I’m 99% percent certain I’ve never said this before, but I prefer the more layered story of the television show.
My first official graphic novel–if one does not count the adventures of the Archie gang or Mad (magazine) at my cousin’s house thirty years ago–and I find that like McDonald’s, graphic novels work better for me as rare treat instead of steady diet. Still, its worth a try. I came to the comic via the television series, curious to see Kirkman’s original vision. While it is interesting to see the concept for the show, I realized that I prefer more details, whether visual or written.
It’s clear there is a well conceived vision behind the comics. The drawings are interesting, employing a multitude of perspectives that make it visually engaging. The occasional large panel landscape panning does a nice job of showing desolation of an empty street or burning city. Despite lack of color, the drawings still manage to capture zombie horror, particularly when chomping down on man or beast. Sometimes the pictures are graphic, and sometimes they are a stylized mess, which I rather appreciated as a squeamish sort of person. A funeral scene is done especially well, conveying the wordless desolation of a survivor. Overall, the drawing stands out above the writing, which is limited largely to dialogue with the occasional exclamatory word, 60s Batman style. BANG! SPLAT! POW! Dialogue confines the amount of expression that can be conveyed, with bolded words for emphasis and “…” bubble standing in for uncomfortable pauses. Incidentally, zombies sound kind of silly when you write out their noises as “nuh, gruh” (I can’t help thinking of a conversation with a sullen teenager). The show sounds so much more frightening precisely because we don’t have the word or construction that adequately conveys the growled or moaned sounds these zombies make.
When it comes to plot, there are a fair number of areas where the show chose to go in different directions. One clear difference, especially to fans that lasted through tv season two, is how fast the comics move. Whether logical or not, these people are on the move, and that’s part of what makes the comic entertaining, as movement usually results in some random zombie interactions. Contrast that with the excruciatingly long plot thread of the show’s farm set, and the result is a comic that stands above tv in action.
Comic characters are a little more flat (haha) compared to the show, although there are several interesting ones that seems to have been dropped by the show writers. As generally slap-worthy as women are on the show (I’m talking to you, Lori), they are even more stereotypical in the comic. They clearly and quickly become the secondary and inferior sex, and the one woman who calls it out is drawn as dumpy and fat with dialogue showing her being judgemental, unhappy and hypocritical. On the other hand, there are more black characters in the graphic novel with greater presence and variety of roles. The show also does more with the tension of group leadership; Shane (spoiler) [ gets killed off relatively quickly in the graphic version, while his character provides a foil for most of the second season on t.v. I think keeping him provided dynamic tension, and made more sense in the creating challenging group dynamics. In the comic, he just seemed to go postal, while the show had a slower build that better demonstrated a mental unraveling. ]
Noticeably, the graphic version has a little more sex/sexual tension subplots going, including one between a couple of teens that don’t appear on the show, one between two people that do (but isn’t explored), and one between a white single mom and a black man. Even in our supposedly multi-culti melting pot, how often do you see interracial or inter-generational couples (unless the focus of the plot is the unusual relationship)? However, it’s a plot line that makes complete sense in the apocalypse for emotional and demographic reasons. Given television’s fondness for the sexual sub-story, it was a little surprising to see several of those storylines cut out, and I wonder how much audience demographics had to do with those decisions.
Overall, interesting. I’m glad I read it, but like MickyD’s, I won’t be making it a habit. I will be following up with the second collection. Two and a half dismal and disintegrating stars.