Comics Highlight: The Walking Dead (Part 1)

This highlight will feature the first eight volumes of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, how the story starts, how it progresses, similarities and differences between the comics and the television series, and will talk a bit about the artwork within the volumes. Volumes 1-8 are also collected as Compendium One (Issues 1-48).

Genre: Post-apocalyptic Fiction/Horror/Drama

Overall Rating: 4/5

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Individual Rating: 4/5

The first volume sets us up with Rick Grimes, a pre-apocalypse police officer. Waking up in a hospital after being shot on duty, Rick is confused at the lack of people. He doesn’t quite seem to get that those around him are all dead. He aims to find his family. He walks to his home and searches for his wife Lori and son Carl, but they are gone. He has hope that they are alive, since some pictures and other personal things are missing. Rick is then knocked unconscious by a boy named Duane and then taken in by the boy and his father, Morgan. They lay out the whole “It’s the apocalypse” thing for Rick and explain that most people headed to Atlanta. Rick thinks his family may be there and heads in that direction, but not before sharing some of the weapons from the police department with Morgan, who wishes to stay home. Rick eventually runs out of gas, but finds a horse and heads right into the heart of Atlanta, where he is swarmed by walkers! After being saved by pizza delivery boy, Glenn, Rick is reunited with Lori, Carl, and their friend Shane at the camp. Shane’s jealousy at Rick and Lori’s reunion causes a fatal incident in the group.

At first I thought the art was not so great and kind of dull, but when I re-read the series, I found myself really appreciating the artwork. It is in black and white, which is an interesting choice that helps reflect the post-apocalyptic world. While the men are done pretty well, the women and children are kind of drawn ugly (they get progressively better as the series continues). The show, of course, is based on the comic and differs a bit. With volume one we see that Daryl and Merle are made for the show only, and there are a lot of survivors at the camp that we do not see in the show. Also, the CDC adventure does not happen in the comic. SPOILERS: We also experience Shane’s death in the first volume (Issue #6) with a 7-year-old Carl shooting him when he threatens Rick’s life. Overall a very enjoyable read and has me itching to move onto the next one, even though it’s my second read-through!

 

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Individual Rating: 4/5

In this volume we learn about Lori’s affair with Shane and her new pregnancy. We also meet Tyreese and his Daughter Julie with her boyfriend Chris. They join the group just as the group comes across a seemingly save, deserted town. They find the town to be mostly safe, but when Rick finds a sign that says “ALL DEAD DO NOT ENTER.” With this realization, Rick warns the group about the sign, but it’s too late. An abundance of walkers make themselves known in Wilshire Estates, and a few casualties ensue. After fleeing, the group comes across Hershel’s farm where we meet the great multitude of his family, and of course Glenn and Maggie meet, and they just want to have sex for the sake of sex (leading to some deeper feelings). Eventually, Hershel wants Rick and the group to leave, so they do. Glenn stays behind to be with Maggie. When they come across a prison, the group has hope for the first time, finding a place that they can clear out and call home.

The farm takes only a couple of issues, while the show takes a whole season to play out at Hershel’s farm. The way events progress through the comics compared tot he television show are interesting to observe, to say the lest, and the comics continue to hold promise (although volume two may in fact be the least interesting volume of the whole series).

 

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Individual Rating: 4/5

In this volume, the group begins to clear out the prison. When they are running low on food, they prioritize clearing out the cafeteria. To their surprise, the cafeteria is free of walkers, but four prisoners sit at a table safe from the plague of the outside world: Dexter, Andrew, Axel, and Thomas. Dispute arises about living with prison inmates, but they seem okay…until Hershel’s two youngest girls are found in a salon room, decapitated. Dexter is under suspicion and locked away, but really Thomas is the madman as he is found openly trying to kill Andrea. When Rick notices the heads of the girls are animate, even though they weren’t bit, he drives all the way back to dig up Shane, his suspicion correct: they all carry the disease and will reanimate from death, even if they were not exposed (something Rick keeps to himself, for now). This volume ends with the inmates taking guns from the armory and threatening the rest of the group to leave the prison, since they were there first.

This volume was okay. It introduces the reader to the prison and the amount of effort it takes to clear it and keep it safe. Of course, with sharp-shooter Andrea around, the guard towers make safety much easier. We get to become more familiar with the prison, the survivors, and the things that make the prison a potential “home” for everyone, leading up to the desire of others to take the prison  as well, or seek shelter with the group.

 

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Individual Rating: 4/5

In this volume we finally meet Michonne. After saving Otis, Michonne is warily welcomed into the group. While Otis and Michonne make their way back into the prison, Rick and the others are fighting off a horde of walkers that got in when Dexter forgot to seal off the armory. Seeing no other way to keep the group safe, Rick intentionally kills Dexter, although he keeps that from most of the group, claiming a stray bullet hit him. Having to clear out the prison again after the incident, Allen is bitten. In a moment of limited choices, Rick amputates Allen’s leg in hopes that the man will survive (he does not). The group finds Ricks choices to be a bid severe, and they seem to think he is beginning to enjoy the violence he reaps. As a group, they decide the pressure on a single leader is too great, and a council will be addressed when making decisions for the whole group. When Rick defends his actions as being what must be done in the world as it is now, he mentions that they will never go back to the way things were. He tells them about his finding with Shane, claiming that they themselves, the living survivors of this great epidemic, are the walking dead.

