The Walking Dead: Compendium Two, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn — a comic book review


I purchased this compendium at least six years ago. I was still working for the Target Corporation; I know that. It was published in 2012. So, somewhere between six and eight years ago. I bought the first compendium at the same time, and I read through that one a while back. Before I began posting on, which means at least five years ago. I began reading this one and then stopped, for reasons I can’t remember, but then picked it up again recently.

This compendium collects issues #49-96 of the Image Comics series. It kicks off with the aftermath of the events at the prison, the introduction of Michonne, and concludes with the events at Alexandria and the discovery of Hilltop and Jesus. Negan has been mentioned but not seen yet, like Bruce the Jaws shark throughout most of that movie. I always imagine the John Williams Jaws theme when Negan is mentioned.

I have the third compendium around somewhere, and a fourth—and final—has been published. Since I purchased the first compendium, Robert Kirkman has ended the run of The Walking Dead, with issue #193. The final issues were collected in the fourth compendium. I have no psychic powers whatsoever, but I’m making a prediction today that I will purchase the fourth compendium in the near future. As it stands today, I’m almost exactly halfway through the entire series.

The AMC television series continues as of the date I’m writing this. I stopped watching at the end of Season 8. Season 10 is ending in April 2020, with a Season 11 premiering later in the year. I’m not sure if Season 11 will be the last season, but I do know that Andrew Lincoln—Rick Grimes himself—has left the series, as have a few other of my favorite actors. With the comic book itself reaching a conclusion, it seems that the writing is on the wall. I seriously doubt that there will be many more seasons.

Reading The Walking Dead: Compendium Two has made me want to watch the series again. I didn’t quit the television series in disgust, and always knew I would return to it someday. Reading this collection made me want to return to it sooner than later. In fact, it’s made me want to watch the entire AMC series over again from the beginning. So much of what happened on the television show was already on the page in the comic book. There are differences, of course, but the heart of the story has remained the same, whether or not Rick ever loses his hand on the television series.

There are differences. Some subtle, some not. Rick and Lori’s newborn daughter dies in the comic, along with Lori. Judith lives on television. Carol Peletier, one of my favorite characters on the television show as portrayed by Melissa McBride, doesn’t really exist in the comic book. The character she was based upon committed suicide way back in issue #42. However, Sophia lives in the comic. There’s the hand thing that I mentioned before, of course. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) doesn’t have a comic book counterpart. That’s another big one. Some of the interpersonal relationships are different as well.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Entire posts could be written about the differences between the TWD media (here’s one for you). But, the story beats are pretty much intact, as are the reasons I’ve liked both versions.

My wife doesn’t like horror movies or television shows. At least, not of the fictional variety. She loves true-crime murder shows, which genuinely scare me and give me nightmares if she’s watching one in the bedroom as I drift off to sleep. Those don’t bother her. Likewise, horror fiction doesn’t faze me in the least because I know they aren’t real. We should all celebrate our differences.

I think Sharon would like a lot of TWD (at least the television series) if she could get past the reanimated dead component of the show. Sure, you might argue that this is the largest part of both the TV show and the comic book. I mean, it’s called The Walking Dead. But, I don’t agree with this assessment. The premise is more about establishing the setting than anything. The walkers (or biters, roamers, zombies . . . whatever you decide to call them) are like a force of nature, such as thunderstorms, forest fires, or tsunami. They aren’t the story. The story is about people and how they deal with their changed circumstances.

A global pandemic has vastly reduced the population, and the survivors must deal with the aftermath, which includes, in this case, the hungry undead. The characters, and their individual and collective arcs, are what make the overarching story more compelling.

This compendium opens with the story arc titled “Here We Remain,” which kicks off immediately following the destruction of the prison, when the group of characters we’ve come to know are separated. Rick and his son Carl find shelter, but Rick’s mental and physical state are unraveling. This is where Rick Grimes begins talking on a disconnected phone to his dead wife. It’s also where Carl begins to become more independent. Eventually, the survivors of their old gang are reunited. We also get the introduction of Abraham, Rosita and Eugene, who are on a mission to Washington, D.C., to cure the plague. Rick’s team decides to join them.

The next story arc, “What We Become,” covers another five-issue run. Rick, Abraham and Carl head back to Rick’s hometown to get weapons. Rick is reunited with Morgan, who has lost his son and also seems to be experiencing mental health issues (hey, it’s understandable). Morgan joins up with Rick’s new team with their new story goal.

The next arc, “Fear the Hunters,” brings the pastor Gabriel into the story. Dale—who was already dead on the television show before now—is kidnapped by cannibals, who eat part of him. Dale ends up dying, of course. Then Rick’s group hunts down the cannibals and kills them. And not in a nice way.

Life Among Them” reveals Eugene’s deception, but their trip towards Washington hasn’t been in vain. They meet Aaron and discover the almost-utopian Alexandria Safe-Zone. Here in the book it’s Douglas Monroe who’s in charge, not his wife.

We spend the remainder of the compendium in Alexandria. Rick can’t help but to express his Alpha Dog status and eventually takes charge of the community. Not until after some bloodshed, of course. During this time, Carl gets shot in the eye, spends some time in a coma, but eventually regains consciousness. It’s a family trait. Some community members question Rick’s right to leadership, but Rick quashes a rebellion.

Finally, the Alexandrians (which is what we’re calling Rick’s group now), encounter the badass Paul Monroe, known as Jesus, who claims to be a recruiter for the Hilltop Colony.

Hilltop seems to be even safer than Alexandria, and its members have rediscovered agriculture. But, as this sequence comes to a close, we discover that Hilltop has a formidable enemy who are taking half of the colony’s supplies in some sort of protection racket. The enemy is a group calling themselves The Saviors, led by a man called Negan.

Exciting stuff, and very familiar to anyone who’s watched the television series. The star of the comic book is Robert Kirkman’s writing. The artwork is black-and-white and, in many ways, minimalist. I’m not insulting Charlie Adlard’s artwork here. I think it’s perfect for the story. At times, the ink work reminds me very strongly of John Severin’s work, which is high praise from me. Mostly, the art seems like a storyboard, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the creative forces on the AMC series used it as such. The stark contrast of the black-and-white images is effective and sets a tone for the story.

I’m not exactly sure what Cliff Rathburn’s contribution to the art was. He’s listed as “colorist,” which seems unlikely in a comic book without color. More than likely, he was involved with inking and doing the graytone shading throughout the books.

I’ve enjoyed reading this book. As I mentioned before, it’s making me want to return to the television series. Compendium Three—which sits waiting on my bookshelf—goes beyond what I’ve watched of the story through the end of Season 8. I’m undecided at the moment about whether I’ll read it before or after I get caught up on the television series. I’m leaning towards after, so it may be a while before I get to the book.

If you’re a fan of the series, I believe you’d like the comic book as well. Some of you may like the comic more than the series.

Firewater’s An-Epidemic-of-Apocalyptic-Proportions Report Card: A


You may have noticed that I have, up to this point, refrained from COVID-19 references during this review. Stay strong, my friends. We’ll all beat this thing.

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