The Walking Reread Vol. 2

by ryankl

In which I tackle the second volume, where the scope of the story really opens up and the interpersonal drama dials it up to 11. My thoughts are usually scattershot, jotted down as I write, they don’t pretend to be fleshed out essays, or necessarily all that insightful, it’s just the stuff I saw and thought about as I worked through this volume, ymmv.

I’m not intending this to be a reread with a feminist slant, but the more you know in this life and the more you notice, I guess. This volume opens up with the history of Lori cheating on Rick. She’s not painted as horrible, so I guess there’s that. It’s a wild situation to survive a zombie apocalypse, so there’s some context to it all. But you can see the concept of “betrayal” is at the heart of Lori’s character, and I think a wife/mother just trying to hold things together might have more to her than just cheater and fun buster.

Then Dale tells Rick the group could use a new strong man to look up to in the role of leader/protector, “especially the women.” It’s a throwaway quote that doesn’t age well. Not very well at all.

Tyreese turns up and in his first issue gets more characterisation than any of the other women did in 6 issues, *and* we get the corker that his back story contains his emotional turmoil over his daughter nearly being raped by another survivor. None of these things so far are Red Flags enough to stop the book or the reread, but they’re things I know I wouldn’t write now. I’m not here to harpoon Kirkman, but rather to spotlight this now to see if it improves. I know Andrea gets a much more prominent role moving forward, but I’ll have to track how Lori goes because I can’t remember from memory.

The first issue here ends with her revealing she’s pregnant, which is a shame for her [given the state of medical care available], but fantastic for the zombie/drama element of this comic.

Charlie Adlard comes in on this volume and he’s instantly awesome. There are shades of Phil Hester to his work sometimes, but otherwise he’s setting up the look of the characters in his own style.

The discovery of the Wiltshire Estate is a good narrative progression. Zombie stories are often categorised by the location they take, Romero’s trilogy making that firm in my mind, and the fact if I got stuck in the zombie apocalypse [or wrote a story in one] then the location would be the first puzzle piece to secure. There’s even part of me that appreciates how inept the group is at doing their due diligence – Rick opens a door straight into 2 zombies, they miss the snow covered sign, but I can’t help feeling like Donna standing there and letting one get the drop on her so it can bite her eyeball is a bit lazy.

Donna gets complacent and finally happy so of course she doesn’t notice a zombie until it’s biting her in the eyeball. Feels a little convenient on the writing side of things, and makes me want to keep a kill chart to see how stupid people are, and what the gender mix of deaths is. But I won’t, because this reread just isn’t that organised, sorry.

The estate goes belly up as quickly as it appears, but then we get an invite to the farm. Now, a farm is a fine place to hole up through the whole mess of the zombie days. This means the cast explodes by over a half dozen people, and that kind of ensemble is wild, and yet it fills out the wallpaper of this group nicely. Kirkman is clearly setting up characters for A-B-C plots. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Levitz Paradigm worked well over how things shuffle and organise through all of this story. Just ongoing rolling thunder.

Plus introducing new characters means having more fodder available to kill when the stakes need to go up and you don’t want to lose 3 of the primary characters. You get someone else who’s been given maybe 1-2 scenes of quality exposition/interaction and then you kill them with the feeling of it being ongoing high tension, though I’ll give credit to Kirkman that he does indeed kill off a lot of big name characters, which I always did appreciate.

Ooh, Allan drops the C-bomb, and I forgot about that. It sells his emotional state in that moment, he’s just lost his wife, but it still jars. It’s a real line in the sand between course language and absolutely NSFW.

By this stage, I really see how the zombie attacks are few and far between, and they’re usually there to offer a new interpersonal dynamic for certain characters. There’s also the danger and death aspect, especially as Kirkman always says no one is safe, so you never know who’s going to die, which does make each zombie skirmish feel more tense.

The growing relationship between Carl and Sophie is an interest mix; she’s forward, he’s gross and weird about it. I can’t remember where they’re building this up to, so I’m interested to go along with it.

The Glenn and Maggie relationship starts on a strange page – basically, Maggie says she’s DTF with Glenn, and it’s some solid female agency of sexuality and not presented in a shameful way because the rest of the times we see the two of them, usually sneaking around in the B plot on any page, it genuinely seems fun and happy. These two crazy kids get to focus on something else for a minute and that’s a very cool thing to find in this world. The proclamations of love towards the end of the volume don’t quite ring as true, but any reasoning based on lust and realistic visions of the future certainly add up.

Also, remembering what I know, this relationship certainly gets time to fly in the future, and it’s really strong at times, so seeing its simple booty call origins is pretty much just fun.

The other young love of Tyreese’s daughter and her boyfriend, both names escape me and that says a lot about their characters and how they are portrayed, is the opposite end of the scale. It’s subtle, but that sinister angle shows through here, but that might also be me projecting because I know what’s coming [or, at least, I’m pretty sure I remember it clearly].

What a thought that Kirkman sold this book as a zombie apocalypse masquerading as an alien invasion story and really it’s just a Z-apoc story excuse to get down with some O.C. relationships in middle America. And this is no complaint from me. But this volume makes it clear it’s all about pairing people off so they can feel bad when something happens to the other, or there is other drama. Which is classic human behaviour, we invest because of emotion, and we assign emotion best to other people, and Kirkman weaves it all together pretty well here.

Ah, mention of the barn. Woof, the show botched this one, but let’s focus on the comic. The mention here looks like it comes on the end of an issue, and if so that’s a great needle drop. The concept of Hershell viewing the whole situation as different is fascinating, he’s got a thoughtful approach, though not one built out of sound reasoning. Him also being upset about the Thompson’s house being in the background of the gun firing range is well-meaning, but absolutely ridiculous. I love the fact Kirkman could consider that these views would pile up around the country, in different ways, and we have the space and scope to showcase them. It’s the kind of thing your leading characters in a zombie flick would never do, but this is well put in.

Once that barn is opened, Herschel realises he’s a fool for such sentimentality in the face of the end of the world. The five page sequence of the barn zombies causing havoc is manic and tense and it leaves Hershell feeling bad, and everyone else not quite knowing how to handle it. It’s a brilliant use of a zombie attack.

The final issue of the volume has couples going through morning sickness, and getting caught in bed, and dealing with the past. It’s all very simple, really, but effective in making us care. Then Hershell kicks the crew out and we see life on the road in the cold is a bust. It feels very bleak until we get one of the best reveals of the comic, and something that sets up the book for the coming years [I think it lasted for years]…

The Prison.

I don’t think I’ve seen a zombie flick in a prison, and it’s a great idea. There’s a feeling when it’s revealed, and I remember it from way back when, where you just quietly hold your breath and realise this is going to be interesting and fun.

I also dig that this reveal comes at the end of an issue, and the end of a volume, and the end of a hardcover which would cover 12 issues. Great planning on that from Kirkman and the team.

Overall, the first volume is the ballad of Rick and his return, and the second volume is about how all these people interact, try to move forward, and sometimes drag each other back and down. This volume is all about settling in for the long haul, the fact this isn’t a siege, it’s a long drama, as long as life itself, and still just as difficult to survive.

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