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Review of The Walking Dead Volume One

Updated on September 25, 2016
Cover art for The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye trade paperback. Art by Tony Moore.
Cover art for The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye trade paperback. Art by Tony Moore.

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.

Zombie Art

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.

Title Card of AMC's show based on the graphic novels
Title Card of AMC's show based on the graphic novels

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.

Source

Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye. Illustrated by Moore, Tony. Berkeley, California: Image Comics, 2008.

© 2010 Seth Tomko

Comments

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    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      8 years ago from Macon, GA

      I thought about watching the tv version on AMC to see how closely it followed the graphic novel, but I haven't found the time to do it yet.

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 

      8 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      That is a problem in many stories where the hero is always perfect.

    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      9 years ago from Macon, GA

      Thank you, wrypatch. I've casually read rather far into the series, and while events become more grotesque and more dire, I can't say the characterization gets much stronger. I guess the reader is supposed to feel bonded with some of the characters just because they've suffered through so much, but that seems like a cheat to me.

    • wrypatch profile image

      wrypatch 

      9 years ago from Virginia

      Yes, Max Brooks' work - especially the epic and amazing World War Z - has certainly kept things rolling. Another factor is CGI in film, though I would argue this hasn't always (or even often) been a boon to zombie flicks.

      @ satomko - I like the review, and hadn't thought about how flawless the protagonist really is 'til now, but - indeed - you don't "feel" him much. I thought his wife or even his shady partner were more "human".

      Thanks for the review; I'm on book three now.

    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      9 years ago from Macon, GA

      Thanks to both sabreblade and Songwriter128. I've noticed that zombies have become increasingly popular over the last few years, though I think it is something a recurring trend. Remember that zombies gained a lot of pop culture currency after Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video but waned for a few years after that. I think the underlying theme of social and natural upheaval that accompanies zombies, thanks in large part to George A. Romero's use of them in his movies, has helped keep their popularity so that they are a natural sort of monster/symbol of the current era. Max Brooks with his Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z has kept this trend going lately.

    • Songwriter128 profile image

      Songwriter128 

      9 years ago from Schenectady, NY

      I love zombies and graphic art, this is a great suggestion. I never knew this series existed.Thanks!

    • sabrebIade profile image

      sabrebIade 

      9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Zombie comics seem to very popular. I wonder how that trend got started?

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