The Good: Decent plot progression, Initially interesting characters, Good “bonus features.”
The Bad: Artwork is mediocre at best, Vast awkward character reversals, Characters make some really dumb decisions after the point at which they should know better.
The Basics: Capturing the journey of survivors of a zombie apocalypse, Rick Grimes leads survivors through a wasteland near Atlanta, finding refuge for a very brief time at a farm in The Walking Dead: Book One.
There are very few fads I open myself up to after they have become a sleeper hit. In fact, one of the ways to get me to generally avoid something is when it hits popularity in the mainstream. With The Walking Dead, I found myself enjoying the television show quite a bit and that led me to the graphic novels. I read the first trade paperback, The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye (reviewed here!) and was pretty much unimpressed. The book was good, but the artwork was terrible and I was left somewhat underwhelmed. Even so, I picked up The Walking Dead: Book One to see where the story continued.
The Walking Dead: Book One is a hardcover compilation of the The Walking Dead books Days Gone Bye and Miles Behind Us. Given that I have already reviewed Days Gone Bye, this review will focus much more on the Miles Behind Us portion of the book. That said, near the end of the review, I’ll explore the extra features that are in the hardcover The Walking Dead: Book One. To cut to the chase on the Miles Behind Us half, the book picks up right where Days Gone Bye left off and it corresponds surprisingly closely with season two of The Walking Dead television show (reviewed here!). For those who want the surprises of what comes in the first half of the book, I would recommend stopping reading here and read my review of Days Gone Bye. The Walking Dead: Book One continues that story, but discussing it is impossible without mentioning the climax of the first half.
Following the death of Shane at Carl’s hands, Rick leads the survivors group around the Atlanta outskirts. They meet Tyreese, his daughter Julie and her boyfriend Chris, as the temperature takes a dive. Rick allows the trio to join the group and as they stumble around in the RV, Tyreese is thrilled to get food. Tyreese begins pulling his own weight and shortly after meeting the group, Lori reveals that she is pregnant to Rick. Facing a child coming into the world freaks Rick out, but things look up when the RV discovers a gated community.
Unfortunately, exploring the gated community leads to casualties, most notably Donna, whose death hits Allen especially hard. Fleeing the community overrun with zombies, the RV becomes home again. While out hunting, Carl is shot and the perpetrator takes Rick and Carl back to the safe farm of Hershel. Hershel allows the refugees to stay on the farm, though Rick is shocked when he reveals that he is keeping the undead locked in his barn! As the group hunkers down, Rick and Hershel’s philosophical differences threaten to undermine them.
While my instinct is to complain about the artwork right off the bat – it is all in black and white, so character design would seem to be especially important, but a good number of the character look similar to one another, like Chris and Glen (who are only really differentiated by the fact that Chris wears glasses). Donna and Andrea look so much alike that in some of the panels following Donna’s death, I was surprised she was still alive (she wasn’t; it was Andrea). The artwork is unimpressive at best and in The Walking Dead: Book One, that is accented by the cover gallery and character sketches found at the back of the compilation. When one sees how good the artwork can be for the book, it seems disappointing that it is not all that on each and every page.
But more disturbing than the artwork – which frequently features characters braining the undead with tools and handguns – are many of the choices made by the characters. As the survivors explore the gated community, people like Donna make ridiculous decisions that change all of their fates. After months of fighting day in and day out to survive, it makes absolutely no sense that she would rush in to one of the abandoned houses there. As a result, some of the big character events actually feel like they are only occurring to service or alter the plot.
Hershel’s character is erratic at best; his son was one of the early victims and his lack of caution when trying to get a very desiccated zombie into the barn makes little sense as well. Hershel oscillates between being a kind and gentle guy and a horribly angry individual who seems especially brutal.
For The Walking Dead: Book One, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Aldard, and Cliff Rathburn did a one-shot for Image comics that is included in the book. The one-shot revisits the characters of Morgan and Duane. Despite Kirkman decrying the culture of people who wait for the trade paperbacks (that’s me; I don’t like the clutter, expense, or advertisements in the individual comic books!), The Walking Dead: Book One is a decent value for collectors as it provides an elegant hardbound version of the The Walking Dead story.
The Walking Dead: Book One is a good beginning for the series. It clearly establishes the world of The Walking Dead, even if it has characters who are troublingly erratic and disappointingly rendered. Fans of the television series are likely to enjoy seeing the differences in the plot and characters when reading The Walking Dead: Book One, though for a change, I prefer the televised version.
For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my reviews of:
True Blood: All Together Now
Twilight The Graphic Novel, Volume 2
For other book reviews, be sure to visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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