"The Walking Dead: Volume 3 - Safety Behind Bars" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as The Walking Dead #13 - #18
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Charlie Adlard
2004, Fiction, 136 Pages
Trade Paperback released on May 16th, 2007
Times have gotten pretty tough for Rick Grimes and his rag-tag group of survivors since we left them at the end of Volume Two: Miles Behind Us. They've seen several friends and family members killed and they've been looking for shelter for some time. After a run-in with Hershel and getting booted off his farm in the previous trade paperback, morale was as low as their food supply. Then, like a light at the end of the tunnel, they stumble upon what could possibly be their salvation: a prison. You read that right. It makes perfect sense. What better place to hold up against the hordes of the undead than a huge building with bars on the windows and three fences running around a wide yard? They've got their work cut out for them, though. The jail is filled with zombies that need to be taken care of and there's still a few inmates that haven't been infected.
Safety Behind Bars, this third volume of The Walking Dead is a very important one, as it brings about a lot of information that hurls the story forward by leaps and bounds. The biggest tidbit that comes out of this book is about the zombies. While they took a bit of a step back in the last volume, they're back in full force here. When one of the survivors dies of a cause unrelated to zombies, they end up as a zombie a few minutes later. That's right. In The Walking Dead you don't have to be bitten by a zombie to turn into one. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is different than any other piece of zombie lore I've seen to date. That means that whatever caused this has already infected every human being out there. Death is the trigger for the change.
While the zombies are all over the place in this volume, author Robert Kirkman reminds us again that even though the dead walk, man is still the most evil creature on the planet. There are some brutal events that are downright shocking. On more than one occasion I let out an audible gasp. Whether it's a failed double suicide between loved ones or the discovery of two victims of beheading, this trade is a page turner.
The minor characters are given more time to shine throughout Safety Behind Bars, as well. Kirkman makes sure to touch upon each member of the cast which can be a daunting task with a book with as many characters as this one. Things are getting more serious with Carol and Tyreese, although Tyreese goes through some real serious stuff in these issues, so it's unclear how that will turn out. Allen spirals into a deep depression that started when his wife died some time ago. He has two sons with him too and the rest of the group is worried that Allen might do something drastic to himself, his kids or them.
Meanwhile, the four convicts left in the prison add a healthy bit of conflict. They were there first after all and here comes Rick and his group to take over the place. It also brings in a good point: The world has obviously changed a great deal. Are the sins these men committed forgiven now that zombies walk the earth? And what kind of laws should be in place to protect the living?
Charlie Adlard grows into his own with his art on this book, as well. The prison is laid out beautifully and the pages where the gang fights off a huge amount of zombies look impressive. Adlard manages to keep things fresh and entertaining while maintaining the details of each scene. Being that the majority of the book is set in the prison, there are a lot of dark scenes. Adlard makes the shadows work without letting them overpower or drown out the rest of the artwork. An abundance of darkness can ruin a black and white book like this, but that's not the case here.
Safety Behind Bars keeps The Walking Dead moving at an aggressive pace. Kirkman explores things that don't often get brought up within the zombie genre. Most of the time you just get the story of how a band of survivors can make it through a short period of time. This group is looking to live, not just survive. They're talking about planting crops here. They need to find some semblance of a normal life again while dealing with the zombie threat as well as the tension between each other. If the events of volume three are any indication, Kirkman is just getting started.
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