Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Volume Between Things Actually Happening: The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves!

The Good: Good character work, Realism
The Bad: Artwork, Lack of events
The Basics: The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is a book of non-events in the world of The Walking Dead.

In any long serialized story that strives for realism, there comes a time when the writers must choose between sensationalism and realism. In a sensational volume, events are constantly happening; there is no rest for the characters and at some point the readers have to ask themselves how people could survive on such constant adrenaline or drama or conflict. The Walking Dead seems to take the other tact: there are entire books where nothing much happens. The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is one such volume.

Compiling issues 85 to 90 of The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves begins right after Book Seven (reviewed here!). Interestingly, this volume has enough recap to make clear virtually all that is within its pages without reading the prior anthology. The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is a rebuilding book that chronicles the day or two after the last major attack on the town that Rick Grimes and his companions have joined. Rather than presenting the familiar (in the past usually while cleaning up after such an attack, someone else gets bitten and has to be put down), writer Robert Kirkman treads new territory; the clean-up goes fine and the characters have a chance for some introspection and reflection.

And it’s good, but thoroughly underwhelming for anyone who is not already invested in the continuing story of Rick Grimes and the survivors of the zombie apocalypse.

After Jessie’s death, Rick starts figuring out how to make the town into a new bastion of civilization. Intent on doing more than surviving, he has the members of the community come up with suggestions on how they can fortify the town so that roamers cannot get in any longer to menace the survivors. As Rick waits for Carl to wake up from the coma he is in following having a chunk of his skull blown off, Rosita leaves Abraham over his infidelity with Holly. When Carl does wake up, Rick is dismayed that he is unaware that Lori (Carl’s mother) is dead and he has no memory of the brief life of his sister.

With food running low, Rick decides to lead a team to thoroughly investigate the houses nearby outside the walls. But while his group is scouting the nearby houses and another team is digging a trench to trip up roamers, Nicholas starts planning to overthrow Rick. Resentful of how Rick has come in and taken over, Nicholas talks to other members of Douglas’s community about killing him, which Glenn overhears. When Nicholas and Glenn get into a fight and Rick and his party return, the tense situation turns into the first big test of Rick’s determined effort to recreate civilization.

The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves does what it sets out to do, even if it is not the most exciting read. What Kirkman does absolutely right – even if it might not be the best use of the medium (it’s not terribly visual) – is have Rick both take a philosophical and emotional position and then test that new resolve. Rick has spent pretty much the entire series before this struggling violently to survive and he lost his hand as a result of the brutalism he has encountered in the dark new world following the outbreak. But after the hole in the wall is plugged – an event that would not have happened with Rick working all on his own – Rick finds he wants something more for himself and Carl. In The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves, the book starts heading in a different direction. At some point, the world will run out of undead and then the question is what kind of world will remain, what kind of people will live in it? Rick is asking all the right questions in The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves and he has a decent plan to make the town a place to live for the longterm.

Outside Rick’s struggle to define the future for his group and actually execute the plan, Rick’s story in We Find Ourselves is about him trying to get in touch with his feelings when he realizes Carl may have lost his ability to feel. Fearing Carl has become cold and distant robs Rick of the simple joy of his son being alive after getting shot pretty graphically in the head.

The rest of The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is filled up with soap opera exchanges. Andrea pushes away her paramour, Glenn consoles Maggie when Maggie is worried about never feeling safe again, Rosita pushes Abraham away and Abraham and Holly have a “Lady MacBeth” moment. The supporting cast in the book have fairly banal problems at this point and the subplot with Nicholas comes up at a time when the volume is at the risk of being sappy.

The artwork in The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves continues to be thoroughly underwhelming. Several characters look like one another (there is a character who is a cleanshaven version of Rick Grimes in these pages that is somewhat confusing for those of us who have read prior books, forgotten this distant supporting character, but remember what Rick looks like without his stubble.

That said, The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is a fair transition book and given where the book ends, there is enough to make the reader want to come back for the next one, even if this volume seems like a “read once, never have to read it again” book.

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


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

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