Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Walking Read

In October of 2003 a black and white comic book with a small print run called The Walking Dead was published by Image Comics. The writer, Robert Kirkman, had a simple idea behind the series: he wanted to know what happened to the survivors of a zombie movie after the movie was over. The series quickly became a hit, and it is currently up to issue #66.

The story follows a small band of survivors of a zombie apocalypse. The group, led by police officer Rick Grimes, transform from scared victims to hardened survivalists to brutalized victims again and again. The horror element of the zombies, as present as it is in the story, is just a backdrop for the human drama that is all too real. We see that the scariest monster of them all is humanity unhindered by conventional morality or societal consequences. It is NOT a kid’s comic book—it is dark and humorless and deeply moving at times.

I’ve been reading The Walking Dead since the summer of 2005 when I picked up volume 1 of the collected series on sale. Since that time I have read 9 volumes of the books, usually picking them up as soon as they were published. The latest volume, volume 10, came in the mail Saturday. I was not prepared.

Volume 10 is hardcore. It is NOT for the weak-willed. There has been some rough stuff in the book up until this point, but this one is as bleak as the book has ever been. The survivors have been trimmed down to a skeletal shadow of their former group. They are weak, scared, and ultimately abandoned in a world of danger. While the wicked human element is still a forceful presence, it takes a back seat this time to the undead. Kirkman reminds us very suddenly why we fear death. When the big event in the book happens you’ll gasp. I know I did. It takes a good bit for me to get worked up over a comic book, but this one did it. I have been waiting since day one of this book for the zombies to make their debut as the true monsters of the book, and boy do they do it in this volume.

I hope I’m being cryptic enough to not give anything specific away. The Walking Dead is the kind of book you love to share. It’s a great book that demands you read it all at once—no stopping with this one! Once you start reading a volume, you have to read it until the end. One part of the fun of sharing the book with others is not spoiling any surprises for them. That’s one of the main reasons I don’t have any links in this blog to information about the series—almost every source reveals too much to potential readers who are coming to this fresh.

If you think the book would be your kind of thing, I suggest checking out at least volume 1. You can find it at a great price here:

The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone By (Paperback) at Overstock.com

It’s only $7.94 there and shipping costs $1.00. That’s 9 bucks for a collection of 6 issues of an awesome series you won’t regret reading if you dig gritty horror and extremes of human drama. It’s not for the squeamish, and it’s not for kids, but it’s great for adults who appreciate a good scare!

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