Written By: Robert Kirkman
Penciler and Inker: Charlie Adlard
Editor: Sina Grace
Distributed By: Image Comics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Well, I’m all caught up on The Walking Dead television series and patiently awaiting its return. That being said, I can’t go Dead-less this whole time, so I decided to do some catching up on the comic book series the television show is based on. And what better way than to pick up a volume that contains Issues 49-96! Of course, it stands without reason that the following review of The Walking Dead: Compendium Two will have some spoilers, so if you are intent on not being spoiled, close this page now. Those that don’t care about spoilage, by all means, read on.
Compendium Two picks up shortly where Compendium One left off. The prison is destroyed and the group has been separated. Rick Grimes and his son, Carl, are trying to find a place to hole up for the night so that Rick can recover from his injuries and they both can recover from their losses. Fans of the show will remember this – it was done very similarly in the television series. Carl begins to grow up a bit, having to protect his father while he is fighting infection from his injuries. Carl gets it in his mind that he can take care of himself, but soon realizes that he’s just a scared kid who still needs his dad.
Meanwhile, Michonne is searching for the others and eventually stumbles on Rick and Carl. They are found by Glenn and Maggie and brought back to Hershel’s farm, where they find Dale and Andrea, Sophia and the twins. Maggie is told about the demise of the remnants of her family. Another group of survivors approaches the farm and convinces them that staying in one place is not safe as there are hordes of Roamers making there way through the area. Former soldier, Abraham, and his girlfriend Rosita have been helping a scientist named Eugene get to Washington, D.C., where Eugene is sure they can find a way to stop the madness that the world has become.
Rick’s group decides to leave the farm with Abraham, but it isn’t long before tragedy strikes. Maggie, distraught over the loss of her family, makes an unsuccessful attempt on her life. One of the twins, Ben, having been displaying some disturbing traits of late, kills his brother Billy. Ben’s fate is decided by Carl. But not all is bad – the group finds Morgan, the man who saved Rick way back when he had just come out of his coma. But they eventually lose Dale. It is not much later that they are met by a young man named Aaron, a recruiter for a community of people living in a secure facility in Alexandria. Rick is suspicious at first, but, upon arrival and discussions with the leader of the place, decides it might be nice to stay still for a while and enjoy the safety of walls for a change.
Unfortunately, not all is as it seems in Alexandria and things go from bad to worse when a man accused of beating his wife and son attempts to kill Rick and actually murders the leader of Alexandria’s wife. Soon after, a horde attacks and the wall is breached, causing the death of many, including a woman Rick was just starting to become involved with. After mourning their losses, Rick takes over as leader of Alexandria, but while fortifying the town’s defenses, they are approached by a man named Paul “Jesus” Monroe, another scout looking for people to trade with. He lives in a community known as the Hilltop Colony. The group is sizable and their resources plentiful, but they are besieged by a group known as the Saviors. Lead by a psychopath named Negan, this group provides protection from the dead, but at a hefty price, taking half of everything that the Hilltop Colony has and sending bloody messages when he deems his take is not enough. In exchange for supplies, Rick offers his people’s help in taking on the Saviors, but at what price?
This time around, the artistry is a little better. Characters don’t have so many different looks as when the comic series started. I think having Charles Adlard as the sole penciler and inker was a good choice. I love that this tale is still told in black and white. I think adding color would take away from the impact of the character struggles in the story. The emotions and the drama would be somewhat diminished by adding color and making things brighter. We don’t need to see the redness of the blood or the glowing embers of the dead that are burned. We need to absorb what is happening to these survivors.
The storyline is exquisite, more than once reminding us that in this world, it’s not the dead one should be most afraid of – it’s the living. It also reminds us what one goes through having to survive day after day, wondering what day might be your last. When the time finally comes when you can feel safe, can you accept it? Or is the post-traumatic stress too great for you to allow yourself that comfort? Is being safe even an option in this world?
Now, if I’ve told you too much about what is going on in this comic book series, I did already warn you about spoilers, right? So don’t read any more if you don’t want to know the differences between the comic book and the show, okay? Firstly, Andrea survives Woodbury and is with Dale, who incidentally is still alive. And they are raising the twins – boys, not the girls being raised by Carol in the series, though just as spooky. Maggie, trying to kill herself? I just can’t picture the strong and stalwart Maggie of the series doing anything like that, but the comic came out first, so I’ll just have to deal with that. Rick talking on the phone with his wife – okay, that did happen in the series, just earlier – is just as crazy, yet just as heartbreaking. How the group meets Abraham, Rosita and Eugene is different, but Eugene’s secrets are not – loved that! The leader of Alexandria is the husband, not the wife, but the end result is still the same.
In short, I love the choices Robert Kirkman and his television crew have made in doing the television series – what to leave out, what to keep in, what characters to do over, what characters to invent. And yet, I would change a thing about the comic book. What attracted folks to The Walking Dead is the storyline and the fact that the character line-up does in fact change, often shockingly. This is a great story of survival and of the inherent good and evil of humanity and I love the fact that I can catch up on the comic book series by reading huge chunks of it compiled in a compendium that only cost me $35.00 (a bargain when you consider the cost of each comic separately). I can’t wait to read more!