The Walking Dead comic. Image Comics zombies Karl

Where Do I Start Reading The Walking Dead Comic?

The Walking Dead has been described many times as “the zombie movie that never ends.” With the comic ending with its 193rd issue, there is a lot of comics to read. But where does one start with a series that has run for so long? I will tell you in a moment, but first I what discuss makes the series so good.

Like any good zombie fiction, the zombies become the less immediate threat after time. The story becomes less about zombies and more about the aftermath of what the zombies have caused.

The Walking Dead is no different. It’s a tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world in which all that you know is now gone, taken over by zombies. With all the luxuries that you once took for granted gone, the world is a very different place. It’s now a dark and dangerous place where characters will go beyond their limits and morals for survival.

The Walking Dead is very character-driven, where you see the characters change through their experiences and after a while they become someone entirely different, some even quite savage. Especially the protagonist, Rick, whose moral code is rocked when he struggles to come to terms with the violence he has to partake in, as well as if it is right or wrong to kill – even in the harsh world they live in.

The Walking Dead comic. Image Comics zombies Karl by Charlie Adlard.
Walking Dead promo image by Charlie Adlard.

Writer, Robert Kirkman is a master of the page-turn reveal, with a turn of a page revealing something shocking that has you wanting more. They are perfectly crafted and can often push a story in unexpected directions. Also, you have no idea who is going to die. The fact that no one is safe raises the stakes of the narrative in ways that other comics just cannot do. As a result, many of the characters at the beginning of the series are no longer present today.

Some people might be turned off the art as it is all in greyscale but I believe that it really fits the tone of the grim story and world that is being presented. The first 6 issues the art duties are done by Tony Moore, who afterwards left the series (although continued to do cover art until issue 24). Continuing on from him is the current artist, Charlie Adlard, who recently celebrated his 100th issue on the title. It does take a little time to get used to the change in art style but you will get used to it and after a while you won’t notice it.

So what is the best place to start with the Walking Dead? I suggest from the very start, as the series is structured like an ongoing film.

As for the format, you read it in you have plenty of options…

The Walking Dead trade paperback vol. 1 cover by Tony Moore. Image Comics, Robert Kirkman. Image Comics

Trade Paperback Collections

First, there are the trade paperbacks which collect roughly 6 issues in each. Continue with the first and work your way up. Here is the list of all trade paperbacks for the Walking Dead currently in print…

  • Volume 1: Days Gone Bye – issues #1-6
  • Volume 2: Miles Behind Us – issues #7-12
  • Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars – issues #13-18
  • Volume 4: The Heart’s Desire – issues #19-24
  • Volume 5: The Best Defence – issues #25-30
  • Volume 6: This Sorrowful Life – issues #31-36
  • Volume 7: The Calm Before – issues #37-42
  • Volume 8: Made To Suffer – issues #43-48
  • Volume 9: Here We Remain – issues #49-54
  • Volume 10: What We Become – issues #55-60
  • Volume 11: Fear the Hunters – issues #61-66
  • Volume 12: Life Among Them – issues #67-72
  • Volume 13: Too Far Gone – issues #73-78
  • Volume 14: No Way Out – issues #79-84
  • The Walking Dead Survivors’ Guide – collecting The Walking Dead Survivors’ Guide #1-4
  • Volume 15: We Find Ourselves – issues #85-90
  • Volume 16: A Larger World – issues #91-96
  • Volume 17: Something To Fear – issues #97-102
  • Volume 18: Abandon All Hope – issues #103-108
  • Volume 19: March To War – issues #109-114
  • Volume 20: All Out War – Part One – issues #115-120
  • Volume 21: All Out War – Part Two – issues #121-126
  • Volume 22: A New Beginning – issues #127-132
  • Volume 23: Whispers Into Screams – issues #133-138
  • Volume 24: Life And Death – issues #139-144
  • Volume 25: No Turning Back – issues #145-150
  • Volume 26: Call To Arms – issues #151-156
  • Volume 27: The Whisperer War – issues #157-162
  • Volume 28: A Certain Doom – issues #163-168
  • Volume 29: Lines We Cross – issues #169-174
  • Volume 30: New World Order – issues #175-180
  • Volume 31: The Rotten Core – issues #181-186
  • Volume 32: Rest In Peace – issues #187-193 (FINAL VOLUME)
The Walking Dead Book One - Zombies. Robert Kirkman. Image Comics
The Walking Dead Hardcover Book 1 cover by Charlie Adlard.

