Writing: Robert Kirkman
Art: Tony Moore (1-6 and covers)/Charlie Adlard (7+)
Published by: Image, October 2003 - present

The Walking Dead is a unique take on the zombie genre and probably the only zombie comic worth mentioning. Its idealogical roots lie closer to 28 Days Later than Night of the Living Dead. It's not about people freaking out about the zombie apocalypse, but about the psychological changes that come over people freaking out about the zombie apocalypse. I can't say it's the most intelligent comic I've ever read, but it shows creativity and depth that are rare in most.

In keeping with tradition, we meet the protagonist in his hospital bed and he stumbles into the daylight to find society dismantled, everything and everyone he loved destroyed, etc. He sets out in search of his lost life and, shocker, he finds it! Or some semblance. As luck would have it, his wife and young son have neither been eaten nor joined the ranks of the living dead and he stumbles upon a camp they're sharing with an assortment of other still-human refugees.

The comic tells the story of this band as it grows and shrinks and travels through the wasteland of civilization. Someone dies in nearly every issue, but thus far the hero has hung on. The stories deal primarily with the loss of family and the human drive to find new companionship, as well as the insanity grief brings about, and how our dormant caveman instincts might rear their heads in such extreme circumstances. An early part of the story deals with the tension between longtime friends when they find themselves in competition over a woman. What might otherwise end in a night of heavy drinking and grudge sex ends with a duel and a murder.

Perhaps the comic's best trait is its ability to capture the sense of gritty perseverance that defines a hopelessly desperate situation. Even in stolen moments and monologues, the tension of the plot stays strong. After establishing that anyone can die any time, it's hard not to feel as though you're merely watching people edge toward death. It compells you to hang on their every carefully pencilled word.

Though it's not strictly a zombie story, the zombie fanatic in me wouldn't be satisfied unless I told you something about the particular zombie mythology of The Walking Dead. These zombies are Romero zombies: slow, shambling, and persistent. (They are not Land of the Dead zombies - they are not smart or capable of emotion - they are pre-revisionist-Romero zombies.) Zombification doesn't happen only as a result of a bite. Anyone who dies will rise up again and need to be dispensed with.

This book seems to have a good sense of pace and purpose, and so I'd like to see it stick around. However, the reason for the zombies has yet to be explained. Hopefully, if that happens, some giant conspiracy won't overwhelm the rest of the plot and the quick, deft characterizations that make this comic so good. Like tasty human prey sitting huddled in the dark with our shotguns in our laps, we can only wait and pray.

Publisher: TellTale Games
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, IOS, Playstation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: April 24, 2012 (see below)
ESRB: Mature
Format: digital download (disc format December 4, 2012)

Not to be confused with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (a FPS released in 2013 based on the TV series), The Walking Dead is an episodic adventure horror game based on the comic series.

The player assumes the role of Lee Everett, a college professor, who, during events immediately prior to the game, is convicted of murdering a state senator who was sleeping with his wife. As the game progresses he is offered a chance at redemption during the worst event mankind is ever faced with by way of protecting and guiding an eight-year-old girl named Clementine.

The game is independent of the source material and can be played all the way through without any preexisting knowledge of the franchise. It takes place in and around Macon, Georgia, later Savannah. However, the first episode begins before the events of the comic or TV series begin, during the time that Rick Grimes is still unconscious in the hospital. Hershel Greene and Glenn (who are major characters in the comic and show) appear in the first episode. Confusingly, the Lilly character in the game is not the Lilly Caul from the comics and novel The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury*.

Game Play and Aesthetics

Primarily this is an adventure game making simple use of point and click interface, a bit of WASD, some quick time events for combat, but a lot of reliance on dialogue trees. The obvious puzzles are straight forward and simple, like figuring out how to get through a locked door, but the subtle puzzles, balancing group dynamics and trying to get the characters to work together, are much harder.

At least once in every episode the player is presented with a situation where they must decide the fates of characters in the group. This can manifest as two people being attacked by zombies with the player only able to save one of them, deciding whether or not to step into a conflict where characters will come to blows, or considering leaving someone to die. The player’s decisions, and their interactions with characters, effect how the game can play out. Every character has a strong suit and weakness. Getting on their good side will mean they will help you when you need them. Disregarding someone who is being an asshole may come back to bite you in the ass. Granted several characters have set points where they leave the group (either dying or running away), but how those situations unfold, and how the rest of the group will react to them, is variable.

