Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Walking Dead, Volume 22: A New Beginning Review (Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard)

You know what The Walking Dead needs? Captions. Not a lot, just a couple. Like at the start of this volume, maybe mention that this is taking place one, two, maybe three years after the last book? It’s a small thing but it’d be really handy to have. 

So some time has passed since Rick defeated Negan and the communities of Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Rick’s place, known as Alexandria, have thrived and developed into safe havens. Hole-in-the-head-yet-still-alive-for-some-reason Karl has grown into a young man, and he wants to move out from his dad’s place to Hilltop, under Maggie’s leadership, to be a blacksmith. 

There’s no real story to this volume, it’s basically just a catch-up, see where everyone is, type of book, but it’s not boring either. Robert Kirkman’s created a rich world with a well-known cast of characters that it’s genuinely interesting to see how they’ve changed and what they’ve done without the threat of Negan. And it’s good to have a breather after the last two books which were so heavy on the action – take things slowly, reflect, etc.

Kirkman shows us just how far Rick and co. have come in an inspired way – and note he shows us, not tells us, which is another indicator of Kirkman’s development as a writer (remember “You don’t get it… WE are The Walking Dead!!”?). At the start of this volume, Kirkman introduces a new band of desperate survivors who’re rescued from a herd by Jesus and a few others. They’re brought back to Alexandria, see the community as a kind of paradise and meet Rick, the deformed but charismatic leader. 

It’s a nod to earlier volumes of the series when Rick and co. were the ones on the ropes and having to trust large communities (who usually harboured dark secrets) that seemingly have their lives together. It’s a reversal of roles and now Rick and the others are firmly established and no longer the wanderers. 

They’ve also become much more sophisticated in dealing with the walkers. From sending out squads to steer giant herds away from their settlements, to an effective fighting method: three guys, back to back with knives/swords, advancing one step at a time outwards, calling out one, two, three, etc. until they get to five and then backing up so they’re back to back again and repeating – ingenious and efficient! 

It’s entertaining enough to read but towards the end I was hoping a plot would emerge – as dark as The Walking Dead has been, having things too upbeat is also a tad grating. Thankfully a new threat emerges by the end with quite a surprise twist to them so it looks like Kirkman’s given his characters enough of a respite before sending them back into the fray in the next book. 

Volume 22 is a very well-measured book that shows us the characters’ new lives just long enough to stop it from being boring before introducing the next threat. It’s great to read a story about society re-establishing itself in the wake of the zombie apocalypse, which is a subject few books tend to look at; it’s usually all about the fall and survival, etc. But it’s clear Kirkman and co. are playing a very long game with this series and this volume shows that it still has a lot to offer with enormous potential in exploring the still wider world of The Walking Dead. A New Beginning indeed and a very enjoyable comic it is!

The Walking Dead Volume 22: A New Beginning

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