Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artists: Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore, Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Image Comics
Review by: Bill Jones
With The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman and his artist company don’t reinvent the zombie apocalypse saga. Kirkman is still mostly playing by the tried-and-true rules of zombies in the footsteps of films by George A. Romero, but he doesn’t need to turn the concept on its head to make it work. The blurb on the back cover of Compendium One (comprising issues #1-48) is the first indication that Kirkman knows exactly what a zombie story is all about.
“In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.”
Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is not really about the zombies. Rest assured, zombies are there in full force, with gory artwork highlighting every vicious attack they carry out. But it is not the zombies we, as readers, care about; it is the people who are still alive. The zombies are merely a catalyst for a story about survival.
Certain characters ask at times, why the zombies became that way and why no one seems to care about their motivations, but most of the other characters, much like the readers, simply don’t care. They are concerned with their own well-being in a world without government, new products, protection, television or, as things gets worse, a structure for society.
Kirkman does not provide an origin for the zombie apocalypse; we just find out it happened when Rick, the small-town cop who the story is focused on, wakes up from a coma in a hospital abandoned by the living. The first few pages are sheer confusion for Rick, who finds the hospital seemingly abandoned…until he is attacked by mutated beings. He has no idea what they are, but in the interest of staying alive, gets the hell away from them.
It isn’t long before Rick meets other survivors, and the story unfolds naturally from there, with Rick heading to Atlanta in search of his family, only to find out how bad things really are. As the story unfolds, characters are faced not only with a never-ending onslaught of walking dead, but the stress that such a life creates, and conflicts not only with the friends making camp together, but other survivors looking to ensure their own safety at any cost. One of the major questions raised throughout the compendium is what rules apply and no longer do in such a situation, and how characters resolve their differences of opinion on such questions.
“You kill, you die,” Rick tells his companions early on of the punishment for killing another human, but it isn’t long before Rick himself, a man formerly charged with upholding law as a profession, is faced with the question of how relevant such a creed is when it means the survival of his family.
The Compendium is a great way for newcomers to get up to speed on the stellar series, as it not only collects 48 issues, but concludes a major arc in the series with an incredibly shocking ending. It should also make for an interesting way to read for old fans, too. As an ongoing story, it is nice to read a large portion through in one shot, and it is also fascinating to see Kirkman’s pacing. It can be quite sporadic at times, lingering on certain points only to skip forward two weeks by the next page, but it works as a sort of “no filler” approach to comics writing. In the scheme of things, readers somehow still get a good idea of the day-to-day lives of the survivors, while never experiencing a dull moment. Though a few unnecessary sub-arcs feel like a bit too much, it doesn’t kill the deal by a long shot.
The Compendium is also interesting, because it puts the black-and-white art of Tony Moore, who drew the first chapter, and Charlie Adlard, who drew the other seven compiled in the book, side by side. Moore’s lines are noticeably heavier, with very full images shaded with a slick, glossy look and overly realistic facial expressions. Adlard’s style is less defined, with thin lines and grey shadings by Cliff Rathburn, and it works well in its own right. The subtle take on expressions makes for more realistic characters in the dire circumstances, and Adlard still packs a major punch with the full-page panels used for dramatic effect in big scenes.
As a final note, Compendium One also includes a short story about a father and son Rick encounters in the first chapter of The Walking Dead. The story was originally published for the Image Comics Holiday Special in 2005, and features a touching Christmas tale in the midst of the apocalypse.
Fans of Kirkman, zombies and/or truly moving comics should not hesitate to pick up The Walking Dead: Compendium One. It may not offer much other than a new way to read for old fans, but for newcomers it is a great way to get caught up on the horror. Kirkman’s action is relentless and his intelligent tale always keeps readers thinking. He also has a knack for making readers care about his characters, love or hate them…and then twisting those emotions violently without it feeling like a cheap stunt for a reaction. The Walking Dead one of the best zombie comics series ever written and drawn.
For more info, www.imagecomics.com