Review by Karl Verhoven
Midway through Book Six, it appeared the equivalent of the one magical wish had been granted, and Rick Grimes and his travelling companions had located the refuge they sought. It’s like a step back into the life of old within the gated community outside Washington. Grimes even has a police uniform on again, and there are organised work schedules for essential tasks so everyone contributes. Doses of reality, though, are provided by the regular need to scavenge food and medicine, and the hordes of zombies within easy distance. It’s better and safer, though, than life on the road, so is Grimes being paranoid when he organises the stealing of personal weapons forbidden within the community? “I have to make things work here”, he explains to Andrea, “I have to be ready for anything. I have to think three steps ahead of everyone.”
Robert Kirkman’s already indicated that the community has its secrets, and one revealed on the job is a callous safety first policy that sacrifices individual members rather than endanger the majority.
Until the final third of the book, this is a tale of the occasional relatively contained incident splicing plenty of character material. In fact, Kirkman’s becoming increasingly verbose here, with great word balloons blotting out the backgrounds and squashing heads. Balanced against this is that he’s improved immensely in depicting convincing personal relationships when compared with his attempts in the earliest books.
His proven and reliable method of cranking up the tension occurs in book’s second half, with a new zombie scenario. It results in what are probably the most gruesome and protracted scenes of violence seen to date. Artist Charlie Adlard illustrates all this in his customary compact manner, never sacrificing the story for design, and in the first half of the book supplying some fantastic double page spreads.
For all that, there’s a different form of storytelling used here, and the slow build just continues and continues. Kirkman also cheats slightly, with the shock ending to one chapter rapidly dismissed in the next, and another threat built up only to be dispatched in double quick time. The final sequence does deliver the tension and danger associated with The Walking Dead, but it’s a long time getting there.
For those who’d prefer their Walking Dead in slimmer paperback doses, this material can be located as Too Far Gone and No Way Out. Alternatively there’s volume two of the Walking Dead Compendium, combining Books 5–8.