The game’s art style is an attempt to emulate in 3D Charlie Adlard’s hand drawn panel art from the comic. This does work pretty well, though on rare occasions some of the decorative brush strokes on character models seem a little odd. One of the points of contention for fans of the comic, which has always been in black and white (except for the gag B-story in issue #75), is that the game is in full color. TellTale addressed this saying that a black and white option was planned, but during development when the 3D models were put in black and white the game looked muddy so that mode was scrapped.

Plot Synopsis (Season 1)

Each episode runs about two hours in length. In an attempt to diminish spoilers, this synopsis is in very broad strokes. Be warned, though spoilers are eminent.

Episode 1 – “A New Day” (released April 24, 2012)
In which characters and setting are set up. Lee meets Clementine and promises to help her find her parents. She carries with her an apparently non-functional walkie-talkie her father gave her as a security blanket.

Lee makes his way to his family's drug store in Macon, where he meets up with a group of survivors. Some of them die in a zombie attack, and the group moves to an abandoned motel outside the city.

Episode 2 – “Starved For Help” (released June 27, 2012)
Three months later, food is running low.

An event while hunting in the woods soon reveals that anyone who dies, whether bitten or not, will come back as a zombie.

The group attempts to set up a new life with a family at a local dairy farm, while trying to avoid conflict with a group of bandits who used to be employees at a big box store.

The dairy farmers are revealed to be cannibals. After death, betrayal, and putting an end to the farm, the group moves back to the motel, taking supplies from a seemingly abandoned car on the road.

Watching the footage on a camera they had found, the group learns it was the farmers feeding the bandits meat that had kept them at bay.

Episode 3 – “Long Road Ahead” (released August 28, 2012)
Food and supplies go missing when they were already stretched thin. Arguments break out about staying at the motel where the group is relatively safe or traveling to Savannah in the hopes of finding a boat and getting off the mainland. Both sides demand Lee make a choice, but that turns out to be moot when the bandits attack the motel, and the group has no choice but to escape.

On the road to Savannah, it comes out that one of the people in the group was giving supplies to the bandits to hold them off. One group member is murdered, the killer either is left behind or runs off.

The group finds a train they use to get to Savannah. Along the way, more die from sickness and a few new survivors are found.

Upon reaching Savannah, Lee learns Clementine’s walkie-talkie has been working the whole time, and the voice on the other end knows far too much.

Episode 4 – “Around Every Corner” (released October 9, 2012)
In Savannah, the group is watched and harassed by other survivors who always seem two steps ahead. The group learns that the people from one neighborhood set up a fiefdom where they either kicked out or killed anyone they saw as unfit for survival. This includes the old, the sick, and the young.

A boat is found, but it needs parts and fuel. With the help of a loner and members of a cancer support group, the group, now fully under Lee’s leadership, plan a raid on the neighborhood’s stronghold. Once inside, it is apparent that the neighborhood had been over run by zombies weeks ago.

The group gets the supplies they need, and escape back to a house they hold up in, but more die in the process.

After a restful night, Lee wakes to find Clementine missing. While looking for her behind the house, he is bitten. He finds her walkie-talkie and the voice on the other end says that he took Clementine.

Episode 5 – “No Time Left” (released November 20, 2012)
Either alone, or with the help of other members from the group, Lee races to rescue Clementine and get her to safety before the infection takes him.

Awards

Among a slue of nominations, Season 1 won almost a hundred Game of the Year awards including ones from from Yahoo! Games, Wired, E! Online, and the New York Post. It also received 5 out of 5 stars from The Telegraph.

*: The letter column of issue 106 of the comic confirmed this. Originally she was the same character, but this was changed when the novel was released giving a different backstory for the Lilly in the comic. "BOTH take place in the same 'universe' as the comic... but it's a universe with more than one Lilly."

Plot Synopsis (Season 2)

A second season is already in the works, but details have not been revealed.

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