The Walking Dead is back with an all new graphic novel. Unlike its usual production schedule of a release in November or December and a release in May or June, volume twenty is hitting shelves mid-March and readers will be very happy to only have to wait a couple of months until the next one.
The reason for this change in release schedule is the ramped up production of the individual comics since the release of issue #115, which started the story arc entitled ‘All Out War’ and will continue its bimonthly schedule until the story arc ends in issue #126. It’s a story that The Walking Dead has been working towards for almost two years and finally the hostilities between Rick’s group and Negan’s have come to, you guessed it, all out war.
Fans of The Walking Dead comics have known for years that the book has a habit of doing a character driven story arc that builds up to a more violent story arc which is followed by a ‘picking up the pieces’ arc, then repeat. This story has been long in the making and readers have been chomping at the bit to see just what happens between the Saviors and Rick’s band of survivors.
The story is bleak; it has to be. This graphic novel, only the beginning of the war, contains more character deaths than any previous Walking Dead collection and many of them cut right to the bone. That’s how The Walking Dead should be though. Unlike the show, which is more often a soap opera than a survival show, the graphic novel refuses to pull its punches. People die, people are maimed, characters you care about are turned, and this graphic novel shows you just how gritty The Walking Dead can be.
There are issues with the book, of course. One has to wonder why people keep letting Rick lead them into battle when it never seems to go all that well for them. We get the obligatory ‘Oh no, Carl got hurt in a big panel and Rick freaks out. No wait, he’s fine,’ scene, which is getting a bit old and even more problematic each time he suffers a possibly mortal injury. In a post-apocalyptic world, is it really believable that a child could get a part of his face shot off and survive? Yet we still see Carl, acting like nothing is wrong (physically) and he’s even left in charge of their town while Rick goes off to war. It is starting to get beyond the point of reasonable suspension of disbelief.
The biggest issue comes near the middle of the story, when the high impact battle scene just sort of stops at issue #118 and the flow of the story becomes more disjointed. We see, without the story transitioning fluidly, what’s going on in some of the other towns, to what’s going on at a later battle, and what’s happening with some of the other characters. One of the hardest hitting scenes comes in issue #118, but the way it’s told could have been done much better and much more coherently. Instead the reader is trying to figure out how the book got to that scene before the brutality comes and it loses some of its impact.
Most importantly though, how does it stack up as a Walking Dead graphic novel? The answer is very well indeed. For a person like myself, who has been continuing to read the series more out of habit than actual desire to see where the story might go, volume twenty had me on the edge of my seat. As Robert Kirkman has always said, no one is safe and when it comes to the war with the Saviors, that’s absolutely true. With gun battles and roaming zombies, anyone can get picked off at any moment, and they do. Some of the deaths are barely notable, but many of them will kick you right in the gut.
Overall, this is the first graphic novel in quite a while that has made me excited for the next part of the story. I don’t even think I can wait until volume twenty-one comes out to finish the story. I might just have to pick up the single issues to continue the story as quickly as possible. What made The Walking Dead so good in the first place has returned in The Walking Dead: All Out War Part One and it’s definitely out to reignite the passion in its readers.