Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Walking Dead, Volume 11: Fear the Hunters Review (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)

This is one of those comedy volumes where Robert Kirkman goes overboard with the misery to the point of hilarity. It’s also another volume where the characters realise, yet again, how far they’ve left their humanity behind them. Yup, just like the last volume. And the one before that. And the one… etc.

The group are on their way to Washington, D.C, where Eugene, the scientist, might be able to do something about the zombie plague. But they get sidetracked when one of Dale and Andrea’s twins murders the other one because… zombies? While the group wonders what to do, they meet a preacher who offers them his church for shelter. But there are people in the woods watching them – and licking their lips!

I just didn’t buy the Lord of the Flies thing Kirkman was trying to go for in the opening chapter. I get that these kids have seen and done things that no other kid has gone through, but slaughtering one another because the zombies have made them think callously about life …? Hmm, no. It’s Kirkman going for shock value more than anything – which is a critique that could levelled at the series as a whole but is very appropriate to this volume.

Dale – who reminds me of Bill Dauterive from King of the Hill more and more in his doddering confusion, another reason why this book made me smile – gets caught by some people who’ve gone cannibal and that first scene between Dale and the chief cannibal was hilariously over the top. Mutilation, madness and comedy all rolled up in one – even Dale starts laughing at the absurdity of it all!

But the cannibals themselves just felt so contrived. These are people who ran out of food and, rather than up stakes and/or start growing food, chose to eat their children first! Then, still not thinking about moving – why is their home so damn precious, really? It’s just like any other podunk town! – they just began picking off random people and eating them! Terrible “characters”, all of them, for how poorly they were written.

There’s also a really pointless scene between Gabriel, the new preacher character, and Eugene, the scientist, where Eugene points out the flaws in Christianity. I’m not religious and if I had to pick a side, I go with science every time, but I’m getting really tired of the whole “making fun of Christians” angle, and I’m sure they are too. I know Christianity, like all religions, is completely batty, but so long as no one’s trying to convert me, I’m happy to leave well enough alone – repeating the same arguments about why Christianity is a flawed religion is so played out. And really, a scientist having this conversation with a preacher? But I don’t know why I expect subtlety from Kirkman at this point.

He and artist Charlie Adlard do show restraint in this book though, which was really unexpected. Earlier in the series, Michonne tortures the Governor and the reader gets to see every gruesome stage, which was so totally gratuitous and unnecessary; here, when Rick, Michonne, Abraham and Andrea capture the cannibals and torture/murder them, Adlard artfully shows the sequence from afar, using silhouettes and tasteful (by their standards!) shots of appliances rather than the appliances being used. That surprised me, that Kirkman/Adlard had tact – are they… growing as artists?

Volume 11’s not boring but it is another strangely static book where the characters barely do anything plus we’ve exchanged a decent character for an annoying one – not the best trade! Kirkman’s exploring the wider world of The Walking Dead, and it’s predictably dark in a silly way, but it also doesn’t feel convincing.

They can’t make it to DC fast enough…

The Walking Dead Volume 11: Fear The Hunters

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