Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tradewaiting: The Walking Dead

The comic book boldly utilizes shades of grey rather than color to tell its story.
Tradewaiting (verb): the growing trend on the retail side of the comics industry in which consumers wait until the trade paperback is published before purchase.

In many ways I am old school, especially when it comes to comic book collecting. While I recognize the economy of paper (plus backing boards and bags, not to mention longboxes), as well as the potential savings, inherent in buying trade paperback collections,  I have always been one to buy single issues. When I do take an interest in books that have had a period of publishing prior to my interest being peaked, I will make very effort to hunt down individual issues of the series, the most recent examples being the Vertigo books Sweet Tooth and American Vampire. This philosophy of purchasing has changed with my added interest in the red-hot zombie series The Walking Dead.

The most recent issue of the series, created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, published was #93 (Charlie Aldard replaced Moore after issue #6), so I surely waited too long. Given the successful cable television series, the trades are in great supply, and the back issues that are available are fairly expensive by back-issue standards. So I have made the choice to pick up the series by buying individual issues beginning at around #85, the start of a recently covmpleted story arc, as these are still on the racks at my local comic shop at cover price, and to purchase the trades which cover the storylines up to that point. Fortunately, my well-stocked shop has the trades I'll need, too, so at the very least they are benefiting from my purchase on some level.

Like the kajillion other people who have seen the television series on DVD or Netflix, I am up to date with that storyline through the six episode Season 1. One great benefit to reading the comic book series, whether in trade or single issues, is that by the end of the first trade (covering the first six issues of the series), it becomes clear that the storylines between the two are VERY different--the evidence being the death of a character who's presence is key to the television series' second season (at least). This insures that the remaining issues will be a new story, even if, as I suspect is the case, though plot points and character beats are sure to appear in the show that are introduced in the comic book.

Not surprisingly, the comic book is superior to the television show in many ways. Though the character's are roughly similar in their characterization, the dialogue is stronger and more time is permitted to flesh out certain relationships that are given short-shrift on the television show (a necessary evil to translating dense writing for the screen). One complaint I've heard online about the recent season of the AMC series is that the show has become "soap opera-y" in structure, but to be honest, that reflects the structure of the comic series, especially if one is to equate soap opera with character and conflict driven. Though the comic does contain some zombie munching, too this point in my reading it is minimal and very targeted toward moving the story forward.

I have finished the first two trades, taking me through issue 12 of the comic book, and at the store today purchased Volume three as well as a few more recent single issues which will wait for me to catch up to the storyline. Like the show, The Walking Dead is a dish best served unspoiled.

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