I enjoyed the first season of The Walking Dead on A&E and I'm looking forward to the next season, so it was time to check out the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman. That the television show veers from its source material is a no-brainer. What surprised me is how very much better and complex the source material was.
The Walking Dead: Compendium One contains the first eight graphic novels in the series. At six issues a novel, that works out to 48 issues packed into this doorstopper of a book. We've seen the opening premise in a number of books and movies. A man -- in this case, police officer Rick Grimes -- wakes up in a hospital and no one else is there. No one alive that is. Grimes is in the age of the zombies, the walking dead -- mindless corpses with an appetite for warm human flesh.
After several adventures and encounters, Rick manages to hook up with a very small group of survivors, among them -- surprisingly -- are his wife and son and his best friend. Rick soon becomes the de facto leader of this group and must use whatever skills he has to help them survive. The odds are against them, however. Some people die. Others join them while we watch what effect the end of the world has on each of them.
Underlying all this is the question of the zombies. What happened to create them? How to stop them?
This book is for mature audiences. There's sex and perversions and visceral violence. Nobody gets off easily. Moral codes have to be adapted or abandoned. Things happen that the reader just does not want to happen. No character is sacrosanct. There is the realization that the title also applies to the survivors.
The people in this book are well-drawn (in both the literal sense by Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore, and Cliff Rathburn, and in the character development as envisioned by Kirkman) and complex.
Make no mistake about it, this is disturbing stuff. But it's also great stuff -- just not for everyone.