Stopped for a quickie again (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/…), and true to brand promise, found a similar experience to my prior Book One read.
One challenge in picking up a serial graphic in book form is that it’s been a long, long delay since the The Walking Dead, Book One. I didn’t recognize a couple of characters, and it was disconcerting to re-discover that the graphic versions don’t always correlate with the actors, so I couldn’t rely on clues from the series. At times, the drawings aren’t well differentiated, so it continued to be struggle even after I thought I had identified everyone.
Once again, I found the most interesting aspect for me is exploring the ‘origin story’ of the show. While Book Two largely takes place in the prison, there were echoes of the themes and action in both Season Two and Three of the television show. I felt like it gave me more appreciation for the complexity of tv adaptation, since the show does not exactly reproduce the graphic. Book Two seems to correspond with Season Two and early Three of the show, pre-Governor appearance. The graphic was more able to sustain pace and plotting (such as it is) over a longer period of time, while the television episodes stuttered their way through the roughly similar episodes.
In the graphic, sexuality plays a major role in character studies, in contrast with the generally exhausted-appearing actors. Even creepy Carl manages to (passively) find a girlfriend. A moment that stuck out as disjointed was a lesbian kiss, unquestionably presented as male-gaze titillation instead of actual character development or plot point. Boo, Kirkman. While the show has some character-on-character violence, the majority is reserved for the zombies in Season Two and early Three. Here, human violence is upped with a suicide pact and multiple murders, basically continuing to up the ante in the concept of the ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ theme.
Characterization of women continues to devolve. One of the least appealing parts of the television show is the character development/dialogue for the female actors, but sadly, the source material is worse. Lori continues to vacillate between fearful dependence and shrewish castigator, and while I didn’t think it was possible to hate her more than I did the show character, apparently I was wrong. Even more unfortunately, her erratic behavior is entirely blamed on pregnancy hormones. Boo twice, Kirkman. Later in the storyline, women choose to bow out of the political process altogether, a development that made me want to brand a couple of equal signs on Kirkman’s forehead. Really? Really? After making them out to be bossy shrews the prior ten installments? After Andrea continuously makes an issue of how she can shoot and she wants to be involved in defense/clearing the zombies? The female sex cannot win here. The characterization of Michonne in the novel was significantly less thoughtful and more stereotypical than the show–once again, as annoying as the show can be, clearly the source material is far worse. In contrast, I have to say the show is far more interesting in their treatment of her character. Although one might argue that the men are treated equally poorly, I’d disagree. Tyreese has an emotional vulnerability in his concern for his daughter, and his willingness to admit poor decisions, and to call out Rick on his hypocrisy. Dale actually suggests a killing, and we get to see more intimate sides of him with Andrea, so I’d say males in the comics are less one-sided and stereotyped than the women.
The philosophical question of humanity is raised in the last half of the book, bringing echoes of Dale at the farmstead from Season Two. Here it’s Rick raising the question in one of the most powerful sections of the storyline. The entire group gets involved in the discussion, only instead of sitting around in a farmhouse parlor, they are talking about how to deal with a murderer. The ethical quandary was well done, much better than that of the show–having one character be the moral mainstay allows the viewer to marginalize it instead of grappling with the complexity. Rick’s philosophical statement at the end is powerful, and encapsulates the ethos of the book much more clearly than any statement the television series has been able to make.
The book does answer a couple of the questions the television show never finished dealing with, namely, food supply and the intent to use the land around the prison as a food supply. I appreciate the nod to maintaining survival by the entire grew getting in on plowing and planting. A third boo to Kirkman for Andrea’s sudden desire to make clothing for everyone. So now we’re all comfortable in our societal-assigned sex roles, right?
Overall, a mixed experience. Drawing seemed to suffer in quality from the first book, failing to impress with the variety of perspectives or character detail I saw previously. Some of the violence and sex felt completely gratuitous, merely catering to a demographic. The philosophical struggles were well done, and felt both more realistic and less subtle than the book. Will I read the next one? Possibly, although it sounds like the storyline gets uglier and more sadistic, so I might have to pass.
Quite honestly, two and a half stars on the enjoyment scale. Without the oink, it might have scored higher.