Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Tony Moore (penciler, inker, gray tones);
Cliff Rathburn (additional gray tones)

There are zombies on the cover of The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye and; there are zombies inside the graphic novel; but this isn't really a zombie tale so much as it's a survival tale. In "Days Gone Bye," the focus is on the human element whereas the zombies are incidental. Rick Grimes, a police officer shot in the line of duty, wakes up from a coma in the hospital. He wakes to an abandoned facility, town, home, and basically, life as he knew it. Something has happened and now the the landscape is littered with zombies, alive-dead and dead-dead. His first instinct is to retain his civilized sensibilities and to reinforce his identity as an authority figure. He makes his way to the police station, dons his spare uniform, metes out guns and ammo to the first survivors he meets, grants them the use of a police cruiser and admonishes them to keep an eye out on his place while he heads in to Atlanta, GA. Even as he exits Cynthiana, KY, there are subtle cracks in his civilized veneer. Eventually, Rick ends up in an encampment of people who tried to make for the safety of the city but were too late to make their way in. At camp, the need for food, clean clothes and, secure shelter takes precedent over the social ethics of their former lives. Various members of the group each try to retain their individuality while trying to adapt to a group dynamic.

Very little is discovered about the zombies in "Days Gone Bye." People die, they come back to an animated state. They bite people and the newly bitten become zombies in turn. The zombies here operate purely on an animal level of survival, apparently having the ability to smell and hear, all in the pursuit of something to eat. In "Days Gone Bye" the difference between the zombies and the survivors is clear, if only by degrees and speed. We'll see how long this lasts :-/

Excepting the cover, the artwork in "Days Gone Bye" is black-and-white. The survivors are drawn with near cartoonish qualities: outlines without a lot of facial subtleties, many wide-eyed expressions and near comical distortions of the mouth. The zombies are consistently drawn with more detail and realism. Go figure. Because the panels are b&w, the integrity of the panels rests on the composition of the shots and ergo the gray tones or ink washes applied. Some are more difficult to execute than others (a scene around a campfire at night while snow falls vs a single head shot against a blank background) and Tony Moore and Cliff Rathburn met the challenges with varying degrees of success. A panel showing Rick and Glenn on a fire escape displays sophisticated layers and tones; but other scenes (e.g. Rick and Lori talking outside their tent) show less artful effort. [I do not know either Tony Moore's nor Cliff Rathburn's work well enough individually to be able to assess the handiwork of either's effort, only the combined effect in this volume.] In a couple of panels, characters were difficult to distinguish from each other. In a long shot, two characters are speaking; but there is not enough detail to determine who and, in another panel, I had to look very closely across several pages and, by the process of elimination, figure out who was speaking.

Rick and Glenn on the fire escape
The illusion of depth is created by using lines of perspective drawn from the top of Glenn's hat down to the zombie masses below. Visual touchstones that serve as markers along the way include Glenn's hat, Rick's hand, the actual fire escape and, the zombie in the dark suit.The layers of proximity/distance create the the impression of a "drop" and the heighten the anxiety of what lies below and the overall tension of the scene.

Rick & Lori talking outside their tent
The tent serves two purposes: Its sets up the balance and symmetry of the panel. The dialogue balloon becomes the asymmetrical element and item of interest and focus. The tent also serves as a frame for the couple in this intimate moment, closing the conversation off from others and the natural elements seen in the background. The shadowing casts on their faces and on the tent further contrasts with the darkness beyond the campfire and emphasizes their isolation. But the tent, with its ruler-straight outlines and lack of texture also looks artless in its "blockiness" and draws attention to the artifice of the drawing.

The artwork isn't great; but In "Days Gone Bye" there is a lot of thought provoking material in regards to the concepts of identity, civilization and individual rights.

Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye from More Fun, a comic book store in Ashland, OR.

This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at

This book also qualifies for the What's in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, "Walking."

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye starts out in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
View dogearedcopy map 2011 in a larger map

No comments:

Post a Comment