May 24, 2022

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Comic Review: The Walking Dead Compendium 2

Rick Grimes and his surviving friends and allies try to do more than simply survive in a world populated by the hungry dead.

At the start of 2021, I had a large stack of fairly thick trade paperbacks I decided to get through this calendar year.  I got through some faster than others.  Heck the Queen and Country book wasn’t even that thick compared to the others.  But the last one, the one I knew would take the most time, was The Walking Dead Compendium 2I really didn’t much like the first Compendium, but that was more about the pacing and the seeming lack of character growth.  It was fine, but didn’t do a lot for me.

Why, then, did I opt to go for Compendium 2?  Part of it was curiosity.  I mean, I didn’t hate the first book, so maybe I would prefer the second.  Though, like with the first book, it did take me a while to finish this one.

That said, it wasn’t because I hated the book.  Something about The Walking Dead compendiums make them very easy to put down, go read other things, and get back to them later.  However, I much preferred this second book to the first.

I can’t explain why that is.  Maybe it’s because protagonist Rick Grimes stopped hanging around that prison with his group of survivors.  Maybe it was because most of the blander or unlikable members of his group were killed off by then.  Maybe it was just the fact they weren’t dealing with the Governor anymore.  Seriously, that guy hung around too long for my tastes, though Jimmy has already warned me about Negan.

Negan doesn’t appear in this book, but he is namedropped a couple times as a future threat.  This book covers issues #49 to 96.  I don’t think he showed up until #100.

However, I did like this one better for a number of reasons.  The central cast has somewhat shrunk a little bit, and there’s less backbiting among the characters still there.  Sure, Dale seems pretty much anti-Rick for a while there in a manner that felt a little tiresome, but he meets a sad end around the halfway point and even apologizes to Rick before he dies.  If anything, it’s more of why Dale dies that makes that interesting as writer Robert Kirkman, once he’s out of that dang prison, opts to explore the world of The Walking Dead more.  It’s not like Rick and his group are the only survivors in this world, and he even meets some more allies in the form of Hulk Hogan lookalike Abraham, smart guy Eugene, priest Gabriel, and the kind foil to Abraham’s more brusque ways, Rosita.

But the main theme of the book by this point is the Roamers aren’t really much of a threat unless they come in a big enough swarm.  Yes, Abraham does explain how there can be massive herds of the things if you aren’t careful about noise, but as has always been the case, the real threat is always other living people.  Rick, by now, can’t bring himself to really trust strangers, a fact that may have cost him if some of the more well-meaning types he meets were a little less understanding than they were.  Instead, there are some models for alternate communities, starting with the cannibals and then moving on to the growing, carefree (even when they shouldn’t be) community of Alexandria and then on to Hilltop at the end of the volume.

That’s the sort of thing that fascinates me as the series takes time to explore the lives of more survivors while keeping the focus squarely on Rick Grimes.  Rick at one point explains he only really cares about keeping his family, by this point down to just Carl, safe and alive.  Everything else he does, if it benefits other people, that’s just a coincidence.  But if Rick’s big speech in Compendium 1 was about how it was survivors like Rick and his group were the real Walking Dead, this time around, he’s seeing the possibility of reclaiming civilization and actually living again.  It’s a more hopeful Rick that emerges in this volume, and with him, a sense of right and wrong that has been largely absent for a long time.  It’s a welcome development.  He still is a little too casual in his use of violence, even if it is generally justified, but he is getting better, seeing hope and realizing he needs to think of people beyond his family.  It’s just been dumb luck so far that his decisions were good for other people too.  And yes, this is only the halfway point, so I am sure that hope will be dashed again in the future, but for now, things are looking up.

Then again, he is carrying a phone around to talk to his dead wife, a move he knows is not all that mentally sound, but he does it anyway.

Bottom line:  The Walking Dead evolved as a series in a manner I found welcome.  I won’t mind so much moving on to Compendium 3, and hopefully this time it won’t take six months to finish the dang thing once I start it.

8.5 out of 10 sheltered communities.

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