. I’ve been a comic fan for 21 years now and easily rank The Walking Dead among some of my favorite books of all time.

22 Comments 

  1. August 15, 2009 6:42 pm

    wriauuph

    Sorry, way too depressing. Read all the way to issue 48 and gave up. Although I realize that this is probably a very realistic portrayal of a zombie apocalypse, I read for enjoyment and this definitely did not fulfill on that.
    Good review, however.

  2. August 15, 2009 8:05 pm

    Bryan White

    I couldn’t ever fault you for bailing on it after 48. I stared at the last big death scene for a solid few minutes wondering if I wanted to continue but I wound up reading it anyway.

  3. February 2, 2010 9:54 pm

    comicfan

    I read about a third of them before losing interest. The artwork is mediocre and functional at best and about one in five comics moves the story forward. You can only see a zombie lurch out of room they all thought was safe so many times before you start to see the lack of ideas and poor writing. I wouldn’t waste your time, there’s far better stuff out there to read and I say that as both a zombie and comic book fan.

  4. March 4, 2010 3:41 pm

    Anonymous

    I love this series. Its one of my all time favorites. I can get enough of The walking dead

  5. April 16, 2010 7:56 am

    Thiago

    why people talk shit about great comics man!
    go read a marvel book then!

  6. July 21, 2010 12:32 am

    Buff Drinklots

    Thiago, you deserve a slap in the mouth for being a dim fanboy. The book has its flaws, and some of them are pretty fricking glaring. Deal.

  7. July 21, 2010 8:34 am

    Beat Punchbeef

    Feel free to elaborate on those flaws, Buff.

  8. August 14, 2010 10:14 pm

    Ben-Jamin

    Wow, I totally get how people can quit on this series. The despair taht contniually grows just grabs and tugs at the reader until they can no longer take it…but that’s what makes this such a great read! Only a few pieces of fiction have ever gotten me this involved with the characters. Bryan, you gave a helluva review of this series :D

  9. October 26, 2010 4:19 pm

    Ezekhiel2517

    this comic needs an urgent graphic overhaulin by some great artist like enrique breccia or dave mckean

  10. October 26, 2010 4:22 pm

    Bryan White

    Why? The art is fine. Neither Breccia or McKean would be appropriate for the subject matter.

  11. October 26, 2010 4:39 pm

    ezekhiel2517

    i aint saying the art is BAD, but it certainlly lacks a lot of depth and personality. The scripting and storytelling has a way of its own and so should the graphic side. I think its at most times “correct” but it could be way more shocking and persistent, as the sript itself. I keep thinking breccia would really hit the spot here. I dindt mean Dave mckean, i was thinking about another artist, who drew some conan stuff etc, i cant remember right now. He works amazingly with watercolors

  12. October 26, 2010 4:49 pm

    ezekhiel2517

    Barry Windsor-Smith. I saw his work in “weapon X” and in some “conan vs rune” book, and he totally blew mi mind. Thats what im talking about, being a real complement to such a great story

  13. October 30, 2010 6:33 am

    Ahem...

    I stopped reading after issue 23 (or so, I wasn’t paying attention.) Rick and Co. are at the mercy of The Governor, etc. etc. What finally killed it for me was Rick’s amazingly retarded optimism and lack of foresight. I also became disgusted with the general psychological instability of the characters. The absolute goal of any species is survival. That is it. And seriously… anyone who hasn’t realized how hopeless reality already is even without the threat of a zombie plague is deluding his or herself. The only thing this comic taught me was to trust no one. People be crazy :\

  14. November 1, 2010 8:28 pm

    ramseur78

    Barry Windsor Smith is on a whole other level and (while I have not read the series)I’m sure would add a whole new dynamic. BWS doing zombie art would be great. But what about Bernie Wrightson as long as we are dreaming.

  15. November 2, 2010 1:51 am

    captnzro

    @AHEM…it took a zombie comic to teach you people are screwed up? you should get out more.

    its not perfect but the fact is, art is subjective and as far as zombie comics goes, the walking dead is pretty good. And complaining about “artists” is pointless. there have been decades of fantastic artists but that doesn’t mean they’re gonna sign up for “B-ROLL” comics. get over it and understand it for what it is or go read something “pretty”.

  16. November 2, 2010 7:16 am

    Spiderbait

    You probably already know but it’s being made into a TV series!

    And about the series being a bummer:
    That’s what zombies are all about!!!

