January 19, 2012

Getting Graphic: "The Walking Dead Volume 4: The Heart's Desire" by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

The Walking Dead Volume 4: The Heart's Desire
written by Robert Kirkman
illustrated by Charlie Adlard
Image Comics (2005)
ISBN 1582405301

If all you know about this series is what you've seen on television, wow, you are missing out.

In this fourth volume of The Walking Dead series, Grimes and the gang are in a prison, which they've converted into a compound and bunker to protect them from the ceaseless zombie hordes outside its walls. Well, it's not totally inundated by zombies outside, since they've been able to make a couple of road trips to get more supplies and more survivors.

The book picks up where Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars left off, as Grime and the gang are about to be kicked out of the prison at gunpoint by the inmates who were there first. But the wing of the prison from where the inmates got the guns was full of zombies and they've broken loose, wreaking havoc on everyone. During the melee, with bullets whizzing by everywhere, Grimes takes a dastardly turn and kills the lead inmate to ensure he's no longer a threat, then covers up the murder as a misfire. And everyone buys it--or most of them do.

Tyreese, Grimes' right-hand man lately, knows what happened, which leads to tension between the two of them. But Tyreese's hands aren't clean either, as he murdered his daughter's boyfriend after a botched suicide pact between the two young lovers left her dead. Plus, when a mysterious young woman arrives, keenly skilled in dispatching zombies--even domesticating apparently as she arrives with two in tow--Tyreese winds up cheating on his pseudo-girlfriend, Carol, with her.

The dynamics between everyone are breaking down. Friendships, romances, familial bonds are all being pushed to the breaking point. And Grimes seems to be suffering the most, taking on a near maniacal approach to protecting the group that borders on tyranny.

It's an intriguing chapter in the saga, but there were a couple of instances that really drew me out of the story this time around. For one thing, the art style is such that I confused a couple of characters (the older white guys tend to all look alike) and had to re-read a couple of pages just to be sure who was saying what. Then, there is a point when the group forms a council and there are no women included--not one. That might be easy enough to accept if not for the off-stage deference the women give by handing over all responsibility to the men, apparently stating they just want to be protected by the men. That threw me right out the story, as there are at least incredibly strong and resourceful women, and the idea they would forfeit all decision making to the men feels ludicrous to me.

Overall, it's still an engaging story, and entirely separate now from that first season of the TV show. I just have to wonder how these characters are going to survive the next couple of volumes, since they seem to be falling apart at the seams. I guess I'll have to wait until I read Volume 5: The Best Defense.


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