BONUS REVIEW The Walking Dead 20: All Out War Part One – Robert Kirkman

WD20This is the only volume of The Walking Dead to be labelled as part one of something. A subtle clue that things are about to change – or another marketing guru’s great idea. Like you aren’t going to buy the next volume, and the next and the next.

Kirkman does a great job of showing you the scale of what is going to be The Walking Dead’s mano-a-mano conflict. Not just in terms of numbers but the ideologies at stake here. Both Rick and Negan see the folly of conflict but neither has it within them to back down. Each gives their own version of Henry V’s speech to their followers.

The dead only have one weapon but when humans go to war the tactics and arms are far more devastating. By the end you are wondering if anyone will be left standing when the smoke clears. We lose some people here but as readers we have learnt not to grow attached to the new people we meet so loss doesn’t have the impact it once did.

The art is fabulous. On first reading it is so subtle and elegant that you don’t notice just how skilled Adlard is. But going back it is easy to see that it is so in tune with the story that it appears invisible. There is great work going on with the visuals and everything is running like clockwork.

Thumbs Up!

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BONUS REVIEW The Walking Dead 19: March to War – Robert Kirkman

WD19This is an excellent volume. There is a buzz, a tingle in the air. The excitement of a plan coming together. As the communities prepare to stand united there is a gripping tension that pervades this volume. There are still some nice character touches and the reappearance of someone you may have forgotten about. Kirkman doesn’t do what you expect which is why, after all this time, The Walking Dead still seems fresh and novel. The art is great and there is the return of the double page spread, one of which is a classic rug-pull. The character expressions are wonderful and there are some really nice close-ups. A great volume that uses tension masterfully and makes you cling on for dear life until the next book. Thumbs Up! BONUS REVIEW

BONUS REVIEW The Walking Dead 18: What Comes After – Robert Kirkman

WD18This is a subtle volume. Not a quiet before the storm, not an exercise in the boredom involved the aftermath of a crisis and not a tantalising use of suspense. This is important shit being revealed.

Negan. That’s who is on your mind. Clearly he is a monster, worse than the Governor if the events of the last volume are anything to go by. This volume tells you more about him. You won’t love him after this book but, thanks to Kirkman’s skilful writing, you will see he is a complex character. The brainless mass of the zombie antagonists demand a deep and complex cast.

This is the end of the world and people have been stripped of the social veneer that lubricated civilisation. Is the best thing for a community a strong, harsh leader who is consistent and who obeys his own rules? How does the unpredictable and emotionally fraught Rick compare to that standard?

A lot of this book’s strength and intelligence is below the surface and relies on you to ask the questions about what it shows you. There are some shocks but less than the average book. It won’t let you forget what happened last time either. That wound will take time to heal.

Nothing here will question your faith in this series and like all books now the ending just makes you want the next one even more. Thumbs Up!

BONUS REVIEW

Walking Dead 17: Something to Fear – Robert Kirkman

After months of slow but necessary build-up we finally have another killer volume. And killer in the Kirkman sense of the word as the author/ butcher gets busy on his remaining cast.

To present a credible threat to our band of heroes takes something special. After the Governor and everything else they have endured it requires a different kind of menace to cause fear in Rick and the reader too. Kirkman has been driving us mad with trivialities, and doldrums, and the day to day boredom that much of a zombie aftermath would entail.

Did we make the mistake of believing the rosy glow on the horizon was something good? Time for us readers to get our comeuppance. There are shocks, surprises, a wonderful twist, and some hard to stomach brutality, the like of which we have not seen in ten volumes.

The art is great and there is nothing that distracts from the drama unfolding before you. A real master of the craft isn’t seen through spectacle and gratuity but through the subtle nuances that affect you without noticing why. Adlard knows his characters and his readers well and a small change of expression or shift in eye-line saves Kirkman a dozen words. This black and white world feels so authentic.

Definitely the most dramatic and engaging volume for some time. Definitely a Thumbs Up!

274/91

Tomorrow: The Chimpanzee Complex: Paradox – Richard Marazano

The Walking Dead Volume 16: A Larger World – Robert Kirkman

A man named Jesus approaches a people who are afraid and persecuted by the world around them. He promises them a better way of life, of peace and love – freedom from their fears. If they follow him to the Promised Land they will be saved. Rick then punches him in the face and ties him up. This would have been a cleverer metaphor if Kirkman hadn’t actually named the visitor from another nearby community Jesus.

After the slow build of the past few volumes our rollercoaster is reaching the top of its climb. We learn of a new community with a much longer term vision in place; of a desperado as bad as the Governor; and a bold new future on the horizon. Things are going to be hotting up real soon.

It’s very interesting to see our heroes view the hand of friendship. After two years trust and optimism has run dangerously short along with the canned food. As a reader you too are suspicious of an offer too good to be true. This sense of paranoia Kirkman has effortlessly instilled in us is testament to his great writing.

