Which “Walking Dead” Universe Is The Best?

I’ll try to keep this spoiler-free but good luck.

As most people have I’ve fallen victim to the rising trend in zombie lore revolving around Robert Kirkman’s universe. Unlike most people, I grew up fantasizing of a post-apocalyptic world thanks to the original god of the undead; George A Romero. It’s hard to deny the rise flesh-eating fandom when Kirkman’s imagination was brought to the comic shelf, and was brought even more mainstream when AMC picked up for a living room adaptation. Since which has become a Fall-Sunday night ritual to over 15 million viewers, which has tripled since the pilot in 2010.

At the time of this writing there are 129 issues of the monthly comic series; not including the specials, 52 hours (51 episodes) of the AMC re-imagination, 8 episodes of the TellTale Games’ unrelated character’s plot, as well as several other media outlets including novels revolving around The Governor and many social (and board) games all tying into the same universe. Most of this all spawned when the fad rose in 2011; once the television series had finally taken off. Which to reiterate, is a perfect example of a money-grabbing rise that Romero never quite cashed in on (because he doesn’t do it for his wallet). Romero has even stated that TWD’s TV series is “Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally.” and he isn’t wrong. Here’s where I’d like to include my public apology to George for becoming obsessed with the soap opera. I hate myself for loving it and yet here I am.

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The monthly based comic series is where The Walking Dead world begun in 2003; 9 years before the mainstream heard of it. Robert Kirkman was only 24 when his series started; ironically the same age as the man typing this article. Maybe my age is a good justification for why I can related to the comics far more than the show which bums me out that I can’t say “I’ve been following it from the beginning” as the hipster in me would have been proud to admit.

I didn’t start reading the comics until almost exactly 2 years ago when I heard issue #100 was released. I was a little overwhelmed with the backlog I had to read but boy am I glad I flew through it. For about a week I could not put the comics down. Hiding in the bathroom at work sneaking what I could on my little phone screen. I was addicted.

The universe is identical to the widely popular TV series but the characters and dilemmas they face are much different. A lot of the early events are followed by AMC’s version but without any of the backlash that one would be worried about with a network cable program. This made characters feel less safe and that anything could happen; the way Robert Kirkman wants to feels in every adaptation his universe.

Although the beginnings of the comic and TV series are much on the same path the part ways more and more every year. Kirkman’s gone on record to say that when he started writing he was much more vengeful of a person and took this leftover teenage angst out on the readers. The only thing this did was make for a near-perfect story line that 11 years later still keeps people on edge waiting for the next issue. Robert felt no regret as he did whatever he wanted and kept carrying on with no remorseful dream sequences or any signs of decision failure.

The only downfall to the comics; if you haven’t started them yet, is the wait between issues. Once you’re done binge reading and caught up, every month feels like 9 month wait that the TV viewers have to wait. Recently they made some epic changes to the story, which at first upset me very much, but recently I’ve grown to enjoy the differences. Which is another great thing about the comics. Even if you hate this month’s clif hanger, next month everyone could die and it could go back to nothing.

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Ah, the now famous AMC adaptation. Honestly, I don’t feel I have to defend this series since chances are you’re already waiting for Season 5 like the rest of us. The mass population of the television series compared to the lack of ignorance of the comic origins frustrates the hell out of me. I feel like a lot of people who have read the comics, and watch the show know what I’m talking about. Certainly Romero does because he said as honestly as it could be said. It is a soap opera. It is a popularity contest. Any who says it isn’t; ask them what would happen to the show if they killed of Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). Viewers would plummet. I know it. Romero knows it. Kirkman knows it. AMC knows it.

Once you get past the drama, the growing amount of episodes where nothing happens, and the obvious safety-net cast by share-holders and producers, the show is actually good. I do realize it’s a bit confusing to defend and complain about the same series, but AMC’s TWD and I have had a long standing love-hate relationship.

When the group is faced with a dilemma; whether it be a horde of undead, or a protagonist such as The Governor, the show is down right amazing.  But then when we watch the group sit around unprovoked for almost a whole season (Season 4) I wonder how much is stretched for cliffhanger ratings and advertisement space.

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In 2012 TellTale released a game under the Walking Dead universe which is not to be confused by the Daryl Dixon origin game “Survival Instinct” by Terminal Reality. The game stars Lee (pictured above) and Clementine, a little girl confused by her new infected word in search of her parents. It was given many awards, was Game Of The Year 2012, and has been given 9/10 ratings everywhere.

So what made this game so widely praised? Well the story of course. It’s an emotional roller-coaster as much of The Walking Dead. The game abandons the TV show’s safety-net and revisits Kirkman’s original plan of pure unstableness. What this game lacks is proper game-play, or a glitch-free environment. I wrote several reviews for this game as it was released in hourly “episodes” and silenced by several news sites (and downvoted where linked) for my negativity. I seemed to be one of the few people who saw the game’s flaws and didn’t just melt of the point-and-click story line. Granted, the story line is superb, but I argued that it should have been a spin-off series whether graphical or live action.

Don’t harp on my negativity. The story is great and any fan of the Walking Dead universe should consider a run-through. The great thing about the lack of a challenge is that anyone can decide to pick up and enjoy this story. Even people who have never picked up a controller before. There’s honestly no way to screw it up. As a gamer, this offended me; but as someone talking up The Walking Dead; it finally makes sense. They made it for anyone to enjoy. Simple enough, I guess.

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So which one is it? Well, as someone who’s not opposed to any form of media addiction I strongly stand besides the comics. The show has too many ups and too many downs. In something like Kirkman’s world, emotion stability should be only concern. I could care less about watching Daryl Dixon and Beth drinking a shed for a whole freaking episode. But then again the show could pick up. Negan’s on his way. Maybe not this year but soon. If you don’t know the name, it means you haven’t read the comics and you’re in for a real treat in the coming years. Although he’ll be censored to basically nothing, he still has a chance to force me to fall in love with the TV series all over again.