Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: The Walking Dead

Robert Kirkman (creator/writer) & Tony Moore (illus.), 2003 -, Image Comics

'An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled. The world of commerce and frivolous necessity has been replaced by a world of survival and responsibility. No government. No grocery stores. No mail delivery. No cable TV.

'In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living...'

With US cable network AMC rolling out a much-anticipated TV adaptation of this iconic comic series this October, it seems the perfect time to take a quick look back at where it all began: with Issue #1 of The Walking Dead ('Days Gone Bye'), back in 2003.

Yep, that's a long time for a zombie comic series to run, especially keeping in mind that this series kicked off some time before the current zombie boom. But then, that's precisely the premise behind this groundbreaking publication: that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, there would never be any neat conclusion, with our heroes walking off into the sunset; things would just...keep going. Day after day after day...

In issue #1, small-town cop Rick Grimes is gunned down in the line of duty, awakening from his subsequent coma to discover that the world he knew - along with his wife and child - has gone. From there, the series focuses almost exclusively upon Rick, his journey, and the lives of those he encounters along the way. Kirkman's vision of life after the zombies is bleak and uncompromising, pulling no punches with regards to zombie mayhem and human brutality alike. The ongoing plot, meandering along in a disturbingly lifelike way, is always engrossing (though occasionally and deliberately mundane), and features a strong cast of evolving characters that the reader will quickly empathise with (though not necessarily like).

The Walking Dead stands as a wonderful and affecting piece of literature, complemented beautifully by Moore's strongly detailed black-and-white illustrations. Fans of zombie literature who may not necessarily be fans of graphic novels (and I count myself among them) are nonetheless strongly advised to pick up a copy of Issue #1; I defy you to be able to put it down again.

Review: The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten

Harrison Geillor, 2010, Night Shade Books

The town of Lake Woebegotten, Minnesota, is an ordinary little town, populated by ordinary little people. Or so it appears, until the zombie apocalypse arrives, after which it becomes apparent - given the local population includes an ex-military dominatrix, a gun-crazy conspiracy theorist, a car-humping Mayor, a born-again Norse fundamentalist, a housewife who dreams of becoming a serial killer, and an actual serial killer (and septuagenarian mayoral candidate), among others - that, even without the walking dead to contend with (zombie bears, even, you betcha!), Lake Woebegotten has never been a remotely ordinary little town. Still, the townsfolk are going to have to put all that aside if they hope to survive the coming zombie onslaught...assuming they can survive each other, of course...

The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten is, quite simply, one of the funniest, most enjoyable books I've ever read. If George A. Romero and Stephen King had collaborated on the novelisation of Fargo, you'd probably get something pretty close to Geillor's novel: the prose and dialogue are a joy to read, and rich with gentle, observational humour; the plot twists and turns along at a satisfying pace; the wonderful characters - while undoubtedly comic - never quite stray into the realm of stereotyping or outright lampoon. And the zombies do what zombies do best: kill and feed, in as gory and entertaining a manner as possible.

If you only read one zombie novel a year...then you're not reading enough zombie novels. Regardless, put The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten up the top of your Want List: it's absolutely brilliant, and (dare I say it?) my pick for an instant classic of the zombie genre.