…Hope You Survive the Experience #5

The most addictive comic around…

When I first got into comics I kinda had the basic outline of books I thought would be interesting. Batman, Daredevil, and Deadpool amongst others, though all in the DC/Marvel variety. I’m not really sure how it happened, but once again I refer back to my saying that it’s as though the comic industry knew I was coming and made it easy for me to find every piece of information on any title I may be interested in. I can’t even recall looking up certain books, but somehow, I came to know of them and their writers, and went from there.

Now as I said before, the ones I aimed for at first were of the superhero genre, and all were pretty much titles that your average Joe who isn’t even into comics would likely have at least heard of. What I wasn’t prepared for was the vast amount of independent comics available, and smaller companies such as Image and Dark Horse. Not only was I not aware of these types of titles (I mean, I wasn’t thinking that DC and Marvel were the only two companies making comics out there…okay, maybe on some level I was, because how was I suppose to know any different?) but the quality…some of these stories blow everything else out of the water!

Since my entering of the comic fray back in the summer, I’ve slowed dramatically in my purchases of hard covers, and TPB back issues; as eventually the almighty dollar does rule out, and a weekly expense turns out to be enough. That’s not to say that I don’t plan on continuing with certain books, it’s just that I’m so stacked up from books from that first spree (I mean, compared to some I doubt it’s a lot, but I went a little hog-wild, and haven’t even cracked some of them open yet) that there’s no reason to go and spend money I don’t have on books that will still be available once I do catch up.

Needless to say, some of these books I’ll be talking about in the coming weeks, but one that could very well be my favourite comic hands-down is quite well-known to everyone reading (and if it isn’t, it will be now!); and that’d be The Walking Dead.

I honestly can’t remember how I came to stumble across this book. It was never recommended to me by anyone, and I’d been reading Wizard, so that’d be my one guess as to where I may have caught a glimpse of a sentence or two about the main idea of the story; but in the end, I’m not 100% sure what made me look for it.

During one of my mass-purchases, I picked up another well-known non-superhero hardcover – which was actually my main choice – and nabbed The Walking Dead Volume 1 hardcover at the last minute. Oh man, little did I know what I’d just started with that, as I received both books, and ended up focusing mainly on my second choice. Not only was it my focus, it was my obsession.

I’m a slow reader, so I’m not exactly sure what the going-speed is for completing a comic, let alone a 12-issue compilation of a series, but I’d say I average about…20 minutes to half an hour for a book. It may be a bit less, I may have overshot, as I never really pay attention, but that’d be a rough guess…the longer being books that are filled with thought-boxes, as well as dialogue, such as Batman. Though that just may be how I take it in. Either way, The Walking Dead Volume 1 brought me to a different world.

I’m a big fan of survival horror. I love all the Resident Evil video games, as well as movies that pit regular people in live or die scenarios (such as a great independent film called Eden Lake, or another solid one called Donkey Punch) and one of my favourite books of all time is The Ruins by Scott Smith. Sure, there’s a B-movie based off of it, and you may have caught that, but I highly recommend picking up that novel, as it’s incredibly well written, and no doubt puts the movie to shame.

The first thing I noticed with The Walking Dead was that it’s entirely in black and white. What’s that about? How can I truly enjoy this book if it looks like it hasn’t been completed yet? Those were some of the concerns I had upon first opening the book. I was naïve way back in the day (surprisingly I’m approaching a year in the next few months…ah, how time flies) as these concerns quickly vanished, as the story was just that awesome I couldn’t help but become engrossed.

Also, after only a few pages in I fell in love with the black and white artwork. It felt more unique, as well as the perfect way to tell the story. I know Robert Kirkman, the writer of the book, has said he’ll never do an issue in colour, and I commend him for that. It’s ironic now that when I see the covers in colour, I almost shake my head – “It’s not suppose to look like that!” It’s fantastic.

