The Walking Dead has been
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.
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…
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)
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)
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
And finally, there are the Compendium editions which are huge!
- Compendium One – issues #1-48 and the
6-pagestory 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.
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.
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.
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.
- The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor (Best read after issue #48)
- The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury
- The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One
- The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part Two
- Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: Descent
- Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: Invasion
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.