Image Comics Final Thoughts – The Walking Dead: Compendium Two

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Of course, occasionally I may even explore comics outside of Marvel if they come highly recommended or simply peak my interest. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

the walking deadWriter: Robert Kirkman

Artist: Charlie Adlard

Issues: The Walking Dead #49-96

 

The second 48-issue, eight volume chunk of The Walking Dead comic brings some major changes to the series. Compendium Two covers Volumes 9 through 16. Our survivors resume life on the road after the prison attack, meet new friends and enemies, and make a new home in Alexandria while their world expands and we start moving into post-post-apocalypse territory.

It’s an interesting direction and a lens through which Robert Kirkman wanted to explore – what if the zombie movie never ended but just kept going. Where would we go? What would society eventually look like?

The volumes here represent the bridge that begins to expand their world. They’re a great read, even if the initial Alexandria drama is a little hackneyed and boring compared to the prison.

In terms of the show, this Compendium covers events from the middle of season four right after the final prison attack (S4E9) to about 2/3 through season six (S6E11) when they meet Jesus and the Hilltop.

The show split our characters up for the second half of season four, eventually drawing everyone together at Terminus, aka cannibal central. This was a major deviation from the comics, as no such place exists.

The comic instead zooms in on Rick and Carl in the aftermath of the prison (which dramatically ended the first Compendium). The group has disbanded and fled the prison, and Rick suffers from a fever. Carl is much younger than the comics since they don’t have to deal with the pesky age factor (see also Bran in Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire).

the walking deadRick suffers from a debilitating mental state and, like the show, begins hearing a phone ring and his recently deceased wife on the other end. His strained relationship with an increasingly sullen Carl is portrayed really well.

Thankfully it’s not drawn out too much. Soon Michonne comes along, and then they meet up with the rest (Maggie, Glenn, Dale, Andrea, etc) at Hershel’s farm, the only other safe place they really know in the area.

They never went to Woodbury, or Terminus, or with a “Claim” gang, or on little character-building side adventures. The show really dragged out their post-prison diaspora, and it was uneven at best (although the Carol and Tyreese with the girls episode was great – and interesting since both characters were dead by this time in the comics).

Still, given how long they spent at Hershel’s farm at season two, I’m also glad they didn’t just return there in the show.

In the comic we’re given a jolt of action by the arrival of three new characters – Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita. Out of three only Abraham really becomes a major character, and he’s even more important than the show in terms of strength, leadership, and drama. He’s also not portrayed as nearly the wacky country bumpkin as the show, which always irked me.

the walking dead

The three are on a mission to Washington, believing that Eugene is a government scientist that can cure the zombies. Talk about injecting an inciting incident!

They all join up together and it leads to some wonderful scenes, such as Abraham, Rick, and Carl going on a mission to Rick’s hometown to search the police station for guns. They have some great guy-chat where we learn about Abraham’s harrowing backstory. They’re also attacked by a dirty, evil gang who are sort of like a less-sophisticated version of the Claimers in the show (complete with sick attempted rape of Carl, and Rick’s subsequent throat-tearing).

They make it to the town and meet up with Morgan again, whom we hadn’t seen since the first few issues. Fifty issues later, wow! Morgan’s son has become a zombie and he’s pretty messed up about it, though not nearly as crazed as the show portrayed.

the walking dead

They’re involved in a fun action scene in a car as they attempt to plow through a herd of zombies. They’re forced to basically just run, leading the herd to their group’s new farmland location and forcing the group to flee. None of that was in the show, which is a bummer (other than finding Morgan, though he doesn’t join up until season six).

Meanwhile Maggie had attempted suicide, and there’s a wonderfully dramatic scene where Abraham insists on mercy killing her before she turns. The power struggle between he and Rick is fantastic in the comics because Rick is far less in control and not nearly the leader as he is in the show.

In Volume 11 the show and comic intersect again. While the show portrayed the cannibals in this giant facility called Terminus, in the comic they just run into a small band of cannibals that kidnaps people – pretty much exactly what happens to Bob in the early episodes of season five.

Bob doesn’t exist in the comics; it’s Dale that’s attacked by the cannibals. That’s right – Dale’s still alive! Made it all the way through the prison, and in many ways he was who Hershel became in the show, an adviser to Rick. Dale was also more ornery, however, and constantly looking for a way out of the group to start his own life with Andrea and their adopted twin boys.

That life quickly falls apart. Dale is jumped in the woods and loses a leg to the cannibals – after he was bitten in a previous attack. Tainted meat! Though we’re still not sure if that actually does anything.

And one of the twin boys kills the other, which is what the show ended up doing with Lyzzie and her sister. Except in the comic, it’s Carl that has to step up and kill the burgeoning psychopath, without anyone knowing (he later admits it to Rick in a touching scene).

So poor Dale is dying while the rest hunt down and brutally kill the cannibals. This is the turning point for Rick and company in terms of knowing their strength and power and doing whatever it takes to keep their group safe. It’s what defines their actions as paranoid and dangerous to others, and also helps them overstep their bounds in later Volumes when they finally meet a foe they can’t handle.

the walking dead

Oh and they meet Father Gabriel here, who’s pretty darn close to his TV show counterpart. More of a background character than anything else.

