Despite their current popularity in books, movies, etc., I’ve never been that much of a zombie fan. Oh, the classic pulp zombie, the sort that shows up in novels by Hugh B. Cave and stories by Cornell Woolrich and Henry Whitehead, is all right, I suppose. The shambling, munch-your-brains, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD type of zombie never did much for me. The new fast zombies . . . forget it.
However, recently several people, including my friend Michael Davis, recommended the comic book series THE WALKING DEAD to me, so I was willing to give it a try. I’ve now read the first two trade paperback collections, DAYS GONE BYE and MILES BEHIND US, which reprint the first twelve issues of a series that’s still on-going.
The protagonist of THE WALKING DEAD is small-town Kentucky cop Rick Grimes, who is badly wounded during a shootout with a fugitive and winds up in a coma for three weeks. When he regains consciousness, he discovers that the hospital is full of dead people – the zombies – and even deader people, the ones who have fallen victim to the zombies. He manages to escape and finds that some terrible, unknown calamity evidently has befallen the whole world. There are no newscasts, no government, nothing but zombies and a few isolated human survivors. One of those survivors tells Rick that before the government collapsed, people were urged to head for Atlanta because the plan was to protect the big cities from the zombie hordes. Rick thinks that maybe his wife and young son went there, so he heads for Atlanta himself.
But when he reaches the city, he finds that it’s an even worse wasteland full of zombies. All the news is not bad, though. He meets another human survivor who helps him escape and takes him to a human encampment just outside town where Rick finds that his wife and son are alive and staying with these other survivors.
All of that is set up pretty quickly, in what was the first issue of the comic book. From there on, the story concerns the efforts of Rick, his family, and his new-found friends to survive in this hellish environment. I like the fact that even after twelve issues, the characters have no idea what happened to cause the catastrophe or if things will ever get better. This strikes me as very realistic.
There’s quite a bit of zombie-fightin’ action, but the story is more concerned with the interactions of the human survivors. It’s sort of like a soap opera with, well, walking dead in it. And while I wasn’t really sure at first if I liked this series, I found myself drawn into the story so that I had to keep flipping the pages to find out what was going to happen. Creator and writer Robert Kirkman provides some excellent fast-paced scripts that take several unexpected turns. The black-and-white art by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard is effective and does a good job in its storytelling.
So even though I’m still not a zombie fan in general, I did enjoy these first two volumes of THE WALKING DEAD quite a bit. I don’t have any more of the series on hand right now, but I definitely plan to read more of it. Recommended (with the caveat that there’s lots of tragedy and general gruesomeness).