I’ve been a big fan of Robert Kirkman’s surprisingly human zombie-drama The Walking Dead from the beginning, which is to say I’ve read the series in its entirety, not that I started at #1 in October 2003 and have every issue bagged and boarded in long boxes in my parents’ basement. Although, that would be nice to have since the success of the TV show has made the value of early issues skyrocket.
By the way, this is where the MASSIVE spoilers start, so if you haven’t read the series and you want to get caught up, go check out another post now.
So, I’ve been around for it all. I’ve been here for Rick’s coma. I’ve seen how he was thrust into the new desolate world of zombies. I’ve seen how Shane, his former partner and best friend, was thrust into Rick’s bitchy wife, Lori. I’ve seen the fall of Atlanta, the discovery of the prison, the terror of the Governor, the rape of Michonne, the murder of Tyreese and Lori and countless others.
I have seen the feasting of cannibals upon Dale’s “tainted meat” and the failure to reach Washington. And now, I’ve seen Negan’s reign of terror over Alexandria Safe-Zone, the quaint little community that Rick stepped into and quickly took charge of, and the aftermath of the murder of fan-favorite Glenn.
I got my hands on the entire series and finished #1-100 in the month between the release of #100 and #101.
And that was my biggest mistake.
Again, I’m a huge fan of the comic series AND the television show. And I’m a big fan of Kirkman’s other works (especially Battle Pope and what little I’ve read of Invincible). So, keep that in mind while reading the string of unpleasant things I am about to say.
Many readers are taken aback by Robert’s almost frivolous treatment of his beloved characters. I mean, I couldn’t even tell you how many people died in #48 during the Governor’s siege on the prison.
Either way, I’ve always seen that as Kirkman’s interpretation of Kurt Vonnegut’s infamous eight rules for writing fiction, specifically Rule No. 6:
Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
That’s pretty much the only rule of Vonnegut’s that Kirkman has taken to heart. The rest are pretty much out the window.
So, complain all you want, Kirkman is just taking the advice of arguably the greatest American fiction writer of our time to heart. He’ll kill who he wants, and that’s just fine with me.
But, once he starts wasting my time, that’s when I start to get upset.
The fundamental flaw in Kirkman’s series (other than Tony Moore splitting after six issues) is the pacing of the story line.
When I read the ENTIRE SERIES as a huge chunk, it all ran together so fluidly. Yes, the issues are set up to run one right after another, as if one issue is just a 22-page chunk perfectly excised from a larger tome and put on display until it can be seamlessly pasted in place between the preceding and following issues.
So, #1-100 really made sense. It was fine that I could fly through an issue in 8-10 minutes, because I had 99 more by my side to get through still.
I finished the run on the Monday before #101 released, and waiting patiently until it did. It was my second read for the day, just behind Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1. No offense, but that’s one of the two big name Before Watchmen titles I had been waiting some time for.
Once I finally read #101 with only a two-day break since I read #100, it really seemed like nothing happened. Andrea punched Rick. Rick spiraled into self-pity again. There was a small ceremony for Glenn.
The signature “Walking Dead Final Panel Splash-Page Kicker” was a reveal of one of Negan’s men that had been captured in their siege on the community.
The whole issue seemed rather… thin. It’s almost as if there was nothing to it.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday, when #102 released.
This is the issue that supposedly wraps up the six-part Something to Fear story line, so it’s going to be something amazing, right? Rick’s going to tear into the deformed bastard of Negan’s Saviors that’s been tied up since issue #101, yeah?
Rick lets him go, and announces that they will not fight back, that they will met Negan’s demands and relinquish half of their food and supplies. Eugene tells Rick he can make bullets, and they devise some sort of plan that they only reference in the final panel.
That’s it. Over 22 pages.
No action. No character development. No surprises. Almost nothing at all in the entire issue.
The pacing problem finally hit me at the end #102. When I took it all in in huge blocks, the pacing didn’t bother me. In fact, I loved it. I could blast through 8 or 10 issues in bed at night before the now ex-girlfriend said she was turning out the light and that I needed to go the hell to sleep because work was just 6 hours away.
But now, curled up in a recliner miles away from that bed, reading one single issue a month sandwiched in my reading line-up right between whatever Before Watchmen title is out that week and the newest issue of another Image big seller Manhattan Projects, it’s just not doing it for me.
I still enjoy the series, and I can’t wait for the new season of the show to premiere on Oct. 14, but I’m just grabbing for a little more meat in the monthly issues.
If I were you, I’d save up some cash and grab up the larger books that collect 12-issue story lines, or even do the ballsy thing and break the bank for either of the massive Compendiums. Because let’s face it, it’s better to buy a side of beef and sustain yourself on that for a few weeks than purchase a single McDonald’s double cheeseburger once a week and try to survive a month on that.
Again, I like Kirkman’s unabashed style of writing, and I really love some of the action that takes place in the series, but at this point it feels like he’s spinning tires until something else comes along.
So, stop being such a dicktease, Robert. There’s a point at which even the best foreplay starts wearing a little thin, and I think you crossed that threshold when you tramped the fresh grasses of the Alexandria Safe-Zone.