Review of The Walking Dead Volume One
Image Comics Presents the Zombie Apocalypse
Robert Kirkman writes a story in the vein of George A. Romero’s zombie movies but does not capture the same spirit as those films.
After receiving a wound in the line of duty, police officer Rick Grimes snaps out of a coma only to encounter animated corpses prowling the streets of his hometown. Hoping to find his wife and son, he heads to Atlanta, Georgia where the army is supposed to have set up a protective buffer against the undead. When he arrives, though, he is nearly devoured by the zombie mob but is saved by a survivor who takes Rick to the small camp of other survivors that have banded together for mutual protection against the undead.
In the camp Rick is reunited with his family and partner, Shane, who looked after Rick’s family while he was comatose. Civil behavior among the survivors begins to fray as they argue over resources, how they should protect themselves, and what their chances are of rescue. These arguments escalate into bitter recriminations and violence that tears the community apart and injures them more than the surrounding zombies.
The whole text is done in black, white and shades of grey, and this lack of color pallet underscores the stark moral world the survivors now inhabit. Everything is deceptively simple since all of the external features of modern life are stripped away; there is little more to focus on aside from day-to-day survival. The decisions they make, however, result in shades of grey, such as having to teach children to use firearms to defend the camp.
The zombies are rendered in such gory detail that shows the artist, Tony Moore, clearly loves the subjects and their awkward and immediate physicality. More often than not, the zombies are the most visually interesting subjects.
Ironically, the human characters tend to have fewer physical differences, and it becomes hard to tell some of the minor characters apart from each other. This distraction slows down the reading and not in a particularly positive way.
Days Gone Bye
The weakest element to the text is Rick Grimes because he solves every problem. He makes the discovery about zombies’ senses, he creates the plan to get guns for the survivors, he is proven right in his decision to teach his son how to shoot a pistol, he is the first to articulate the dangers of staying in the camp, and he has compassion for the undead creatures that would rip him and his family limb from limb.
Being a character of so few flaws makes it difficult to relate to Rick. The danger of estranging the reader from him, though, is that he is meant to be protagonist. However, his stature grows so large that he pushes other characters and their concerns to the periphery; it is no wonder other survivors become agitated with him. He seems like less an everyman than a kind of wish-fulfillment character who manages to overcome impossible odds and is always right.
Survival of the Fittest
This is the first in a series of graphic novels that chronicle the struggles of surviving in a world populated mostly by zombies. While it is not at all a bad start, most readers will likely hope the series will give Rick the time and room to become more human so that the audience can care as much about him as seeing the next panel of exquisitely grotesque zombies.
Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye. Illustrated by Moore, Tony. Berkeley, California: Image Comics, 2008.
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© 2010 Seth Tomko