You aren’t real. I know this because Robert Kirkman told me so. I trust Kirkman, he knows his stuff. He also came up with that über fashionable TV show called The Walking Dead, so he must be right. But if you aren’t real, who the hell is reading this? To find out, read on!
Chances are that you’ve heard about the Walking Dead. Cool TV show, very glamourous, pretty people and a zombie apocalypse. Nothing to think about. But Robert Kirkman has been blowing minds with his gritty take on the end of the world ages before the fella from Teachers showed up. So why read it? Because it will make you doubt you are real, and not many comics can make a claim like that.
I struggled with whether or not to reveal your immateriality to you. After all, discovering you aren’t real is something you should find out for yourself. When Robert Kirkman wrote The Walking Dead, he looked past the genre, the (and let’s be honest) hundreds of zombie clichés and decided he’d disassemble society. He picked it up, held it up to the light, turned it back and forth and saw how fragile and worthless it was, like a empty whisky bottle. Then like a hobo trying to get his life together, he threw it on the ground and dashed it into a thousand pieces.
Kirkman creates characters you know. He reached deep in to the pot of stereotypes and took out the biggest, fattest, juiciest ones he could find. He used them like worms on a hook to bait his readers, they are access points straight to the heart of the story. But Kirkman knows how to use worms properly, so he sticks them at the bottom of a big bottle of zombie juice tequila. So you drink, like the hobo. You slurp down that tequila and it feels good. You know it well, green-grey hands grip you warmly, and you chew on the worm… but it doesn’t taste like you thought. Because Kirkman tainted the whole brew with a dirty secret. The Walking Dead are the characters of his story. The policeman, the hillbilly, the little Asian boy, the angry black people? They are the Walking Dead – not the zombies.
The question is, what is a policeman without a society to police? What is a husband without a wife, or a father without children? What is an outlaw without a law to be outside of?
Well, thanks Kirkman. You got me addicted to your weird home brew. It’s got me sat in an alley, out of my mind and drunkenly questioning everything. If you strip away everyone I know, everything I do, everything I interact with, what am I? Just as demanding in my drunken zombie thoughts is this; how the hell did a comic make me doubt my existence?
What a simple premise for a book. You are nothing without society, because we are a social animal. OK, Kirkman distilled his concoction with the usual zombie shtick. He threw in the shotguns, the gore, and for bite, a little sex and racism. Everything the fashionable geek needs on the label of his favourite tipple. But the message is clear, even through the beer goggles. You shouldn’t be scoping out your plan for killing zombies in the event of a zombie apocalypse. You should be working out how to rescue a decent therapist, so you have a hope of hanging on to your sense of self.
The artwork has a certain simplistic honesty that compliments the brew like a little bowl of pretzels. The dialogue and narrative are much the same, not over-the-top, but with enough flavour to keep you going on to your next glass. The cheese and onion crisps of my laboured alcohol metaphor, if you will.
But then, I’m not worried if you’re bored with the booze talk. I told you before, you aren’t real. From reading The Walking Dead, I’ve learned that it is society that defines us, and we it. Without it, you might as well be my drunken hallucinations of the absinthe fairy or grenadine goblin.
So then, why should you read The Walking Dead? Because every book gives you another moment to look at an aspect of your life, assess it, and hopefully make it better. You can’t say you can take that from many books, let alone a graphic novel. So I suggest you get a glass and pour yourself some. But then, what do I know? I’m just the alcoholic at the end of the bar.