The Walking Dead Vol 1: Days Gone Bye Vol 1
Reviewed by Dan Collacott
Robert Kirkman's, Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore's surprise hit zombie series The Walking Dead is now in its 71st issue. Some people have labelled it the zombie story Romero should have filmed! So being a massive zombie and Romero fan I found it difficult to swallow such a weighty statement; but even if I choked slightly - someone in Romero’s camp (if not himself) obviously liked The Walking Dead enough to get illustrator Adlard (Volume 6 onwards) to design an alternate poster to the latest Romero offering ‘Survival of The Dead.’
“In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living." This is the moniker that frames the series as with the Romero films The Walking Dead is obsessed with survival and human behaviour; magnifying how people act when the boundaries of society have fallen apart.
Throughout the series Kirkman probes the human condition, playfully dissecting our most basic of instincts and feral of emotions.
Ok so this all sounds incredibly worthy and a bit pretentious and in many ways it is, but in other ways The Walking Dead is nothing more than a well drawn soap opera with zombies – which surprisingly manages to counteract the ‘primal man, eat, kill, survive’ style messages.
Kirkman said he planned to use the open-endedness of a comic series to document the struggles and growth of a band of survivors over a long period of time, and so far that has proved to be the case. I admit that the opening volume is a little slow going, and there is precious little character development on offer. In fact the lead Rick Grimes (bland cop) his wife Lori and brattish son Carl are not free from cliché nor is the situation with friend/love rival Shane unpredictable. All the women have male protectors confirming stale gender stereotypes but without giving the plot away, you end up forgiving the cardboard cut out style survivors about halfway through when events start to get more interesting. Certainly in later volumes the dynamics shift and change, plus there are enough small twists to keep you wanting to read more. In Volume 1 there are also nice touches such as the revelation that zombies differentiate between each other through their sense of smell.
Tony Moore’s black and white illustrations are well drawn and have a pretty unique style – or at least where the undead is concerned anyway. Kirkman’s story writing is not mentally taxing or difficult to predict, but buried under the social commentary is a very believable set of characters that by the end of volume 1 you not only empathise with, but you actually want to survive. Kirkman’s dialogue can be a bit simplistic but is just enough to bring the characters to life, which I appreciate is hard to do without the pressure and plot momentum that a zombie movie usually relies on.
The thing The Walking Dead does particularly well is to capture the essence and the true tradition of apocalyptic bad future films, i.e. the growing sense of hopelessness and despair. No matter how badly you want the travelling group of survivors to beat their demons and win the long fight against the zed heads, you always have that nagging feeling that any minute something catastrophic will befall an individual or the group as a whole. Ultimately this is a war that cannot be won, nor is that the point of the series.
I admit that without being a zombie/horror fan I would have struggled to get through the first volume of this series, as it was I did …. and I was very glad I persevered. My overall recommendation to first time readers is be patient with this series and the rewards will outweigh any doubts/annoyances you will have suffered early on.
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