For those who don’t know, the story of The Walking Dead is about a zombie-apocalypse that sees the ‘end of the world as we know it.’ There are survivors all over, scattered about, but we focus on Rick Grimes and quest to find his family, as well as survive in this inhumane world. The difference with this book and movies like Dawn of the Dead, or Zombieland is it tries to answer the question – what happens after? With those movies, the heroes somehow escape their being trapped in a mall, and move forward, but what happens two months later? What happens a year later? Kirkman vows to keep this story going for as long as he possibly can…so in essence, we’ll be living this zombie life with the characters for a long time to come.

One of the best things about The Walking Dead is the characters. You can’t have a good story without good characters, and since The Walking Dead is a fantastic story, that means it must have some fantastic characters; and does it ever. Rick Grimes is the perfect protagonist, as he’s a by-the-book police officer who quickly finds himself in a world with no rules. This in itself is a perfect start to the story, as it adds the perfect conflict to show just how much the world has changed. You never know what’s going to happen in The Walking Dead, as it’s likely the least predictable title you’ll ever pick up, though that’s what also makes it so riveting.

The first night I opened up Volume 1, I believe it was 2 a.m. or something along those lines, and I read it for about an hour or so and found myself at the halfway point. I couldn’t get enough, and I didn’t want to stop, but knew I should get some rest. Laying in bed I couldn’t help but think of the characters, and wonder what they’d do next. So much so, that I ended up waking up only a handful of hours later, yearning to complete the book. The apartment was quiet, and I walked into the living room, sat down, picked the book back up and finished it right there. Once finished, all I could think of was —

“Why the hell do I not have Volume 2 in my hands right now!!”

The thing is, the book is 12 issues, though it only breaks itself into the occasional chapters. Every 30 pages or so there isn’t a cover page to indicate the ending to one of the issues, the story is so well put together, and so well edited, that the entire year flows together seamlessly, with the covers for each issue collected (in colour) at the back of the book.

Not only that but the characters are so real, and you feel for each of them, and come to like, or hate various ones depending on your views of things. Their actions may be something you agree with, something you’d do in that situation, while to others, their actions may seem inappropriate and you immediately await their death – if indeed that’s what awaits them in the coming pages.

Finding characters you can relate to and care for was something I wasn’t really expecting when I got into comics. I mean, someone may like Superman, but it’s highly unlikely there’s an emotional attachment to the man of steel the likes of which would keep you up at night thinking (not that there’s anything wrong with that if some of you do have that connection with him…that’s special…ahem…moving on.)

If there’s one complaint I have about the series, it’s likely the same complaint that anyone else reading it has as well. After completing Volume 1, 2, 3 and 4, then buying the two TPBs that make up the now released Volume 5, I moved on to reading The Walking Dead monthly. Oh, what bullshit that is!

Each volume collection is put together beautifully, and flows so well, you just want to get right into the next one. If you have not read it, and someone gave you all five hard covers, you’d likely sit down and not get up until all five were complete. It wouldn’t be something you’d do consciously, it’d just be something you’d realize you have no choice in, and obey. They’re that immersive. Once you moved on to monthlies, you’d likely say what I just said above. Total bullshit.

How am I possibly suppose to read roughly 30 pages, and feel satisfied!?!? Then I have to WAIT a month!? And it’s not like you can wait for the series to wrap up…no, no, it has NO END. So you’re stuck, being tortured, reading fantastic monthly issues that almost feel like, in comparison, going to a fancy restaurant, ordering your food, having it arrive after quite a long wait, getting to take one bite then having the waiter snatch the plate away, running to the backroom laughing maniacally. What a bastard.

Does that mean you shouldn’t read The Walking Dead? Well, when the one complaint is that it’s too damn good, you’re likely on a safe path to finding something enjoyable to read. Just don’t blame me when you start wishing you could go into a cryo-sleep between monthlies in order to get that compilation feel back; because there’s no way anyone who starts can hold out for the year it’ll take for them to bring out that next one. If you’ve read it, I’m preaching to the choir…if you haven’t, do yourself a favour and find some way to go and get Volume 1 now…all it costs, is your soul.

Until next time…hope you survive the experience.

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