I have mentioned Robert Kirkmans ‘The Walking Dead’ (published by Image) a couple of times now. I love it. Set in a future where there has been a Zombie Apocalypse, there are pockets of civilisation left, and the focus of the story is on Policeman Rick Grimes, his family, and the other survivors he meets and forms a community with. They are currently in a prison, holed up and ‘safe’, while the undead roam the perimeter fencing. However, the nearby survivor community at Woodbury (a fortress-like town) has become aware of the prison, and led by ‘The Governer’, a psychopathic villain, they aim to take it by force.
This current story arc is subtitled ‘No-one is safe’. It is one of the series strengths that major characters can meet sudden death, reflecting the dangerous, unpredictable environment they are in. This arc also moves the threat away from the undead, and onto the Woodbury survivors. The implication is that we (humans) are our own worst enemy.
Robert Kirkman is producing some great writing for this book, and has to be considered as one of the very best writers of the genre (up there with Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Pat Mills, Frank Miller). His work is full of drama and emotion, and knows how to pace a story, even giving the reader superb cliffhangers at the end of each issue.
With any comic book, you need the visuals as much as you need the story. It’s an alchemy, and only the best titles and/or best writer &artist teams have it (for the obvious, think of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby on The Fantastic Four, or Stan Lee & Steve Ditko on The Amazing Spiderman). Charlie Adlard, the artist for ‘The Walking Dead’, has a style that suits the gritty, sometimes violent nature of Kirkmans writing. He is a British artist, and started out on 2000ad, working on Judge Dredd. He has been working on ‘The Walking Dead’ since issue 7. He has been doing the covers for each issue since #25. The covers I am showing here are from upcoming issues (#47,48 & 49 – the ‘no-one is safe’ arc finishes at 48). Not only do they give tantalising glimpses (and nothing more) of what will be happening, but they convey so much drama and emotion. I find the ‘mother & baby’ cover (of Rick Grimes’ wife, Lori, holding her infant daughter) particularly moving – the facial expression (anger? fear?) and position of surrender of the Mother, the way she is trying to shield her child, the movement of the baby in her arms, the aggressor standing mainly off panel, shotgun ready. The prison perimeter fence looks devastated, the feeling is one of desolation and finality.
The next issue is stark and foreboding – we know there will be major characters who will not survive, and this reaffirms this – it reminds me of images of makeshift war graves on the field of battle. Again, the prison perimeter fence is devastated, showing that the former ‘safe’ area has been broken down and is at the mercy of the undead and any other invader;
Finally, this is the most intriguing cover. Issue #49, Rick Grimes (part covered by shadow) being led by his young son, Carl. Ricks posture suggests one of 3 things – he has either become undead (as he is drawn in a typical ‘Zombie’ pose – think ‘Flyboy’ in Romeros ‘Dawn Of The Dead’) or is weak with injury, or overcome with grief and is incapable of doing anything – even escaping from danger – without the aid of his son. They certainly are not in the confines of the prison any more – this is open space, bristling with threat. Carl looks determined, intent on leading his Father to safety.
The comic book cover is the first impression, and Adlards art for ‘The Walking Dead’ is the perfect selling point for Kirkmans brutal survival tale. It demands your attention. It demands to be read. Can I have all these issues now please???