The Walking Dead (vol. 9)

>This is a new experience for me. I have been reading The Walking Dead since the first issue. Every month (or so, depending on Kirkman’s schedule) I was ready for the next installment of zombie goodness.

But, a few months ago I gave up my monthly comic buying. I switched entirely to trades. It was partially a response to the increasing costs of monthly book. It was also a response to the fact that the single-issue story is dead. Stories are now entirely written in four and six issue story arcs which are immediately collected for trade. There is no economic or story reason (in the good old days, only the most popular story lines of the most popular books were ever collected for trades. Everything else you had to hunt around for in long-boxes) to keep buying individual issues.

So this was my first experience with The Walking Dead as a collection.

I have to say that it does read a bit different. When you are waiting for a month at a stretch, you have an opportunity to let the full horror of the situation seep in. With the book, you get a concentrated dose of horror that is almost too much to handle at once.

While the overall theme of The Walking Dead is the struggle to keep one’s humanity in the shadow of the end of the world, the theme for this book was the deliberate loss of innocence and youth. The focus of the book is on Rick’s son, Carl. With Rick out of commission, Carl is forced to give up the protections of childhood for the responsibilities of life in this post-apocalyptic world.

Kirkman lays out the new status-quo, as previous issues had a massive house cleaning of characters. At first it seems that the story will focus on Rick and Carl. Given how the cast of characters in the book once soared to over two dozen, I was looking forward to some character development for Carl, and some new adventures involving the terror of being on your own.

However, Kirkman does not give that time to develop. Before too long, characters are returning and new characters are arriving on the scene. Some of them are welcome. Some are annoying. Kirkman wisely keeps everyone at arms length to keep the suspicion and tension high.

One thing that this volume does provide is a purpose and focus. The Walking Dead’s strength was the characters. Its weakness has always been the lack of any real action and direction. Taking a page from Y: The Last Man, Kirkman sends our band of heroes on a road trip. While it seems a bit contrived, it does allow for more story telling opportunities.

The other thing the book provides is a rare jumping on point for new readers. While it is usually best to read a series from the beginning, it is possible for a new reader to jump on here and move on without looking back. The truly curious can get earlier collections (which will help new readers to figure out the back story as well as understand some of the relationships) but it is not mandatory.

It is a real testament to The Walking Dead that month after month readership actually increases. Clearly there are people who have not yet discovered how amazing a zombie comic can be. So, if you have not yet had the experience, and have been hesitant about jumping in on a series 50 issues in to the run, do yourself a favor and pick up this collection.

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