In the days before cable—and by that I mean before I could afford cable, not before it was invented, sheesh, how old do you think I am, anyway?—In the days before cable and before I really cared about or knew how to use the internet, before I had a wife or children to entertain me, when I was bored, or just being boring and super-sloth, I would lounge around the house on a Saturday afternoon and flip through the six or seven channels that were available to me. I’d pause for a moment to watch American Gladiators prove their strength by hand peddling sky bicycles and maybe watch a scene or two of Kevin Sorbo kicking some Greek baddy’s cloven hooved backside before finally being sucked into whatever creepy B movie the local UHF station happened to be showing at the time. This was usually some low rent horror thriller that hinged on elements of the occult: devil worship, witchcraft, possession, evil babies with forked tongues and pointy tails—you know, the standard stuff.
So, I’d watch this movie and when it came to an end, sometime around dusk, I’d find myself alone and freaked out. But it was really more than freaked out. I felt icky, kind of scared and unclean, like all external stimuli were being filtered through a greasy film that surrounded my brain. I felt removed. I felt dim. I felt numb.
That is how the second installment of the Graphic Novel, The Walking Dead Book Two, left me feeling: distant, dim and removed—creeped out and just a little hopeless. But I am here to tell you that maybe that is not such a bad thing, maybe there is a point, a fruitful end, to seeing the world, if only for a while, through a window made entirely of creep-grease. This is especially true when you are placed in the capable hands of Robert Kirkman. Kirkman does not simply provide the sick and twisted for the sick and twisted’s sake. He is not attempting to make you feel distantly crudded out just because he can. He is grappling with some very big questions here: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to really live? And, how do we maintain our morality when there is no one around to make sure that we do? Furthermore, does that morality exist on a sliding scale? Should our core values change in the midst of a plague of zombies? Do core values even exist? That is, do we, as humans, possess innate goodness?
The collection, like its predecessor, grapples with the above mentioned questions and, like Volume One, it is intense. But this time that intensity is ratcheted up a notch or twelve. We still have zombies. We still have our band of survivors led by the intrepid but all-too-human Rick Grimes. But the setting has changed just a bit. We are taken from Hershel’s farm to a prison—a great place to spend the Zombie Apocalypse, right? I mean, there are fences. There are weapons. There’s food. But there is something else within those walls, behind the protection of the razor wire—there are other people. You’ll have to read the novel to find out what kind of Hell those other people represent. Is it the Sartrean hell of seeing your own faults in others, of being force-fed your own reeking humanity? Or is that hell an even darker, more painful and horrific one? Or is it both? All I can tell you is that this installment is not for children (not that the last one was, but this one . . .), and it is not for the squeamish. If you hate, or simply cannot deal with the feelings I described above, then this book is probably not for you. But if you are curious, if you want to know how it turns out for Rick and his crew, if you have the stomach for it, then definitely pick up the second volume of The Walking Dead.
Yep, there’s only one way to find out folks . . . Read the book. I can say no more for fear of spoiling your own icky five o’clock in the afternoon post UHF schlock fest and brain-grease-oozing experience. I can, however, tell you this—I have yet to meet Kirkman’s Governor. Will he arrive in Book Three? Stay tuned, and if I break down and buy the next installment, I will let you know. I promise.