Monday, 9 February 2009

You Really Should Be Into: The Walking Dead

I've seen a lot of zombie movies over the years. I wrote my University dissertation on the subject. I've read a lot of zombie books. I've played a lot of zombie games. I've read a lot of zombie comics...
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..and I can tell you that the greatest narrative in the zombie genre since Night of the Living Dead is The Walking Dead, an Image comic created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (now replaced by Charlie Adlard).

Whilst the setting may be familiar - bands of survivors huddling together and trying to survive in the wake of a zombie apocalypse - it is in the execution that the comic succeeds where many, many others have failed. To start with, The Walking Dead isn't actually about zombies. It's about the people trying to survive against the zombies, and a point that many zombie stories fail at.

The Walking Dead begins with police officer Rick Grimes and his partner Shane in a gunfight with an escaped convict. During the incident, Rick gets shot and blacks out. When he awakes one month later, he finds himself in a hospital bed, completely alone.

Finding the hospital abandoned, Rick explores his surroundings. He finds the hospital's cafeteria crowded with the living dead, and barely escapes with his life. Returning home, only to discover two strangers, Morgan and his son Duane, have taken up in Rick's neighbor's house, hoping to ride out the Epidemic of the Dead.

Rick allows Morgan access to the police armory and a squad car, hoping it will help them survive. Then, splitting from them, Rick makes for Atlanta, Georgia, believing his wife Lori and son Carl went there. When he reaches Atlanta, he finds total desolation: bodies, ruined military equipment...he is soon surrounded by zombies, and escapes alive thanks only to the aid of a young man named Glenn. Glenn leads Rick to an encampment outside the city, where he meets his family; Shane, his partner; and several other survivors: Allen, his wife Donna and twin children Billy and Ben; Dale, a traveling salesman (an older man whose RV is used by the group for a base); mechanic Jim; Carol, a single mother, and her daughter Sophia; and finally, college junior Amy with her sister, ex-clerk Andrea.

What follows on is a story of this small groups survival in an uncertain world. What makes The Walking Dead so memorable, however, is that as readers, we also become embroiled in that uncertainty.

The one thing you must know about The Walking Dead is this: no-one is safe.

For those cushioned in a Marvel-type world where Spider-Man will always survive...or currently fully aware that whilst they're not in it at the moment, Aunt May and Captain America are going to come back at some point. Or for those of us still reeling from the death of Chewbacca ten years ago - The Walking Dead is just as callous, cruel and cold towards its characters as real life can be.

I would like to be able to say that if you like zombie movies, run out and buy this now...but my girlfriend hates zombie movies, and loves The Walking Dead, so I guess that whether you like zombie movis or not, you should go out and buy it anyway.

Keep checking back in to Emotionally Fourteen this week as coming up shortly we've got a special interview with The Walking Dead creator/writer Robert Kirkman!

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