Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Walking Dead: Safety Behind Bars

by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn


Up until this volume, The Walking Dead has mostly been about normal, decent people faced with extremely difficult circumstances. But in the third graphic novel of the series, that's set to change. The zombie apocalypse survivors have found a prison that looks like it might provide food, shelter and defence. The only trouble is, the prison is occupied, and not just by hordes of the undead.

Rick Grimes' wife Lori is very uneasy about the four people they meet in the prison, because of what they may have done to get locked up. But Rick is enthusiastic about the new place, and as soon as it seems secure he goes to visit Hershel, the doctor whose farm they stayed at previously, to invite him to come and stay with them. But Lori is afraid that Rick is too trusting. Pretty soon things start to go wrong and the headcount rises, and it's not the zombies who are the biggest danger to their little group.

Safety Behind Bars is relentlessly bleak, with lots of blood, guts, and tears. There isn't even a tiny bit of humour to lift the tone. There's a fair bit of angst and guilt from Rick as he worries about his responsibility for leading people into danger. He's also concerned with how he can best balance justice with the group's self-preservation. The ongoing situatio is also taking a toll on many of the characters' mental states.

This is very nearly a fascinating exploration of people's reactions to trauma and crisis, with a few hefty moral dilemmas thrown in for good measure. But these aspects keep getting interrupted by death and bloody mayhem. A few of the characters are very flat and extreme, particularly the ones who were introduced in this book, or who we haven't heard much from yet. It might be a bit of a spoiler to outline exactly which characters conform to particular stereotypes, so I won't. But I will say this happens more than once, and I wasn't surprised by the way some things turned out. There also isn't a slow build up to dramatic events. Instead it's more like a rush to violence at every opportunity, often for the flimsiest of reasons.

For Rick Grimes and his close friends the narrative poses questions about how much we can be responsible for other people's actions, and how far we should go in punishing transgressors, whether they have mitigating circumstances or not. But once the focus shifts to the secondary characters, their motivations seem a lot thinner and their personalities less interesting.

16th August 2013

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books

  Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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