Book Review – The Walking Dead Compendium 1 by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore & Charlie Adlard

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This mammoth tome collects the first 48 issues of The Walking Dead, split up into 8 chapters (which can also be purchased as individual options, I think they’re up to chapter 22 at the time of writing, although don’t quote me on that).

So yes, these are the issues from which the tv show was borne and if you’re thinking of it in those terms it encompasses about the first three seasons of the show, although the show takes significant departures from the storyline and also changes a lot of the natures of the characters. Even if you’re a devout viewer of the show there will still be surprises in store.

It’s a massive book as well, and although the price does seem like a lot it’s well worth it for what you get; 1000 pages of zombie apocalypse goodness. For those who don’t know, The Walking Dead begins shortly after the zombie apocalypse marches over the world. Rick Grimes, a cop, wakes up in hospital and begins a search for his family. Along the way they find that while zombies are deadly, the remnants of humanity can be deadlier.

There’s some really good storytelling here as the focus is very much placed on the tensions between the characters, with the zombies always present in the backdrop, ready to snap at any given moment. It starts quietly and intimately with just a solo protagonist but the cast expands quickly, and I think there are points where Kirkman realized he had too many people to juggle because certain characters get discarded quite easily and barely get any development.

This is actually the second time I’ve read this. When I first bought it about a year and a half ago (before I was a serious blogger) I was so engrossed I pretty much read it straight through in an eight hour stretch. Upon second reading I took my time and finished it in about a week. There were a couple of things I noticed this time, one being that they do actually use the word ‘zombie’, which they don’t do in the show. I found that quite interesting. The other thing is although I love it I do think that sometime things are rushed through. They do make for cool twists but sometimes a slow build-up would be better. But there’s still plenty of plot and material to keep going, and just as you think things are quiet BOOM something insane happens.

And really, although some of the supporting characters are nothing but zombie-fodder the core cast are developed well and you develop attachments to them.

The artwork is cool. It’s black and white, and I’m wondering if they did this to lessen the impact of the gore (which I’ll get back to in a minute). A lot of the time the art is subservient to the dialogue bubbles, which take up a lot of space, but there are moments when the art takes centre stage and we get atmospheric splash pages that look great. The gore is cool and it’s something I like, but it could be uncomfortable for some people. One of the reasons why I left a break between my two readings of this is because I loaned my copy to a friend, and he only got about halfway through before he stopped because some of the images were too much for him.

I think if you’re looking to get into The Walking Dead this is a good beginning. It is pricey but I think it’s actually good value for money. At the moment this is £35 on Amazon and the rrp is £45 I believe. But it’s going to cost you a little more to buy the smaller volumes or the individual issues anyway, and unless you buy them in bulk this is going to be beneficial because you’re not going to want to stop reading. There’s also a second compendium that I have read but I do not currently own (although I’m looking to change that). It’s a little cheaper and collects the following eight volumes so if you really like The Walking Dead you can get both of them and start catching up on 96 issues of the comics. After that, however, you’re out of luck. As far as I can tell the next compendium is going to be released later next year. I’m probably not going to wait that long so I think I’m going to transition to collecting the volumes that make up the compendiums, but it’s something to bear in mind.

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