Okay. I wish that this book hadn't pushed all of my big, red, ragey buttons (to be detailed below), because there was a lot of engaging stuff in here. With that said, rage issues aside, I'd still think that these comics are quite a bit overrated. But yes, they're generally commendable, with some excellent commentary on the true nature of mankind.
Let's start with the good, then.
Like many people, prior to watching the show or reading the comics, I had always thought that the term "The Walking Dead" referred to the zombies. Truly, though? It's the survivors of the zombie apocalypse that are "The Walking Dead."
It's hard to imagine how any of us would act if put into a zombie apocalypse-type situation. If we were thrown into that situation, however, we would have to adapt to survive, and The Walking Dead is a story about humanity's adaptation.
The commentary on this is dark, and let's just say, the results aren't pretty. At some point, it even becomes difficult to tell the difference between the zombies and the monsters that some of the survivors have become. But, are humans and zombies really all the different to begin with?
"We can learn so much from them, y'know -- just by watching them. They've been at it all night. They just don't stop -- they're resilient. They eat until it's gone and then they're content.
I almost admire them.
The thing you have to realize is that they're just us -- they're no different. They want what they want, they take what they want, and after they get what they want -- they're only content for the briefest span of time.
Then they want more."
The questions that these comics pose are fascinating. Is this what humanity would become in a zombie apocalypse? Is it necessary to become a monster to survive? Can evil actions be considered evil when they're necessary to survival? And, once you cross that line, where do you stop?
I feel like the comics press these issues even more than the television show. In the show, I feel like Rick (the main character) tries to hold on to his morality, and struggles greatly over the tough, morally questionable decisions that he's forced to make. In the comics, however, I think that Rick is more of a pragmatist, and although he may not be happy with what he's become, he doesn't anguish over it.
Even though the message posed by the comics is compelling and thought-provoking, there are quite a few dull moments throughout the book. The pacing is just very slow, and while that works sometimes to set the eerie survival-horror mood and atmosphere, it's also sometimes just downright boring. It took me ten months to finish this compendium because I was never dying with need to know what was going to happen next.
I also have some issues with the art - mainly, that a lot of the female characters look too similar. I often had a tough time telling who was who, and had to make a point to remember hairstyles since the facial features looked the same.
Finally, let's get ragey.
I just could not, could not stomach the sexism in these comics. The Walking Dead promotes the idea that, in this kind of survival situation, mankind would adopt more "natural" gender roles. The offensive part is the implication that having the menfolk be in charge is "natural." For example, the survivors create a committee of four men who are in charge of making decisions for the group. It's not the fact that the committee is all men that's offensive, but rather, the way that the women's reaction to this is described.
Rick: “No women?”
Dale: “No, that’s how they wanted it.
Patricia said something. She wanted Lori [Rick's wife] on the committee instead of you. Of course, as soon as she realized on one else, including Lori, agreed with her — she shut up.
I don’t know how Michonnne really feels about it. She’s just happy to be here. She went through hell out there a lot longer than any of us. Lori, Carol, Andrea, Maggie — they all said they wanted us in charge. They figure the four of us have pretty much been making the decisions anyway — but making it official would lift some of the burden off you. But yeah. They’re fine with us making the decisions. Truth be told, it’s not just the women, Glenn [an Asian-American male] feels the same way.
I think they just want to be protected.”
If you don't find this to be incredibly offensive while reading it, then there's probably nothing that I can say here to convince you otherwise. My personal preference in the books I read, however, derives enjoyment in having strong female characters.
Now, that's not to say that there are no strong female characters in The Walking Dead - Andrea is the group's best shot, and Michonne is a true badass. But, the overall message regarding gender roles is, quite frankly, bullshit. I found this to be incredibly frustrating, and it definitely soured my overall enjoyment of the comics.