By: Adam Matthew Ink
I read Image’s comic book form of The Walking Dead (TWD) in spurts of 9 volumes. I wait for a sizable stack to pile up and then plow through the grotesque zombie thriller in a beautiful month, enjoying every blood soaked page. During this eventful spout, I’ve found myself loving the series even more than usual. I’ve become very familiar with Rick and everything he’s done for his group, his family and their survival in a zombie apocalypse. To me, it seems like this pack of survivalists have painstakingly knit together a beautiful group that could, mostly, hobble away from anything writer/creator Robert Kirkman throws at them.
This time around the first couple of volumes have been covered in season 5 of the hit show on AMC while the rest are a sneak peak at what’s to come. Robert Kirkman has said it before, the show and the books are parallel universes – similar to each other but not identical. In the decomposed and manic tapestry of the series, I have found myself reveling in each volume and all of the character moments, which stand out inside the grey-toned pages. Reading the comic book series alongside the show has become some sort of Else-World experience. Closely paralleled worlds showcasing different character situations as the ensemble moves within the zombie apocalypse. Marvel and DC have been exploiting this theme since the “What If” and “Earth 2” series, respectively, and both companies continue to do it today in some form.
So, why does this feel so fresh? Undoubtedly I would be enjoying the series on its own comic merits, but as the show’s 5th season took a dip in quality, I am shown another version that actually lives up to its hype. It has become apparent that there is a disparity between Image TWD (comic book form) and AMC TWD (televised form). Character development ebbs and flows with different individuals in slightly (sometimes completely) different situations; the disparity lies within relationships, paralleled plots and censorship.
Between media there is an inequality for graphic novels, television and even novels. Having consumed TWD in all of its forms I would say the comics feel the heartiest when it comes down to it. Frank Darabont did a fantastic job creating the look and feel for the televised adaptation but after drama ensued outside of the show, he sadly left. Where is the paralleled universe in which Darabont never left? That is a series I’d truly like to see.
Inside Image’s rendition of TWD, volumes 9-16 feel like hope has been regained in the group. Rick’s sense of leadership and paternal instinct are tested to the limit as they step into a new frontier. It is within these traits that I found a new respect for Rick but, oddly enough, with the material AMC’s Andrew Lincoln had, he couldn’t extract the same emotions from me in the past season (Sea. 5). In the comics, Rick, Andrea, Abraham, and even Carl show a depth that is currently unmatched inside the show; I believe that depth has come from difficult situations and mainly an unfiltered idea of the apocalypse. As a network, AMC can’t show everything, I am aware of that reality, but to change large aspects of the series (such as Rick having both hands) loses valuable character building moments in the series. The exhilaration of a post-apocalypse zombie thriller lies within dire situations and sick, fucked-up individuals! Taking out those moments will only impact the adaptation negatively. Without the series’ deep, gouging valleys we, the viewers, are left with higher peaks and altogether less weight. To put it bluntly: go big or go home.
Paralleled plots and else-world writing leads the writer to explore different avenues, it allows them an opportunity to giveth and taketh away to make it interesting for old and new consumers alike. Kirkman is writing a couple seasons ahead of the televised series, allowing him to think about the two forms of media in a completely different fashion. AMC is exploring old characters in a different limelight or completely new characters altogether. Reading the comics I am comfortable with each character and the role they play inside the group. In the show, it feels as if Rick, Daryl, Carol, all of them are an amalgamation of their comic book counterpart. No one character is as defined as they are in the comics. During the most recent Panel Punchers, Mike said it best when he noted it is as if they took Andrea from the comics, cut her up, and placed her on top of every survivor in Rick’s group. Every member in the show is an Andrea and a half for tactics and skill without much variance for other interesting character attributes; the group is too large and much too bland to continue going at this rate.
Compendium two was gruesome and thrilling. If AMC continues to cutout these momentous and tragic valleys, fans like myself will stray from the show to consume The Walking Dead in a more rewarding fashion.