Friday, 2 May 2014

The Walking Dead Volume 6: This Sorrowful Life Review (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)


Rick, Glenn and Michonne remain the captives of the sadistic Governor, the leader of a small enclosed community. But help is on hand as one of the Governor’s guards helps them escape and head back home to the prison. Will they all make it back – or die trying? 

I really, really enjoyed this one! I flew through it in one sitting, and it’s a cliché but the pages couldn’t turn fast enough. Everything from the lead-up to the breakout, the escape through the forest, the drive back to the prison, and finding out what’s happened there since they’ve been gone – wow, what a journey! Excitement and danger were there at every turn and made for a genuinely thrilling read. Robert Kirkman may not be much of a writer but he’s a really excellent storyteller. 

That said, it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead without some questionable scenes thrown in to unnerve the reader. Last volume it was the repeated rape of Michonne – thankfully Kirkman and Charlie Adlard decided against showing us those images – and in this volume it’s a very graphic torture scene as Michonne gets her own back on the Governor. 

While the Governor got what he deserved, did we really have to see every little thing Michonne did to him? I’m guessing Kirkman/Adlard are fans of the Saw series and were doing their own version of that in this book, but it’s more than a bit distasteful and gratuitous. 

By far the biggest complaint about Kirkman’s writing is the way he writes – or, rather, can’t write – characters and it’s becoming very clear now that he only really cares about developing one or two over the rest of the extended cast. The main character Rick isn’t the greatest creation ever but he is developing and this volume shows how far he’s gone from the character we met in volume one and the character he’s become six volumes in. 

So while characters like Otis get killed off-panel and make a brief appearance as a corpse on the floor of a panel, Rick gets a splash page while he looks out moodily at a field. Another character dies along the way but, like Tyreese wisely says here, introductions only if you survive. I also really like how Michonne’s character is slowly unravelling, especially after the trauma of Woodbury. She was already talking to herself when she first appeared but now the voices seem more insistent and desperate – when will she crack? What will happen when she does? I’m interested to find out! 

Kirkman’s also not good at conveying time. It doesn’t seem that long since Lori revealed her pregnancy but in the space of 2-3 volumes she’s gone from flat stomach to massive baby bump. If I had to guess I’d say the series has taken in just a few weeks but by the looks of Lori’s belly it looks more like 7-8 months! 

I assume the absence of marking time is to mirror the characters’ perceptions onto the reader’s – during the zombie apocalypse nobody’s sure what day of the week it is, what month, etc. – but still, are we supposed to believe they’ve been at the prison for months? They’ve barely begun searching the place and only just started planting vegetables – either they’re the laziest people ever or Lori’s going through a super-fast pregnancy! 

Anyway, the series has come to life with this and the last volume, and I’m really getting swept up in the story now. I’m gonna guess the Governor’s not dead – they left that detail open-ended – because he’s too nasty a villain to do away with so quickly. I’m also looking forward to the impending fight between the prison and Woodbury, probably in the next couple volumes - by which time Lori will probably have given birth and their kid’ll be starting puberty!

The Walking Dead Volume 6: This Sorrowful Life

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