Robert Kirkman and Skybound step into issue #2 of The Walking Dead Deluxe, the colored re-issues of Image Comics’ most popular series ever. It’s always exciting when you get that first issue again, but does the momentum keep up? Is this series still worth continuing now that we’ve gotten a taste of The Walking Dead with color?
A worry of mine as I began this issue was if the excitement would still be there. It’s always thrilling to get that #1. We criticize Marvel for constantly relaunching a book but it’s true, the beginning of a new series is always exciting. I was worried that I wouldn’t be interested in this series anymore, but that was unfounded. For the most part.
These reviews are interesting because it’s a mix of reviewing what existed well over a decade ago while looking at what’s going on here in 2020. I have to say that the writing isn’t the best here. The scene where Rick recites his happiest memory to the horse is bizarre, to say the least. He doesn’t really show signs of speaking to himself but breaks out in a monologue out of nowhere.
I did like the hatchet pick-up. It’s funny because new readers don’t realize how important that moment is. This is like Ash picking up the chainsaw for the first time. And I really like how Robert Kirkman captures human traits like Rick not tossing the duffle bag before jumping. It’s little touches like that that make characters feel real. There’s too much exposition, the twist at the end sounds good on paper but doesn’t feel great in execution (and I suspect his explanation as a way to break a trend is actually down to laziness).
In the back of every issue, we get a segment called ‘The Cutting Room Floor’ and Robert Kirkman details some of the writing process. Something I find so interesting is that for this series, he tries to emulate Todd McFarlane’s writing process by just throwing tons of text on the page. He says his preferred style is Erik Larsen, who I also prefer. It’s funny that he emulates McFarlane and makes dump trucks of money while Larsen has done well for himself but never seen the fame that Todd McFarlane has. My dad knows who Todd McFarlane and he’s read like 5 comics his whole life.
Another great bonus is the pitch comic Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore did for Image to get The Walking Dead greenlit. There are some cool differences like Lori being named Carol and Rick’s more aggressive personality. Ultimately, it’s not really good! Intriguing after the fact, but if someone gave me that and told me to turn it into a mega-franchise with TV shows, video games, and tons of merchandise? I’d laugh in your face! It’s really bland but hey, what do I know? They made millions and I sweat thinking about filling my gas tank.
This is the part really worth talking about. The colors Dave McCaig uses on this comic change how I view a lot of scenes. While I like the black and white, I think the addition of color has enhanced the storytelling for a couple of reasons. When Rick is riding through the countryside on his way to Atlanta, the way the grass and plant life really give off the vibe of death and decay. All the wildlife is brown or tan or grey and strengthens the mood of time has passed and things have died.
It’s always crazy to read these first 7 issues or so with Tony Moore on art. His style is a bit more exaggerated than Charlie Adlard. Rick’s reactions and expressions are so bombastic and it’s really fun. I really like Tony Moore on different stuff like Deadpool. It’s hard to explain, I love this art and I kind of want to see a Walking Dead comic that was completely drawn by Tony Moore, that’d be an interesting thought experiment! Ultimately though, I appreciate Adlard’s more subtle work on this comic. No slight to Moore, because Adlard couldn’t do what Tony Moore did on stuff like Deadpool. He brings a sense of fun and energy that feels better placed with the color but still doesn’t feel quite like Walking Dead. It’s like when a character exists in a pilot but doesn’t show up in the actual show, or gets recast.
Something else I’ve noticed is the blood color. It adds so much more energy when you see the horse getting ripped apart and you can see the brighter tones of the horse’s blood and guts. And the zombie blood is a dull grey, causing further contrast between them and us. Before, you couldn’t see that distinction in black and white.
Rus Wooton redoes the lettering for this issue after Kirkman originally did it to cut on costs, and he does what he can with a mountain of text. He manages to make gigantic blocks more palatable, something I would have a harder time with as an adult than I did as a teenager when I first read this. Luckily, I know how good of a story we have.
If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you’re going to pick this book up anyway. It’s not being collected for a while so if you want to read it, you have to do it in individual issues. I think it’s worth it because the coloring is changing the way I thought of this world. It feels even bleaker and creates good contrast in the art. It’s also crazy to be reading Walking Dead comics not drawn by Adlard, the novelty still hasn’t worn off for me.
The special features in the back are pretty cool too. I don’t know if the pitch comic was made available before this but for die-hard fans, it’s a necessity. I think this was a weaker writing attempt from Kirkman. There was still good stuff, but some weak spots as he finds his footing with what the Walking Dead is. Tony Moore kills it as always. Dave McCaig and Rus Wooton bring new sensibilities to the series that improve the whole.