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In which Tavis explains why he should not have read The Walking Dead.

Call it a compulsion. There was a time when I would have read any and every comic I could get my hands on. I've gotten better, and far pickier. Nevertheless, after coming across a cache of the much hyped Walking Dead books, I thought I'd give them a chance, despite the art, writing, and layouts all seeming boring. About four issues in, I began to wonder why I was doing this to myself. Eventually, it felt like punishment for some unnamed misdeed.

Thirty-seven(!) issues in, I believe I can say The Walking Dead showcases the reasons there has been so little interest in comicbooks (as opposed to comic strips) in the American public. The series offers up everything that is wrong with so-called mainstream comics--the real mainstream being either the aforementioned strips, or else manga, both of which are more popular and widely read than adventure books published by Marvel, DC, Image, or so forth. I suppose this also explains its appeal to many comics readers, many of whom seem to enjoy:

-Characters who always tell others how they're feeling, their motivations, what took place last issue, and what the author wants you to think as bluntly, blatantly, and often as possible.
-False moral ambiguities masking simple conflicts between 'good' and 'evil'.
-Forced melodrama and hyper-violence for that 'gritty', 'realist' edge.
-Characters who change on the fly, to support the needs of the plot and to keep the comic going, and who are thus 'developed'.
-Dialogue which hurts when you read it aloud.
-Hilariously overplayed emotions on the face of at least one character every three panels or so, whether it makes sense or not.
-Cliffhangers and twists bordering on the absurd, even relative to the work at hand.
-Mid way through, at least one character dresses like a superhero. No cape, though.

Walking Dead is the sort of thing that convinces anyone curious enough to venture into the comics section of their big-box book store they made a mistake. Fans, on the other hand, are wont to excuse such faults (if they will admit them) as either necessary (because it's the industry standard, or else what fans want) or (even better) "random--just like life!" Uh huh. The characters act haphazardly to sustain a plot which has no catharsis, no real structure outside of its cliffhanger endings, and no reason to continue beyond being a continuing series which sells relatively well. Even were life like that, once an author has brought the dead back to life, 'realism' is no longer a ready excuse for his actions. Less so in the case of bad writing. I could draw a thousand pages of a statue in a locked room not moving or having anything interesting happen around it. That's usually what happens around statues in a locked room. This would be far more true to life than The Walking Dead, but it would also be boring and unpublishable. The former is true of Walking Dead. The latter ought to have been.


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