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Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Walking Dead Compendium 1

I'm a sucker for deals, so even though I'm not a fan of zombies, The Walking Dead Compendium 1 & 2 were on sale on Google Play books, so I bought them to read. I'd read some of the early parts of the series years before, but they weren't compelling enough to draw me in. Binge reading entirely 48 issue series at a time, however, is a different experience.

First of all, in the time since the original comic series came out, story telling in the zombie-plagued future has had better story telling than when the series first started. It's no longer stupid horror stories, which I understand that this series pioneered. When compared to say, The Last of Us, The Walking Dead no longer stands as an example of how to do future dystopia right. In fact, The Last of Us being "only" a 12 hour video game feels like it does a much better job due to tighter story telling and a confined plot. The art style in The Last of Us, of course, is much much stronger than the black and white Walking Dead.

There's much to like about the series, however. The world portrayed is strong, and is as much of a character as the lead character, Rick. As a foreign born immigrant reading these books, however, it strikes me as how uniquely American these books are. The strong individualistic culture of "I've got mine, screw you!" comes across extremely well in these stories, and they are stories you wouldn't find in other cultures. For instance, at a crucial juncture in this book, a few of the characters decide that they'd stand a much better chance of survival by abandoning the group and running away, leaving the rest to die. You'd think that people who've depended on each other for survival for that long (well over a year) couldn't do that to each other, but in the individualistic libertarian morality play that is The Walking Dead, this isn't just plausible, it's the right thing to do. (They do come back later but the rationality behind that behavior isn't explained and they are punished for it)

If something like The Walking Dead was written by say, the Japanese, it'd be much more a story about how society comes together to build a future in a desperate future, rather than a story about constant betrayal and stupid decisions.

If you enjoy drama, betrayal, and a feeling of desperation as well as insight into why American culture is constantly about the strong screwing over the weak, you cannot find better source material than The Walking Dead series. But quite frankly, I wouldn't want to live in a world filled with idiots, and as Wallace Stegner frequently pointed out, American society and history is actually filled with examples of people building institutions and societies, rather than doing their own selfish things.

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