When I heard that AMC was going to produce a television series based on the zombie epic "The Walking Dead," I was both concerned and delighted. A bona fide classic in undead lore, "The Walking Dead" graphic novels are brutal and surprising--not really what I would picture for a basic cable TV show (the first season is slated for 6 episodes, we'll see if it goes beyond that). But AMC has produced terrific and prestigious shows like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," so I'm pretty stoked to see what they do with this. Add Frank Darabont of "Shawshank Redemption" fame as the creative force behind the show, and we just might have a winner! In anticipation, I've gone back through the volumes of "The Walking Dead" to discover again the many pleasures that this series has to offer. The Compendium Collects the first Eight Chapters listed below--a great value but a MASSIVE book!
Note: While the following synopsis does not necessarily reveal major plot developments, it does chart the narrative progression of the story. If that is not something that interests you, please don't continue.
"Chapter One: Days Gone By" is the jumping off point--and, in truth, sets things up in a fairly typical way. After being involved in a shoot-out, cop Rick awakes from a coma isolated, but not alone, in a local hospital. Apparently, in the time he was out, something has shifted in the world and now the dead walk. The chapter introduces Rick and many other principles as he tries to figure out what is happening as he crosses the state to locate his family. On the outskirts of Atlanta, Rick is reunited with his wife Lori, son Carl, and police partner Shane with a group of other survivors. At this stage, hope is still alive and people are just waiting to be rescued and order restored. While the set-up has been quite familiar, the chapter highlight involves a very real human betrayal that redefines the mindset of all involved. A lot of characters are introduced to set the basis for the rest of the story. Good, with an emotionally charged finale, this is a worthy introduction that gets our band of survivors on the road.
"Chapter Two: Miles Behind Us" picks up with Rick, Lori, Carl and the entourage seeking out refuge. Having given up on immediate rescue--the group now just pursues safety. This section is most notable for the introduction of Tyreese, a natural leader who forges a strong alliance with Rick. The group stills thinks that they can wait out the zombie problem if they can just find somewhere isolated and secure. A gated community seems just perfect and the group is thrilled by the prospect of some normalcy. But all is not as it seems, and "The Walking Dead" establishes that no one is safe. Chapter Two destroys what little innocence is left in our band as they face their first real losses as a new unit. It is well plotted, well orchestrated and genuinely harrowing as the group come to understand that safety is an illusion. While Chapter One was an effective plot set-up, this one really sets the tone of danger. Excellent.
"Chapter Three: Safety Behind Bars" finds our ragtag band of survivors moving into a new safe haven. This one has real promise--it's a well secured prison. While Chapter Two has forced us to confront the fact that no one is safe, new hope springs alive. Still wary from their encounter on Herschel's farm, the group extends an olive branch to the family to share the safety of their new digs. So a community starts to form again and the group begins to grow with the newcomers as well as four inmates that were alive in the prison. Building a safe structure takes the primary focus of this chapter but all the new people are still wary of trusting one another. Jockeying for dominance and leadership, this bloody good chapter makes us confront that the zombies are not the only dangers inherent in the new world. With murder, suicide, and betrayal--its starting to get harder to determine the good guys from the bad. And in true cliff hanger fashion, the safe haven may be slipping from their grasp--or actually, it may be ripped away!
"Chapter Four: The Heart's Desire" wraps up the prison cliff hanger from the previous chapter. Among other things, Rick takes another controversial step to defend his tribe. Is he losing his humanity or doing whatever is necessary to survive? As a new character is introduced, the enigmatic warrior Michonne, things start to unravel for Tyreese. Still haunted by his daughters death and what he did in its aftermath, his relationship with Michonne threatens those he is already involved with. The series retains its heart with the continuation of the love affair between Glenn and Maggie including a racy nude scene. But the destruction of Rick and Tyreese's friendship packs a huge wallop. Easily one of the more dramatic chapters, the series hits an all time high with Rick's "We are the Walking Dead" speech--an absolutely unforgettable moment of raw emotion.
