Zombies are nothing new in comics, but the The Walking Dead, created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (later art by Charlie Adlard), is perhaps the first ongoing series to tackle the zombie apocalypse in comic form.
The premise of The Walking Dead will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a zombie movie. Rick Grimes, a small town police officer, wakes up in a hospital after a zombie apocalypse and starts searching for his wife and son. Along the way he meets other survivors and they form a ragtag band trying to find some security in a world overrun with zombies.
One of the most impressive things about the first few issues, for me, was that there was so much space. Here we have a man, alone, afraid and confused, wandering in a land devoid of living people and you feel the loneliness and the silence. The panels reinforce this so that when something happens and when a zombie appears and things devolve into frenzied mayhem, you feel it. As the series develops, the pace and action intensifies, though they still manage to catch both the fearful tiptoeing of trying to be quiet around wandering zombies, and the ensuing chaos that always seems to occur anyway. The series is in black and white which suits both the outer and inner landscapes of the series, where everything becomes sketched in shades of gray.
Kirkman doesn’t pull any punches here. The death toll is high. It doesn’t pay to get attached to any one person. And as the stresses of living in this kind of world affect the characters, the cracks start to show, and widen. Just as you’re relaxing from the last tragic event, just as your guard slips, the next tragedy happens. The tension through the series never lets up for very long. This tension can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, some of the tragedy and violence can be wearying, but on the other hand, the unrelenting tension feels right for the world and situations of The Walking Dead.
While zombie movies last two hours at most (and that’s pushing it), The Walking Dead is now on its 60th issue. Think of it as a long-running zombie television series if you like. With its episodic format, Kirkman can take time, develop relationships, simmer resentments, and so on. Which is not to say that things go slow. But there is something very real about the series, despite the fact that it deals with such fantastic circumstances.
The Walking Dead might not be for everyone, but if you like your zombies realistic and would like to see a world that stretches beyond the limits of a one and half hour movie, it might be worth checking out.