Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye
I fear only two things in this world. One
of them is clowns, because all clowns are actually serial
killers just waiting for one more child to throw cake at
them before they unleash a grease painted rampage of murder
other is zombies…because the f*****s don’t die.
monster concept or silver screen nightmare has ever left
as black a mark on my soul as seeing the dead rise from
their graves and eat the living. Unending waves of rotting
corpses chase me in my nightmares, and it is for this reason
that I can almost never enjoy a straight-up zombie flick.
I mean sure, I can handle watching 28
Days Later, a great movie with pseudo-zombie concepts
but more about the lives of the main characters, but I can
never watch Dawn
of the Dead.
thought that I would willingly pick up Robert Kirkman and
Tony Moore’s The Walking Dead, but when I
saw it on the shelf, I knew it was time to face my fear.
Bravery apparently pays off, because not only did I find
a spectacular graphic novel, but I’ve also come to
some startling conclusions about our good Mr. Kirkman.
The concept for the book is not new: Rick
Grimes wakes from a coma in a hospital, only to find that
the hospital, the town, and seemingly everywhere else is
overrun with the titular walking dead. Escaping from the
hospital, he seeks to find his family but finds his house
deserted. After discovering that some survivors were headed
for the nearest major cities (Atlanta in Rick’s case),
he heads out in search of his family.
look at Kirkman’s writing skills, I realize that he’s
exceptionally diverse. Tales of the Realm was an
oft-amusing send-up of fantasy comics, while still being
inventive in the way the modern and fantasy realms were
blended so well. Brit is Kirkman’s answer
to the ultra-violence craze that began well with The
Authority, and petered out with, well, The Authority
vol. 2. Invincible
is a superhero book about families, and not less than excellent
in terms of what a superhero comic can be. The man writes
often, but unlike Chuck Austen or Ben Raab, he does it well.
Kirkman is like Kurt Busiek in that respect; one could imagine
him going from writing Astro City to Arrowsmith
to Conan and back again with nary a line of wasted
dialogue or scene poised intelligence.
cross genres with no problem, and make the conventional
or mundane, at the very least readable, at the most exceptional.
Such is the case in Walking Dead, as Kirkman takes
a book about death and carnage, and turns it into a book
more concerned with life and the human spirit than I thought
possible of a book about zombies. In the introduction, Kirkman
himself states his desire to not make this a book about
zombies, but a book about Rick Grimes. He wants to see the
character develop, change, and try to find a way in this
new and frightening world.
He accomplishes this rather well and through
good characterization. The first chapter introduces Rick
to the audience not only as a rat caught in a zombie-laden
maze, but a man trying to deal with the world around him.
When he encounters a zombie or “thing” as they
are referred to as in-text, that has been lying in the road,
desiccated and moaning, he can’t help but look on
in horror, but also shed some tears. We are shown that Rick
both fears the walking dead that surround him, but also
knows what they once were: namely, human beings, and he
cries for them. He cries for the loss of his world, and
while this may not seem like such a revelation, the fact
that Kirkman, with ample amounts of help from Tony Moore,
conveys all this with no dialogue is heavily admirable.
When Rick finally reaches a settlement,
Kirkman continues the great characterization and storytelling,
making every character as human as possible, which is hard
to do with a cast of over ten. The character of Jim, a survivor
that had maybe the most traumatic experience escaping from
the hordes of the dead, is written subtly and with a quiet,
muted demeanor that fits his backstory perfectly. Andrea
and Amy are the cheerful and optimistic (former) college
students, and Kirkman knows to make the ages of the characters
matter. Older survivors look at the world slightly different
from younger survivors. Characters with children have different
concerns than those without. Kirkman recognizes that these
characters are all different, and have different perspectives
on their situation. He let’s these perspectives shine
through the character in their dialogue and actions, making
each character seem more of a product of real life than
of some writer’s imagination. This is a story about
characters who live, feel pain, loss, love, and do not simply
respond to action, and the vitality of the characters is
made all the more apparent when contrasted against the backdrop
of a world of “living” death. Oddly enough,
the back cover teaser says it far better than I ever could:
“In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally
The artwork by Tony Moore is the reason
there should be black and white art. Not even counting Tony’s
deft hand at character design, facial expression, panel
perspectives, background and foreground detail, and pacing,
Moore is a god at gray shading. Granted, while inkers are
a valuable to every comic, gray tones are what really makes
a black and white comic completely top shelf. Moore gives
everything in this world a tangible quality, as he uses
gray tones to give texture to almost ever object. Every
scrap of cloth, every blade of grass, every rotting corpse
looks good enough to touch (or run away screaming from,
as I thought of doing several times…damn zombies).
Moore, with help from Cliff Rathburn on the shading, lends
a high level of realism to his art to compliment Kirkman’s
humanistic story, without stooping to photo-realistic art
techniques. These two creators blend their works together
invariably well and the product is a great comic.
comic will continue as long as Kirkman and Image comics
decide to publish it, because I cannot imagine anyone who
reads this trade not wanting to go out and buy issues (which
has to start happening more often or more good books will
be cancelled. Just look at Runaways).
And the best part: it’s $9.95! Ten freaking bucks.
Go out and buy this. I swear the nightmares stop after a
few weeks…with enough valium.