    Ever since the first zombie movies zombies have always been the same way. They are a slow death that continuously haunts you until it eventually gets you. It doesn’t matter what you do or where you go, they eventually find you and kil you. That’s why the survivors always lose their heads. They keep on trying to survive and that usually gets them killed. Just look at the new dawn of the dead. Although running zombies went a long way to ruin the zombie feeling the survivor’s were faced with a situation where they were going to die eventually but could hold out for an extremely long time. They, like all others who are faced with the inevitability of their deaths, couldn’t handle it and sought another way out.

    That actually sums it up pretty well. Zombies in fiction are a metaphor for death. They are always there and never let up and no matter what you do, they are going to get you eventually.

  17. November 2, 2010 10:47 pm

    Bryan White

    Yes. I’m aware. This article was written a year and a half ago. Long before the announcement of the series. Speaking of which, being a long time fan of the comic and having extremely high expectations of a TV attempt at zombie horror, I was exceptionally pleased with the outcome of the AMC show. It was fucking amazing!

  18. November 9, 2010 2:58 pm

    darryl

    I watched the espisodes on AMC. I agree with Glenn – Rick is a dumbass. The only thing he got right was the smell. However, I love the show.

  19. December 1, 2010 11:37 pm

    Kevin

    Well, the show turned me on to the comics. I have to say I am disappointed with the comics. There are numerous instances where there is an appalling lack of common sense. Where the comic begins it’s downward spiral for me is the prison/Governor arc.

    Why were the twins allowed to roam the prison unsupervised knowing 4 inmates, who for all they really know are pedophiles or worse, are roaming the place?

    When they arrived at the helicopter and the survivors appeared to have been taken away by an unknown number of people why would you follow them. Consider it is getting darker and you do not know the intentions or character of the people you are following and in the dark you are likely to stumble into a superior force. You know where the helicopter is, you know the general direction those people went, so you know where their camp might be, withdrawn and return to the prison. The camp would be there the next day or the next week. I would have thought they’d be more leery of strangers by this time. In a survival situation there is a simple rule, “Go with what you Know!” The unknown kills and walking into a situation you have zero control over get’s you dead or worse.

    After they escape from the Governor they know those people are going to attack. Rick even says it may be weeks or months but they are coming and we have to be ready. Why didn’t they fortify their position? A prison is designed to keep people in not out. A prison’s big open courtyard is empty so an escaping prisoner has no place to take cover/hide. I mean didn’t Rick learn his lesson about breaking cover in the fist issue. (by the way 2 people cannot surround someone, they can possibly flank them but not surround). Shouldn’t they have used pillowcases to make sandbags, brought all the cars in the parking lot into the courtyard for cover and had an escape plan? There were two busses in the garage they could have used, remove the seats sandbag the inside have it gassed up and ready to go if they are overrun. Over two months is a pretty long time to prepare for an attack you know is coming. Basically they are caught in the open playing basketball.

    In the middle of that whole mess the Tyreese beheading made no sense. Rick knows what kind of man the Governor is, why would he believe for a second Michonne is a prisoner? Knowing the Governor you would assume she is dead and even if she were a hostage you would know giving in will mean a death sentence not just for her but everyone, so the only option is to open fire on the Governor and his henchman. Everyone start shooting at him, people with Rifles go for the head. Standing there and watching Tyreese’s head get cut off was dumb. The Governor was there with one other guy, it was their best shot at killing him, and instead they just stand there. I know how good a shot I am and I can tell you even with a rifle with iron sights within 50 yards I could put a bullet through his eye or the patch if you called it and at 100 yards I’d still hit his head.

    I can understand where Kirkman wanted to go, I was just disappointed with how he got there. The tank ultimately trumps any makeshift defenses they would have erected and the end result would have been Rick and company fleeing for their lives but I think even a small town deputy would have put up a better defense and fight than the one portrayed in the comic.

  20. March 16, 2011 10:51 pm

    jman617

    Hey people what’s going on just hollering outta Boston ma! Well honestly I watched the TV series first and then started the books to tell ya the truth i love all and anything zombie haha and this was just another great zombie thing for me i thought it was great =)

  21. May 1, 2011 12:47 am

    Alberto Torino

    I agree 100% with Kevin. These people do a lot of stupid things that don’t make sense even in the dire situation they are in. Much like most every Zombie movie out there. Its a poor way to advance a plotline. The examples he provides are excellent and I had the same thoughts (and several others). That prison could have been defended better. Why didn’t they have someone in the tower 24/7 ready to sound an alarm if they knew an attack was coming? and so on… In the end their stupidity loses my attachment to the characters and I don’t really sorry for them being blown away or eaten.

  22. November 10, 2011 12:11 am

    Jarhed

    Everyone has long and detailed comments, for my review of the comics, I’ll keep it short and sweet.

    Great Comics! I love the fact that Kirkman isn’t afraid to kill off anyone.


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