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Walking Dead Comic Book Vol. 1 and 2
Reviewed by Smurfley Kerr, © 2012

Format: Comics
By:   Robert Kirkman
Genre:   Zombies!
Review Date:   March 07, 2012

"L -- Leave me. When I come back . . . Maybe I'll find -- find my family . . . . . . Maybe they c -- came back too. Maybe we can be together again."

Days Gone Bye

This book collects issues 1 -- 6 of the series and the story provides the basis for the first TV season. It was written by Robert Kirkman, who created the Marvel Zombies series and other books including Invincible and Battle Pope. The art was by Tony Moore who worked with Kirkman on Battle Pope and on the Vertigo series Exterminators.

Police officer Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma after being shot. He finds hordes of ravenous zombies in the hospital and he discovers that the world has gone to hell in his absence. He sets off to Atlanta determined to find his missing family.

This is a great character driven piece that concentrates on the survivors of a cataclysmic event and the trials they go through day to day. The genius of the work is the way that Kirkman can involve you so completely in the human drama that you almost relax and forget about the zombies until they reappear in horrific and usually fatal interludes.

The extremely violent episodes are fantastically drawn by Tony Moore with additional black and white artwork from Cliff Rathburn.

Spoilers ahead: For those who have seen the TV series but not read the books (or vice versa). I'm going to discuss the differences between the two. So stop reading now if you don't want to know.

This book covers up to about TV episode 5, after the attack in camp and the death of Andrea's sister but before they break camp and head out on the road. To expand the story into a six part series, the writers expanded on some situations in the comic and had time to explore them in more depth.

A good example is the death of Andrea's sister, which happens quickly in the comic but is given a much more dramatic interpretation in the TV series. New scenes written for the TV series include episode 4 with the ex-gang members protecting elderly people, and the final episode. The origin of the plague and the CDC don't appear in the comics as far as I have read.

The composition of the surviving group is different between the two media. The TV series has fewer children and a different selection of adults.

I was pleased that, for the most part, the TV series in season one portrayed a world in which no main characters were safe, as in the comics. But the second season seems to have shied away from that.

The major cast difference is the killing of Rick's deputy, Shane, at the end of this book. He survives into the second season in the TV series. I always felt it was an unexpected copout (given the dramatic opening of the series) not to show Shane's death.

Miles Behind Us

Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us continues the story begun in volume 1 and collects issues 7 -- 12 of the ongoing series. The story provides the basis for some of what we have seen, so far, in the second season. Again it's written by Robert Kirkman but this time the art was by Charlie Adlard whose work I know from a number of 2000AD series including Judge Dredd and Armitage.

The group decide to break camp in the wake of events at the end of book 1. Finding a gated community stocked with canned food, they think that their troubles are over for a while but have to run for their lives in the morning when they find that it is overrun with zombies.

While out hunting on a rest stop, Rick's son Carl is shot and taken to a remote farm house for treatment. While Carl is healing, the rest of the group arrive and make camp on the farm.

Rick again feels that they have struck it lucky until he finds out about the contents of the barn . . .

This is another great volume in the series. The drama is heightened in the wake of the killing at the end of book 1, as everyone in the group comes to terms with the deaths. A pattern is established of a period of respite, perceived safety and reflection amongst the group followed by explosive outbursts of violence as the zombies make their presence felt.

Spoilers ahead For those who have seen the TV series but not read the books (or vice versa) I am going to discuss differences between the two. So stop reading now if you don't want to know.

The first half of the book deals with the aftermath of the invasion of zombies into the camp, the shooting of Shane and breakup of the camp. On the road the travelers pick up three more survivors, who have yet to appear in the series, one of whom, Tyreese, soon becomes Rick's closest friend among the survivors. This further deepens the difference in the composition of the groups that we follow in the comic compared to the TV series.

Also in the first half of the book, they come across a gated housing community called Wiltshire Estates and narrowly escape from it as they find it infested with zombies. This is a standalone episode that could be inserted into the TV series at any time in the future.

It is replaced in the series with the disappearance of and search for Sophia.

The second half of the book deals with the shooting of Carl and the group's presence on Hershel's farm.

The big surprise to me is the pacing of this in the comic, having spent most of the first half of the second season in this location.

In the comic, the arrival, the revelation of the contents of the barn and the zombie barrel shoot is all done and dusted within 3 issues.

The pace is slowed down in the TV series to allow for even more character development than is possible in the comic.

The zombie massacre at the end of the book is handled very differently between the two media and it will be interesting to see where the TV series goes now in the aftermath, as there is a big change in the traveling group, as a result of events leading up to the massacre, in the comics.

Right at the end of the book, after being turfed off the farm by Hershel, they find a prison which they hope they can use as a place of safety.

But given their luck with safe havens so far is going to to be wishful thinking.

Check out the comic book behind the show right here.

Wesley Kerr reviews metric tonnes of comics at his RevSF blog, The Culture.

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