East of Gotham

I’ve decided that since everyone on site does single issues, East of Gotham will become trade centric with blurbs about each single issue I pick up as I pick them up. This week we have Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye, the very first trade in the series by the author of last week’s book (Invincible), Robert Kirkman. Also included will be a one or two line blurb about each single issue I read this week. On to the comics.

The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye – The book begins with a police officer named Rick shot and left in a coma. He awakens to find out the world is overrun by zombies. The first issue in the series is quiet, with Rick taking in the horrible world around him in its ghastly detail as depicted by artist Tony Moore.

Rick eventually runs into a man and his son, doing their best to survive in the zombie infested world. This helpful stranger provides some exposition and Rick decides to head to the nearest city, Atlanta, since that’s where his wife and son would have headed for safety. To accomplish this Rick goes to the police station and gathers some weapons and a car to head for Atlanta.

The true quality of this issue is in how it humanizes Rick for the reader immediately. He’s terrified and runs around shocked at first, but, as is the way of humanity, copes and actually laughs at his helpful friend’s joke before feeling guilty about it. He’s also seen executing a zombie and killing something so humanlike in such a cold manner actually makes him cry. We’re invited to take the point of view of the man who’s woken up to a world that’s turned horrible and given some poignant emotion to help us on our way.

As Rick travels, his car runs out of gas. Because of this he is forced to use a horse to get to Atlanta. Conviniently, Rick is so lonely that he rambles much of his backstory about wife Lori and son Carl. The story of Carl’s birth further places the emphasis on the human part of the zombie drama. Appreciating what we have is a theme that is clearly brought to the fore, even in the earliest issues.

Rick, upon reaching Atlanta, finds it filled with zombies. Despairing of finding his family he begins shooting into the crowd and is attacked. About to be overrun, he is rescued and he and his savior escape out of the city. Rick finds out that all the cities were overrun and his family is likely dead.

Pulling himself together after having his fears confirmed, they arrive at the camp where Rick is immediately greeted by a relieved wife and son. The art carries the day here as the sheer joy of the reunion comes through on the page. Rick’s partner, Shane is also with his family, serving as a protector.

Rick, having found his family and been updated is finally scared and shakes. Clearly an admirable man, Rick’s worry over his family overrode consideration of the situation the world found itself in.

We settle down and the rustic life at the camp with the trailer is set up. Everyone has their own little life set up as they have become accustomed to the world they live in. Rick and Shane go hunting, but not before it is foreshadowed that there is more to Shane than appears to by via a warning from another character. A zombie attack later and we’re back to normal, but the zombie attack and the settlement’s reaction is shock and disgust at these creatures that were once human.

In the middle of the night Rick and Shane argue about moving the camp. Shane is already comfortable with the new status quo and looking for any sense of normalcy. Rick, for whom none of this is normal yet, wants to move because they are too close to Atlanta which is totally overrun.

Glen, Rick’s earlier savior, and Rick decide to head into Atlanta to a gun store to make sure that the settlers are protected with firearms. This, naturally, goes awry, since none of the settlers are used to dealing with zombies yet and Rick is almost bitten, but after a daring escape, they get the guns.

We cut to a scene where we learn the truth of Shane and Lori’s relationship while Rick was in a coma and presumed, due to the zombie infestation naturally, to be dead. Lori breaks off the relationship and Shane is devastated. In an example of just how much has changed, Carl, who is seven, gets to carry a gun.

Plans are made to move after a major attack and the Shane subplot comes to a head as we learn just how much the end of the world has changed him in a chillingly emotional scene.

Ultimately, Walking Dead’s first trade is about reaction to loss. The loss of family, friends, life and acceptance of these losses, only to find out more loss is to come. The strength of the book is the quality of our point of view character, Rick, who’s immediately relatable, likable, and admirable. Early on we see the zombies as impetus for change and drama, but the point of the zombies is the reactions and responses they provoke in the people around them. That’s the true horror of the series and what makes it a must read masterpiece. Final Score: A

The Quick Shots

Countdown #46– The mystery build only works when the mystery isn’t one that’s revamped every year nowadays.

Fables #62– The book continues it’s build to a war between the Adversary and the Free Fables.

Grifter/Midnighter #4– I’m entirely unsure why I’m buying this. Midnighter’s voice just seems wrong.

JLA Classified #39– The JLA are barely in this arc and when they are, they are entirely out of character. Kid Amazo, however, is a fun character who more should be done with after this arc concludes.

Black Summer– Warren Ellis delivers more cynical superheroics. This is directly in the vein of Authority and Stormwatch, but Ellis promises something different, so stay tuned for a full review.

That’s it for this week. Be sure to check back next Tuesday for more East of Gotham.