If you are not a fan of The Walking Dead, you may want to skip this article.
I have been meaning to write about The Walking Dead comic series for some time. Of any series that I have read, this is by far the best in terms of long term quality. At this point, we are nearing 120 issues and there has not been a noticeable drop in quality. If anything, the series has gotten better with age. Days Gone Bye, is the opening arc to the series and is the most recognizable to mainstream audiences, as it is the basis for the first season of the the wildly popular television adaptation of the same name. This is also the only arc to feature the artwork of series co-creator Tony Moore, and the arc is worth reading for the artwork alone.
Days Gone Bye details the beginning of Rick Grimes' journey through the zombie apocalypse. Rick is a small town sheriff in Kentucky, who is injured in a shootout and lapses into a coma due to his injuries.He soon wakes up to a disheveled hospital room, and as he ventures into the hospital he learns that there is something definitely wrong with the world. His motivation for surviving is to find his family and make sure that they are safe. His journey leads him to Atlanta and that is where all the fun begins.
The thing that I truly love about this arc and the series in general is that the writer, Robert Kirkman, always focuses on the characters rather than the zombies. The zombies are still a huge threat but humans are the scariest creatures in this story. Zombies have no motivations and are simply there to find their next meal and devour anything in their path. The human characters have their own motivations, histories, and the most dangerous of all, the need to survive. Shane is more unhinged than ever and you can see him breaking from the first moment that we meet him. He might have had a larger role in the television series but his impact in the comics is more effective. The subsequent arcs really delve into the fact that humans are the real danger when society begins to breakdown and I'll get to that as I start breaking those arcs down in the future.
People need to keep in mind that this arc is before Rick is the leader of the group of survivors and fan of the television show are going to have to forget everything that they have seen before, because the comic series is a whole other beast. There are more characters of importance in the comic than in the TV series and they each play a pivotal role in the series. It is also strange that the character sin the series are written in a more realistic manner than in the comic series. Once Lori finds out that Rick is alive there is no more romantic feelings with Shane. It is completely over in her eyes, but not in Shane's eyes, which leads to him being the series' first villain. Rick is singularly focused on finding his family and only when he does, does the full effect of what is going around him affect him. The whole thing with the first arc is that it is slowly world building, we get a sense of how the zombies function and how this group has been surviving in the world.
Most of you reading this are either fans of the TV series or a fan of both the TV series and comic series. The differences between the two, even in the early stages are drastic. Characters such as Andrea, Lori, Shane, Dale, and Carl are vastly different in each medium. Andrea is not a weak character and she only gets one shining moment in the first arc but it is vastly different than her lesser television counterpart. Lori is not caught in a love triangle and is simply happy to have her family back in one piece. Shane snaps much earlier than in the TV show and is not as well developed as his TV counterpart. The one character that the TV series really did a disservice to is Dale. They made him into this overprotective father figure for the group and never allowed him to really develop as a character. His comic version is a father figure and moral center for Rick more than anyone else, and that only starts in later arcs. In this arc he is one who jumps into action to save Lori from a zombie attack and also is there to comfort Andrea after she has to kill her sister after she is bitten. There opportunities were wasted by the writers of the TV series because they were more interested in having the group seek a cure for the zombie infection, which was dumb decision. What makes the series compelling is the human reactions to the situation that they have been thrust into.
This is essential reading for any comic fan and for anyone that loves the TV show. If you are a fan of the show and have never read the comic, you are going to be in for a treat. This arc, even as a standalone story, works incredibly well. Read this anyway that you can, buy it at your local comic shop, download it from Comixology, or torrent it.