Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Writers Of The Walking Dead Want Us To Fear The Hunters For Good Reason!

The Good: Decent character development
The Bad: Mediocre artwork, Very simple plot
The Basics: In the six-issue trade paperback anthology, The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters, Rick Grimes’s survivors encounter homicide and cannibalism!

Despite my appreciation for how the television show The Walking Dead has been going (season three is reviewed here!), it seems it has been quite a while since I sat down and read a The Walking Dead graphic novel. My local library system has been sluggish to get in some of the bigger books, so in lieu of Book Six, I’m reading and reviewing The Walking Dead, Volume 11: Fear The Hunters and (forthcoming) The Walking Dead, Volume 12: Life Among Them. Picking up The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters throws the reader into the middle of a story where fans of the television show would likely be completely lost. Fans of the books get caught up ridiculously quickly.

The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters has very few of the original survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse left alive. Led by Rick Grimes, Glenn, Maggie, Dale, Andrea, Michonne, Morgan, Sophia, Billy, Ben, Carl, and Abraham and his two companions have found a car by the side of the road and that is cause for momentary jubilation. The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters continues the trend in The Walking Dead of adding a character and slaughtering more. In fact, in the six issues that are anthologized in The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters have one of the higher body counts for intimate deaths; the books almost entirely neglect the Walkers and focus instead on two incidents of human on human barbarism that forces Rick to wrestle with the deeper questions of who humans are becoming in the post-apocalyptic world.

Following Ben butchering his twin brother Billy, the survivors camp is in shock. As Andrea and Dale wrestle with what to do about Ben, the group is traumatized again when one among them murders the surviving boy. As the survivors turn upon one another in the wake of the mysterious murder, Dale goes missing and Father Gabriel Stokes appears. Giving the group sanctuary in his church, Father Gabriel is criticized by Rick, but the group comes to appreciate the tactical retreat to his church.

As Andrea pushes for the group to find Dale, Dale awakens to a new horror; his remaining foot has been cut off and eaten by his five captive. Dale, however, is filled with uncharacteristic mirth; he had been wandering off in the woods, having been bitten, when he was captured. Calling himself tainted meat, he awaits rescue or death at the hands of the captors, who leave him at the church to freak out the survivors. They, however, get more than they have bargained for when Rick leads a team to eliminate the threat to the survivors.

The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters is very much a small episode in the larger arc of The Walking Dead. This piece seems very insular and Father Stokes hardly seems like an essential new character. Similarly, the book ends long before Andrea can truly reflect on the magnitude of her losses in this sequence of events. The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters takes a huge toll on Andrea, but given how long it takes to build to the book’s final significant death – and how it is overshadowed with the revelation of who killed Ben.

Rick Grimes continues to be somewhat unhinged, talking on his telephone, which almost immediately gives readers the clues needed to figure out the book’s somewhat enduring mystery. Even so, the big character issue for Rick is largely glossed over in two pages that vaguely insinuate how horrible his actions are before he accidentally describes his own barbarism to Carl. Even so, in The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters Rick’s actions seem much more justified than crazed.

The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters feels a lot like a pruning episode. Outside the major character death, the book leaves the reader with the feeling that Robert Kirkman had realized the cast had become a bit too bloated. The deaths of the twins are emotionally inconsequential to the readers and even Dale’s demise seems more inevitable given he has been missing part of his leg for quite some time. The book barely uses Michonne or Morgan and Abraham has a surprisingly substantive role compared to more enduring characters like Glenn and Maggie.

The artwork in The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters is one of the biggest detractions to the book. The lack of color helps make character definitions that much harder to recognize. Once Dale loses his trademark hat, there are a slew of panels where the reader only knows if the character on the page is Dale or Rick by the context of their speech.

Ultimately, though, The Walking Dead: Fear The Hunters is a worthwhile read for anyone who has an interest in survivalist drama stories, though it is harder to get into for those not already invested in this particular story.

For other The Walking Dead books, check out my reviews of:
Days Gone Bye
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Book Four
Book Five


For other graphic novel reviews, please visit my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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