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The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye
Written by Robert Kirkman
Drawn by Tony Moore
Published by Image Comics; $9.95 USD

The Walking Dead is, at first glance, perhaps just another product in the latest line of zombie stories, be they in film or comics. But, like any good zombie story, or even any good horror story, looks can be deceiving.

Kirkman takes a few cues from some of the most well-known zombie films, most notably George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Like Boyle’s film, the first few chapters of The Walking Dead focuses on a single character, Rick, a policeman shot in the line of duty, who wakes up from a coma to find the world is much different than when he left it.

After learning about what has happened while he was in his coma, Rick heads for his home only to find his wife and son missing. Hoping for the best, he begins a long trip to Atlanta, desperately clinging to the idea that his wife and son are with her relatives there. Finding the city overrun with zombies, Rick meets up with a band of people outside the city limits, including his former partner, his wife, and his son.

The real driving force of The Walking Dead is Tony Moore’s art. Rick’s first zombie sighting upon waking up in the hospital is as terrifying as anything to come along in horror cinema in recent years, if not more. His characters, specifically the zombies, seem to move inside their perspective panels.

In fact, it’s Moore’s pencils that carry the entire first part of the collection. Until Rick meets up with his fellow survivors, Kirkman’s script feels very much like a half-hearted effort to imitate what’s come before instead of the love letter to the zombie/horror genre that it becomes in the later chapters.

The best zombie stories, be they film, comic or book, have a deeper meaning than to just scare us. For example, Romero’s Dawn of the Dead serves as both a simple “scary movie” and one man’s vision of the dangers of a consumer-minded nature. With that in mind, Kirkman and Moore have crafted a story that is equal parts fright-fest and survival story.

The characters feel sympathetic as well as terrifying in that middle-America- militia-extremist way. If the zombies represent the new norm, then this small group of gun-toting men and women are the self-chosen outcasts, striving to preserve a way of life they deemed better. When Rick begins to teach his son how to use a firearm it seems very necessary, and very alarming.

In the best horror stories, the scariest things are the humans, not the monsters. Everyone knows what the monsters are after; we all know what they’re going to do. It’s the reactions of people like ourselves that really scare us. Would we fall while running from a would-be killer? Could we drive a wooden stake through the heart of a family member who’s now a vampire? Those are the thoughts that keep us up at night, and The Walking Dead provides more than its fair share of them.

Despite its predictable, yet beautifully rendered opening, The Walking Dead is a step in the right direction for one of comics most overlooked fields. It’s intelligent as well as creepy, and is as much a character study as it is a horror story. By the books end you begin to question if the title refers to the zombies or the humans. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Logan Polk



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