The Walking Dead is a worldwide phenomenon, which sells tonnes of comics and breaks TV ratings records. But, you probably knew that already. What you might not have about is this brand new comic story, The Walking Dead: The Alien, set in the world of the comics and created by Brian K Vaughan (Saga) and Marcos Martin (The Private Eye). The Alien, offers a new perspective on the world ravaged by the living dead, by seeing how the zombie outbreak affected Barcelona, Spain, through a done-in-one story.
Before I go too deep into the review I thought it would be worth mentioning how this came to be, especially since the regular Walking Dead creative of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard are not involved. Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin own the great website Panel Syndicate, which operates on a pay what you want system, and their first comic for it was The Private Eye. The pair have always said that this will never come to print, but The Walking Dead writer and creator Robert Kirkman was able to twist their leg into getting a print edition by offering the chance to do a special Walking Dead story for Panel Syndicate.
So here we are, with a brand new The Walking Dead story but the dynamic duo of Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin.
Set in Barcelona, The Alien stars American traveller Jeff and local Claudia (who is pretty bad-ass) as they attempt to escape the zombie infested city. Over 27 pages we get a well paced story in which the pair meet under strange circumstances, plan and then enact their escape. In that short amount of time we learn a lot about the two, including a connection to the main series which I won’t spoil.
One of the great things about The Walking Dead is the potential for world-building and telling other stories beyond Rick and his group, which is something that The Walking Dead: The Alien achieves quite well. By setting the story in Barcelona, BVK and Marcos Martin have offered a unique story that wouldn’t work the same if it were set in the middle of America like the regular series. We get an exotic location, new characters with different motivations and backgrounds. It makes for a story that’s familiar with the regular Walking Dead series, but stands out on it’s own as something unique.
In order to capture the The Walking Dead vibe, Marcos Martin has rendered the story in black and white (apart from a little bit of red) and because of this has crafted some of his best work yet. This has allowed him to work in greater detail, with additional tight linework, without worrying about how colour will be applied. He has drawn the city of Barcelona with much detail, showing off little quirks and distinctive architecture. It’s beautiful to look at, even when it’s infested with zombies. Speaking of zombies, this is another advantage of rendering in black and white as his zombies are also very detailed – with their sunken eyes and rotting bodies, hunched over in a tattered mess.
The only bit of colour in the story is some blood towards the end of the story. While this goes against the general Walking Dead tonal palette, the inclusion of the red does give power to the moment and stands out. This also allows BKV and Martin to have their story distinctly different to the regular series, without it being too much of a deviation.
The panel layouts pace the narrative and cater for the mood of the scene. The more intense action pieces generally have more smaller panels on the page to show the fast pace of the situation and build excitement. They also know when to slow down the pace with he inclusion of larger panels, mostly used for reveals of importance or a surprise as well as to set the scene. A perfect example is the page above which sets the scene and the danger of the situation above while pin-pointing where the characters are located.
The Walking Dead: The Alien is the perfect example of taking telling stories in a larger world which are unique but still feels familiar enough. It’s a truly interesting idea to set this story in Barcelona and see how everything played out on the other side of the world. This is made even more compelling through Marcos Martin’s detailed line work that looks even better in black and white. From his dramatic action to detailed Barcelona scenery and dynamic panel layouts, this short story is great to look at. The only bad thing about The Walking Dead: The Alien is that I wish there was more.
If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and good comics then definitely check this out. Even if you’re not familiar with the franchise this is still an accessible read for the curious.
The Walking Dead: The Alien can be picked up digitally for a pay what you want price at the Panel Syndicate website.