Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Walking Dead, Issues 1-18


What Is It?: The Walking Dead Volume One (TPB, Collects Issues 1-6)

Timing: It's the first thing in "The Walking Dead timeline.

REVIEW (and Art): I'm not really "into" zombie-flicks. I would watch one and likely enjoy it, but I never had the need to go out and watch a zombie movie. What attracted me to this book was the author's note in the beginning pages. He referred to this comic series as a "character driven" tale that will span years and "sprawling epic." To a fan of Joss Whedon, J. K. Rowling, Brian K. Vaughan, and Stephen King, those are the key phrases. I bought it.

The first quarter of the book was entertaining, but I wasn't sold. There were some great moments (Rick going back to put a zombie out of its misery, for instance), but I was very put off by the unique paneling of the book. The panels have very dark edges and are often very spaced out. It, at first, killed the flow of the story and made me feel like I was just looking at some pictures taped onto a page.

However, when Rick made it to the campsite and met all the other survivors, the strange paneling was the last thing on my mind. The story almost instantly became captivating once our protagonist started to interact with others, all of whom are reacting very differently to the world overrun by zombies. This is a very serious story and is indeed "character driven" and will surely end up being a "sprawling epic" as many of the catastrophic events in this book will have repercussions down the line.

Rating: 8/10


What Is It?: The Walking Dead Volume Two (TPB, Collects Issues 7-12)

Timing: Directly following "The Walking Dead Volume One" TPB.

REVIEW (and Art): My review for the first volume of "The Walking Dead" was pretty much glowing. The review was even titled "A Character Driven, Sprawling Epic." That's pretty much a stamp of approval. The writing which ranged from bland to good to exceptional was balanced out by Tony Moore's art, which really gave life to Kirkman's characters.

Well, Moore is no longer the series artist, starting with this volume. He still does the covers, but the new penciller for each issue of "The Walking Dead" is Charlie Adlard, and to compare his art to Moore's is like comparing the scrawlings of an elementary level child to the prose of a published author. Adlard isn't horrible, but his panels are often ugly. The action scenes fall flat because the details blend together, leaving you guessing at what is going on some of the time. A lot of the characters are drawn to look quite similar, and it leaves you forgetting who is who.

Another bad thing about losing Moore was that Charlie Adlard's art isn't good enough to mask the flaws in Robert Kirkman's writing. As far as where Kirkman is taking the story and the plots he has going on, he's doing a fine job. However, he is pretty bad at dialogue. Every character speaks the same, and no one ever seems to be casual. To keep this exposition-heavy prose "light," he throws in words like "ain't" and "man" a lot, but that isn't enough to make these forced words seem like a person would really speak them. He needs to work on giving each character a voice. Also, he needs to tone down the sexism a tad. A few of the reviewers noticed it in the first volume, but it wasn't quite as blatant as it is here. In this story, men do the tough work and women watch the children and nag the men. That needs to change. Fast.

I was convinced I was reading a great story after volume one, but now I'm less sure. I'll probably keep reading until the end (if there ever is an end), but I'm hoping that things get a lot better than this. And yeah, I really wouldn't mind a new penciller.

Rating: 6/10


What Is It?: The Walking Dead Volume Three (TPB, Collects Issues 13-18)

Timing: Directly following "The Walking Dead Volume Two" TPB.

REVIEW (and Art): Story gets more interesting. Art stays bad. Sexism gets worse.

The more morally grey something is, the more interesting it is to me. Hell, my favorite season of Angel is the fifth, when he becomes the CEO of the evil company he'd been fighting for the previous four seasons. I love seeing characters in a bad situation, forced to develop and do things that will up the drama-ante and push them in ambiguous directions. It's just plain interesting.

So I'm glad Kirkman filled this third volume to the top with moral ambiguity, because the whole idea is really seeing how these characters deal with a world taken over by the dead. The problem is, as I stated in the last issue, the characters aren't really distinguishable from each other. Rick develops nicely and so does Tyreese, but everyone else seems like cardboard cutouts. That, plus every time they open their mouths, they become exposition machines. The dialogue in this sucks. There is absolutely no way around that. Unlike the mediocre second volume, the story makes up for it a little, but it still leaves me a bit dry.

And there are also much worse problems. For one, the art--no long Moore, who illustrated Volume One which was the only really GOOD volume so far--is not getting much better than what we saw in Volume Two, which--to say the least--wasn't so good. But that doesn't even register when you compare it to the NEXT problem:

I just can't get over the overt sexism in this comic, and how it seems to be getting worse and worse with every issue. The character Andrea, who is known as the best shooter of the entire gang, has to convince the men to let her come along to kill zombies. They agree, but she is only allowed to get the ones they don't kill. Rick's wife Lori is pregnant, so every time she offers up a complaint--despite its validity--the characters blame it on hormones. Similarly, when Lori is arguing with Rick and calls him on trying to act like a patriarch, he tells her to "Shut the FUCK up!" Of course, no one comes to her defense, because in the world Robert Kirkman has created, women are submissive to men. It brings my enjoyment of this series down considerably, and I'm getting to the point where I'm not sure if I'll continue with this book or not, no matter how good the story gets, if it even does get better.

Rating: 5/10



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