With Hollywood's greatest Living Dead auteur, George A. Romero, releasing his latest movie this week, there's no better time to realize that there's something about zombies. I suppose if I was in a drunkenly philosophic mood, I could come up with some bullshit about how zombies are symbolic of our own pathetic lives, or how they tangibly represent our fear of death. But when it comes down to it, zombies are just flat-out cool.
With his comic The Walking Dead, writer Robert Kirkman introduces a zombie-filled world based purely upon one thing: Survival. The human characters of The Walking Dead are concerned only with the necessities: Where to sleep, what to eat, whether a handgun is more effective than a hammer when destroying zombies' heads. It's a stark and unrelenting world--a feeling helped by Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn's bleak, emotive black and white artwork.
By creating an utterly believable world inspired in large part by Romero's classic films, Kirkman has transcended zombie films' limitations--gone are the lame explanations about how zombies came to exist, the perfunctory action beats, the predictable deaths. But perhaps the most important aspect of The Walking Dead--which is now in its 19th monthly issue, and has been collected into three trade paperbacks--is that it doesn't have to neatly wrap everything up in two hours. Kirkman's interested in the ongoing survival of the human species--of what happens when normal people are pushed beyond their breaking points by unbelievable, unavoidable circumstances. Morals erode, hopes falter, and emotions either deaden or explode; between trawling the desolate countryside, fighting off undead hordes in a once-posh subdivision, or holing up in a not-so-safe prison, The Walking Dead's characters find they have far more to fear from themselves than zombies. As The Walking Dead continues onward, it sums up everything interesting and smart about the zombie genre--yeah, there's something about zombies, especially what they reveal about people.