Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Walking Dead, Volume 10: What We Become Review (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)

Ah well, it had to happen – after the excitement of the Governor storyline and the new direction of the series in the last book, Volume 10 of The Walking Dead sees the plot slowing down, almost as if they’re taking stock of everything that’s happened, and it’s a bit of a snoozer. It also weirdly feels like a throwback volume to the kind we got pre-Governor, ie. the bad old days.

Rick and the handful of survivors from the original group, including his son Carl, have joined some new characters led by Abraham, a former US Military serviceman, as they take a scientist, who knows what caused the zombie apocalypse, to Washington, D.C., to uh... fix/explain things? Oh, I cannot wait to see that! Bunch of guys in lab coats sat round, laughing uncomfortably in between blasts from their inhalers. “Yeah, haha, oooooooooh, that whole zombie apocalypse… thing? That was a whacky day in the office! My bad. SOS! Pretty cool to see though, right? I mean, who knew we’d all be living in a George Romero movie if someone dropped that beaker of green liquid! Wait, what’re you doing with that baseball bat…!”.

Rick realises they’re near his old hometown so he and Carl, along with Abraham, go on a gun-gathering mission to Rick’s old police station lockup, while the others sit tight for their return. That’s the plot of this volume - pretty basic, right?

Kirkman uses this book to draw parallels with the first volume and show how much Rick’s changed in the year since he woke up in the abandoned hospital, while also touching base with how the first person Rick met when he left the hospital, Morgan, has fared.

The obviousness of the subtitle – What We Become – and the way that plays into Rick’s behaviour when they encounter a group of child-raping hillbillies who want to take Carl, is borderline comical. This is Kirkman once again attempting to be thoughtful and deep and totally flubbing it – it’s like that “WE are The Walking Dead!” line Rick said; Rick, once again, realising how much he’s changed is kind of obvious to everyone – come on, give the readers some credit, we get that he’s changed and it’s fairly clear to him too, so why spend a whole book on it?

Abraham’s life story is predictably, almost hilariously, bleak because this series is so unrelentingly miserable, as is Morgan’s – hey, it’s The Walking Dead, nobody is allowed to have it easy! – but mostly this book felt like Kirkman replaying moments from earlier in the series. The angsty internal politics of the group flare up again with the new members, they hunt for more firearms again, and there’s even another attempted suicide!

And, like with the earlier attempted suicide, it has the opposite effect, at least to me, coming out of the blue like it did and made me laugh. It’s one of the seasoned characters so it seemed odd that they’d choose now to try to off themselves, even with the new information from Rick. It just felt like they’d moved on and had some semblance of happiness in their new life, and Kirkman threw that in so Abraham’d have a moment of doubt in what he’d been doing up ‘til then. Just felt contrived, s’all.

Maybe Kirkman’s making a point about the repetitive nature of this new world where strangers getting thrown together without knowing each other will always raise matters of trust and create tension in a group, and that gun/ammo runs have become a daily occurrence in the characters’ lives, but it’s still not very interesting for the audience to read.

That’s not to say this book isn’t fun because that whole sequence where Rick, Carl and Abraham get caught up in a zombie herd was great, and I like the uncertainty that mentally unbalanced Morgan brings to the group – methinks he’s not long for this series! But there’s a lot of what feels like filler in this book when I’d have preferred for the group to have hit the trail to DC hard instead.

So Volume 10’s an average addition to the series as a whole but hopefully, going forward, the series will put its compelling plot to better use and once more build up momentum.

The Walking Dead Volume 10: What We Become

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