Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

You may not know this, but I love a good zombie movie. The kind where the whole world is turning into zombies and small bands of isolated humans try to survive. I love them for the stories. Tales of people cracking under the pressure of seeing everything and everyone they know destroyed before their eyes. Happy stories, where you start to see the line between human and zombie blur. The greatest of these films is probably George Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead. I can’t avoid mentioning the greatness of Shaun of the Dead either, but I’ll save that for later.

The Walking Dead is an attempt to do a long form zombie story. The goal, as stated by writer Robert Kirkman in the introduction, is to keep the story going and not roll credits “as soon as it starts getting good”. Although The Walking Dead is listed as a horror book, it’s not designed to scare you. It’s about the characters, and that’s what makes it work.

The book opens with Officer Rick Grimes being shot in the line of duty. On the next page he wakes up in an empty hospital, having been in a comma for some time. This seemed right out of 28 Days Later (which is great, but is not a zombie movie) but I’m not really sure which was released first. Rick witnesses some zombies, freaks out and heads on home. He finds the house empty. He meets up with a father and son squatting in his neighbors house and they fill him in on what’s been going on. People had been ordered to evacuate to larger cities so they would be centralized for protection. Rick assumes his family will be there and heads on into Atlanta.

Rick finds the city over run with zombies, and is rescued for certain death by a young man who offers to take him back to a camp where he and some other survivors are living. This is where the story really starts going. Rick’s wife and son are at the camp, along with Shane, Rick’s partner. They weren’t able to get into the city, and met up with some others.

There’s a great cast of characters here, all learning to survive together. There is a large amount of tension between Rick and Shane. Rick wants to move away from the city, but Shane insists that the government or the army will come to save. Shane is also in love with Rick’s wife, and neither of them expected Rick to come back.

The artwork by Tony Moore is nicely done in toned black and white. The tones remind me of early Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I always found moody and evocative. Here it fits like a glove. It really helps focus the attention on the story, and not the gore. I don’t think I’d like this book nearly as much as I do if it was in color.

Overall I really enjoyed the first volume. It didn’t start out great, but it got there in the end. My only other complaint is that it moves a bit too fast. I wish there was more time taken to enjoy the character development. I’ve got the second one, and I’ll try to review that soon.