The Walking Dead volume 1
“Days Gone Bye”
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Tony Moore
BW, 128 pgs
$9.95 US / Higher in Canada
The Walking Dead volume 1 couldn’t have come at a better time. After months of searching, my wife and I located, rented and watched Day of the Dead on DVD, thus completing our viewing of George Romero’s zombie trilogy. They are and forever will be the zombie films all others aspire to be. These movies and a little board game simply called Zombies!!! have me jonesing for all things undead. So hungry am I for flesh-eaters I even went for a viewing of the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead. That particular movie is more about physical horror than the psychological horror of the original, but there is no denying its visceral fun. When it comes to horror, however, especially zombie horror, I desire psychological frights; the kind that lingers long after the show is over. The Walking Dead is that kind of zombie horror, which is great because its pretty darn hard to give visceral thrills in comics, although I will admit there were a couple of moments in this first volume when I found myself gripping the pages with white-knuckled anticipation.
Rick Grimes wakes in a hospital bed to find himself alone. He wanders the hallways, looking for signs of life, much like the protagonist in the most excellent 28 Days Later, but that’s the only thing this piece of work has in common with Danny Boyle’s. Once Rick gets outside, its obvious he’s in a small town, not London, not New York, but a sleepy little town. This is the kind of town in which a man and his son can survive a plague of walking dead by simply living in an abandoned home. Those two survivors take Rick in and tell him, and thus the reader, what has happened. The details are sketchy. In true horror fashion, the less we know– the more left up to the imagination– the better. The government told people to head for the cities, and that’s what Rick hopes his own wife and son have done. He sets off for Atlanta to find his family.
He does find his family and others survivors, but not in Atlanta. He does go into the city, however, to find guns and ammo. He and Glenn, another survivor, manage to get in, but getting out proves to be another matter. With a shopping cart full of guns, the two men run through the deserted streets, rain pouring down, zombies closing in. I didn’t realize I was tense until I needed to turn the page and it was stuck to my fingertips with sweat.
That was one of several great moment of suspense, but the real meat of Robert Kirkman’s story is the psychological terror he works on us and his characters. He shows us what people do in extreme situations, and he does it very, very well. Rick, his family and Glenn are members of a survivors’ commune and Kirkman does his best to get us inside the head of each individual.
Kirkman has pissed me off, however. It would be at this particular part of the review when I would expound upon his excellent writing and how his horror sensibilities are in line with my own. I can’t do that, however, because he has stolen all the things I want to say. He has said it all in his introduction, which opens this first of hopefully many volumes. Kirkman writes that he likes psychological horror. He always wondered what happened to the heroes of Romero’s movies after the films end. He wanted to see how people cope with the walking dead years after they appeared. Kirkman says this is the reason why he decided to write The Walking Dead. He’s going to tell the story that happens after the credits roll. He’s going to tell the full story of Rick Grimes, not just one segment. Volume 1 shows Kirkman is doing exactly what he set out to do.