Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Walking Dead -- reviews

Reviews, plural. Both graphic novel (through vol. 8) and the first two episodes of the new tv show, currently airing at 10 pm Sunday nights on AMC. Show's website here.

When I was a little RS, my mother would pick up nearly anything readable for me at yard sales. Among the things she picked up were the occasional horror comic -- I didn't really care for Batman and Superman and Hulk. But I did kinda like that Cryptkeeper...

Still, comics were never my thing. Every writer or voracious reader has a story like this, and mine goes: I read "Jane Eyre" for the first time (of many, many, many) at age 12. So, yeah, I like a lot of words. I like description. I like sinking my teeth into a novel.

And I love zombies.

So when Christopher Grant, editor over at A Twist of Noir, emailed to say, "I heard you like zombies. Ever heard of this?" I was skeptical but intrigued. He said, "You should probably just buy the Compendium, which is the first eight volumes." I said, "Yeah... think I'll just buy the first volume for ten bucks and see where it goes from there."

Two weeks later, I've devoured the Compendium, watched the first two episodes of the tv show, and I'm pretty much sending him obsessive emails about this. I called him a pusher. I'm not far off. This thing? It's like a drug.

You've heard this story before, or have you? Zombies rise up for unknown reasons, plague mankind, and now civilization is a fond memory and scrounging for food and thunking the heads off the undead is the rule of the day. There aren't many survivors.

Most movies and stories take you from day one, the outbreak, and lead you through to either the characters' deaths or the point where they realize this is a new world. The camera does a long, panning shot of a horizon, complete with drifting black smoke and crows. The end.

Not Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead." Here is where we start. Because this isn't about zombies. Zombies are, at their best and when used by a skilled writer, merely a metaphor. A vehicle. And Kirkman's use of them is a masterpiece. This is about what happens to people in extreme circumstances. Every page, you are confronted with a decision: what would you do? That's what he excels at.

The characters are presented with such subtly; Kirkman never panders to his audience. He expects you to be intelligent grown-ups here. He expects you can handle this, and maybe you can. I've had my moments of nearly not-handling it, but it's not his fault. He's imagined the possibilities in depth, and it all strikes home with truth and realism. Not everyone's a hero.

The Compendium is the first eight volumes. Volumes 9-12 are currently out and will be in my hot little hands soon, and volume 13 arrives in due course. In the first eight volumes, you'll follow (former, I suppose) sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes as he confronts this new world, fights to protect his family and to create a new, bearable existence, and sees a lot of shit go down. Be warned: there are some graphic moments in this graphic novel, and this ain't for kids. And there are a lot of things which just made me really uncomfortable.

But it's a great ride, and I look forward to finding out what happens next. This from the girl who's never really liked comics.

As for the tv show, weeeelllll.... I thought episode one (currently free on AMC's website) was great. I knew up-front that the show's producers had said they wouldn't be sticking to the book exactly, that they would be diverging in spots. And oddly, I, like most of this fandom, it seems, was very open to that. It was kind of exciting. And the changes to the initial story were small but meaningful, and whether I liked them or not, I was perfectly content with them.

And then I watched episode two.

I'm still grumbling.

Diverge? Okay, I'm not going to get started on a rant. I'll be giving this some time to play out, and I'm not giving up on it right now. But I ain't happy. On the plus side, this show looks great, the acting is fine, and it's been wicked cool to see iconic scenes from the book portrayed on the screen. It's already got an enormous fan base, and as Christopher told me, he'll be watching the show as an "alternate universe" from now on. That's good advice, and I'll get on board with that and see if it doesn't help my view.

That's it. Oh, one more thing: you get the Compendium and you'll be hooked. And when that happens, drop me a line, okay? I love dissecting this. It's a very immersive, rich experience, and one that begs to be shared.


  1. Very interesting... So what is the metaphore of the zombies in this? I like the 'alternate univ' that your friend mentioned--that's how I feel about TrueBlood.

  2. I <3 Zombies! Watched the first two episodes at the weekend, hooked already.