January 24, 2022

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Comic Review: The Walking Dead Compendium 1

The first 48 isuses of Robert Kirkman's magnum opus zombie tale...I finally finished the dang thing...

I have never seen a single, solitary episode of The Walking Dead TV show.  That’s not bragging.  That’s just a fact.  I know lots of people who have seen it, but at this point, it has been on the air so long, I think I might never catch up even if I take my sister’s advice and skip the first three seasons or so (which is like the opposite of my advice on Dexter to stop at the end of season four).  Jimmy and I somewhat talked in the past about doing a rewatch for it like we have other stuff, only this time he’d be the expert and I’d be the novice, but I think he soured on that idea in more recent years.

That said, I had read a few Walking Dead trades once upon a time, finishing up at the point where Rick Grimes and his travel companions found the prison they would call home for a while.  Anyway, I did pick up a massive trade covering the first 48 issues and finally finished it.  Was it worth the trip?

First off, I started this book last May.  I would read a few pages, put it down, forget about it for a while, and then read some more over time.  Once 2020 rolled around, I decided I really needed to finish some of the books I hadn’t quite completed in 2019 before I got too into other books.  And that giant Walking Dead Compendium was just sitting there…

I mean, this is over a thousand pages of Walking Dead comics, all from writer/creator Robert Kirkman.  Most of the artwork, after the first “chapter” (my guess is it was the first trade) came from Charlie Adlard, with Chapter One’s art provided by Tony Moore.  As for the issues themselves, they cover everything from the start of the series all the way through to the end of the Governor’s storyline.

And I think I know why I didn’t read more of this before.

Now, to be fair, nothing here is what I would call bad.  It’s quite good.  Kirkman clearly put a lot of thought into this world and how everything would change if the majority of people became some kind of zombie.  There are rules to zombies:  they move slow, they’re always hungry for the living, and anyone who dies becomes one within a few minutes or so depending on cause of death.  A bite from one will spread the infection and kill someone, but there are ways to prevent that if someone acts quickly enough.  Once the characters understand the rules, so to speak, handling zombies isn’t too much of a problem as long as the characters are careful what they do.  Heck, they can wander around near zombies as long as they keep moving since the things are so slow, and a good bit of head trauma will take one down for good.

No, the real issue with the living in The Walking Dead comes from other living people.  And that isn’t just outsiders like the Governor.  He’s bad, but Kirkman does try to show that a lot of the people working for him aren’t so much bad as scared of what’s going on and needing protection.  He just offered it, and society, such as it is, has gone to crap.  The real issues for Rick Grimes comes along before the Governor even shows up as tensions between himself and his companions always makes things worse.  Poor tragic Hershel, a fairly religious man, will threaten to shoot people who brought him pain before feeling he’s gone too far and trying to make amends.  Michonne may be very good at dispensing violence against the undead or other humans, but she also seems to be someone who makes things worse more than she makes things better when she isn’t swinging a sword at a hostile anything.  Perhaps the ugliest scene in the entire Compendium is when Rick and Tyresse get into an argument that turns into a fistfight, and these two guys are normally the best of friends.

But then I also found, as much as Kirkman is good at creating tension within the group, that many of these people are either kinda terrible people (at least sometimes) or are rather bland.  It’s not a bad thing that even series protagonist Rick Grimes does a lot of awful things in the name of keeping his family alive, and this is a series that isn’t afraid to kill off anybody, but it would be nice if I felt like there was someone I liked enough to root for most of the time.  Rick’s handling of Martinez, while understandable, is still rather awful because it assumes everyone in the Governor’s territory is as sick and twisted as the Governor, and the reader knows that probably isn’t the case.

Plus, Adlard’s artwork isn’t always good at allowing me to tell who is who, particularly as everything is in black and white.  Without Dale’s hat, he’d look an awful lot like Hershel, or even Otis depending on the panel.

So, even as Kirkman has finally this past year finished this series, will I be getting more of these?  Maybe, but not any time soon.  These just weren’t really for me to burn through all that quickly.

7.5 out of 10 Governor mutilations.

Seriously, that guy was almost unkillable.

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