Review: The Walking Dead Compendium One

Chapter One: “Days Gone Bye”

As an avid comic book collector in my youth, I was eager to check out The Walking Dead collection.  As a writer who has adapted prose to screenplay format and vice-versa, I couldn’t wait to compare the graphic novel to the television series.  Being only one (albeit lengthy) chapter in, I’m excited to share my thoughts.

The Walking Dead Compendium One is a thousand-word tome divided into eight chapters.  The cover art, a group picture of the main characters mirrored by precise zombie counterparts, depicts the duality theme of supernatural monster versus human monster carefully illustrated throughout the television series.  The interior is no less profound.  Drawn and inked in black and white, the use of light and shadow more than makes up for the obvious (and likely purposeful) lack of color.  Sometimes simplistic, sometimes detailed, the imagery repeatedly offers clues about the story’s running themes:

  • The run-off from the prison foreshadows the chaos to come.
  • The flies and maggots infesting the undead, which in turn are feasting on bodies littering the hospital cafeteria, draw parallels between the zombies and the death that looms all around them.  Similarly, drawings of crows or ravens looming over swarms of undead, and most distinctly a picture of a vulture eating a rotting corpse, bring about thoughts of scavengers preying upon scavengers, which are, without any doubt, made to represent the zombies and humans alike.
  • The decomposition of bodies mirrors closely the decomposition of the town—and that of society as a whole.
  • The Old West imagery parallels the nonstop struggle for order, faith in government, and struggles over social standing.  The conflict between Rick and Shane over control over the camp reveals a society at its barest roots, with room for only one alpha male, while the reversion to hunter-gatherer structure—with the men hunting and the women congregating at the river to do laundry—solidify that depiction.
  • The dynamics portrayed between the various characters draws a detailed analysis of family, the comparison between blood relation and chosen relation also touching upon themes of loyalty and complex social interaction.

What is most striking about the graphic novel is how much darker it is in comparison to the television series.  While this might seem surprising to fans of the show, given how gritty it is in itself, the graphic novel’s darkest moment blows the show out of the water.  The most disturbing difference is in the nature of Shane’s death.  While many of the details are the same, the most important detail is profoundly changed.  It is interesting to consider the screenwriters’ choices where this is concerned, as not only do they combine two very separate scenes (which is actually common in screen adaptations), but they opt to paint a couple of characters in significantly different ways.  The result is a divergence in character progression that works well for the show—but a graphic novel chapter ending that will leave The Walking Dead fans with their jaws on the floor.  It is horrifying, provocative, and perfectly suited for the horror comic genre.

I highly recommend it to The Walking Dead series fans and horror comic fans alike.

leigh lane

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Leigh M. Lane lives in the beautiful mountains of Montana, where she writes speculative fiction that spans from sci-fi to horror. All of her writing contains a gritty realism that hallmarks her unique voice, which also often has social or political undertones. Her recent full-length releases are Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods. Leigh’s influences include H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. For more about Leigh M. Lane and her works, visit her website at http://www.cerebralwriter.com.

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