Monday, August 20, 2012

The Walking Dead 100...101: Where is Zone 1?

For those that don't know, Image Comics' "The Walking Dead" has surpassed it's 100th issue. There will be no spoilers in this piece but I would like to focus on the protagonist Rick Grimes. Unfortunately, the TV show doesn't really convey Grime's dilemmas when it comes to his leadership position. While it does demonstrate how Grimes is thrust into being the leader, the TV show does not have time to go into the nuances. 

In the current story arc for "The Walking Dead," aptly titled "Something to Fear," Grimes and his crew again debate the idea that they could ever be safe in this new world order. Every time they find a place that is relatively safe, Grimes and his crew settle in and get complacent. Soon enough, something bounds around the corner and reminds them that most of the world is dead and ready to devour them.

I recently read the paperback reissue of "Zone One" by Colson Whitehead. It is by far one of the best zombie novels written in the last five years. Like Grimes, the main character in "Zone One," Mark Spitz, also debates whether he or anyone else can be safe in a world filled with flesh eating zombies. Spitz is on a clean up detail whose job is to enter buildings and get rid of the zombies that were missed by the U.S. Marines. Before landing that job, Spitz, like most of the humanity spent his days moving from town to town in search of food, water, and a place to sleep for the evening. Eventually, Spitz would find a small group of survivors who have hunkered down in a fortified bunker or home. It doesn't take long for Spitz to realize the futility of hunkering down. Yet somehow Spitz manages to stay with his group despite his doubts.

Many of the people in Grimes' crew always bring this up to Grimes. Even his own son complains about staying in one place too long. The children in the Walking Dead have become very accustomed to loss. Where as in Whitehead's "Zone One," the adults have become accustomed to not having many children around.

I remember having the opportunity to meet several of the boys of the Sudan. They were a great bunch to be around. One of them was a packer who I called Jay at a grocery store I frequented. We spoke often. One time, Jay and I started discussing the long walk he and his friends made from the Sudan to Somalia. It was thousands of miles. Jay would recall how they would actually find a place to settle in. It took them a few days to get used to it but eventually something would happen that would drive them off. They were attacked by people who saw them as a threat, or slavers, or they would run out of food and water. Jay admitted that even when he arrived to the United States, it took him months to realize that things were okay. He could finally sleep at night. Then 9/11 happened and he thought, "here we go again." Even when he noticed that people around him weren't going anywhere he believed that things were going to fall apart at any moment. He assumed that we Americans didn't get it. Which, in his case, we didn't get it because we have never been in those situations that Jay and his compatriots went through. Of course, Jay, like many people who experience this sort of trauma, suffers from PTSD.

The characters in The Walking Dead and Zone One all suffer from PTSD (as a matter of fact, Whitehead even has a name for it called Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder or PASD). In the Walking Dead there are people who refuse to settle down and believe that moving about is the best way to survive. Unfortunately, Grimes and Spitz relearn that lesson over and over.

For those of you that know Robert Kirkman, he seems to kill off the characters readers fall in love with. In issue 100, Kirkman avoids the bloodletting he usually dishes out every 20 issues or so. Instead, he kills off one supporting cast of Grime's crew. Zombies make almost no appearance in this issue. Instead, Grimes and his crew are captured by living, breathing human beings. The reader finally gets to meet the head of the Saviors and he is much, much worse than the Governor. While the Governor was just a lying sociopath, the elusive Negan is just thirsty for power and will do anything to maintain that power. Negan also seems to be a genius at psychological warfare. Kirkman does a great job setting us up for the climax in this story arc. Negan and the Saviors are indeed something to fear.