Time to break up the novels with another chunk of rotting flesh. This, the second compendium of Walking Dead survivalist gore, gathers issues 49 to 96 of the series. And let’s just say that the stories within are, well, weirder than the first.
How weird? Well, there’s more serious injury, a bit of cannibalism, accidental deaths (as opposed to on-purpose walker offing), intentionally painful murders, sniper-blown fingers, overrun compounds, threesome suggestions, killer kids and ghost phones.
I mean, it’s not as if reanimated corpses are novel any more, right?
Of course, it’s not just weirdness. There’s more emphasis on other characters in this volume. There were a lot of characters in the first volume, sure, but here it seems like a lot more time is spent making characters live. Partially, I think this is due to the fact that the zombie hordes are less of a focus in the narrative here – they’re still a risk, and they’re still a concern, but a lot of the story takes place inside compounds.
While head slicing is still de rigeur, it’s not the terrifying new world of the initial issues: this is now day-to-day life, so the focus shifts a little. Now, the other meaning of the series title comes to play: when presented with society, how do these characters act together, given that they’ve been scouring cities and towns with the same goal as the undead: to survive, to consume. How does this affect someone? Their relationships, their self-worth?
And more importantly, how does it affect children?
By placing a chunk of the action in places that are trying their best to be towns, Kirkman examines what happens when people have to switch from survivalist mode into social mode. How do people run such groups? How are transgressions punished? How can you justify the things you’ve done on the outside?
There seems to be more weight put on other characters’ inner turmoil, too. The demands of partners on each other – often petty, often rooted in fear – contend with the need to do what one must in order to survive. Which wins out?
The chapters gathered in this compendium seemed more focused, and felt like the groundwork to larger payoffs, further down the line. I liked the attention to how people interact – particularly in the writing of Abraham – and am keen to see where it goes from here.
Who knew fence construction and pecking orders were just as exciting as eviscerating revenants?
(My Goodreads profile is here.)