Thursday, August 13, 2009

Walking with the Dead

The Walking Dead #64
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Image Comics

Rating: 4 Stars

Halloween. Dawn of the Dead. The Shining. What do all these movies have in common? Sure, they are horror movies. But what makes these so loved and special? All three had an eerie sense of realism to them. Maybe you're saying, "Unstoppable killing machine, zombies and haunted hotels don't seem all that real to me." You're probably right about that, but these movies all have something a little more underlying than just those fantasy elements.

For Halloween, the unstoppable killing machine is nothing more than a man-child with deep rooted mental issues. Though made in the late 70's, how often have we seen the same homicidal issues in kids over the past 15 or 20 years? In Dawn of the Dead, the story revolves around the actions of survivors trying to stay safe and alive while the world around them falls apart. Child abuse and insanity brought on by cabin fever is the driving force of the horror in The Shining.

Robert Kirkman touches on the same things that Carpenter, Romero and King/Kubrick did for the movies listed above in his series The Walking Dead. This is a series about people trying to survive a zombie epidemic while trying to keep themselves from tearing each other apart in tense issue after tense issue. They've manage to survive the shit hitting the fan and killing a lot of the earlier supporting cast, a crazed "governor" of another camp of survivors attacking them to take over a prison where the cast has kept themselves safe, and inner conflict that caused so many to blame the deaths of loved ones on each other.

In the current story arc, "Fear the Hunters", there's another group of survivors that are watching them and waiting to make their move. When they do, a beloved supporting character from the earliest issues finds his own leg on the menu for these crazed, yet eerily charasmatic, "hunters". Even more heartbreaking, but gratifying, we find out that he has been bitten by a zombie prior to his capture. His meat is more tainted than mad cows.

The Walking Dead nearly single handedly brought back horror in comics and made Robert Kirkman an overnight A-list writer. Like it or not, we wouldn't have the very entertaining Marvel Zombies or even Blackest Night without The Walking Dead. This is a very engrossing read. Each and every character of the main group, lead by former cop Rick Grimes, is someone you can relate to and care about. When they feel angst or dread, you can feel it too. And when they finally meet their end, you can't help but feel it in your heart.

Now, for a disclaimer... If you only want to see rampaging zombies eating people in an Uwe Boll manner, without much regard for the characters (none of these characters being particularly large breasted or slutty), then you may not be able to grasp this series. There are far more pages and issues of the survivors interacting than there are of rampaging zombies. If you are bored by character exposition and dialog, don't bother trying to get why this series rocks serious ass.

As a side note, it has just been announced that The Walking Dead will be turned into a television series on AMC. I can only hope that the series developer Frank Darabont (director of The Shawshank Redemption) can bring the same levity to the series as Kirkman has. I also hope the series finds a wide fan base.

If you've yet to start checking this series out, the trades for the earlier issues are easy to find and not terribly expensive (I think all of them are still under $15 at your local comic shop and probably cheaper on Amazon or eBay).

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