Has it really been ten years? For all the naysayers that claimed our obsession with zombies was a passing phase, Robert Kirman’s undead epic, The Walking Dead, stands like a glowing, neon sign that says WRONG.
With one hundred fifteen issues, multiple reprints, hardcovers and trade paperbacks, action figures, video games, board games, a novel, and a TV series with a spinoff in the works, the apocalypse is showing no signs of slowing down.
From the very first issue we have ridden the emotional roller coaster that is Rick Grimes’ story. We’ve followed along as he woke up in an abandoned hospital, found his family, and rose to leadership of his group of survivors. We’ve seen his ups and downs, felt his losses and his victories, and most importantly, for the last ten years we have cared. Rick Grimes isn’t a super hero, he has no powers, hell, the man has practically broken every bone in his body and is missing a hand, but Rick Grimes NEVER gives up. The character has of course had his moments of weakness but he always pulls through. This is one of the reasons The Walking Dead is so brilliant.
This book is first and foremost about the living, people pushed to their utmost limit. The zombies are certainly a formidable obstacle in this apocalyptic landscape, but they are a manageable one. Living humans on the other hand are an entirely different kind of danger. That has never been more apparent than right now in the current arc, ALL OUT WAR.
Another fundamental aspect of The Walking Dead that keeps us reading is what Kirkman doesn’t tell us. We are never told why the dead are returning to life, a concept used by George Romero back in 1968 in his classic Night of the Living Dead and to Kirkman’s credit, he has acknowledged Romero many times in print and has said that he is basically writing The Walking Dead using Romero’s zombie “rules”. I don’t know if it was a happy accident or Romero had plans all along to continue his zombie universe but for whatever reason it was a genius move to leave the movie with that cryptic ending. We see local militia rescuing people but there is no definite conclusion, no announcement that the good guys have won the day, just a scene of the rescue party killing some straggling zombies, and lone survivor Ben, and burning the bodies.
Although many possibilities are hinted at, voodoo, radiation, no real answers are given.
This makes the story way creepier and more realistic in my opinion. When a major disaster occurs such as a hurricane or an earthquake there is a period of chaos. One need only look at the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina to see that we clearly aren’t as prepared as we’d like to think we are. Think of a disaster on the scale of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. Would the powers that be retreat and abandon us all? Would police and rescue workers leave their posts and go home to their own families? Who would stay behind at the CDC to figure it out? The fact is, we would probably never know what caused it.
Rick and his core group have adapted to live in this new age of death. They’ve learned new methods of survival along the way and have gained the respect of their Safe Zone compatriots because of this hard earned knowledge. The group have all come to the conclusion that this is the world we have now, no rescue is coming, adapt or die.
The Walking Dead has become much more than Robert Kirkman could have imagined when he and Tony Moore developed it. It has grown beyond the comic books and the TV show to become part of our culture. Zombies are dominating everything from cartoons to cell phone commercials. Even Marvel couldn’t ignore the zombie craze as Spider-Man makes a Hershel’s farm reference while recruiting Johnny Storm’s help in Amazing Spider-Man #680!
The Walking Dead has proven that it is more than just the sum of its parts. For a black and white indie comic about people to still be going strong after a decade is a monumental achievement. In a world of reboots and complete universal rewrites it stands with very few peers and its success stands alone.
Congratulations to The Walking Dead for Ten Fantastic Years and here’s to ten More!