The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone By
by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore (Image, 2006)

More often than not, I read the book before I see the movie.

In the case of The Walking Dead, however, I got hooked on reruns of the TV series long before I picked up one of the graphic novel collections.

It's about time I start. After all, I whizzed through Season 3 of the series on Netflix in a matter of days, and it's a long wait until Season 4 -- which, as of this writing, hasn't even started to air -- makes it way to my TV screen.

It is, without question, a different sort of animal. Plot lines that took several episodes -- or, in at least one case, two seasons -- to unfold take place with a rapid-fire pace in Days Gone By, the first book in the series, which collects six issues of the monthly comic.

Rick Grimes, a rural Kentucky police officer, is shot in the line of duty. When he wakes from his month-long coma, the hospital seems at first empty. Then he finds them. You know, the zombies.

In lickety-split fashion, Rick escapes from the hospital, visits his empty home, meets suburban homesteader Morgan and his son Duane, gallops to Atlanta in search of his wife and son, meets Glenn on a supply run and, after eluding the urban hordes, finds his family and his old partner Shane shacked up with a handful of other survivors at Glenn's campsite.

Sorry if there were any spoilers there, but this mirrors the first several episodes of the show quite closely. The episodes, thankfully, provide a lot more detail -- and, thanks to good screenwriting and acting, adds a lot of tension and horror to what is almost a blur of emotionless activity in the book.

The art by Tony Moore is great, although a story this rich in color -- albeit the muted colors of rotting flesh and, of course, the crimson splash of blood -- would have been served better if it hadn't run in black and white. Robert Kirkman's story probably would have felt more complete if the TV series hadn't exceeded it so fully in detail and development. As it stands, Days Gone By feels like a rough sketch, a hurried proposal on which a bigger story could be built.

I mean, there are characters here who died -- horribly, of course, since we're talking about zombies. In the TV series, I cared. I knew them. They felt real. In the book, they were two-dimensional figures that I had no connection to, no chance to get to know.

That said, I'll keep reading to see what Kirkman and Moore can do with the survivors, now that we've had a little more time to interact.

review by
Tom Knapp

19 October 2013

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