Justin's Reviews > The Walking Dead, Vol. 07: The Calm Before

The Walking Dead, Vol. 07 by Robert Kirkman
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Aug 29, 12

bookshelves: graphic-novels, zombies, tv-movie
Read from August 17 to 28, 2012

What a relief.

Seriously, after the parade of dumb that was This Sorrowful Life, I was fairly close to giving up on the series entirely. Considering how many more volumes there are, I wasn't willing to waste my time and money if the comic continued down that trajectory. Thankfully, this one returns to the quality of the earlier volumes, story-wise, and actually does a few things better.

After engineering a stalemate with the nearby Woodbury survivors, Rick and company dig further into their prison sanctuary and try to create something resembling a normal life. The due date for Lori's baby rapidly approaches, which gets some others in the prison thinking about starting a family while they still can. Supplies are found and preserved, the fences are patched and guarded, and things begin to settle down, just a little. However, the stillness allows our heroes time to finally experience the anger, jealousy, and despair that they've had to bottle up until now in order to survive. If that wasn't bad enough, they may come to learn that their stalemate with Woodbury isn't as ironclad as they had hoped.

Adlard's art remains consistent and visceral. I don't know if I've mentioned this in previous reviews of the series, but I really like that the main art is rendered in stark blacks and whites. I've lately been delving into a lot of comics with panels vividly colored by computer, and the return to to Adlard's style is striking by comparison. It prevents the gore from going over the top, and reinforces the drama by keeping distractions from the characters themselves to a minimum. Also, it's a nice callback to Night of the Living Dead, which I recently rewatched.

To my surprise and gratitude, Kirkman has backed down a bit on a few of the most grating character and story arcs. Lori is no longer a screeching, shrewish caricature of a hormonal pregnant woman, and for the first time starts to look and sound like an actual character. Andrea reverses course from the Submissive Female Sidekick #4 role, and acts like a strong protagonist again. There's a bit of a break from Rick's melodramatic he-man bullcrap, which was long overdue (and nicely capped off with a metaphorical scene where he finally gets to shave). Some long foreshadowed developments finally occur, along with one surprise that promises an interesting psychological change in one of the major characters. And, yes, just when you start to forget that this is a zombie story... GRAAHR ZOMBIE ATTACK.

One particular element of the story (Alice's ambition and methodology for further studying the zombies) is something any fan of the genre will recognize, and easily predict what it portends. However, it felt more like a homage than a trope.

The Calm Before is an appropriate name for this volume, because it is rather slow and light on action compared to the previous books. It's by no means boring, though. Indeed, of the volumes I've read so far, this one comes the closest to doing what Kirkman set out to do: tell a zombie apocalypse story that's less about the apocalypse itself, and more about the people who are left.
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