"The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Tony Moore
Originally published as The Walking Dead #1 - 6
Graphic Novel released on May 12th, 2004
Seeing as how it was just picked up by AMC to be turned into a Television series, I thought it would be a good time to sit down and re-read The Walking Dead from the beginning. The premise of the series is pretty simple: The zombie apocalypse has occurred. Some people have survived, but they have no idea what is going on or whether or not the government is doing anything to help if it even still exists in any recognizable fashion.
That sounds like the plot for every other zombie movie out there, so what makes The Walking Dead stand out? Writer Robert Kirkman says it best in the introduction of this volume. "For me the worst part of every zombie movie is the end. I always want to know what happens next...The idea behind The Walking Dead is to stay with the character, in this case, Rick Grimes for as long as is humanly possible." Kirkman is in this for the long haul. His goal is to take this series on and on and on, staying with Rick for years of his life. You should have no need to wonder what happens next in the man's life because you'll be there to find out.
Aside from being the zombie movie that never ends, The Walking Dead is just a great dramatic story. Kirkman takes the time needed to really consider what would happen if the dead rose. The book starts out with Rick waking up from a coma in a hospital. Now before you get all "Hey, isn't that the same way 28 Days Later started?" relax. That's the only similarity between the two works. Rick, a cop in a small town, makes his way out of the hospital and sets out in search of his family. With some luck, he ends up tracking down his wife Lori and son Carl as they're camping with a group of people outside Atlanta. I thought this bit was a little far-fetched, but I'm willing to give Kirkman the benefit of the doubt in order for him to set up the story. I'll forgive this coincidence.
This rag-tag group of survivors are doing just that: surviving. They're making it through day by day but they're barely scraping by and some of them are clearly ready to lose it. This is what I meant about Kirkman exploring what might actually happen. Contrary to what we might see in the movies, not everyone is going to pick up a shotgun and dive headfirst into a horde of the undead with gritted teeth. Some of these people sat helpless as their loved ones were torn apart and eaten right in front of them. They're flawed. Rick is the catalyst for change though. He's organized and he's a born leader with a bit of a messiah complex. The guy just wants to save everyone. He gets a few guns and starts training the campers to defend themselves with the help of former partner in the police force, Shane.
A few issues in and the zombies become less of a focus. They're still there and you never forget that they could show up at any second, but the real draw here are the living, breathing characters that don't crave human flesh. Kirkman gives us just enough information about each of them to make us care about them. You know how in a zombie movie there are some characters that you are sure they will be used as zombie fodder? I don't get that feeling about most of the characters that are introduced in this first volume. That makes it all the more shocking when the book ends with a few less members residing in the camp.
The series is presented in black and white without a hint of color. Well, I guess gray counts as a color, but I think that's a given when drawing something in black and white. Artist Tony Moore draws some pretty terrifying zombies of all shapes and sizes. The characters look good, although occasionally look a little too...well, comic-booky. There are a handful of panels that look a little off, mostly when it comes to a character's facial expression, but for the most part the art is spot on. Moore only drew this first volume before being replaced by Charlie Adlard.
I had read the single issues of this series as they were released and I'm a little disappointed that this trade paperback which collects the first six issues doesn't include any of the great covers drawn by Moore. All six issues are presented here back-to-back without a break. The story flows perfectly so I never knew exactly when one issue ended and the next began, but as a comic fan I would have loved to at least have the covers in the back. That artwork along with some other material appears to be collected in the hardcover editions of the series.
The dead now walk the earth and these people are trying to figure out a way to survive while holding on to some semblance of a normal life. The zombies are going to be a never ending threat to these characters' lives but in some cases the bigger threat will be each other. This first volume of The Walking Dead really sets up the world that these characters live in. It's dark. It's real. Bad things can and do happen...and will continue to happen.