Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Walking Dead

I don't really know what made me want to watch The Walking Dead TV series. I never was a big fan of horror and even less of zombies movies, finding them rather ridiculous and disgusting. Being amused by the idea of a feature-quality TV series about zombies, I guess I took notice of the web punditocracy announcing it as something worth watching and there was probably nothing else on TV that night... The fact is that, after watching the first episode, I was intrigued enough to follow the entire first season (six episodes).

I admit that I have always been a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic story (with or without zombies). What makes this TV series interesting is its excellent production quality, particularly the quite realistic CGI and make-up of the zombies. Despite the subject, it is not at all an horror story (unexpectedly I didn't get a single nightmare after watching this, although I quickly realized that it was not a good idea to eat any meal while watching!) as it is rather about survival and how humans react and behave in extreme conditions. The writing is nothing exceptional but it is good enough to warrant excellent ratings, nomination for several awards and to be renewed for at least another thirteen-episode season.

Here's the TV series' trailer from YouTube:

And “Inside The Walking Dead: A Look Ahead” (Source: TV Squad):
However, at some point, I discovered that the TV series was based on an american comic book and, as always, I wanted to compare the TV adaptation with the original story. Even if it was available in electronic format on iPhones & iPads (it even has its own app!) through Comixology (the first issue is available for free), I must admit that I read the french edition instead since it was the only version available at my local library (all for free!). The Walking Dead is published by Image Comics as a monthly b&w comics. It is written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Tony Moore (issue #1-6) and Charlie Adlard (since issue #7). Started in 2003, it includes so far 79 issues compiled in 13 trade paperback volumes (containing 6 issues each), 6 hardcover volumes (containing 12 issues each), 3 Omnibus editions (containing 24 issues each) and one compendium edition (containing 48 issues). The french edition (12 volumes so far) is the equivalent of the trade paperbacks. In 2010 it has received the Eisner Award for best continuing series. You can find more details on its official web site. On the website, the story is described as follow: “An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.” The black and white art is very precise, neet and enjoyable. Action scenes are always clear and easy to understand. Strangely, because it's in black and white, it feels much less gory than the TV series. Nevertheless the story is quite violent and people die by the handful in every volume (and that's not counting the enormous amount of zombies that get sliced down). However what sets the story apart and makes it interesting is not this violence (although I am sure many read the comics for that reason), but the human side of the storytelling: the characters' will of survival, their relationships, the depth of their emotions, particularly their fear, angst and even madness. So far I've read eleven of the trade paperbacks and I can't wait to read more. It is really well written. After going through the original story, I am quite surprised to find how pale the TV series is in comparison with the comics. The latter has a much stronger storytelling and is much more innovative. Actually, they don't have much in common beside the original concept, the name of the characters and the events set in the first volume of the comics. At the end of the first volume, one of the main character dies and from there, so far, the story is completely different than what I've seen in the TV series. It might be easier (as in less challenging to the mind) to simply sit in a couch and watch a TV series, but the comic book is much more interesting and enjoyable. If you don't mind too much the zombies and like post-cataclysmic survival stories, I strongly recommand the Walking Dead comics.
The Walking Dead © Robert Kirkman. TV series © 2010 American Movie Classics Company LLC. All rights reserved.

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