Hardcover Collections

There are also Hardcover editions which look nicer on your bookshelf, are slightly larger in size and collect much more material.

  • Book One – issues #1-12
  • Book Two – issues #13-24
  • Book Three – issues #25-36
  • Book Four – issues #37-48
  • Book Five – issues #49-60
  • Book Six – issues #61-72
  • Book Seven – issues #73-84
  • Book Eight – issues #85-96
  • Book Nine – issues #97-108
  • Book Ten – issues #109-120
  • Book Eleven – issues #121-132
  • Book Twelve – issues #133-144
  • Book Thirteen – issues #145-156
  • Book Fourteen – issues #157-168
  • Book Fifteen – issues #169-180
  • Book Sixteen – issues #181-193 (FINAL VOLUME)
The Walking Dead Omnibus Volume 1 cover by Charlie Adlard.

Omnibus Collections

And of course there is the even larger edition, these collect 24 issues each and have a lovely slipcase.

  • Omnibus Volume 1 – issues #1-24
  • Omnibus Volume 2 – issues #25-48
  • Omnibus Volume 3 – issues #49-72
  • Omnibus Volume 4 – issues #73-96
  • Omnibus Volume 5 – issues #97-120
  • Omnibus Volume 6 – issues #121-144
  • Omnibus Volume 7 – issues #145-168
  • Omnibus Volume 8 – issues #169-193 (FINAL VOLUME) – Availabile in November
The Walking Dead Compendium cover by Charlie Adlard.
The Walking Dead Compendium One cover by Charlie Adlard.

Compendiums

And finally, there are the Compendium editions which are huge!

  • Compendium One – issues #1-48 and the 6-page story from the Image Comics Holiday Special 2005
  • Compendium Two – issues #49-96
  • Compendium Three – issues #97-144
  • Compendium Four – issues #145-193 (FINAL VOLUME)

The Walking Dead Weekly

The Walking Dead Weekly reprinted the first 52 issues of the comic book series. As the title suggests, these were released weekly in comic book stores. They do not have any special content in them, just the comic book story.

The Walking Dead Deluxe

The Walking Dead Deluxe is a special reprint series of the comic that includes colour instead of the original grey-scale. This will be coming out monthly from October 2020, starting with issue #1.

The Walking Dead: The Alien cover by Marcos Martin.

Spin-Off Comic

There has been one spin-off story set in the world of the comic which was part of the Panel Syndicate website.

The Walking Dead: The Alien
Written by Brian K Vaughan and Art by Marcos Marin.

I talk about this in greater detail in a recent review.

Here’s Negan
Written by Robert Kirkman and art by Charlie Adlard.

Originally serialised in Image+ Magazine, this story explores Negan’s origins. It has been collected in a hardcover collection.

Novels

If you want to dig even further into the Walking Dead there are also spin-off novels, which fill in the gaps of the series. Most of it details the rise and fall The Governor, fleshing out the character.

Tips for Reading The Walking Dead

I would not recommend trying to track down every single issue as it would be an incredibly hard and expensive exercise. Especially the earlier issues which had an extremely low print run and fetch a very high price today. Although, I there should be no issue if you read through all the trade paperbacks and then jump on to the single issues, which is a popular practice around the time of a trade paperback release.

If you are unsure if you will like the comic you can always try the first issue for free.

My final tip with the Walking Dead is to realise that the TV show differs from the comic book in a lot of ways. Sometimes this is due to budget (especially with season 2), other times they just make more sense to be changed for the context of TV.

Where Can I Buy The Walking Dead Comics?

The Walking Dead comics can be found at any good comic book store, book stores, digitally on Comixology, Google Play and Kindle.

Feel free to ask any questions below in the comments or get in touch with me via Twitter or Facebook.

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Comments (29)

  • Hi, I’ve been collecting the comics for some time now. Could you tell me why some of the early issues say weekly in the title and others don’t! For instance I have 2 first print No 10 comics, one is signed by Kirkman and Adlard and the heading says-The Walking Dead, with the issue no. and price on the right hand side, then the other no. 10 says The Walking Dead Weekly with the issue no. and price on the usual left hand side??????

    • Hey Lee, great question! When the Walking Dead was originally released, it had a very low print run. No one knew what it was and there hadn’t been any critical buzz around it. When the TV show hit, there was a big demand for the comic but those early issues were hard to find. To make it easier the first 52 issues of The Walking Dead were reprinted as a weekly series throughout 2011. It’s essentially the same comic, just with the slight change in branding.

