Classic Comic Books: THE WALKING DEAD Vol 1: Days Gone Bye

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Nathan Browne revisits the first graphic novel from The Walking Dead comic book series.

Before The Walking Dead returns this Sunday for the second half of season 6, I thought's I'd return to where it all began - in comic form. Starting with the trade paperback edition of issues #1 to #6, Days Gone Bye.

Like most fans of The Walking Dead comic book I was not on board from issue #1. I believe it was around 2007 when I finally bought an issue, by which point in time the series had been going for four years. I liked what I read and wanted more, but the early individual editions were out of print and reaching a premium price when available. So this collection, and the subsequent compilations, proved an invaluable way to find out how it all began.

The foreword in the book emphasises that The Walking Dead isn’t just a horror comic about flesh-eating zombies, that’s merely the backdrop to the story of Rick Grimes. From the very beginning this is a character driven story which just happens to be set in a zombie apocalypse, if society were to find itself ‘fixed’, if in time some degree of normality would return, then Rick’s story would still continue.

After being wounded in a stand-off with a criminal, police officer Rick Grimes ends up in a coma for a month. Waking up, he finds the hospital abandoned, no staff in sight and a bunch of flesh-eating zombies walking around. Learning that the undead have risen and destroyed much of civilisation, he resolves to head for Atlanta in the hope of finding his wife and son.

The first thing that struck me when reading is that when Rick wakes up it is very similar to 28 Days Later (which I know was inspired by The Day of the Triffids), which appeared in cinemas the year before issue #1 was released. Coincidence or homage? I do not know. After this dangerously formulaic start, The Walking Dead quickly establishes itself as one of the most original comic books you may ever find. Creator and writer Robert Kirkman largely ignores the zombies (as he explained he is writing Rick's tale), but the fantastic artwork by Tony Moore tells us the zombies story, from their clothes to their condition, hinting at the human life before the 'turn'.

I'm not going to compare and contrast the comic books with the TV series, as both are excellent ways to enjoy The Walking Dead. All I will say is that The Walking Dead comics feed ideas into the television show, and they are rarely closer than in the opening episode of the TV series, but after Rick sets out to find his missing family members and finds shelter at a small camp of survivors outside of Atlanta, there are significant differences. So if you've only watched the television series and think it's pointless to read the comics under a belief that you 'know it all', think again. In this first compilation you are going to experience something which is very familiar, but also quite different.

The genius of The Walking Dead, in both comic book and television format, is focusing on the those experiencing the nightmare of the situation. Spending time with, and getting to know those who must deal with the monsters, rather than the monsters themselves. Seeing how these very real people deal with an exceptional level of real fear and how it shapes them is compelling. By the end of this first volume the world and the lives of those in Rick’s group will never be the same, and it's only the beginning!

Nathan is getting too old too quickly and is rapidly approaching his pipe and slippers phase.

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