Want A Mature, Addictive, Long-Running Comic Series Without Superheroes? Try The Walking Dead
It has been a long, long time since I’ve found a series of comics that I enjoy.
Many years ago I would read various comics featuring the X-Men, Spider-Man, The Avengers, Daredevil, The Punisher and Deadpool from the Marvel comics side, and Nightwing, Batman, Superman, Green Arrow and Green Lantern from the DC comics side. They were all great series but as a younger version of myself who wanted to play all the things in terms of gaming, I took what I could get when I got it, in terms of comic issues, and didn’t always keep up with everything. I eventually lost touch with long-running series until recently, when the New 52 series was launched.
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Prior to that, I would pick up the odd — usually Dark Horse produced — comic which was part of a once-off series of three or four issues, but as far as long-running stories went, I was done. I read The Killing Joke, I read Batman: Year One, I read The Dark Knight Returns when I finally got my hands on a digital version of it, and that was all I cared for. New 52 was my first chance to pick up again and really get stuck into comics, but being the grown and somewhat mature male that I am, I didn’t appreciate the excess of what I consider fap-material, where every female character is grossly over-sexualised and pretty much every interaction with a female character has sexual undertones. I didn’t like it, so I didn’t go much further than the first few issues of my old favourites, now rebooted.
Nowadays, much like the older days, it’s still somewhat taboo to mention comics in public. You’re seen as a full-on geek who is socially awkward and would rather bury their faces into animated drawings of boobs rather than make something of themselves. I find this egregious
overestimation of our ability dismissal of comic readers to be one of those great ironies because like how gaming has become cool, Hollywood has now turned to comics for its inspiration, effectively making comic characters cool as well. So I admit to more, now. Also, having put a few years of growth into my fortitude, I actually could not give less of a fuck what people think of me.
So, with all of that background out of the way, I felt it somewhat pertinent to bring to light, a series which has been making waves of late. It is one of three series which has become a household name in recent years, the other two being Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
Breaking Bad is, I believe, a fully original creation, so kudos on an idea which must have sounded like insanity at first; high school teacher develops cancer, decides to cook meth and make money for his family, becomes the creator of quantum dynamics, kinda. Game of Thrones is of course based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, and is co-written by the author of the novels, George R. R. Martin. In many ways it shares similarities with The Walking Dead, both series which started a long time ago before now blowing up. Their similarities are most likely why they’ve both blown up in such a way.
To start off with, The Walking Dead is a series of comics in which the world has gone to shit. The dead have started walking and nobody can explain why. At least not at first. The comics begin by following the character Rick Grimes, a humble policeman who is shot and goes into a coma while the world is still normal, only to wake up in what can only be described as a dystopian recreation of the world he last knew. He then sets out to find his family and get some answers.
One of the greatest parts of The Walking Dead comics, which are written by one Robert Kirkman, whom you might know from the series Invincible, is that no character is really safe. A lot of issues also end with cliffhangers which build to the next issue, and while some have found this to be frustrating, claiming that Kirkman, like Martin in A Song of Ice and Fire, is just an immature writer who delights in introducing characters and building attachment only to rip them away later on, a lot more have come to respect and enjoy his style of writing which lends more to realism and the very actual possibility that in a proper dystopian world, nobody is truly safe. Not even the main characters.
Martin of course showed this in the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire where he killed off what he had previously been building as the book’s primary protagonist. Effectively this creates the impression that there are no protagonists, only humanity itself. And in between there are a lot of interactions. Both series build on this greatly, to the point that whatever else is going on forms more of a backdrop to the primary plot point which is human interaction. Specifically between strong, multi-dimensional characters. In The Walking Dead, people are facing death regularly. Their loved ones, their friends, people they once knew. Everyone around them is dying, and they must come to terms with the fact that one day it might be them who dies as well. Furthermore, the entire situation has brought about the worst in humans. Now it’s no longer about just facing the hordes of walking dead (roamers, lurkers, biters, hordes, zombies, call them what you will) but also facing the unscrupulous humans who will do whatever they have to do, to survive. Including maiming, mutilating, molesting and murdering.
The Walking Dead comics is the first comic series I have read in a long time where I cannot wait to read what happens next. I fervently read some forty issues in two days, completely forgoing gaming during that time in order to make some progress with the series. I’m nowhere near current, still fumbling around in the sixties as far as issues go, but right now the comic is up to issue 108, which ends the 18th volume. You can find out more through the Wikipedia page, about the issues and volumes.
The series is dark, brutally mature and graphic, featuring scenes of sex, nudity, violence, gore, strong language and pretty much everything you would expect of a comic geared specifically at adults. Some scenes are hauntingly devastating and will live on in the memory for a while. There is one particular scene which has still stuck with me, of two female characters lying decapitated on a floor, their heads rolling a few metres away, already turned. Turned meaning they are now walking dead. You see, even decapitated, they are still animated. You can only kill them for certain by destroying the brain. As is revealed in the comics.
One of the real stand outs for the comic, and something I personally have not seen since the original Thor comics, is the ability of the writer to tell a story without using dialogue. There are entire pages of some issues without any dialogue, just panel after panel of artwork which serve to highlight various things and evoke certain emotions. Add to that, the entire comic save for the front page artwork is done in black and white. And it just fucking works. One particular scene involved Rick being nursed by his son after passing out of fever. Few things will tug at your heartstrings quite as much.
If you’re in the market for a mature, adult-oriented series of comics and you’re okay with playing catch-up then you should definitely look into picking up The Walking Dead. As much as I adore comics the likes of The Punisher and Watchmen, nothing does it quite like this series. Plus it’s just nice to see a bunch of real humans with real human problems rather than some Deus Ex Machina always around to save the day. Here people die, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop that.