Over the last few years, I’ve become a big fan of The Walking Dead television show. At first I avoided going back to read the comics that the show is based on, but finally I decided to give in. There are enough changes from the books to the shows that I feel confident that I won’t be spoiling it too much. As it turns out, I am not disappointed that I made this decision, for the comics are just as interesting as the show is and even better at times.
The beginning of the books runs pretty much the same as the show. Rick wakes up in a hospital, fresh out of a coma. When he looks around, he finds zombies everywhere, though he doesn’t understand in the least what the hell is going on. After wandering around, he deduces that his wife, Lori, and his son probably went to Atlanta when everything hit the fan. So he heads out to find them.
Once he gets there, he’s in hot water. Zombies almost kill him but, just like in the show, Glenn comes to his rescue. He makes his way back to Glenn’s camp and discovers his wife, his kid and his best friend Shane waiting for him, along with the rest of the show’s cast (well, most of them). They fight some zombies, decide to get away from Atlanta, and eventually find their way to Hershel’s farm.
The events on Hershel’s farm are much different than in the show. Hershel still has a barn full of zombies (which are, by the way, not referred to as “walkers” in the comics) that he thinks are just sick humans. He still kicks the group off of his land, though this time it sticks. The group leaves, but Hershel and his family stay, along with Glenn, who has hooked up with Maggie.
The next block of books covers the first part of the prison saga, which plays out much different than the television show’s portrayal of events. The prisoners have a bigger role in the story and there’s more conflict. Eventually Hershel, Glenn and the rest join Rick and his crew at the prison, but they do it because the farm is becoming more and more dangerous as winter passes and the frozen armies of zombies begin to thaw out and come knocking. At this point, three of the four prisoners go nuts and lots of people die. By the time the end of issue 18 rolls around, they’ve just gotten to the point where Michonne shows up, although she finds the prison on her own.
There are many differences between the comics and the shows. Some of them are good, like the introduction of Tyrese earlier in the story. He plays a major role in the comics that hopefully will be reproduced in the show now that he’s finally showed up. Also, there are about twice as many characters in the books and a lot more of them get killed in horrible ways. One of my favorite differences was in the character of Dale. I hated his nice guy attitude in the television show. In the comics, he’s a hard-nosed, practical old man and much less unrealistic and annoying. The same goes for Lori, though for different reasons.
One of the big differences that I didn’t like is the fact that all of the characters are very accepting of each other whenever they meet someone new. They share food freely, invite new people into their homes and work together as if they’ve known each other for years. Only as the first part of the prison story comes to an end do people start to hate on each other and adopt the “us first” attitude that permeates the show. In my opinion, the show is more realistic in this regard. People are unlikely to be so trusting when the end of the world is upon them and things like food are scarce.
Oh, and one more thing - the characters of Daryl and T-Dog aren’t in the comics. They were made for the television show only. Sorry folks, but you’ll have to live without them.
All-in-all, I’m not sure which I prefer, the show or the books. I’ll certainly be finishing up the rest of The Walking Dead comics in the next week or so, which is much better than having to wait another three months for the second half of season 3 of the show. It will also be nice to be able to make the comparisons between what the comics do and how they changed it for TV. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and don’t mind things being a little bit spoiled for you, read these comics.