Even though we skipped a week, this is our second week going into “The Walking Dead”. The second exploring the worst of zombie horror, brought to us by author Robert Kirkman and his artistic collaborators.
Is it filled with shocking moments, fantastic art, gripping human emotional sequences and, most importantly, zombies. Lots and lots of walkers.
Oddly enough, though, throughout the entirety of the series I’m not entirely positive anyone in the book has called the creatures “zombies”. I may be wrong on that. If someone could check for me, that would be great.
Anyway, last time we discussed the concept of the series and the vaguely unexplainable love that people have for zombie tales. Zombie stories have been around for dozens of years, becoming extremely popular when filmmaker George A. Romero mainstreamed the genre with “Night of the Living Dead” released back in 1968.
Some consider this the first time that a zombie survival story impacted the world. It even went so far as to be incorporated into the Library of Congress as historically relevant. Undead creatures had been around since the time Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, but never in the sense that they were an undead horde coming back to reap the flesh off of humans.
Back to The Walking Dead. What was once thought a dead genre (pun intended) became revitalized when Robert Kirkman decided to create the zombie horror that never ends. Taken from the opening introduction to the first volume, entitled “Days Gone By”, Kirkman states:
“I’m not trying to scare anybody. If that somehow happens as a result of reading this comic, that’s great, but really…that’s not what this book is about.”
With that, we begin our analysis of the first volume and try to discover why The Walking Dead comic is as good as they say.
Here’s a spoiler: It IS as good as they say.
As the first issue opens, we are shown Sheriff Rick Grimes and his partner Shane, engaged in a brutal standoff between a psychotic, escaped convict. Treated like a normal cops/robbers standoff, the moment Rick is shot in the face off we are then taken to farther into the future.
Rick wakes up from a coma in the hospital and finds that the flowers next to his bed have wilted and died. Alone and, apparently, abandoned Rick does his best to wander through the hospital. What he finds, though, is a dead body in the elevator and a gruesome assortment of flesh eating individuals in the hospital cafeteria.
The apocalypse had arrived.
And Rick was asleep when it happened.
From there, it’s a whirlwind of terror and exploration as Rick Grimes tries to find what went wrong and, more importantly, where his wife and son are.
Series creators Robert Kirkman and, artist, Tony Moore have us follow Rick Grimes as he struggles to escape the hospital, comes face to face with his first zombie horror scene, a young girl. She’s rotting and withering in the grass, but is unable to move. Rick Grimes sees that she is still “alive”, in a sense, and that she has been there for some time.
In this, Rick realizes that the life he knew is gone forever. It’s tragic, sure, but Kirkman and Moore are such excellent storytellers that you cannot force yourself to stop reading.
Even though the horror is high in the first issue, again, this is not a horror story. This is an elongated tale of human emotion and feeling. Escaping the terrible sights for a short time, Rick meets Morgan Jones and his son, Duane, who have taken up residence in the house next to his. The real housekeepers are gone, so they’ve barricaded themselves inside. There, Rick learns that this has been going on for six months. Communications fell first but, before they did, the government instructed people to head towards the big cities where they could be rescued.
In their conversation, we find the traces of humanity and kindness that will. Morgan and Rick, sharing a moment, discussing their sons and the lives they lost. In this, we see what Kirkman is bringing out.
That against the wall of the death of the human race, humanity will still prevail.
However, that’s only half of the coin.
Rick brings Morgan and Duane to the sheriff’s station where they load up on weapons and supplies. After bidding farewell, Rick heads off to Atlanta to locate his wife and son, hoping they went to stay with his in-laws. Along the way, Rick stops by the poor, zombiefied girl lying in the grass. He puts her out of her misery, sheds one last tear, and heads off to Atlanta.
From the very first issue, we are shown a man that will never lose his sense of human dignity and humanity.
Because of Rick’s lack of knowledge when it comes to the world around him, Robert Kirkman has created quite literally the perfect character. See, because we live vicariously through Rick. Since he is new to the world of the undead, we almost get to use him as an avatar to discover and explore how humanity has changed in just a short amount of time.
Just as Rick continues onward from helping and being helped by Morgan and his son, he saves a horse and promises it a better life.
This is the true epitome of “The Walking Dead” series as a whole. It’s these rare moments of humanity, set against the backdrop of the death of the human race, that show what we really want to believe. That, despite the utter downfall of civilization, humans would continue to be decent beings.
Is it a question that can be asked?
Not in this first volume.
Speaking of, I gotta say, as much as I love Charlie Adlard’s artwork on the remainder of the series (the man drew issues #6-102 by himself), there’s something
about Tony Moore’s that truly sets the tone of the series from here on out. Its grotesque, it’s emotional and the panel layout. To create a horror movie is one art form. Creating a horror comic is another. Tony Moore was a fantastic artist of this series, and it was a shame to see him go. However, going forward, Charlie Adlard put his own signature mark on the series.
We’re getting off topic there, for a moment.
At the beginning of it all, to look back on 100 plus issues, and see Rick barely make it to Atlanta to find his family and see where he goes, it’s harsh to realize what he’s about to be put through.
The new places.
The new faces.
The evil beings.
And zombies, too.
Because, in over one hundred issues of “The Walking Dead”, the only character I know for certain to live is Rick Grimes.
I never said that was a good thing. It’s been going for close to ten years. Rick has much more to face and a life to figure out.
This is the horror movie that never ends.
I hope it never does.
Next Week: We got a twofer in the form of reviewing the television show and finding nothing but positives. AND, “The Walking Dead Magazine” gets released and I have your first look inside! Check back!
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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