Zombie aficionados and comics fans alike have been anxiously awaiting the adaptation of “The Walking Dead”. Brought to you by AMC, makers of respected cable offerings “Breaking Bad” and “Made Men”, the first of six episodes debuts on Sunday, October 31st.
Frank Darabont, writer/director and producer of numerous films including several of the most successful adaptations of Stephen King’s works, teams with Robert Kirkman to adapt the original graphic novel series, published by Image comics. Created by Kirkman, along with initial artist Tony Moore and his successor, Charlie Adlard, the series has run since 2003, with 12 volumes now available and a 13th due out shortly after the television premiere.
And as a longtime reader since it’s inception, I can assure you, it’s not what you expect.
Set in the very near future, it’s protagonist wakes from a coma to find a desolate, nightmarish world overrun by the dead. The series initially follows his journey to re-unite with his family, gradually exposing us to the grim, haunted post-human world. Through the eyes of officer Rick Grimes, we witness the wreckage of civilization, the overrun, ruined landscape of our hospitals and police stations, our freeways filled with abandoned cars, grocery stores, ransacked and empty. We are immersed in a ghastly landscape cluttered with the fetid, decaying remains of man and animal alike, most already long dead. In desperate search for his family, confronted with extreme horror and brutal tragedy at every turn, we travel down a pathway of dehumanizing survivalism. Layer by painful layer, civilized behavior and core values are stripped away from the survivors, leaving only primal creatures struggling to live another day.
And that’s the essential story being told here. Looking past the carnage and the slow moving zombies, ever-present specters of death, we witness people from all walks of life as they devolve into creatures ready to kill or be killed, fighting for the last scraps of sustenance, of life, left in our world. And while the zombies pose the threat of horrible, unexpected death at every turn, we can quickly see that they are not the true danger here. We are. In the last light of a dying world, we become predators and prey, doing whatever is necessary to live another day. With certain death imminent, morality and laws are quickly forgotten as cruel savagery asserts itself. The world has ended, hope has been extinguished, and all that’s left is to live in the now, surviving each day merely in hopes of living to see the next morning.
Dark, shocking and brutal, The Walking Dead examines the depths of human nature. Surrounded by the lost trappings of modern society, of what could have been, of technologies’ promise of a bright future, we instead find ourselves left with the sad, ugly remnants of humanity. And in the end, as civilization’s light dims, each of us become the Walking Dead.