Robert Kirkman said he wanted to ‘explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events change them’, in his introduction to volume 1 of ‘The Walking Dead’ series: ‘Days Gone Bye’. I think he achieves that aim quite nicely with this comic. Ignoring the fact it has an awful pun for a title, I think this volume is a beautiful example of the art of comic writing and I am proud for it to be my first branch into the genre.
The first striking thing about The Waking Dead is its lack of colour. Not only does this set the scene for the horror genre, it also gives a satisfying step away from the bright, bold KAPOW-type comic form of Marvel or DC. Whilst the comic could have potentially gained from some moody greens and browns, the black and white format sets a tone to match the dark storyline. The pictures themselves are intricately designed (by Tony Moore) and they show a lot of detail: especially in the mass-zombie images and the facial expressions. One negative that could be pointed out here, is how it’s fairly difficult to keep track on the passage of time in some scenes. There are some fantastic night-scenes that are drawn in a darker shade, but aside from this (unless mentioned in the storyline), it can be difficult to tell if something took an hour or six hours, or if events occur on different days or on the same day. This, however, may be intentional… but I think if intentionally used, it doesn’t work as well as it might have sounded in the board meeting.
The second most striking thing about this comic lies at the heart of Kirkman’s intentions: the characters. Character development and group relationships are the keys to this narrative and they’re effectively portrayed. While we don’t get to find out much about the history of the people we meet, we are quickly thrust into the group and we feel their tensions. The jealous friend, the mother who feels her control is slipping, the mysteriously reserved one, the innocent children and the girl group: just some of the collection of characters that make up Kirkman’s social web. While the social interactions we see are effective, we don’t get to see much about the individuals’ lives before the crisis. If the focus was to see how people change, it might be nice if we knew who the people were to begin with. It must be difficult to portray so many characters individually in a short space of time, but some characters just don’t have enough conflict: making them one dimensional. Presumably they’re developed more in this way as the series continues.
The story itself is good, with variations between scenes of social interaction and scenes of action. There are enough lively scenes there to keep you entertained while the less action-packed details are span. The general ending is fairly simple, as the narrative is heavily pointing in that direction, but there is a pleasant twist which makes up for predictability. The overall horror doesn’t really bring a scare, its more centralised on the people and plot than the ‘horrific zombies’: and rightly so. To try and create a truly scary zombie would be a risky strategy as, on the whole, zombies aren’t all that terrifying. The most effective zombie films/comics either have adapted ‘the zombie’ to make it scary, or followed ‘The Walking Dead’s’ route of focusing on how people react under pressure. This decision was made well and has helped make an entertaining, woven tapestry that is highly recommended.