The Walking Dead shambles back for a second season next weekend, and so we thought we’d do a Haunted October review of the source material. The Walking Dead may be purchased as a comic or in trade paperbacks; we’re reviewing the large size Book One, which chronicles issues 1-12, the source of the tv series’ first two seasons.

Titles:

Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn.

Available from Amazon.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Premise:

A police officer awakes from a coma to find the world has been overrun with post-Romero zombies. He finds his family alive, holing up with an ill-assorted band of surviving humans.

High Points

The early pages (translated so effectively in the tv series) have a real power, as Rick wakes into a nightmare that grows increasingly twisted and dark. The walking dead lurk behind doors; buildings loom like tombstones over cities emptied of life. Despite the terrors, our point-of-view character maintains a certain noble bearing.

The first chapter also features minimal dialogue. Images carry the story….

Low Points

The Walking Dead works best when dialogue and exposition stays to a minimum. Kirkman, however, fills panels with wordy exposition and explanation. Too many of the characters sound too much like each other.

The Scores

Originality: 2/6 George A. Romero changed the nature of zombies back in ’68, and the mindless lost souls have been strolling around in search of flesh and brains ever since. While Robert Kirkman deserves credit for developing this compelling take on the premise, we’ve been waist-deep in Romero zombies for too long for any of this to feel terribly original.

Artwork: 5/6 The first six chapters have been better-handled than the remainder, but overall, the moody grayscale work captures the appropriate look and tone.

Story: 4/6. The story kept me interested. Since Walking Dead is an ongoing series, don’t expect resolution, and since we’re dealing with the standard-issue Zombie Apocalypse, don’t look for an explanation. This is about zombies, survival, and people under pressure.

The events at the farmhouse feature a twist I didn’t expect, and it will be interested to see if it forms part of the show’s second season (The tv adaptation follows the basic plot of the comics, but deviates in a number of ways).

Characterization: 4/6. The characters tend toward the cliché, and the females have been shortchanged. The good women explain how traditional roles work for the best, while everything Kirkman seemingly distrusts, from prudish gossip to feminist questions, rolls forth from the mouth of Donna, who functions largely as an unappealing straw woman (and, conventionally speaking, the least attractive). She only really becomes likeable just before she dies. The characters have a little more nuance than I suggest here, but I think the general criticism remains valid. (The series has received some criticism for a similar handling of gender, but it has made some attempts to redress the problem).

Curiously, Kirkman manages best with people pushed beyond sanity. This, at least, suits the story—but it would be a better story if the people were a little more credible in the first place.

Emotional response: 4/6. The Walking Dead features a great concept, unevenly developed.

Flow 5/6.

Overall: 5/6.

In total, The Walking Dead: Book One receives 29/42