The art great but there are more single and double page spreads than usual. Rather than these being dramatic story points it does feel padded, as is if there is time to kill before the next chapter is ready. Overall still a Thumbs Up!

138/227.

Tomorrow: The Hedge Knight – George R. R. Martin

The Walking Dead Volume 15: We Find Ourselves – Robert Kirkman

Since the introduction of the new community the Walking Dead storylines have become much more subtle and subdued. The trademark shock and awe that threatened to give you a heart attack with the turn of each page has subsided somewhat. It is easy to cry foul and want more of what Kirkman does best. But you have to think of the long term. You can only have so much death before you have no characters left to continue the story or you as the reader become inured to it all.

This long term vision is what the characters are currently facing up to. With the potential of a stable and safe community you get to think further ahead than your next meal or next sunrise. What are the things you need to be looking at addressing in a year, ten years or a generation into the future? This is something that rarely comes up in zombie fiction and is actually the heart of what Kirkman set out to do when he created the Walking Dead. Initially I was sceptical about this volume as, like you, I want my shock and awe. But even though the limbs aren’t flying thick and fast the themes and character interactions are no less important or dramatic.

We are so used to the now familiar black and white art that it becomes transparent. It is testament to how great it is by the fact we take it for granted. Doing snow scenes in black and white isn’t easy but it all looks effortless. This is definitely a Thumbs Up!

137/228.

Tomorrow: The Walking Dead Volume 16: A Larger World – Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Volume 14: No Way Out – Robert Kirkman

The walls come tumbling down. Quite literally, as the dead congregate on their new home. Just as we think our heroes are going to achieve something akin to normality it all goes horribly wrong. But, as the characters themselves feel, maybe the danger sees them at their best.

There are a lot more deaths which is a shame as some of the new characters were just beginning to get interesting and could have had a pronounced effect on the future storyline. But it is important that there are no sacred cows and that anyone can die at any time. This issue certainly proves that theory with an incredibly shocking page turn. But there is a message of hope as Rick makes a dramatic realisation. The art is great as always, particularly with so many characters to portray. Thumbs Up!

136/229.

Tomorrow: The Walking Dead Volume 15: We Find Ourselves – Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Volume 13: Too Far Gone – Robert Kirkman

Can you escape your destiny? Can Rick? Is he destined to become a leader or is it that everyone else hates the job so much they run away screaming. Even when you are safe behind walls the influence of the dead and their new world is never far away. Your experiences change you, stay with you and mould you into someone new.

This is a quiet, thoughtful issue with the focus on domestic matters. The cracks aren’t in the outer walls but within the people inside them. You – like the characters – find yourself yearning for the simpler problems of survival as opposed to the messy business of human emotions. You do keep thinking of Dale’s words, “I can’t wait to see how Rick will screw things up and put us all in danger next.” Still a Thumbs Up verdict.

135/230.

Tomorrow: The Walking Dead Volume 14: No Way Out – Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them – Robert Kirkman

What if? What if you could change things? Change things back to how they were – bring back the good times. This is the choice Rick and the others face. It’s not as easy as you might think. After all this time can Rick and the group really cope with normality? Baking cookies, walking the dog, playing football; are these things that you have been holding out for, or are they meaningless bullshit. Is that what being alive is really about?

Once you go to war – with the dead, with humanity, with yourself – can you ever be the same again? Do you need to live on the edge forever or is there a way back. In this volume we get to see the group from the outside. How good are our “good guys?” At the end of this episode one tiny event may have Rick crossing our line and losing our sympathy.

The art is great. New characters are introduced and they all have distinctive looks and feels so you don’t get confused. Thumbs Up to Kirkman for making safety and normality the most terrifying nightmare of them all!

134/231.

Tomorrow: The Walking Dead Volume 13: Too Far Gone – Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Volume 11: Fear the Hunters – Robert Kirkman

How does he do it? How does he keep dropping your jaw? How the hell does he pull these rabbits out of the hat? After all this time how does he still shock and amaze you. We should all be jaded and cynical after five years of The Walking Dead but still our emotions are Kirkman’s to toy with. The man is a literary ninja! This volume is jam packed with really hard hitting blows. As the group thins we care more and more for those who remain so every fresh trauma cuts us deeper.

The art too has been lulling us into a false sense of security. There has been nothing flashy or showy and admittedly it has mostly been talking heads but there are some poignant vignettes that are like artistic exclamation marks. Toward the end there is a double page spread of most of the group looking right at us. These are our friends who we have followed through thick and thin but you know that they would kill us without a second thought. That picture sends chills down your spine and might be the most powerful in the series to date. I think it might be time for another Double Thumbs up!

133/232.

Tomorrow: The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them – Robert Kirkman