Written by: Matt Molgaard
For the first time since inception, The Walking Dead loses a little steam. Volume four plays out more like a soap opera than a survival tale and it’s easy to understand any negative stigma this particular book may potentially carry. There isn’t much in the way of zombie terror in this installment, and while that should probably work in endearing fashion for a guy like me, who’s become so fried on the subgenre it’s almost unfathomable, it doesn’t. It doesn’t work because The Walking Dead separates itself from the pack due to the extremely well balanced combination of character study and horror. Eliminate the majority of the horror and you’re left with what amounts to an intense drama. Unfortunately half of the drama comes in the form of relationship issues. I’ve got enough of those as it is, I don’t need to read more of it.
The early portions of book four showcase some enjoyable insanity, as the inmates are now warring with Rick and his crew. Dexter, the obvious leader of the inmates, is mentally fried; he’s been accused of murder and locked in a cell despite his innocence. He decides it’s time for Rick’s group to get the hell out of the prison, and he knows where the infirmary is and it’s loaded to the gills with guns. The confrontation doesn’t end well and we’re left with more blood spilled. It’s a fantastic start, but sadly the wind doesn’t push the sails onward beyond this point. From here on out it’s basically all lovey dovey dramatics that would have likely worked if it wasn’t for the disregard of the undead. Tyreese fools around with Michonne, leaving Carol a suicidal wreck who slits her wrist, which leads to a fight over love between Rick and Tyreese. It’s all a bit too silly to jive with the preexisting story, bringing the impact level from a 10 to about a two.
There’s no doubt this specific piece of narrative will work for many, but it didn’t for me. If I wanted to watch General Hospital I’d do so. I’m tuned into The Walking Dead for the sheer insanity of it all, but this particular book just doesn’t quite deliver. Book four has its moments, but ultimately comes up short as a whole.