"Chapter Five: The Best Defense" takes things in a new direction. Tracking a downed helicopter, Rick, Glenn and Michonne head off to look for survivors. What they discover instead is another encampment--a whole town fenced off and self sufficient! Perhaps less involving in the initial trek, the chapter picks up with the introduction of the town's "Governor." When our traveling trio discover that their new friend might not be an ally, it's already too late. Most notable for its extreme violence and brutality, both Rick and Glenn suffer severely at the hands of this new madman. Most of the material back at the prison is relatively uninvolving making this a weaker entry in the series. But the danger that Rick in Michonne find themselves in has very real consequences that set up a new storyline for the future. Essential, but somewhat unpleasant.
"Chapter Six: This Sorrowful Life" picks up with Rick, Glenn and Michonne held captive as the ruthless "Governor" tries to extract the location of their camp. Finding unexpected allies in the doctor, his young assistant, and a perimeter guard Martinez--a plot to escape has been hatched. The escape is exciting, but the real action comes when Michonne seeks retribution against the "Governor." In easily the series most disturbing sequences, let's just say Michonne means business! "The Walking Dead" has continually blurred the lines between "good" and "bad" and amped up the moral question of what makes a hero--and within this installment we see one of our protagonists exact horrifying vengeance! Returning to the prison, the camp has been overrun and our heroes must again face a zombie hoard. But in the midst of this, a very human betrayal is discovered and Rick is once again faced with the choice of murder. An action packed volume!
"Chapter Seven: The Calm Before" is a relatively peaceful edition of "The Walking Dead" as the name might imply. A small band rounding up supplies faces down more of the "Governor's" men. Then the group, wary of being discovered by their newfound enemy, starts to become complacent when no sign is of attack comes over the next few weeks. We see normalcy start to return as Rick and Lori confront unpleasant aspects of their relationship, Lori gives birth, Maggie and Glenn consider a family, Michonne starts to thaw, the new "doctor" gets comfortable. But in this peace, one of the crew finally goes over the deep end with unpleasant consequences. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sorrowful--this edition sets up real hope and is really great in furthering the character development aspects of the story. This makes it an unexpectedly strong entry in the series! But all is shot with one heck of cliff hanger!
"Chapter Eight: Made To Suffer" reintroduces the "Governor" and what happened in the aftermath of Michonne's visit. The rest of the volume is an all out assault as the "Governor" and his crew try to break into the prison. With some of the protagonists considering departure, it leaves an even smaller band to deal with the onslaught. Non-stop action fuels this story and there are severe casualties. In a brilliant and bold move, all expectations are thwarted in the bloody confrontation. "The Walking Dead," which has already established itself as an epic in zombie literature, bravely pushes to the next level! Riveting, heartbreaking, and very surprising--nothing will ever be the same after this battle! My favorite so far--if only for its audacity and "take no prisoners" approach!
on June 8, 2009
Everywhere I turn these days, I see zombies: in movies, novels, toys, video games, clothing, and far too many comics to count. I am absolutely sick and tired of them, so when I would read glowing reviews of Robert Kirkman's comic series THE WALKING DEAD, I would scoff and move on to something else. But the glowing reviews continued, becoming even more positive as the series progressed, and I began to have second thoughts. Then Image Comics announced THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOLUME 1, and I was sold on giving it a shot. This is a sturdy, high-quality softcover collection of the first 48 issues, printed on glossy paper. 1088 pages for $37 on Amazon is too good a deal to pass up, and this gamble more than paid for itself. Police officer Rick Grimes, shot in the line of duty, wakes up in a hospital bed. There are no responses to his calls for help. Eventually realizing that the building is vacant, he makes his way to the cafeteria for something to eat, at which point both he and the reader plunge into a horrifying realization of what has happened to the world during his recovery. From there, it's non-stop suspense, even during what could be considered the "slow points". Even though my overall opinion of the story is middling, I had a hard time putting this book down at night.
