Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Walking Dead, Volume 9: Here We Remain Review (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)


I’ve been tough on Robert Kirkman’s less-than-spectacular “character” work in The Walking Dead so far so it’s a pleasant surprise to see him do so well with a vastly reduced cast in Volume 9 (but still, wow, it took him nine volumes to write some great character scenes!).

In the aftermath of the Governor’s fatal attack on the prison, Rick and his son Carl have escaped with their lives – and little else. Separated from the remaining survivors, they look for shelter, but Rick’s poorly healing gunshot wound causes him to collapse and go into a coma. Now little Carl is forced to look after his fallen father and face the prospect of isolation. And the zombies are knocking on the door…

After the excitement and craziness that the Governor brought to the series, you’d think the book following would be less enthralling but I thought the Rick and Carl scenes, that make up half of this book, were easily the parts of the series I’ve enjoyed the most. The cast has always been massive and ungainly since the start so it’s amazing just how effective the story can be when Kirkman brings it down to just two characters. Story is Kirkman’s strength, not characters, but he finds the right balance in this book.

Also, Rick has been the main character of the series from the start and his family his driving motivation, but, so far, besides scenes with his wife Lori, there’ve been few memorable moments between him and Carl, so spending half of this volume with just these two characters, with a focus on building up Carl as a character, was definitely a good choice by Kirkman.

But he goes even further with how he writes Rick as a man totally changed by his recent losses. It isn’t so much the whole telephone episode (which verged on the unintentionally funny “WE are The Walking Dead” moment from earlier in the series) but his conversation at the farm towards the end – his demeanour and personality has been shaken to its core and you see it in that scene perfectly.

The other criticism I’ve had of this series so far is how static and regressive the cast has been in their goals – they’ve accepted their situation outright without even knowing how things came to this state and chosen to dig in and make do. That’s fine for them but as a reader I want to know how the zombie apocalypse happened and whether there are others out there who’re also curious and looking to somehow fix it, or at least understand it. Finally, in this volume, this idea is picked up and looks to be pursued in the second act of this series.

Volume 9 is the best book so far. Kirkman’s nailing his remaining characters really well at a crucial point in their arcs and, just when you want the attention to shift to a plot, pushes forward with a new driving storyline and some interesting new characters as well. Here We Remain is a well measured, brilliantly paced book and a promising start to the next phase of The Walking Dead saga.

The Walking Dead Volume 9: Here We Remain

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