Aim for the Head: Cassie-la Scrutinizes All Things “The Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman

Book: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
Comic Book: The Walking Dead
TV Show: “The Walking Dead”
Genre: Fiction, horror, zombies, are prequels ever good?
Rating: 2.67 out of 5 stars

Summary: In this prequel to the wildly successful comic book series, the Walking Dead, Philip, his daughter Penny, his brother Brian and his two friends are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. In this tale, the most sadistic character in the series, the Governor is given an origin story, with disastrous results. It’s almost as bad as Wolverine: Origins, and that’s saying a lot.

Face it, The Walking Dead has saturated the media since its television debut last year. Before that it was an amazing comic book series that has been a little bit lackluster as of late (issue #92 is set to come out this coming Wednesday), and with the exception of a few good scenes, Season 2 has been a painful endeavor. Minus that Sixth Sense ending in the mid-season finale.

This lackluster Walking Dead fodder is why I was super stoked to see a prose book come out focusing on one of the craziest arcs/characters in the series, the Governor. For those of you who are not up to date on the comic series, the Governor appears in issues 27 through 48 and is the most horrifying character yet to date. He has a pet zombie whose teeth he removes to make out with, he keeps the heads of his victims in fish tanks to watch in place of television, and he has a penchant for rape and torture. Suffice it to say he’s not a very nice guy. And that’s an understatement.

Despite my excitement, I was also a little wary to start this book. Comics and prose novels are such different mediums, and I was suspicious of the success of the idea. Although Bill Willingham’s Fables novel Peter and Max has amazing reviews to back it and the same can be said of Shawn Thorgersen’s rewrite of the American manga series Bizenghast with Bizenghast: the Novel. Sadly, the same cannot be said of this novel, which is pretty much one giant FAIL.

The story itself isn’t horrible, but the writing sure as hell is. For one, this novel is co-authored by thriller author Jay Bonansinga who doesn’t even seem to get many props since Robert Kirkman’s name is way bigger. So it’s difficult to tell who is at fault for this mess. Since his name is larger, and he’s advertised as the author most everywhere, I will henceforth place the blame solely on Robert Kirkman. Sorry buddy, this isn’t a Super Dinosaur review.

My first indication that this would be filled with messy prose is a ridiculous sentence on the first page. It begins, “Sadly, the only hands Brian currently owns are busy right now, covering the tiny ears of a little girl in the closet next to him.” I read this sentence three times, wondering if the pair was in two adjoined closets or if Brian has Shadow Cat powers and can magically reach through walls to cover the ears of small children. Things only get worse from here. Prepare yourselves.

Confusing sentence aside, which any good editor would have made Kirkman fix, the next 300 pages are full of roughly 300 awkward similes to slog through. I say this is an estimate because some pages contain no similes and some pages contain three or more.  I wrote down some of my favorites for the amusement of everyone:

  • “… The dead thing wilts like a noodle.”
  • “… Launching into the air like giant flailing birds.”
  • “… Yanking the oxygen tank along… Like a stubborn child being pulled by an impatient nanny.”
  • “He pats the top of the codger’s bald pate like he’s petting a rabbit.”

And those are just my top four, imagine what other amazing similes are hidden within the pages that I zoned out too much to write down. Seriously though, do not read just for the lulz, it’s not worth it.

The next convention that is more distracting than anything is the abundance of medical terms. Kirkman writes really action packed scenes and then will pull the reader immediately out of the moment with words like: parietal lobe, fibrous membrane, dura mater, cerebrospinal fluid, and parietal hemisphere. Smashing bodies can be explained without hefty medical terms that detract from the only exciting bits in the reading. If Google spell check does not recognize the words, and you didn’t invent them, nor is it a medical journal they should be chucked.

Finally, I found a lot of events to be highly implausible. Reading this book was like watching a really bad B movie, or anything that involves an evil villain giving away all his plans to the hero. The first occurs when Philip and company take shelter in a McMansion. Despite their hammering alerting several zombies while building a barrier, it doesn’t awaken the hungry zombie boy who has been locked in a dog house next to them FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK. The second instance is when three grown men find it impossible to chase down and catch a little girl. Lastly, Brian finds a town that still has power, enough to run an X-Ray machine, despite no mention of generators anywhere in the vicinity. I CALL SHENANIGANS ON THIS ENTIRE NOVEL!

-At least there are zombies and gore
-Not as rapey as anticipated (this could be in the bad column if you’re into that sort of thing)
-White collar workers are now useless, and blue collar workers are upper class, which made me giggle

-The amount of similes are more sickening than the torture scenes
-Too much medical mumbo jumbo
-Lots of plot holes and discrepancies, like when no one can shoot the good guys in movies
-Comic doesn’t translate well into prose, unless translate means “a giant mess”
-Propensity for rape as hereditary (facepalm)
-Doesn’t really tell us how the character became a giant rapey jerk, just how he became the Governor

I have heard that Robert Kirkman plans to continue writing prose novels to further explore the beginnings of various characters in his series. I for one would much prefer a spin-off comic that does the same. Fables did it with 1001 Nights of Snowfall, and it’s my favorite collection in the series. Such a thing would save us from a lot of awful prose. And save Robert Kirkman all his similes for a rainy day.


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