The Walking Dead has been a staple of the comic book universe since its inception over a decade ago. TWD is the powerhouse franchise that re invigorated zombie culture, and launched a wave of fandom not seen since the Beatles. Most have heard of the TV show, popularized by AMC, which is also part of the reason the series as a whole managed to explode in the manner that it has. With 156 issues currently available for consumption, and most available in collections and compendiums, the question for most is if they should finally take that Sunday afternoon and start reading those glorious Walking Dead comic books, we’re here to tell you exactly that. You can breathe easy though, there will be NO SPOILERS about either the comic books or the show in this article.
To start, I should say I’m definitely a Walking Dead fan. I haven’t missed a season, an issue, or a release since the show’s inception. I was definitely a late adapter to the comics. One thing the early seasons of the show and the comics do well is set a tone. After reading about fifty or sixty issues, you’ll definitely start feeling this sense of hopelessness. That’s a wonderful thing ,considering the goal of the comics is to put you in the shoes of survivors of the zombie apocalypse. For a while, they manage to maintain this aesthetic throughout the duration of the series. The earlier issues take risks, kill characters that you love, and never ever shy away from the tough subjects of an apocalypse. The first fifty issues are an absolute classic and cannot be disputed as otherwise. They are one of the most well written, beautifully drawn, and captivating series of comics I’ve ever read.
In the event you’ve lived under a rock and don’t know the plot of the Walking Dead at this point, we’ll go ahead and fill you in. Officer Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital after being shot. It’s about six months into the infection, and he has no idea what the hell is going on. He embarks on a quest to find his wife, Laurie, as well as their son, Carl. From there, we follow Rick and the survivors he meets along the way as they attempt to navigate, and make a life in the world overrun by zombies (although they never actually call them that).
Don’t expect any eye popping colors as you jump from page to page. These are all completely black and white comics, which I do enjoy. I think it lends to the whole “We can do without” idea that ends up coming about in the apocalypse. Characters come and go, die and move on, it’s a beautiful cycle. You’ll find yourself rooting for some, and rooting against others. The comics are daring, and kill off fan favorite characters, indulge in their gore, and do all they can to make you fear for your favorites. TWD introduces many of the most memorable villains in the twenty-first century. Although I feel that a couple of the situations jump the shark, for the most part it’s an experience that keeps itself grounded in reality.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for later issues. As the days of the apocalypse draws on, Robert Kirkman give us what later stages of the apocalypse would be like, including ideas of rebuilding civilization, community, and many other facets. What I think is so interesting about these situations is that we’ve never actually had that in apocalypse tale before. Typically, in most apocalypse stories, we see the beginning, the middle, and never really get an end. In showing those later stages…I’m starting to realize why. As we approach arcs that talk about potentially rebuilding humanity, talking about community, the sense of dread goes away. I would even venture to say that some of the most recent issues have been extraordinarily dull.
However, I will say that in the last few issues specifically, Kirkman has had to up the ante again, and we’ve gotten back on pace with intrigue and more morbid and anxious writing style that we were used to. It seems to me that the series is reaching its conclusion, but to Kirkman’s chagrin, he’s said that he’ll continue writing TWD until all the characters are delivering mail in their newfound society in their late 80’s, so take that as you will.
Ultimately, The Walking Dead is a near masterpiece. While the writing through several issues definitely stumbles, and the comics occasionally jump the shark…it truly is a gem. There is definitely a reason the series has lasted as long as it has, and gained the fans it has. Compelling characters, stories, and beautiful art render this truly terrifying tale of an apocalypse as real as it can get. You’ll follow the survivors through so much. You’ll laugh and cry with the survivors. Ultimately, each one of them have a piece of us that they represent, who you’ll choose as a favorite is ultimately up to you. If you can, I would thoroughly recommend picking up some compendiums of TWD, and jump in…it’s a wild ride.
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