Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Tony Moore
Silence and ruin mark the lonesome highway to Atlanta, as Rick Grimes travels to find his family. But Southern Hospitality isn't what it used to be, when flesh-eating zombies are on the loose. Rick hopes to find his loved ones safe from the horrors of the walking dead within the sheltering confines of the big city. Unfortunately, hording the population together in the major urban centers wasn't such a good idea.
Rick's interstate pilgrimage has led him to a necropolis of horror. He's got a bag full of ammo and plenty of guns, but will it be enough to escape this city of the dead? The residents of Atlanta are hungry, and it's not peach pie that they want to eat.
"Thinking about the good times makes all this seem so much worse."
Survivalist horror is built upon the theme of isolation. Here we have Rick, a cop from a small town in Kentucky, alone on the highway. Civilization has collapsed, the dead walk the streets, and all that he loves has gone away. It is the hope of reuniting with his family that keeps him going, past the wrecked cars on the highway and decomposing corpses within the ruins.
He is alone, but with a vague hope of ending his isolation. Like a magic castle at the end of his journey, Atlanta is where he will find his joy, where the madness will be held at bay. It is this hope that creates such poignancy for the reader when Rick finally arrives at his destination. It is this hope that imbues the scene with a horror that exceeds that caused by mere gore and violence. To be truly alone, with all hopes dashed, this is the source of survivalist horror.
How does the creative team convey such a powerful mood and theme? The dialogue is well crafted, expressing awkwardness in Rick's one-sided conversation. The silences are loud; when Rick isn't talking to himself, the emptiness hits with strong narrative force. The forlorn clopping of the horse's hoofs, the buzz of flies around the corpses, the quiet of overgrown freeway, these scenes capture the despair of Rick's world.
But when he arrives at Atlanta, the silences disappear, replaced by the shuffling of the dead, the wet sound of flesh being torn from a living body, and the booming shots of the pistol. Again, the plot and pacing are fantastic, as is depiction of setting, development of theme, and expression of mood.
The art is perfect for this story. The gray tones give this book a desolate look. The panel and page composition handles the pacing expertly, as does the line weight and rendering of detail. This is especially noticeable in the "gore" scenes, where the fine detail and staccato paneling captures the eye in scenes of horror. Definitely not for the weak of stomach!
"Don't worry, we don't have far to go."
Horror comes in many styles. For instance, we have horror of the "self" in the Demon: Driven Out series, where revulsion is provoked in a moral fable of depravity. Then we have horror of the "supernatural" in Route 666, with its B-movie monster creepiness that gives a cheeky thrill. This book's charm is loneliness, the stranger in a strange land.
Abandoned in a macabre realm, Rick must find his way to survival. This is a potent story. Although I fear that this title will be drifting from its horror mood in favor of survivalist action/adventure, a related but distinctly different genre, (think of the movie, Alien, versus it sequel, Aliens,) the first two issues of this series have been excellent. I highly recommend this book.
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