Friday, 6 April 2012

'The Walking Dead.' - Volumes 1-15.

I've blogged on a number of occasions about the graphic novels that I've been accruing and reading.  You can look back at my posts on 'Preacher', 'BPRD', 'Fables' and 'Hellboy'. Today it's the turn of the Kirkman/Adlard/Rathburn production of the extensive and long running zombie series 'The Walking Dead'. Now a major TV series too - series 2!
First off let me say zombies aren't my usual fare. Not that anything in particular is, but the horror genre doesn't usually do anything for me. The film 'I am Legend' was engaging, tense and dramatic in equal turns and the undead are are a staple of many a console based game I've played. However, I was introduced to this by a friend and once I'd read volume one, I was well and truly hooked.

The series covers a scenario in which the world is brought to its knees by 'walkers' who roam the country biting and thus infecting everyone they come into contact with. Rick Grimes, a local cop, wakes up from a coma ( 'Day of the Triffids' anyone?) to find the world already changed beyond all recognition. His wife (Lori) and his boy (Carl) are missing - and he therefore has only one thing in mind - to find them.

I've said the story is extensive, it's more of a chronicle really, a kind of road trip through the world (the US) laid waste by the zombies. It explores the new realities of life and the moral and philosophical readjustments that Rick et al have to go through. Rick's not always an easily likable character, nor are many that he encounters and journeys with on the way.

I think the artwork conveys this superbly - especially in Volume One - with Tony Moore on board, though he doesn't continue after this one. The art is black and white throughout and this lends quite an eerie tone to proceedings, as if it required any help on this front...The landscapes are barren, dilapidated, solemn spaces with drifting ghoulish figures. Towns and cities are wastelands inhabited by gangs, lonely lost souls and those desperate to cling stubbornly to life. All with personal demons and excruciating histories. Often scenes are brutal, graphic and starkly imagined. Be warned.
I bet that sounds depressing. Well, I guess to a certain extent that is what it is. I don't think the premise means that you can have much 'jollyness'. But that's not the point. There is, for the reader, the grim satisfaction in the human spirit's desire to protect loved ones and to win survival for them at whatever cost.The characters are well written and we recognise the changes they go through and we sympathise with some of the awful choices they make. As a reader you lurch from panel to panel as they lurch from disaster to hope, from despair to finding solace in each other's company. It's a bumpy ride.
There is a great deal of dialogue too. Sometimes it tends to go over some of the same 'I can't cope' / 'What have I become?' / 'I'd do anything to protect my family' - type ground. This maybe because I read the volumes in batches of three or four at a time and consequently I covered a lot of the story at once. These build the characters though -which is the point. There is progression, there are consequences, characters do carry grudges, form relationships and struggle together.
A recommended read. Four out of five at least for me.


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