The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (Image)
|When hipsters shave their beards...|
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Tony Moore
Collects: The Walking Dead #1-6
So, despite apparently the awful fourth-season ending on television (I don’t watch much TV, I’ll admit), Image’s The Walking Dead is one of the biggest non-superhero books ever released (thwarted only by IDW’s Locke and Key and Image’s Saga). It’s one of the books that Image Grand Poobah Eric Stephenson praised as being one of the real innovative comics that was apparently going to save the industry as long as we left those pesky superhero and franchise books alone.
Despite being endorsed by Stephenson, The Walking Dead doesn't strike me as being that innovative. Sure, it’s a comic that isn’t about superheroes, but as a zombie story, all of the familiar tropes of the horror genre are there. It may be innovative for a comic, but for the horror genre, it’s more of the same-old-same-old.
But let me make this really clear; not being particularly innovative is different from being bad. Days Gone Bye is an excellent introduction to a series that deserves every sale it makes.
The story to Days Gone Bye is pretty simple; Rick Grimes is a small-town cop who gets shot on duty. He goes into a coma for a few days, and when he wakes up... ZOMBIES!!!
|Okay, so we don't eat it, then? No?|
Yes, the zombie apocalypse that every comparable zombie movie ever made has been predicting has finally happened. Thankfully, there is more substance here than you would expect from a contemporary zombie story. Days Gone Bye is full of horrifying zombies attacking en masse with progressively more gruesome ways of killing the undead, but those scenes really take a back seat to Kirkman’s well-written character drama. Kirkman’s put together a killer cast here; all of whom have their own reasons for being there, their own backstories, and their own unique status-quo.happened, and nearly nowhere is safe. Reuniting with his family and a collection of mismatched others; they try to survive a situation that is deemed unsurvivable. Like I said, it’s essentially the plotline of nearly every Zombie movie ever made, but Kirkman goes about this one in a pretty intelligent way. Sure,
After the first third of the book is when this diverse cast really gets a chance to shine. Sure, this book is mostly about Rick, but by the time he meets the rest of the crew, every other character has something major invested in the situation. There’s Rick’s old partner, Shane, who resents Rick’s presence in the group, his son, Carl, who borders on the sadistic side, his wife, Lori, who has some issues in the past to deal with, and plenty of others who create this fantastic group dynamic. Reading Days Gone Bye, you could easily forget that this is the same zombie story we’ve seen over and over again and just get lost in the drama. It’s a great move by Kirkman and one that really makes you think about what matters most in your life.
If you don’t want to do that, though, that’s okay; there are plenty of horrifying, suspenseful moments that keep your pulse beating. One of the most notable is a scene where Rick goes into the city to collect guns. He’s smeared zombie remains all over himself so as to appear to be one of them, and throughout the whole scene, you just find yourself waiting on that inevitable moment when the zombies get wise to the fact that Rick is still alive. It’s a triumph of storytelling and one of my favourite scenes in comics.
|Even zombies take time to protest.|
Art in Days Gone Bye basically has no right to be as good as it is. The whole book is done in black and white- which seems an odd choice, considering colour would really amp up the gross factor of the zombie hordes. This approach though, makes the book appear that much smarter. It emphasizes the fact that this book is really about people; not zombies and lets the living characters take their rightful place at the centre of the book.
My only problem with Days Gone Bye is that for all its entertaining storytelling, it’s really not doing anything new with the genre. I find it hard to call this comic innovative, because for all its not-superhero-ness, the content here is not too different to what you would see in any good zombie flick (something Kirkman admits in the forward). It’s still a good story, but if you’re expecting innovation for the horror genre, you won’t get it.
Days Gone Bye is still a fantastic book, though and it gets four out of five happy Eric Stephensons.
+ Great character dynamics
+ Excellent sense of tension and drama
+ Art highlights exactly what it should.
- Don’t mistake “not superhero” for innovative
Alternate Option: ... ummm...
There’s not much in the way of comics like this, but you could always watch “Dawn of the Dead”.