Monday, August 20, 2012

The Worst Of Humanity After The Apocalypse Comes In The Walking Dead: Book Three.

The Good: Realism, Horror, Character work
The Bad: Not at all entertaining, Utterly horrific, Unrelenting, Artwork
The Basics: In The Walking Dead: Book Three, the tale of survival horror turns to a very disgusting form of human on human interaction that is tough to find entertainment value in.

I like mature works and The Walking Dead certainly qualifies for that. The story of life after the Zombie Apocalypse hits is dark and frightening, though arguably not as compelling at the television series. While I have enjoyed the television series, I have only recently begun reading the books. Even with a little lapse in between where I last read (The Walking Dead: Book One, reviewed here!) and now, it was very easy for me to pick up The Walking Dead: Book Three and not feel totally lost. I do, however, hesitate to say “enjoyed.” I’m not sure I enjoyed The Walking Dead: Book Three.

While The Walking Dead: Book Three continues the story of Rick, Lori, Dale, Tyreese, Glenn, and Michonne (whose entrance to the series happened somewhere in Book Two which I have not yet read), it takes the story in a brutal and disturbing direction. Like the final act of 28 Days Later (reviewed here!), the undead are not the primary threat in The Walking Dead: Book Three. Instead, it is humans who are the most fearsome enemies in The Walking Dead: Book Three and how inhuman they are makes for a particularly disturbing book. While I can appreciate the realism of this, if the television series closely mirrors the books in its descent into becoming utterly unpleasant stories of humans victimizing one another, I cannot imagine I’ll continue watching the show. As it is, I’m on the fence as to whether I’ll pick up and read The Walking Dead: Book Four.

That said, The Walking Dead: Book Three finds the survivors of the zombie apocalypse enjoying a relative haven and the character work in the book is actually interesting. The wind-up to the final pages explores Rick Grimes in a way that is compelling and asks important questions about humanity, which is what good and great literature, and certainly mature works, ought to do.

Now holed up in the prison, the survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse are feeling safe for the first time in quite some time. Despite a recent conflict that has left Tyreese and Rick at odds with one another, everyone seems to want to get along. After discovering some riot gear, Glenn and Rick spot a helicopter and when it crashes nearby, they – along with Michonne – go to investigate it. They discover that the occupants of the helicopter were taken from the crash site and, realizing this, they follow the trail to nearby Woodbury. There, they find a community of about forty people who live under a man who calls himself the Governor.

In addition to giving his citizens bloodsports to watch, the Governor protects his people by feeding incapacitated zombies any new humans that arrive. With Rick, Michonne, and Glenn, he decides to forego his usual murder to discover where they came from. Cutting off Rick’s right hand, imprisoning Glenn, and raping and beating Michonne repeatedly, the Governor hopes to learn the location of the prison. While Tyreese scours the area near where the trio abandoned their car, the three prisoners work to resist their tormentors until a chance for escape presents itself.

The Walking Dead: Book Three is a torture horror book. The situation in this volume is far from supernatural. The antagonistic Governor is an evil redneck who rules over his subjects with fear and a squad of thugs. While writer Robert Kirkman gives Philip (The Governor) one point of humanity – his daughter who has been turned and whom he keeps locked in his house – she is treated more as a plot-convenient Achilles heel. In a similar way, while the preserved heads of strangers the Governor has killed and fed to the zombies being kept in aquarium tanks that the Governor sits and watches makes for a disturbing image, it makes very little practical sense.

Even with this being my first experience with Michonne, it was impossible not to feel terrible for what she endures and the character-driven conflict that follows, where she worries about what kind of person she has become following her chance at revenge is a compelling one. But far, vastly more, than being about the conflict, The Walking Dead: Book Three is filled with gruesome pages where people are being tortured. That makes The Walking Dead: Book Three far from entertaining, though it does continue the series’ trend toward realism.

What works with The Walking Dead: Book Three is the way the characters continue to grow and evolve throughout the book. Lori finally stops worrying about Rick leaving all the time, Glenn and Maggie actually form a relationship, and Dale and Andrea start taking care of the twins. There is nothing static about the characters in The Walking Dead: Book Three, though not all of it works so well. Carol pitching an untraditional marriage to Lori seems to come out of nowhere, though she is right that old social paradigms are pretty much dead.

The artwork in The Walking Dead: Book Three is marginally better than in the prior volumes I read. The Governor is distinctly rendered, but some of the characters within the jail look a lot like Rick or Hershel and that makes the book a little harder to follow than it ought to be. Glenn, Michonne, and Rick, though, stand out – even if Alice and Andrea are virtually interchangeable for many of the panels in The Walking Dead: Book Three.

As an omnibus edition, The Walking Dead: Book Three also features a full-color cover gallery at the back of the book. This, along with a couple pages of sketches serve as the book’s “bonus features” and they are all-right. But largely, The Walking Dead: Book Three is a book of human suffering and if one picks it up expecting anything other than that, they are liable to be severely disappointed and distressed.

For other The Walking Dead works, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Days Gone Bye
The Walking Dead - Season 1
The Walking Dead - Season 2


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.
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