Monday, August 22, 2005

The Walking Dead is killing me

Right-o, let’s get going on this thing. I’m not a big fan of zombie movies. Check that, I’m not a big fan of American zombie movies because I really enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later. I keep thinking I will like zombie movies but I don’t. I think it’s because I had the flu once, right before Halloween, and caught Night of the Living Dead on late night television when I was 9 or 10. Between the fever and the lack of sleep, I was fairly traumatized. I’m also a big chicken so I tend to avoid horror movies in general.

So, why did I pick up The Walking Dead? Simple. Reviews like this and this. Then I was at the local comic shop on a day other than Wednesday and overheard a conversation on zombie comics. The shop employee was slightly shocked that the zombie fan had not only never picked up a copy of The Walking Dead, but had never heard of it. Then, instead of attacking the zombie fan, the employee simply raved on and on about the series and stated how they couldn’t keep the trades on the shelves. Then, the praise for Invincible started, and I knew I was walking out the door with Volume 1 of The Walking Dead.

I got home and tore through the book cover-to-cover. The next day I had plans for the evening, so I managed to save my budget and not by volumes 2 and 3 even though I was chomping at the bit to get them. I made it back to the shop a few days later and both were gone, so I’ve got them ordered and am waiting with baited breath.

So, why did this admitted horror-hater enjoy this so dang much? Again, it is simple. Characters and dialogue. This series is just unbelievably well written. It’s rare for anything to truly engage me these days (jet lag and work insanity see to that) so anything that grabs me by the throat and won’t let go until the final shot is fired, is good enough for me. The black and white art really works here to heighten the situations in which we find our cast of misfits. And for a series not relying on the iconography of colourful heroes, there is a easy sense of characterization here. We get to read unbelievably human characters who remain interesting because of their current state of affairs and being able to remain utterly human. On the back it says something like “in the land of the undead, they can truly live,” or something similar to what you find on the back of books. But the weird thing is, that’s exactly it. We can examine and appreciate these characters as regular people because they are trying to live regular lives in the face of extreme horror. I want to go on, but I’ll save the critical analysis for anyone who asks for it later.

I had a feeling I would like Kirkman’s work, and I really wasn’t let down. When I’m finished the next two volumes I’ll post again on it. I want to recommend to anyone interested in writing comics to pick up a volume or issue of this series and discover how dialogue is used to enhance situations, educate the reader and show the relationship of the characters. I figure it’s just a matter of time before I go through all of this with the Invincible trades. And I’ll more than likely get around to watching Romero’s ouvre.

You can check out some previews of Kirkman’s stuff at Image, and read his new column Buy My Books over at CBR. Check them out and learn more.

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