I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I am WAY behind on my reading!! I’m staying pretty damn current with my horror flicks but can’t seem to catch up on all my reading. Perfect example; The Walking Dead (TWD). TWD first appeared in October 2003. It was put out by Image Comics and was created by Robert Kirkman (the writer) and Tony Moore (the original artist). So why the fuck did it take me 7 years to read it? Unfortunately the primary answer has to do with money. I really didn’t become aware of the comic until around 2008. That’s 5 years worth of comics to buy at once. Wasn’t gonna happen!! I’m glad I held out because at the end of 2009, right in time for the holiday season, Image Comics put out The Walking Dead: Compendium One. The Compendium collects the first 48 issues of the comic. Well I got me a couple gift cards to my local book store and immediately bought the Compendium and ate up every single fucking page.
The story is pretty simple as we follow a small group of people as they try to survive the zombie apocalypse. I could take the next 200 pages listing all the various movies, books, and comics that have this exact same plot. So what makes TWD stand out and above the flooded genre its apart of? Let me answer that in the form of an analogy (albeit an oversimplified analogy): The Walking Dead is to the zombie genre as Watchmen is to the superhero genre. Do ya get what I’m talking about? TWD is an extremely well written book (notice I didn’t say comic) with incredibly fleshed-out and developed characters that I’d put up against any zombie novel. But what’s really amazing is that Kirkman makes the story about the survivors without forgetting about the zombies. My biggest complaint with the movie Zombieland (see review here) and the book Thunder and Ashes (see review here) is that the writers for each project kinda forgot about the zombies in the middle of their respective projects. Not here; the zombie threat is present in every panel. In addition, the pace is quick and the art work is stunning. It’s done in black and white which gives the entire project a kind of nostalgic feel. But this ain’t your grandpa’s zombie story.
Among the group of survivors is Rick Grimes, his wife Lori and son Carl; Tyreese and his daughter Julie; Dale; Carol and her daughter Sophia; and Michonne. Now I know this is an extremely incomplete list of characters, but these are some of the more important characters in the Compendium. We first meet Rick as he wakes up from a coma 28 Days Later-ish style; he’s a cop and was injured in the line of duty and while he was “out” the world went to shit. At of the end of the Compendium no explanation has been offered as to what brought on the zombie apocalypse. And I, for one, hope we don’t get one. I like my zombie movies and books to resist explaining the cause of the apocalypse; it gives the reader more room to play in his head.
After waking up it doesn’t take long for Rick to discover the world has been overrun with zombies. You really relate with him as he desperately tries to find out what happened to his wife and son. He conveniently finds them just outside of Atlanta with a few other survivors who escaped from the Hell that downtown Atlanta became. I thought it was a little too convenient how quickly he found his family, but when you see where writer Kirkman takes the story it’s obvious why he quickly reunited Rick with his family. And I’m purposely being vague here on the plot people. I know there’s gotta be others out there who haven’t read TWD yet and I don’t wanna spoil anything for those people.
All I’ll say is that NO character is safe in the world Kirkman has created. You’re gonna be addicted to this comic, so make sure you clear your schedule when you sit down to read this. The plot is fast paced and takes more twists and turns than Space Mountain (I know, I know … pretty gay comparison). But what really grabs you is how well developed the characters are. You really come to “know” each and every character and more impressive is that you relate to each one. So when Kirkman decides to start offing them left and right (oh shut-up; I’m not giving anything away) it’s like a punch to the nards; you really feel as though you lost a family member. And just wait until the final pages of the Compendium. There’s a twist (or is it a “curveball”) at the end that as a father almost had me in tears when I read and saw the panels. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you see it.
This is hands down a “must read” for any horror and zombie fan. It really shows you that there are still original ideas left in the genre. For example, the idea that you don’t need to be bitten by a zombie to become one is a very interesting idea that I’m looking forward to Kirkman putting to use in the next Compendium. It’s a pretty cool element to the story; one of the characters kills themselves and wasn’t bitten by a zombie but still comes back almost immediately as a zombie. I can feel it in my gut that Kirkman has plans for this plot point!!
Now that I’ve read and kinda caught up with the series I’m stuck waiting for the next Compendium!! Hopefully I don’t have to wait long because I’ve already chewed down my fingernails and am starting to taste blood!! I feel like a crackhead waiting for his next fix. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this series, go out immediately and get it. You’ll thank me!!
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist(s): Tony Moore (original artist) and Charlie Adlard (from issue #7 onward)
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 9 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer