The Good: Interesting concept, Decent characters, Engaging delivery.
The Bad: Artwork, A lot of exposition.
The Basics: It may be my appreciation of the television series The Walking Dead that leads me to recommend The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye, but that’s enough!
There is little point in denying that the sole reason I picked up The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye was because I enjoyed the first season of AMC’s The Walking Dead (reviewed here!) so much. I know that as an “elitist reviewer,” I am “supposed” to like the books more than anything in the visual media, but the truth is, having read The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye, the television series has a greater emphasis on character development and a more enjoyable style than, at least, this first book does.
The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye is presented in black and white and it instantly reminded me of the indie graphic novel Jesus Hates Zombies (reviewed here!) and, for all the novelty of the idea, it had pretty crappy artwork. The artwork in The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye may not be as bad, but it does lack a sense of movement, style and distinctiveness that can make the graphic novel medium truly pop. As well, The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye loses some punch for its moments through its black and white presentation (most notably a sequence where a character complains about it being overcast in contrast to all the prior sunny days; the sunny days were not especially evident whatwith the lack of color).
The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye is presented as realist fiction, not as a horror book and I appreciate that quite a bit. Author Robert Kirkman tries to create a survivalist story instead of one that is all about shock value (which is much harder to do in a comic book anyway). On that front he, and The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye, succeeds.
Police officer Rick Grimes is shot while trying to apprehend a suspect. He awakens weeks later from a coma to discover that the hospital he is in is abandoned, save for the presence of some pretty merciless zombies from whom he escapes. After a trip to the suburbs where he meets a man and his son, Rick learns that nearby Atlanta might be a bastion against the walking dead. So, Rick grabs some guns and heads for Atlanta, running out of gas along the way. After a brief horse ride, Rick finds himself on the outskirts of Atlanta where the city has been overrun by zombies. Rescued from the hordes by Glen, Rick is reunited with his wife, child, and police partner in a survivor’s encampment.
While Rick reconnects with Lori and Carl, he learns more about what happened to Atlanta. He quickly devises a strategy; he and Dale return to Atlanta to get more guns and Rick wants everyone to become proficient with a firearm. While Carl, who is only about ten, carrying a gun is a source of friction between Lori and Rick, Rick soon becomes more concerned with Shane. Shane, distraught over Rick’s survival because it means that he and Lori will not be able to be together, rejects Rick’s idea that the encampment should move south for the winter. As arguments between the two come to a head, the survivors must deal with an attack from zombies who find the encampment!
The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye does a very good job of keeping the focus on Rick. Despite the sheer volume of characters initially in the book, The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye is largely Rick’s story. As a result, some of the characters like Glenn, Dale, and Donna are brushed over pretty quickly.
Rick Grimes is an interesting enough initial character. He does not leap to conclusions, which is why he spends much of The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye in denial that Shane is very much after Lori. He has some decent survival ideas, like arming everyone and moving south, as well as painting himself and Dale with entrails when it comes time to go after the guns. I like how The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye does not provide answers. By the end of the book, there is still no clear cause of the outbreak, much less a solution to the predicament. While Shane is insistent that the outbreak will be cured soon enough, Rick seems reasonably committed to surviving without any outside aid for as long as the group needs.
But, the artwork in The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye is not as distinctive as it ought to be. After a few weeks, Shane and Rick look virtually identical with their stubble and face-shapes. Moreover, Donna and Dale bear an unfortunate resemblance in this iteration. Ironically, one of the most distinctive characters by character design is Jim.
The Walking Dead: Volume 1 Days Gone Bye is also realistic in that it has a body count. The zombie apocalypse is not a bloodless event and as a result, the survivors take casualties. That makes both for an engaging and realistic story. It is certainly enough, despite the artwork, to make one want to see what comes next.
For other graphic novels, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Flight – Volume 1
Cowboys And Aliens
Fathom: The Definitive Edition Volume 1
For other book reviews, be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |