Thee Comic Column #15: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead (image: AMC)

The Walking Dead (image: AMC)


Some may remember that my very first installment of Thee Comic Column was about The Walking Dead – the comic book. I have been a fan of the book since about 2005 and in the seven since then I still maintain that it is hands down the best comic book out there. Robert Kirkman’s story unfolds at a masterful pace and his characters truly are never safe – therefore they undergo radical bouts of actual character development from issue to issue. Charlie Adlard’s art is poetic in it’s grim and often tarnishes tones, foreboding where appropriate, emotional when needed and all around consistent in its world-building. When Rick Grimes and company are inside a prison or a house or a community for long periods I truly feel as they must – that there is nothing else beyond. When they strike out into the wild, intrepid and vulnerable I feel this too, sometimes with quick, furtive glances over my own shoulder. Inspired to wax on philosophically like I am inclined to do here about this book is it any wonder that I had major issues with AMC’s tv show.

Confession: I have always been and probably will always remain one of those people who lose a little something when everyone else gets into what I’m into. Not that I didn’t want to see Walking Dead succeed – for the five years I worked in a bookstore I introduced countless amounts of people – co workers and customers alike – to the book because I truly feel that it transcends both the ‘comic book’ stigma and the ‘zombie’ stigma.

With that confession out in the open I can tell you that I LOVED the initial three-fourths of the first season of The Walking Dead. Then the last two episodes… not so much. The bombastic explosion-laden  first season finale came off as needlessly amped-up and despite the fact that my good friend Mike who is from Atlanta insists that heading to the CDC is the natural, sensible thing to do in Rick’s groups’ situation I really just didn’t care for anything in that episode. Not because it deviated from the book – several episodes before the group encountered a group of Latino gangbangers who were taking care of the elderly – a snapshot of something never covered in the book – and it was my favorite episode of the season. No, that first season finale just tried to hard for me, as if they were suddenly interested in appealing to the Mission Impossible audience or something.

Then season two – I ignored the show for the entire run of the second season and only tried to give it another chance recently. The first half of the second season alternately delighted and infuriated me,  but when I saw the mid-season finale where Shane forced the group to confront their fears by breaking open Hershel’s barn, well, I believed I had witnessed something masterful. Suddenly the path by which the creators of the show were moving the characters became very clear to me and I liked it. It made sense that Tyrese hadn’t been introduced because Shane had stayed around longer and three alpha males would have been too much. It made sense that what happened to Sophie happened. It made sense that certain people die sooner (or later) than others.

And now season three has reached its mid-year finale and all I have to say is the level of writing has leveled off and for pretty much this entire season thus far I am really into it and without a single complaint. Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, nto to mention Frank Darabont – the original show runner before AMC bafflingly fired him – deserve great credit in getting this thing up and running and really making it a work in progress. A lot of great shows take some time to get their sea legs and then end up sprinting for the finish line like an Olympic athlete. AMC’s The Walking Dead appears to be one of those.

Predictions: Don’t worry – I’d bet an elbow Daryl and Merle are not going to die. What better way, from a writing standpoint, to create fantastic group-tension than by pulling both of them out of the fire and putting them back in line with Rick and Co.? Daryl’s gonna protect Merle because their kin (probably somewhat begrudgingly and I would say eventually, down the line  be forced to make the decision to cut his ties with his psycho brother – all the juicier a moment after marinating in post Woodbury reunion), Rick’s gonna tolerate Merle because of Daryl and everyone else is going to question Rick for that very reason. Glen and Maggie will begin to view Rick in a drastically different way after being tortured at Merle’s hands and our little group will have a lot of self-discovery and soul-searching cut out for it. And that my friends is the mark of all the best zombie stories – the people and how they cope with being the last of their kind, unable to trust any others who they encounter along the way as they too wait to become THE WALKING DEAD.

Brilliant. Alright then, whose up for a pint?

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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