Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them (2010)

Last year, I started three new blogs, which thoroughly demolished any schedule I ever tried to keep at ...nurgh... It meant I never got around to reviewing the incredible eleventh volume of Walking Dead, I actually missed ordering volume twelve somehow, and didn't correct the oversight until thirteen showed up at my door. I'm actually a bit sorry I didn't wait to play catch-up until fourteen.

A friend of mine once reached the point of nearly losing interest in this series because of the length of time spent in the prison setting, and the sharp rise in domestic drama during that period. I never really lost heart, because I enjoyed the smaller, character building stories. I could also see what a beast writer Robert Kirkman was building, as evidenced by the symphony of destruction that was Made To Suffer. Kirkman is still in his post-prison period as of this point, clearly working toward another spectacle. The problem for me this time is I'm even more aware of the calculated construction, and far less invested in the inevitably bleak results.

To my mind, Carl remains the central character around which the series now pivots. Rick still gets most of the "screen time," but his leading role feels more like inertia and the lack of a ready successor than a mandate. Glenn is the perpetual sidekick, Abraham isn't strong enough to take point, Michonne is best when used sparingly, and the presence of Rick keeps Andrea on the sidelines. A new leader-type is introduced in this volume, but he's clearly going to either be a creep, deficient or both. We've gone from Rick the POV rookie hero to the trusted veteran to the broken shell to the desperate neurotic. Despite his many turns, Rick remains a predictable, stabilizing element that now undercuts the tension of the series. I'm bored with him, frankly.

Following the uptick of "Fear the Hunters," "Life Among Them" is the odd numbered Star Trek movie. There's a shambling "reveal" early in the volume that puts the lie to some genre-excess teased "truths." With a bit of build-up, that could have been an "oh shit" moment, but a literal and literary fumbling halved the effect to just an "oh." Almost immediately, new characters and a change of scenery insure there's no sinking feeling, the plot wheels clearly spinning, and there's a sense of a contemplated plotline being abandoned. We were over here, but now we're over here. It feels rather familiar.

In fact, familiarity seems to be the point of this burgeoning mega-arc. Yet another promised land, a role reversal for Rick from naive altruist to conspirator, our cast as the new characters on an old scene. I can see where Kirkman had a novel approach in mind, and it could have made for an epic volume or two, but the premise as played feels stretched thin. This volume opens weak, closes on an obvious note, and most of the middle is perfunctory, inorganic laying of track.

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