Justin's Reviews > The Walking Dead, Vol. 01: Days Gone Bye

The Walking Dead, Vol. 01 by Robert Kirkman
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Nov 02, 10

bookshelves: zombies, horror, graphic-novels
Read from November 01 to 02, 2010

As usual, my laziness puts me far behind the curve. I watched these graphic novels go on and off the shelves at my library, and put off reading them until AMC made a TV series out of it. Really, there's no earthly reason I shouldn't have read a comic about zombies by now, so I'm a little ashamed it took watching and loving the pilot of the filmed version to make me pick it up. And since I don't have the patience to follow a monthly comic anymore, I'm glad there are a pile of collected issue graphic novels for me to catch up on.

I tore through the first trade paper volume (issues #1-6) in record time. Police officer Rick Grimes is injured during a violent traffic stop, and wakes from a coma weeks later to a ravaged, deserted hospital. The zombie apocalypse has come while he slept, and through a combination of canniness and sheer luck, he crosses paths with a small group of other survivors on the outskirts of Atlanta, dodging the ravenous undead and trying to figure out what to do next.

This volume is generally focused on introducing the reader to the cast, the setting, and the interpersonal dramas to come. I happily lapped it all up, because come on, guys, it's fucking zombies. That being said, this isn't quite the tour de force I've been led to believe. Well, not yet, anyway. The characters are a bit stereotypical, in the way that the characters at the beginning of most zombie stories are. And the dialogue veers hard into melodramatic territory, as most comic book dialogue does. I think the only reason this bugs me is because I was hoping for an esoteric, literate type of graphic novel narrative, which isn't really in place yet. However, Kirkman's somewhat pompous introduction indicates that he wants the series to go past the typical zombie movie time frame, and really get into how the characters cope after getting through the initial crisis. That gives me hope, and puts the rather mediocre beginning in perspective. Plus, I don't know if I mentioned this, but it's fucking zombies. The Walking Dead certainly doesn't lack for action, so even if the story doesn't immediately improve, I'll be hooked for at least a few more volumes.

There is lot of homage to the zombie genre throughout the volume. The stark, black-and-white art is well done, and effectively puts the characters front and center instead of distracting with bright gore and detailed shock and awe... the horror here is more Romero then Roth. And yes, some of the homage tends toward the derivative, including a few scenes taken right out of other zombie tales. To read some other reviews, you'd think that was a SHOCKING AND APPALLING development. Hey, spoiler alert: this book has dead people that chase and eat the living! You can stop them by destroying the brain! Also, the survivors are so stressed and scared that their inability to work together is as big a threat as the zombies! I don't know, it seems to me that if you pick up a book called "The Walking Dead" and are surprised when you discover that it has familiar zombie tropes in it, the problem might be with you, not the book.

So, I'm intrigued. I haven't seriously read graphic novels for a bit, now, but The Walking Dead is good enough to drag me back in for a while. My only regret is that it's spoiling the equally awesome AMC series (so far, anyway) for me.
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