Zombies are practically omnipresent in pop culture media—whether it be movies, video games or even Jane Austen novels. They’re certainly bordering on extreme overuse, leaving us with a stagnant pool of repetitive zombie media that gets boiled down to slaughter-fest. “Oh no, zombies! Kill them all!” And as long as there’s an electric guitar weapon, it’s thought cool.
In this age of dull, banal zombie obsession, ongoing comic series “The Walking Dead” has livened up the undead genre. Written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlerd, the series has most recently won an Eisner award for continued excellence (the most prestigious of the genre).
The series features the story of Rick Grimes, who wakes up from a gunshot-wound-induced coma to find himself in a deserted hospital with no recollection of the past several months. As he regains his bearings, he discovers that his town is deserted and the dead walk the earth. While this method of introduction has been used time and again in the genre, it works very well considering the direction the rest of the story takes. Rick sets off in search of his wife and young son, whom he eventually finds with a small cluster of other survivors. The rest of the series revolves around this group of people and their struggle for survival in the deathtrap the world has become.
This series is gruesome. Violence is seldom left to imagination. The artwork, beautifully done in black and white, is gritty and detailed, which coincides with the series’ bleak subject matter. The first six issues are drawn by Moore and the rest of the series is done by Adlerd. This transition could be a bit jarring, but I honestly didn’t notice in my first read-through because I was so enthralled by the story.
One of the main aspects of this series that makes it stand out is that it focuses acutely on its characters, which are positively normal in every way. This would seem like a downside, but it actually gives them a sense of realism. The intimacy in which we get to know each of them makes it impossible not to get attached to these otherwise lackluster characters.
Unlike almost every other zombie tales this series does not spend much time on the zombies themselves, but instead makes them a part of the environment—another constant threat on top of the instability of a world without law enforcement, services, consistent food sources, or government. The monsters of the series turn out to be not the putrid corpses that feast on human flesh, but the people that are left on this ruinous world.
Kirkman explores what might happen to peoples’ minds in a world where they are endlessly pursued by zombies and forced to do absolutely everything it takes to stay alive, even at the expense of others. The characters struggle with this altered morality and try to cope with the fact that there will be no rescue as they strive to preserve whatever is left of their civility. All of the characters are vulnerable, even the main ones. No one is safe from death, insanity, or something much worse.
If you only have enough time to invest in one comic series, make it this one. It’s a must-read and more than worth your time.