Friday, 3 August 2007

‘The Walking Dead’ (Robert Kirkman) – Volumes 2-4

'Miles Behind Us' (Volume 2)
What’s the first thing you do after escaping a city filled with zombies and watching your little boy gun down the man who was sleeping with your wife? You pack everyone in your group into a camper van and set about trying to find somewhere (zombie free!) where you can settle down and wait things out. You pick up more travellers on the way and the unwritten laws of the horror genre start to come into play; the woman with the largest mouth will always be one of the first to die and teenagers will always be having sex when zombies attack!
Kirkman moves the action out into the countryside, builds up our hopes (for our band of travellers) and then takes them all away again. In this frightening new world a walled housing estate isn’t as safe as it seems and there is more to an isolated farm than at first meets the eye. Kirkman shows the reader, in no uncertain terms, that the problem is now widespread and will not be going away. Human reactions ranging from numb denial to grudging acceptance are shown along with their consequences. Can our survivors find safety anywhere? The answer may be just over the next hilltop… (Eight out of Ten)

'Safety Behind Bars' (Volume 3)
Prisons used to keep the dangerous people locked up but now the chain link fences of a prison may be the group’s only chance at living in safety. Or are they? Kirkman stays true to one of the zombie genre’s oldest tenets, ‘a zombie is only a mindless hungry corpse, it is humans that have the true capacity for evil’. Once the zombies have been cleared out of the jail, Kirkman finally has time to show us more of the motivations of each character. There is poignancy, frustration and rage. There are also misunderstandings that will have ramifications far into future episodes. We also learn that you don’t have to be bitten to become a zombie…
This is perhaps my favourite volume so far. The counterpoint of human drama, within the prison, and the ever increasing number of zombies outside makes for some tense moments which make you wonder if there is ultimately any point to what they are doing. Only time will tell… (Ten out of Ten)

'The Heart's Desire' (Volume 4)
The cliff-hanger from Volume 3 comes to a bloody conclusion that leaves the reader in no doubt as to what you must do to survive in this post apocalyptic world. Unfortunately, others are not so quick to catch on and this results in a falling out between friends that is almost apocalyptic in itself. Kirkman shakes things up by introducing an enigmatic new character who almost immediately sends established characters spiralling off in new directions. A radical approach to saving someone from zombie infection is hard hitting, graphic and will leave the reader gasping. Kirkman also has the knack of not letting things stagnate and always seems to be able to throw in a tricky situation to keep the impetus fresh. Rick’s speech, right at the end, is a real classic moment in the series and I’m looking forward to catching up and seeing what this means for everyone else… (Nine out of Ten)

In a genre that, at first sight, seems to overcrowded with superheroes (and moneymaking exercises… sorry, I meant superhero crossovers), the ‘Walking Dead’ is a little treasure chest hidden amongst the morass. A sometimes harrowing read that is ultimately rewarding.

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