Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Walking Dead Volume 15: We Find Ourselves (2011)

The Walking Dead TV show debuted in 2010 as a six episode series, and I liked it well enough, but it wasn't the comics. The live action characters felt flatter and more arch; more "comic booky" than the source material. I came back for the second season, and things had settled down a bit, and probably a bit too much. The network had a huge hit on its hands, but they work cheap, so they tightened the budget and shitcannned one of the principle creative forces behind the show. It seems like author Robert Kirkman stepped up to fill some of the void, and the series has taken advantage of his economical tendency toward talking heads as the comic series progressed. I started a new job during the mid-season break, and now watch the show in its third broadcast for the night. It's gone from geek fare I could share with my girlfriend to a bit of a chore, as I end up staying up really late each week to watch a show padded in the extreme so that the interesting 5-10 minutes of each episode work for me. It doesn't help that I often find myself sitting through the repetitive and really rather pointless Talking Dead, and sometimes even the first quarter of the heinous Comic Book Men before I finally can't take it anymore.

The reason I share all this with you is because I got the same feeling while reading this trade. It's still better than the show, but it's such a soap opera. The first season's runaround with Merle was one thing, but I think Sophia's disappearance in the second season really pointed out the meandering tendencies of the property. This is the fourth trade involving the original cast working with a new group of survivors in a decently fortified subdivision, with at least a fifth to follow. By comparison, the group resided on Hershel's farm for one trade, although they spent six at the prison. The difference is that both settings offered new and interesting characters, as well as two epic arcs that gave the series its first great villain. The book had a major build-up to #50 that was the high point of the series to date, and while there have been strong stories since then, the book has never quite recovered from the toll taken by that last epic. I'd warmed to Glenn in the first trade, dug Dale by the second, was immediately intrigued by Michonne, became an Andrea fan after a few volumes, and took to Tyrese so strongly that I was ready to see him take over the lead role in the event of Rick's death. Since the introduction of Abraham Ford's group in volume eleven, I haven't found myself gravitating toward any of the newer characters to replace those who have passed. I don't care which of them is screwing another, or who is plotting against Rick. These new guys just aren't compelling, the setting is tired, and I'm actually losing interest in the few remaining players I do like. It doesn't help that I'm also watching the TV show drag on, and drag its already tainted versions of the characters through the mud. In the comics, we had a family of survivors who understood that they needed one another to keep going. On TV, almost everyone is a fucked up jerk with their head up their asshole. When I turn to the comics, it feels like they're running out of gas as well.

Carl continues to be poised as the John Connor of the zombie apocalypse, his father as bipolar but capable as Sarah Connor. Two of the series' longtime badasses seem to be getting closer to Rick, so that Carl might finally get himself a warrior mommy. The aftermath of "No Way Out" plays by the numbers, with way more asides devoted to poor performance than I could summon interest in. Glenn gets a nice spotlight, and there's a short-lived conspiracy to jazz things up toward the end, but this volume has the distinct aroma of stopgap.

Whether Kirkman is picking up bad habits from TV or his work on the program is distracting him, The Walking Dead is limping along as pale and lifeless as its monsters. Knowing that the Governor and Michonne are coming next season should keep me plugged into the TV show, and the expectation of an eventual pay-off will see me back for more trades. I hope Kirkman takes some satisfaction in my following his property by force of habit more than enthusiasm, as I've done in the past with Marvel and DC. Things are good enough for now, but who knows when the worm will turn...

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