Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review! The Walking Dead: Volumes 3 & 4

This is my continuing review of the graphic novels series, The Walking Dead. I've been careful to make these spoiler-free, so don't be worried about scrolling down. Whether you plan on reading the series, or waiting for the premiere of the show on AMC, my posts will remain at arm's length of the meat of the story, so as not to spoil any of the good stuff for you. Was that an undead pun? ...I think I've been spending way too much time thinking about zombies lately.

These two volumes of the series are interesting in that for the most part they take place within a prison – which is of course a place with a fence and locks, and seems like a pretty good hideout if you’re trying to avoid being eaten alive by the gluttonous undead. It also functions very well as a metaphor for the mind, and for the tensions that build when we are forced to deal with what is most terrifying to us – death – on a daily basis.

What I found interesting about Safety Behind Bars, volume 3 in the series, is that the zombies act, for the most part, as background noise. What becomes more terrifying are the living, breathing folks who are trying to survive. The humans have become more dangerous – you can’t predict how each person is going to act and you can’t even tell where the line between sane and insane is anymore. To me, and to the other readers of this volume, the clearer horror is thy neighbor.

This volume is really where we begin to see the point that Kirkman is trying to make. It doesn’t matter who you were before, who you are is wholly unpredictable and in large part dependent on the situation you are in – the pressures and fears bearing their weight on you, the artificial lines you draw between what is right and what is wrong.

The following volume, The Heart's Desire, draws our characters deeper into a confrontation with their actions leading up until this point in their journey. The surviving characters are finally talking, out loud and to each other, about law, order, and morality. All of these things have been brewing on everyone's minds, and a confrontation between Rick and Tyreese, the other strong male in the group, really brings all of these issues to a head.

What we also see in this volume is the impact that relationships are having on the group. People are coming together for all sorts of different reasons - fear, love, desperation, distraction. Kirkman begs the question - what happens when people come to rely on these relationships and then see them shatter, just like the people around them have been?

Everyone has done things since the onset of this apocalypse that they aren't proud of and probably would never have imagined themselves doing before. It's wholly ironic (and brilliant) that they are having this discussion from the inside of a prison - a prison that they have been purging of zombies. Along with this physical purge comes a psychological one. Rick is pushed to the brink when another one of his group is bitten, and the action he takes next is controversial or sadistic - depending on your point of view.

Hanging over all of these events is a discovery about a more sinister aspect of the virus that has the power to change everything and push everyone who is already on the brink a little bit further. I have a feeling that this is going to have a big impact on the rest of the series, and I'm excited to see where Kirkman takes us next...the relative safety of the prison can't last long...

I'll be reviewing the next two volumes in the series the following week - see you then!

Are any of you planning on dressing up as zombies for Halloween? Zombie versions of your favorite scifi/fantasy characters? I was thinking I might go as a zombie Merlotte's waitress - I recently bought the waitress outfit and thought a little blood and gore might spice it up. Hey, I could be Dawn Green or Amy Burley back from the dead.


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