Comic Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye

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Writer: Robert Kirkman | Artist: Tony Moore
Publisher: Image

I don’t get why people are so into zombies recently. I guess I like the idea of shambling things that only want to eat your brains as much as anyone, but really, I just don’t get this sudden surge of enthusiasm.

Zombies are just slow things with no personalities. They have no particular agency, no real character. It’s no accident that zombie movies have never spawned an enduring icon like Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster: there’s nothing that can endure.

But the movies have been clogged with rotted flesh recently: 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake, House of the Dead, etc. etc.

Interesting enough, especially for a medium so dominated by a single genre in the last 40 years, comics have also recently doffed their capes in favor of stringy bits of flesh iin the form of Steve Niles’ Remains, Dash Shaw’s Love Eats Brains, and, most recently and successfully, Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore’s The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead is something of a minor phenomenon in comics in these past eight months it’s been published. It’s gotten almost universally strong reviews, has sold more than most horror comics, and seems to be bringing superhero readers into the horror genre.

But, just like zombie movies, I don’t get why people think The Walking Dead is such a great comic.

Maybe it’s just the change of pace that a popular horror comic represents in a market choked nearly to death with endless rehashes of 50-year-old characters. Maybe it’s that people have different standards than I do. I don’t know. Either way, I don’t see anything special in the first trade paperback collection of The Walking Dead.

The series’ story is a familiar one: An unexplained zombie plague has ravaged the world, destroying civilization and leaving only pockets of humans struggling to survive.

Sounds a lot like 28 Days Later, huh? The similarities continue: Walking Dead’s main character, police officer Rick Grimes, wakes up into the zombified world after weeks in a coma.

And, just like the opening gives us nothing we haven’t seen before, so too does the story fail to tread any new ground.

The book, its fans and author love to point out, isn’t really about horror or even zombies. Instead the books shows “us how messed up we are … makes us question our station in society … and our society’s station in the world,” according to writer Kirkman, in his introduction to the first collection.

Well, sure, great. But isn’t that what everyone says about their zombie movie/book/comic? Is there anything else a zombie story is ever about? Can’t we get something new?

When it comes to The Walking Dead, the answer, evidently, is no.

The point of the story isn’t original, and, sadly, the plot isn’t either. If you’ve seen a zombie movie, or a lot of post-apocalyptic movies, too, you’ll see every “twist” in The Walking Dead coming. From zombies getting into the survivor’s camp, to a friend’s betrayal, to gunplay involving children, each plot point is telegraphed from pages away. And though the story probably isn’t intended to be heavy on suspense, it loses a lot of punch when there aren’t any surprises.

And the dialogue is even worse.

Any book that ends with this exchange doesn’t deserve a second look:

“It’s not the same as killing the dead ones, daddy.”

“It never should be, son. It never should be.”

There’s much more that could be said about the dialogue in the book, the lack of differentiation between the characters, and the curious racial and sexual politics of the book. Perhaps I’ll get to those aspects.

It’s a shame to pan a creator-owned, independent horror comic in an industry so dominated by corporate-owned, conglomerate-backed superhero dreck. But works have to be better than this to earn my praise.

Buy Walking Dead Vol. 1 at Powell’s

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