I tried. I swear, I really did. I mean, I did not like the first volume of Robert Kirkman’s zombie-survival horror hit The Walking Dead. I thought the first collections; dialogue was hackneyed, its characters cliched, and the story weak.
But I seem to be the only one who thinks this. The series keeps getting great reviews, is doing terrific business for a black and white comic, and is a big hit. So, taking into account that I might have been wrong in my judgment of the first collection of The Walking DeadI bought the second collection, bringing together issues 7 through 12, to see if I felt differently about the series.
Well, I don’t.
Twelve issues in, the series isn’t any better, the characters are no more differentiated or believable, the dialogue isn’t improved.
“Miles Behind Us? continues the first collection’s story of a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse making their way through the south, trying to stay alive and stay sane. The group, led by ex-cop Rick, have had their numbers thinned by encounters with zombies and now, in the thick of winter, are seeking a warm place to stay and a reliable supply of food.
After a false, deadly start at a suburban housing development, the group is able to take up a brief residence at a nearby farm packed with its own dark secrets.
These scenarios, while not necessarily blindly original, are well-trod, proven, successful territory for zombie stories. The problem that the series has is its characters and its reactions. There hasn’t been this much angst in a comic since Chris Claremont’s first run on Uncanny X-Men and the interactions between the characters wouldn’t be out of place on The O.C. or Dawson’s Creek. They’re just overwrought.
To make matters worse, even dramatic interaction between the characters is played too archly to be affecting. Of course Rick’s son gets shot. Of course his wife is pregnant and the baby is probably not his. The logic of character interaction in this series wouldn’t allow anything else.
So, when they get to a farm full of seemingly normal people hiding a barn-full of zombies (which brought to mind “and that bear was my father!? This would make more sense if the site that had that comic was online right now. Trust me, it’s hilarious. I’ll edit this when the site is back online), of course the zombies are their children and families.
The characters all react to the horrors of their new world in the same way: they shut down entirely and hope to die, they angst, or they let it all go and just have sex. All of which seem like reasonable reactions, but not very interesting or unique when every character has basically three possible reactions to everything. You’d think, after so many months of deprivation and horror, and so many deaths, these people might be a bit more hardened to their new world.
And the limited palette isn’t only in the characters’ reactions, it’s also in their dialogue. The characters all speak essentially the same way: ending their sentences with “man,? hardly ever using contractions, endlessly repeating how horrible things are, how worried they are about each other, stating their emotions, instead of feeling or showing them.
All of these tics make for a bumpy read.
Not everything is hard about the series, though: artist Charlie Adlard (who took over for departed original artist, Tony Moore) turns in great pencils that get the story across well.
Still, the series just doesn’t merit its accolades. The characters are cardboard, their dialogue mushy. The scenarios are arch and obvious (the upcoming double suicide is just painfully telegraphed). The horrors too familiar (the set up for this series could allow for horrors that aren’t just zombies or other people. It could be great, but we don’t get those ideas yet).
The ending of this volume, with the group considering moving into a prison, is tempting, but I’m not going to make the same mistake on this series three times.