Top critical review
Post-apocalyptic soap opera
on 27 April 2014
The subtitle to The Walking Dead should be: A Post-Apocalyptic Soap Opera as the series veers away from depressing horror to hokey melodrama in this fourth volume, appropriately titled The Heart’s Desire, as if it were an episode of Melrose Place!
The cliffhanger of the last volume is dealt with in no time at all, as if that entire last volume’s conflicts didn’t matter at all, and a new character called Michonne appears, while another character dies, and a lot of relationship stuff happens.
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews how damn dark this series is, and it still is, but it’s become almost comical now, like Robert Kirkman’s parodying himself. When a character gets bitten and Rick decides to amputate his leg to save his life, the scene cuts to Carl and Sophia staring at the wall of zombies outside the gates and musing as to their mindsets, then the character is rushed by them screaming, and then we cut back to Carl and Sophia’s shocked reactions - and I couldn’t help but laugh! It’s so silly, it’s like something out of Chew!
Then nothing horrible happens for a few pages and I began to think, right, something awful’s going to happen - a character will die suddenly or will do something bad - and what happens? An attempted suicide! Again, I laughed at the predictably “sad” style of storytelling. Of course someone would slit their wrists - you can’t go too long in The Walking Dead without despair!
But most of the book is focused on the characters’ relationships. There’s some more pointless “love” scenes between Glenn and Maggie, Dale and… uh, the blonde lady (it’s hard to remember which two-dimensional figure is which), and Tyreese and Carol split up. It’s not an unreadable book but at this point I think the series needs a real story, some kind of driving force other than the ever present threat of zombies - so far it’s just characters getting worked up over their dull relationships while exploring the even drearier prison with obligatory zombies popping up out of the shadows every now and then.
I was going to give Kirkman a pass on the writing in this book but he ends this volume in the dumbest way possible: a two page spread of a close up on Rick’s face as he grimly asserts: “We ARE The Walking Dead!” which made me laugh again. Really? Hadn’t everyone already figured that out from the first volume? And the pseudo-intellectual discussion on the righteousness of killing certain people was a bit blunt metaphorically given that the characters are all wearing orange jumpsuits and sleep in cells. Real subtle, Mr Kirkman!
The downside of this volume is that nothing really much happens but the upside is that it’s a pretty funny book in a gallows-humour kinda way!