At this point the show becomes bogged down by its horribly conceived subplot with Beth at the hospital. Just thinking about it irritates me. None of it happens in the comic. The hospital itself isn’t a bad idea but it takes up way too much time and ultimately leads nowhere – killing Beth and adding Noah to the group (who eventually dies soon anyway). Not to mention the ignominious end that finally befalls Tyreese. So far most of the big departures from the comic just aren’t very good.

Volume 12 is an about-face in the direction the comic’s heading. While we thought we were going to Washington D.C. to cure the zombies, Eugene suddenly reveals he’s been lying the whole time.

Aaron pops up here, having spied on our group and wants to recruit them to the nearby walled town of Alexandria. Our group is of course crazy paranoid, but eventually follows him there, including an exciting scene in downtown D.C. with a zombie horde as we meet more Alexandrians like Heath.

the walking dead

In the comic Alexandria is run by Douglas Monroe, a former congressman. He’s a major character throughout the next few Volumes. He’s never portrayed as an outright villain nor a staunch ally, but it’s a good power play between he and Rick. It represents the awkward transition our weary group finds in trying to live a normal life. At one point they celebrate Halloween and trick-or-treat and Carl’s reaction is basically “WTF?”

Like the show Rick has to deal with a potentially abusive husband. Unlike the show Rick comes off like a complete monster in the comic, basically assaulting the man in his own home with only theories and guesswork backing him up. Rick has grown completely unhinged in trying to adjust, and it nearly costs him their new home.

Instead Douglas actually sides with Rick and they agree to separate the man from his family. That goes horribly wrong, as portrayed in the season five finale when the man tries to attack and ends up killing Douglas’ wife by accident (in the show it’s Deanna’s husband). Rick executes him on the spot.

It’s interesting that they gender swapped the Douglas character for the show. Deana was a fine character, but she was a bit less layered than Douglas. Douglas has a creepy perv angle as he admits his marriage was for show and he’s constantly trying to…err…awkwardly woo the women in Rick’s entourage. Ultimately both cede control to Rick when things get bad, and both eventually die when zombies pour into Alexandria.

The show also has a giant rock quarry full of hundreds of zombies at the beginning of season six. The group knows about it and tries to work out a plan to divert them away from Alexandria, but things go wrong and they’re forced into their plan early. It’s an exciting sequence, but once again the show drags it on for far too long, and separates everyone for half a season again.

In the comic, Alexandria is simply attacked by a few marauders. I say attacked but there’s maybe half a dozen of them – and Andrea in a nearby tower swiftly kills them all. She continues to be pretty awesome, even as she’s constantly targeted as one of the few single women by both Douglas and his grown son Spencer. There’s a fantastic moment in the comic where she basically tells “Nice Guy” Spencer to fuck off. Love comic-Andrea.

the walking dead

Also in the comic, she and Rick finally form a relationship. It’s one of the better written, fully developed relationships in the series (most folks just couple up randomly). Andrea’s and Rick’s love is built on mutual respect, trust, and familiarity that grows from their bond. Another reason why the show’s complete butchery of Andrea’s character is abysmal.

It’s this attack in Volume 14 that draws walkers all the way from D.C. to Alexandria by the hundreds. Soon a section of wall falls down and zombies begin pouring in. People race to shut themselves in their homes but the situation is dire. And Rick makes a godawful decision.

At this point he’s formed a romantic relationship with Jessie, the wife of the abusive man he killed. Comic-Jessie isn’t much of a character, and exists mostly for Rick’s benefit. But it causes him to make a horrible decision to use the zombie-ponchos to flee through a crowd of zombies.

the walking deadIt might’ve worked but Jessie and her son aren’t the hardened survivors that Rick and Carl are. Pretty much just like the show, the son freaks out and is eaten, Julie freaks out and is eaten, and Rick is forced to chop her hand with an axe to free Carl. Pretty fucking crazy moment.

The big difference between show and comic is how Carl loses his eye. In the show Jessie has another son who’s Carl’s age. He resents Rick for killing his dad and hates Carl for making doe eyes at Enid, the only teenage girl at Alexandria. The show draws out this annoying subplot to its conclusion, as the angsty kid fires and shoots Carl before he goes down to the zombie horde.

In the comic, an increasingly erratic Douglas wanders outside to try and help Rick. He’s waving a gun around and is quickly swarmed by zombies. He fires a few shots and one of them just happens to shoot Carl. It’s completely senseless and a bit random, but at least there’s no annoying teen drama involved.

Either way Rick is forced to grab Carl and run to the doctor so he can get patched up. Then Rick enters superhuman mode and rallies everyone together to simply…defeat the zombie horde. At least in the show they’re helped by the arrival of Daryl, Sasha, and new recruits Abraham and company armed with a bazooka. Okay that’s pretty ridiculous too.

