The Walking Dead is a modern classic to many, and after enjoying reading through Invincible for the first time so much at the beginning of 2022, I'm very glad and happy I got to finish out that year reading the first compendium of this fantastic post-apocalypse classic.
To structure this review, there's a few specific points I want to talk about. This is timed nicely with the release of the first part of my Walking Dead episode of Joe Talks Comics (covering the first half of this first compendium, volumes 1-4) with @RedHood1124 (over on the League of Comic Geeks) which I'm excited for everyone to hear, but I digress.
The first point I wanted to make was about the characters. There are certain books that I've heard throughout the years have the "no-one is safe" shtick, but Walking Dead feels like one of the books I hear that about. And I don't mean to use the word "shtick" negatively, just descriptively. From the very start you see Rick grapple with this new normal, finding all sorts of new people along the way. It's a wild ride getting to know all of them, as well as connecting with Rick's wife Lori and their son Carl. Kirkman does such a great job of making everyone compelling, getting you emotionally invested in them, their personalities, struggles, relationships and arcs in general. Again I've long heard that this series is about the characters rather than the walkers or anything, and that was incredibly clear here.
Leading into my next point, it's fascinating following those different characters throughout the various storylines covered in this compendium alone. The first two volumes are great, but the series really gets going when the prison arc begins in volume 3. I say that like it's a separate point, but the stories are so richly intertwined with the characters themselves. The inter-personal drama, the conflict both within everyone, with each other and again with the apocalypse in general, it's all so well conveyed and written. This will lead into my next point about the art, but it was so easy to get lost and immersed in this book. It helps that there were breaks between the volumes but not the issues, meaning it flowed smoothly and nicely throughout. I don't have any complaints about the pacing in general, on the whole. When it slows down it works effectively because it's building up to the next climax, like a rollercoaster ride having ups and downs.
This might not have been the first black and white comic I've ever read, but I haven't read too many, and I definitely haven't read as many black and white issues as I have here. In the not-yet-released episode I mentioned above I mention about how I feel that lack of color enhances the immersion of the story, giving it an almost cosy feel, because of the sparseness of it. The sort of book you can just get lost in, reading in bed on a cold night, as you hear the rain pouring outside the window. In that sense it helps there's a lot less to visually process on each page, meaning a lot more was left to the imagination in that sense, heightening the atmosphere and mystery of it all, and the dinginess of some of the settings, mostly the prison through this compendium. Without color I thought there was a greater focus on the character's expressions, and the detail throughout was incredible. It feels expansive, during establishing shots of the prison for example, and then equally intimately personally with the same amount of detail in the close-ups on characters' faces that happens sometimes in here.
I would recommend it, but in this compendium in particular it got very dark a few times, so I would just be aware of that going in. I thought it was a very good read, but definitely a mature one at that, so I thought I'd mention that just in case mature books aren't for you.
If you want more of Joe's comic thoughts and reviews, you can find him on Twitter @JoeLovesComics and on the League of Comic Geeks also @JoeLovesComics.
You can also find his podcast on Twitter @JoeTalksComics, which you can listen to through Anchor, where you can find links to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or you can click those hyperlinks directly.