I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction - Earth Abides, Alas Babylon, A Canticle for Leibowitz, On The Beach, The Stand, The Road, and numerous other examples of this subgenre are displayed proudly on my bookshelf. I'm not concerned as much with the details of whatever disaster befalls the world as I am with how the survivors deal with it, and that's what I get from THE WALKING DEAD. While the story results from a zombie plague, that's not the main attraction, and I'd be perfectly content if we never received an explanation of how it happened. The survivors are what drive this story, constantly struggling, battling hopelessness, gaining and losing friends, and not knowing if they'll see the following day. When they finally realize their place in this transformed world, it's a bigger chill than any flesh-eating, walking corpse can provide.
Even with all those positives, I can't say that I completely enjoyed the story. The earliest chapters, where Rick slowly comes to the realization of what has happened, and his first encounters with survivors, are exceptional. The isolation and despair are palpable, and these chapters stand out for their realistic tone - in fact, I feel that the most effective chapters are the ones where the least happens. However, once the town of Woodbury and "The Governor" enter the picture, it began to read like Garth Ennis took over as writer. I don't doubt that humanity could sink to some frightening depths in a disaster such as this, but some of the later chapters were so over-the-top that they seemed like simple shock value.
Tony Moore provides art for the first 6 chapters, with Charlie Adlard taking over for the remainder of this collection. Both artists do great work on this series, with their own particular strengths. Moore's facial expressions speak volumes, and Adlard's work is grim & gritty. Both of these guys can draw some horrifying scenes of death and destruction.
So, this compendium is your perfect chance to experience THE WALKING DEAD for the first time, as it gives you a good-sized chunk of the story under one cover, rather than having to buy multiple trades. Come witness the end of the world... and the beginning of a new one.
on November 15, 2015
I'm a fan of TWD series on AMC, even though I think it has its share of faults and inconsistencies. I kept hearing great things about the comics, though, so I finally bought compendium 1 with high expectations. It wasn't bad, but I was disappointed. I don't think it's as strong as the show.
One of my complaints is that the comics move too quickly. The show's entire first season is an expansion of the comic's first chapter. The comic has a habit of compressing its story & character arcs. A conflict is raised and then resolved and wrapped in a neat little bow, often within a few pages, as opposed to the show where the tension is dragged out for a while. I would give examples, but I want to avoid spoilers. (The comic does get better about this later in the compendium, and it's very possible that it continues to improve in future volumes.)
I also tend to be more attached to the characters in the show. Again, I think this is because they've had more time to develop. The comic may potentially get stronger in this area as it continues.
Dialogue is often weak. I find it's not always natural, too "on the nose." One example of bad dialogue and forced character building is when Rick is riding alone on a horse and decides to describe the day that Carl was born. It starts: "Y'know...that's a good idea. Talking about the happiest day of my life will surely get my mind off all the messed up s*** I've seen recently..." After narrating the entire event to the horse, he ends with, "Y'know...on second thought...thinking about the good times makes all this seem so much worse." It's a poignant thought, but poor execution.
One thing I heard about the comics is that the deaths are more satisfying/heartbreaking than the show. I do think that the deaths in the show often feel pretty stale. But so far, I've had the exact same experience with deaths in the comics.
I will note that about halfway through the compendium it starts to get a lot better. I'm still not enthusiastic about it, but it's worth giving it a little time to develop if you're going to try it.
The artwork is very good, no complaints there. But neither is it spectacular enough that I would recommend reading this specifically for the artwork. It serves the story well, the story just doesn't hold up well enough for me.
on March 16, 2016
I'm not a graphic novel person, I'm not. I have personally never been able to get into them as a whole. But from page one through current issue, this one had me hooked. I'm also not a gore person, or a zombie person either. Something about the writing, the character development, the plot, the art...something. Something has got me hooked and always wanting more. Never a disappointing moment.
As far as the messed up pages? The creator stated on twitter they're not intentional. Return your book, get your money back, and buy a new copy somewhere else.