Author: Robert Kirkman
Publisher: Image comics
Release Date: June 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Aryan
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
As the Eisner Award-winning series continues, no one in The Community is safe from what happens within its walls!This latest volume was a bit of a mixed bag for me and I didn't enjoy it as much as I was hoping to. We're still a couple of months away from the start of the second series of The Walking Dead on TV and I couldn't be more excited about that. I think it's a great TV show that actually appeals to a very wide audience without compromising the content or softening the story to make it family friendly and three generational TV. It's also different enough to the comic that I am not sat there with a tick list waiting for stuff to happen and marking it off. The TV show has reinvigorated my interest in the comic but unfortunately this volume felt a bit flat and lifeless.
This is a minor spoiler if you've not read the previous thirteen volumes, but the group has now arrived at a settlement. It's also the first sizeable one that they've come across which is normal. They've met groups of people in the past on the road and they even came across another large settlement at one point. However it was run by a very unstable character and the end result was very bloody and total carnage. This settlement is different as the people in it are ordinary and just want to have an approximation of a normal life. There are problems of course and people are still fractured and on edge, but that's understandable given the zombies shambling around outside the walls.
Previously, when the group was on the road, the writer, Robert Kirkman, would utilize the magician's trick of misdirection to catch you unawares. The story would be focused on an immediate issue or conflict and while you were caught up with that, a zombie would shamble up and attack. It wasn't always that simple, but what it did was constantly keep you on edge when reading and, like the characters, it stopped you getting comfortable. The second they do that is the second they are likely to be killed because they weren't paying attention. Now that they're inside a settlement almost all of the conflict comes from other people and the shocking moments felt forced. It seemed to me they were added to remind the reader that all was not well rather than being organic developments.
On the one hand the settlement stories are fascinating to read, because it suggests that any group of people in this new world cannot exist together for very long and settle in one place. The zombies are attracted to the noise and industry that a large group of people make on a daily basis. The community offers some protection, strength in numbers and a semblance of normality but it's all artificial. Eventually the inevitable will happen because no one is actively trying to tackle the problem, they are just trying to avoid it and get by as best they can.
I don't think the story in the comic book has run its course, but I do think it works much better when they are on the move. The stories are less predictable, every issue of the comic brings you something totally unexpected and they could encounter any number of relics from the old world that could help or hinder. When they're in a settlement I'm always waiting for the inevitable and for me it made the comic far less interesting.
The other thing that I think is missing, but perhaps this has been planned for further down the line, is an evolution of some kind. With any long running story there needs to be a progression of some sort to keep it interesting otherwise the stories start to recycle and you end up with 'The Transporter accident episode' to use a commonly used trope from the Star Trek franchise. It could be disaster with the death of the group or an end to the zombie plague, or something else entirely, but I would like to see hints of that larger picture to indicate the writer has his eye on the horizon as well as the day to day.
Overall the comic is entertaining and is still worth picking up but I think it needs an injection of something new, a larger plot, something that builds in the background, to make it a must read series again.