  • I just bought issue 149 but the bar code says 149 0 0. Usually it would say 149 1 1. Do you know what that means? My worry is that I bought a reprint and not an original.

    • I’m going to say that it is just a printing error. I couldn’t find any reference to a second printing online.

  • I just want to say a big Thank you Trevor! I was completely confused as to the differences between the ‘volumes’ all the way up to the compendiums. Of course, at the book store, all but the volumes are sealed so you can’t rifle through to see what is included in each different item. It is good to know that they contain the same content, just the number of volumes is different (basically). This gives me a great place to start my gifting of the collection to my daughter!

  • I’m confused . I’m wanting to buy the comic collection as a gift but not sure where to find it or where to start . I keep getting things like compendium or volume . Not sure what to choose.

    • Hi Hanna, great question. The best place to start with The Walking Dead us from the very start. The comic has become very popular and as a result it has come out in different formats, each collect the same content but some collect more than others. For example the first volume collects the first 6 issues of the comic, while the compendium collects the first 48. Which one you decide to go for will depend how much you ultimately want to spend or if you want to have a good binge read. You can find the collections online at stores such Amazon/Barnes and Noble or other large retailers. Alternatively, any good comic book stores will stick them. You can find your closest at http://www.comicshoplocator.com

      I hope this helps!

  • I’m up to date with the tv show and want to start reading the comics. However, since the comics are so far ahead of the show, I want to know where the comic meets the show (until the end of season 6) so I can read it without having anything spoiled for me?

      • I’m aware things are different, but are there any serious spoilers? (except who negan kills-I know about that) Thanks

    • Hey David, Neagan appears in The a Walking Dead #100 – which is where the TV show us roughly up to.

  • I have a few questions, I have seen in previous comments that the compendiums seem to be the best root to go. I have never read comics before really but LOVE the walking dead. Do the compendiums come with original comic artwork? What is the difference between compendiums and the omnibus? Where can I buy hardcover or limited editions of the compendiums?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Jessica, great question. The Compendiums are essentially 48 issues of The Walking Dead minus the covers, letters pages and things like that. So essentially it’s cover cover story ?

      The omnibuses are generally more limited and smaller. They’re for if you want something really special to have on your shelf if that makes sense.

      The compendiums can be found at any good comic book store (find one near you here: http://www.comicshoplocator.com), any book store with a decent graphic novels section or online stores such as Amazon.

      If you check the comic I would love to know what you think of it ?

  • Do all the reprints that cover multiple issues (hardback, compendium, etc) have all the same content the original comics have? I mean, are they word for word?

    • They essentially are, but in most cases don’t include covers or letters pages but all the story is the same. The only difference could be if they fixed any typos that were missed in the initial publication.

  • I am beginning to read The Walking Dead graphic novels as well as the regular novels. It is recommended that the first regular novel, “The Rise of the Governor,” should be read after issue #48. When should the remaining 2 regular novels be read in relation to the other issues? Thank you for your help.

    • Hi Donna, I haven’t read the novels but from the blurbs online it looks like you can read them straight after the first novel.

  • Great job.Love the show and thought I need to read the comics. I’m reading Compendium one right now and I am at Volume 5 The Best Defense. Love the comic even more then the show. My question is: I will be reading the Governor books after Issue 48 like you said, but is there a part two to the Fall of the Governor?

  • Thank you so very much! I have both compendiums and watch the tv shows… But thought I lost something in “translation” with the Governor .I have felt very lost , your website helped! But is Gareth and Terminus in the comics?

    • Hi! I’m glad you have found this helpful ? This is one of those instances where the TV show deviates from the comic and Gareth and Terminus are both creations of the TV show.

  • Thank you! I finally decided to dip a toe in to the TV show while home recovering from knee surgery. Walking dead is crack. Swear to god, I got itchy when I finished the free shows. (Granted, that was the day the bandage came off, so I was itchy for a few days before that, too.

    Now I need the source material. Omnibuses, and compendiums and single-issues; oh, my.

    Thank you. 🙂

    • Hey Terri,

      If you’re looking to gobble up large amounts of the comic I highly recommended investing in the compendiums. They’re a good price per issue and perfect for binging on.

  • Is there a walking dead book after the walking dead descent that continues with lilly, bob, and the others?

    • Hi Johnny, the covers are generally not included with the volumes or compendiums. I assume this is to keep printing entirely greyscale.