I’ve been aware for several years that zombie shows like The Walking Dead are available for viewing, but I have not once been enticed to watch or read anything zombie related, until now. In the past, whenever I have had the misfortune of viewing a zombie show, it has always had the same tedious structure: characters are introduced, followed by little to no character development, then characters die and nobody cares because we didn’t know the characters well enough to bond with them in the first place. The Walking Dead is the first zombie show which I have shown an interest in and it isn’t because of the TV series. Nope – to this day I still haven’t watched that. Surprisingly, what gripped me was the incredible stories in The Walking Dead game series which I have watched being played by numerous YouTubers, including Jackspedicey (:-) ) and GLOCO (Check this guy out – he’s hilarious !) It was by watching the gameplay that I realised how character and plot driven The Walking Dead really is. This is exactly what has been missing from the God awful zombie shows I have seen in the past, and it is the reason why I chose to give the comic books a go.
I purchased The Walking Dead Compendium volume 1, which contains the comics #1-48. The first 6 comics make up the first chapter of the book, which is titled “Days Gone Bye”. This review is on this chapter.
The chapter begins by showing us how Rick Grimes, the lead of the story, ends up in a coma in a derelict hospital a few months later. It’s also the first time we are introduced to Shane, Rick’s friend and fellow police officer. Once Rick is awake, he is left discovering the horrors of the changed world on his own – there simply isn’t anyone left living near him. Poor guy. The story begins somewhat slow and, admittedly, I didn’t find myself gripped by it for a long time. I think that’s because, in the beginning, there is little to no human interaction between Rick and others and that makes it hard to bond with Rick, purely because there is no real opportunity to disclose information about our lead man, which could help us empathise with him. Eventually, we see Rick’s personality by how he communicates with a man and his son. We know now that Rick is a good guy … still not gripped by the story yet though. Then we see Rick start to make his way to where his wife and son are likely to be and he manages to find a horse to take him there … still not gripped and starting to get bored. Soon Rick and horsey find themselves at the correct location only to have a group of the walking dead surround them … horsey dies – and now I’m gripped. Yes, like many people in the world, I am taken by the death of animals more than adult people. Strange how that works.
So now I have finally perked up to the story and am not willing to let it go just yet, even though it takes a little while longer still for me to start empathising with the characters. This is because Rick eventually finds his wife and child, but we are also introduced to a group of characters whom we now have to memorise and get used to; and, naturally, in order to maintain the flow of the story, the writers can’t disclose all the facts for the characters in one big dollop just to get the reader to start caring for them. The character introductions happen slowly and it’s only nearing the end of the chapter that I really feel myself investing in the story and characters. A good thing too, because we end up with a couple of deaths which would otherwise have not been missed. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the first chapter (volume 1, if you buy it separately from the compendium volume), takes a while to become interesting, but that’s to be expected for a story that develops organically, rather than being forced to develop. The slow build-up to what is a super ending is necessary in order to introduce the characters and context without the story feeling overburdened. It is also this build-up which allows the ending to have the impact which I think the writer and artist intended.
I think what has gripped me in this first volume the most is the way the characters are already beginning to change. They are living in a world where children have to learn to defend themselves and there’s more than one occasion where a child saves an adult in this volume. It’s very sad to think about, because that’s not the kind of burden that a normal person would want to place on a child; but this is a very realistic expectation in a world facing a zombie apocalypse. My conclusion, therefore, is that, so far, this comic is worth reading and that if, like me, you find yourself a little bored in the beginning, don’t worry, because the story will pick up.