As someone relatively new to comics and graphic novels, as well as a fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead television series, I was anxious to read the original comics that inspired the show. I readily admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of comics. I loved the illustrations, I loved the stories, but the individual installments never seemed to give me enough to satisfy and left me wanting more. However, with graphic novels – as well as the advent of digital media such as the Comixology app that features guided viewing, I can quickly get my visual narrative fix in larger, satisfying installments that don’t’ hurt my wallet. To that end, The Walking Dead Volume One: Days Gone Bye is both satisfying and addictive.
For those unfamiliar with The Walking Dead, the story follows small town policeman Rick Grimes as he makes the transition from law-abiding, loving family man to survivor of the zombie apocalypse who is willing to do whatever he must to protect those he loves. As the introduction to the graphic novel explains, the story is meant to “explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events CHANGE them.” If that is the main goal of the story, mission accomplished. However, there is so much more to this.
For one thing, the novel is scary. Really scary! The illustrations are both beautiful and brutal, eloquently portraying in black and white (except for the cover) the full range of horrors and emotions experienced by the characters. Although I had an inkling of what was coming due to my previous exposure to the show, there were several points where I gasped aloud due to a shocking development or an unexpected twist. As the characters lives become daily more and more violent, they are bombarded with increasing levels of danger- both from the outside and from their own inner circle.
Rick Grimes, policeman, family man, and all-around nice guy, gets shot in the first page of illustrations. He wakes up in the hospital, alone and afraid, after being in a coma for several weeks. As he wanders the abandoned building, he discovers dead bodies and is chased into the street by the walking dead. Disoriented, he heads for his home, which is also abandoned. He has no idea what happened, where his family is or if they are alive, and the story follows him as he discovers this strange new world. I won’t say more, because you need to discover the story for yourself.
Since I’d already watched the show via Netflix, I was familiar with most of the characters. They are very similar, although I think the characters in the graphic novel are more believable. Their behavior is more natural, given their ages, especially for the children. My only possible complaint might be that I want more of the story, but the 145 pages of volume one leaves off at a perfect spot; it is satisfying in the short term, yet leaves questions to be answered in later volumes. Since the series has over twenty volumes, it should be awhile before I’m left waiting for the next installment. Until then, as new fan of comics, I heartily recommend The Walking Dead, Volume One for it’s gripping plot, riveting characters, and incredible storytelling.