You know what I’m tired of? Crisis movies. Whether it be in print, on panel, or ingrained within the silver screen, humanity is obsessed with ending itself, even it means completely skewering a trivial bit of Mayan prophecy bullock. There’s more than one way to skin the cat of Armageddon, though. Environmental collapse, meteor showers, alien incursion, and mass spiritual warfare all contribute to this annoying, dime-a-dozen phenomenon. One thing’s bugged me about every one of them, though.
After the ragtag band of human heroes solves the world-wiping threat, they just proudly gallup into an end-credits laden sunset. Wait, writers, back up. What about society? Does is return to normal? Does it rebuild? What’s changed about it? What’s different? No, no, CUT THE CREDITS! I still have so many questions!
It sucks to be Rick Grimes. It really sucks to be Rick Grimes. Sure, you have a beautiful and loving wife, Lori, and a boisterous and brimming young son, Carl. Sure, you have a solid job as a cop in small-town Kentucky, never having to even draw your gun. But that all changes one day, when you wake up after a coma from a small-time crook’s bullet-wound. To make matters worse, the hospital’s empty. Empty, that is, except for a clamoring horde of flesh-eating zombies.
If those images makes your stomach turn (and even if it doesn’t!), I regret to inform you that that’s the least of your Walking Dead worries. You see. The Walking Dead is a horror comic, but not in the way you may initially think. The horror of this series comes not in the gangs of undead delinquents, but in the effects it has on the survivors involved. Much like another one of my favorite comics, Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’s “Ex Machina”, this series deals with how people react in times of crisis and uncertainty. It’ll have your heart racing, and by the time you reach the last page of the first hardcover collection, your nails will be chewed to stubs. It’s suspenseful. It moves at a breakneck pace. And sometimes, it ain’t pretty.
If I had one word to describe the cast of characters in this comic, it’d be “gigantic”. There are no less than nine main characters in this series, and that’s just off the top of my head. And yet, all of them, from the young and plucky pizza delivery boy, Glenn, to the docile and elderly Donna to the grieving spouse and wilderness wonder, Dale, or the brutish but loving ex-football player Tyreese. they’re all equally compelling, wholly realistic, and all worthy of high acclaim. It’s nothing less than a grand juggling act Robert pulls off here. With such a large cast, it’d be easy for the book to collapse under the weight of its own burgeoning cast. I’m happy to report, though, that those grave concerns can be buried at the door. Kirkman is especially skilled at turning little, insignificant moments in the lives of this group of characters into poignant, boisterous, and sometimes even laugh-inducing tour-de-forces. And yes, I’ll admit that a few tears welled up in my eyes during a certain moment in the first hardcover collection that’s way too emotional to even allude to.
But, dear reader, that’s not the most amazing thing about this comic, far from it. You see, every page of vomit-inducing, stomach-churning, and sometimes even beautiful art by Charlie Adlard (and previously, Tony Moore) is brought to life only in black and white. If you’ll allow me to go off on a tangent for a minute, let me just say that I hate black and white comics. Every last one of the darned things has characters that are nearly indistinguishable from one another, backgrounds blander than a Rorschach test, and visuals that could put me to sleep faster than a combination of Ambiem, ska music, and a Seinfeld marathon. Sure, some black and white comic artists will shout from the rooftops that it’s “preserving the art form”, or some equally deranged balderdash. If you ask me, all that black-and-white comics “preserve” is the comic company’s inking budget and creativity. At least until I saw the great, gory, gruesome, and gut-wrenching graphics of The Walking Dead. If you don’t feel vomit welling up in the back of your mouth during practically every page of this comic, props to you. You’ve got an iron stomach. If you’re like me, however, you’ll be repeatedly choking your breakfast back until the last page, and that’s no small thing to award to the art of both Moore and Adlard.
Overall, The Walking Dead is everything it sets out to be from the word “go”: a somewhat gruesome, but equally empathetic, trek through both the human psyche in times of disaster, and the tropes and cliches of the survival horror movies Kirkman obviously enjoys. It’s so good, in fact, that a TV series based off of it is premiering on AMC this October. And hey, if every apocalyptic tale in the next years of my pop-culture life is as good as this one, I may just be able to enjoy just a couple more.