This volume introduces one of the characters who continues to be with the group for a great deal of time, becoming a major character: Michonne. I like her character quite a lot, but her appearance damages some previous relationships, and the sanity of many characters is questioned in this volume. This volume was okay, but it really helps distinguish leadership and group ethics as well as bring in and remove some characters as we make way for the Woodbury story arc.

 

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Individual Rating: 4/5

In this volume, the group continues to clear the prison, finding some useful riot gear in the process. With this gear, they can now go out to the prison parking lot and siphon gas from the cars surrounded by walkers. When a helicopter crashes nearby, Rick, Glenn, and Michonne go to check for survivors and its source. When they follow evidence to Woodbury, they meet the Governor, a person who is just as headstrong as Rick and pains to be contended with. The Governor brutally chops Rick’s hand off, traps Glenn, and tortures and rapes Michonne in the most disgusting way imaginable. The people of Woodbury follow the Governor blindly, but little do they know of his walker head collection or his little undead niece chained up in his home, a deep secret. A smart man, the Governor tricks Rick into exposing the prison, and the Governor makes it his goal to gain that prison for himself. Having been gone for two days, the people back at the prison send Tyreese out to search for their missing people; all he finds is their car stuck in the mud.

This volume is a good introduction to the Governor. We get to see just how brutal the man can be and the wall of lies he uses to make himself look amazing in front of the people of their community. The things that happen to Rick and Michonne are brutal and cringe-worthy as a visual as the art progressively gets a bit better (but still not so great on women and children).

 

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Individual Rating: 4/5

In this volume Rick becomes more involved with the doctors and Martinez of Woodbury. When Martinez helps Glenn, Rick, and Michonne escape (along with the doctors), Rick becomes suspicious once they get back to the prison. Michonne leaves the group, seeking (brutal) revenge against the Governor. At the prison, the escape from Woodbury was all planned so that the Governor could find them. When Martinez makes his way back, Rick runs him down and shoots him to keep his own people safe.  The iconic piece to this volume is definitely Michonne’s revenge. She has a number of mutilating instruments and does nearly unspeakable things to the Governor (including chopping his arm off and gouging out his eye with a spoon, graphic details omitted).

With this volume, we really get into the heat of the conflict to come. We are left wondering if Rick’s choice to fight for the prison is worth it as we are led into the next couple of volumes that execute the height of the Governor and Woodbury arc.

 

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Individual Rating: 4/5

With the threat of the Governor on the horizon, some of the group question leaving before the prison becomes a war zone. While the Governor is recovering from Michonne’s assault, Glenn and Maggie are married by Hershel and Lori goes into labor. Dale, still alive, helps keep the generator on during Lori’s giving birth, but is bit by a walker. Rick amputates, saving Dale’s life. With a previous mention of a National Guard station as a source of Woodbury’s artillery, a group from the prison goes out to raid what’s left and blow up whatever they cannot bring with them. The smoke draws the attention of the people of Woodbury, and they grow even angrier at the prison group. As the title ov the volume indicates, everything seems calm and back to normal, but when the Governor rolls up in an Army tank surrounded by a bunch of other cars, we learn that perhaps a great storm is to come.

Despite being a more mellow volume, both the events with Lori and Dale add to the suspense of the graphic novel. The ending image of the Governor ready to ravage the prison with his tank and his people closely following, is a great cliffhanger for the final volume to end the Governor arc.

 

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Individual Rating: 4.5/5

This is the final volume in the first compendium and brings the intense prison/Governor arc to a close with a bang. We get to see a flashback to the Governor as he is healing and riling up his people to fight with him, claiming the people of the prison cannot live, for what they have done to him (and by extension, to his community). We are soon brought back to the current events at the prison. With sharpshooter Andrea in a guard tower, she pops off a great number of the Governor’s men. After a few casualties of their own, the survivors of the prison retreat after the Governor falls back to grow his army. Glenn, Maggie, Sophia (who they adopted after Carol’s suicide), Andrea, Dale, and the twin boys (who they adopted after their father died) decide to leave in the RV, not wanting to wait around for the Governor’s return. With their sharpshooter and their riot soldier having fled, the prison does not stand much of a chance. Upon the Governor’s second attack on the prison, nearly everyone left dies brutally. We see one woman become angry and shoot the governor for forcing her to shoot a mother and newborn child. Rick and Carl escape (barely) and Michonne has escaped on her own as well. The prison falls to ruins and walkers as Rick tells Carl not to look back, just keep running.

This volume is brutally executed as the prison arc comes to a close, and we lose almost all of the characters living in the prison from that arc. The brutality of the whole volume is intense, and it is definitely a hard one to put down. With a last image of Rick and Carl making their way into the woods, we are left wondering if, perhaps, anyone else may have made it and what will they do now?

 

There is also a “Morgan Special” in the first compendium where we get to see Morgan and Duane once more. Morgan has found a Gamboy and gives it to Duane. Being the kid he is, he is soon deeply interested in his game. Morgan tells the unlistening Duane that they will have to pay someday for everything the take and use to survive now. Noticing his son is not listening, he merely says, “Merry Christmas.”

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