The whole situation is too easily resolved in both cases, and afterward instead of Alexandria becoming no man’s land, they just repair the walls and rebuild from there.

the walking dead

In the comic Morgan is bitten in the attack. Michonne cuts off his arm but it’s not enough, and Morgan succumbs to his wounds. It’s a pithy end for what should have been a great character.

Kudos to the show for not going this route, and making Morgan a far more interesting character. Instead it’s another dead notch in Michonne’s belt, who had very briefly formed a romantic relationship with Morgan.

Carl’s in a coma for awhile after the attack, and Rick finally steps up to become the leader of the community. A very brief rebellion starts among a handful of veteran Alexandrians who attack Glenn, but it’s quickly shut down. Rick finally proves himself a competent leader for the first time, and Carl eventually wakes up, though with some spotty memories.

In the show Rick’s always been a leader, so the transition is less trans-formative. In fact it feels more same old, same old, as Rick is once again the gruff leader in charge of an area they’ll be at for way too long.

the walking deadThe final volume in Compendium Two introduces us to Paul Monroe, AKA Jesus.

A scavenging party from Alexandria meets Jesus, and he’s instantly likable despite our group’s now familiar paranoia. He’s smart, savvy, and a bit of a ninja. Since Aaron ended up telling the truth about Alexandria and being a stand-up guy, they eventually trust Jesus to lead them to the Hilltop, another safe area near D.C.

Like Alexandria, the Hilltop is walled, though seems to have a whole bunch more people. None of them appear to be fighters, however, and we get our first utterance of the series’ first standout villain since the Governor – Negan. The Hilltop is currently under Negan’s jurisdiction, forced to give up half their supplies. Rick and company know they’re powerful fighters, and immediately pose the offer to Hilltop leader Gregory – we’ll take care of Negan for you if you can give us food.

Compendium Two doesn’t have the exciting conclusion of the prison attack. Instead it ends shortly after the revelation of the Hilltop, and the wider world that we’re suddenly presented with. It’s an intriguing premise for a comic that started off with simply trying to survive.

Unfortunately these eight volumes distinctly lack a central villain. A zombie apocalypse wouldn’t necessarily need one (human vs nature) but the Governor was so effective that he left a void after the prison.

The comic gang comes in contact with lots of bad people, but mostly it’s about them trying to adjust to life in Alexandria. They learn how to be normal while at the same point dealing with conflict and ultimately knowing their strength lies in their combat prowess – Andrea, Rick, Abraham, Glenn, Michonne are all incredibly useful people to have when surrounded by zombies.

Kirkman obviously realized this and soon added the series most effective villain in Negan – but also allows us to slowly build up to him in one of the most dramatic scenes of the entire series (which was just portrayed in the season six finale and season seven premiere). Compendium Two has a lot of great moments but overall a bit weaker than the first eight volumes, as the series enters some growing pains in portraying a wider world and begins rebuilding in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.

the walking dead

Better in the comic

Abraham – Abraham is a fantastic addition the comic, and a wonderful foil to Rick. They constantly butt heads but also form a bromance out of mutual respect and the regrets over what they’ve done and what they could become. In contrast show-Abraham feels vastly neutered, and mostly portrayed for silly laughs. Dumb.

Douglas > Deanna – While I liked the random gender and character swapping, Douglas was a more fleshed out character, and had both positive and negative qualities. Deanna was more easily likable, and ultimately more boring.

Rick & Andrea – They finally form a relationship. No ‘will they won’t they’ crap, just a well-written, logical next step to take for two central characters that have been trusting each other since the beginning. Comic-Andrea continues to be an awesome character, and one of the most powerful assets of the group.

No hospital – Seriously, screw that whole subplot. The comic didn’t need it and neither did the show.

Better in the show

Morgan – An entire episode is devoted to finding Morgan in a crazed state, and we get an entire second episode later in season six to telling Morgan’s backstory and journey from crazy man to stoic monk. The show knows not to squander the greatness of Lennie James, and I’m glad he’s still around. I’m also worried because most people that survive past their comic death don’t make it much longer.

Maggie – Maggie’s really given the shaft in the comic. Other than the attempted suicide early on she’s given nothing to do but whine and bitch about Glenn constantly leaving to go on scavenging runs. Her character doesn’t really exist outside of the Glenn relationship, while Glenn gets to go on adventures and get in dangerous situations.

Psycho-kid – Carl feeling it necessary to execute the kid-murderer himself is a great bit of character building, but they do enough with him in the show (plus he’s getting older as a teen, and it woulnd’t have been nearly as effective). Instead it was a harrowing moment for Carol in the show, and one of the best moments in the entire series.

Terminus – I actually enjoyed Terminus as one of the few effective departures from the comic. It offered a useful, dramatic reason for our survivors to come together, and a terrifying situation. It gave Carol an awesome moment to rescue them all and ingratiate herself back into the group, and lead to the post-Terminus cannibal attack. The best part was it lasted only a few episodes, as the show’s biggest failing is drawing every plot point and location out for far too long. Terminus is an example of how to do it right.

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Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

One thought on “Image Comics Final Thoughts – The Walking Dead: Compendium Two”

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