The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars

The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Charlie Adlard (penciler, inker)
Cliff Rathburn (gray tones);
Tony Moore (cover)

In “Days Gone Bye,” (Volume 1) Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in a hospital. The choice of physical incapacity is interesting as it can be construed as a type of death. In a comatose state, the patient has lost his will, his motor co-ordination, his consciousness and, is not unlike a zombie (generally classified as among the dead category) who shuffles instinctively and displays no consciousness or awareness. But Rick Grimes is not dead and, not a zombie because an external power has been exerted to save him. Medical technology kept Rick Grimes from falling into a true death. There are many different kinds of death displayed through the volumes thus far, but it is the power over death that compels our attention to the panels in “Days Gone Bye,” “Miles Behind Us” and, especially in “Safety Behind Bars.” From the immediacy of Rick’s individual and initial quest (buzzing for the nurse) to the larger communal effort to survive, man’s struggle against the inevitable is defined as his attempts to control it!
The zombies are the most obvious dead forms in The Walking Dead volumes. For the shuffling forms the most direct way of rendering them absolutely inert is to smash their brains. In “Miles Behind Us,” (Volume 2) we see some zombies detained in a barn in the hopes that there might be a way to cure them. In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see an attempt to reason with a newly turned zombie in the hopes that there may be a way to save the former human. Whether by hammer, blade or gunshot, once the threatening forms are rendered truly dead, they are burned. Just in case.
For the humans in the Walking Dead volumes so far, we’ve seen some take death into their own hands. In “Days Gone Bye” we see one character ask to be left to die and turn zombie so that he might join his zombified loved ones. In “Miles Behind Us,” a character, in his grief, puts a gun to his head. In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see a couple commit to a suicide pact so that they can be together forever :-/ In the suicide scenarios, each hopes to control the manner of their own demise, not realizing it’s not something you can really control in a world in which death is elastic.
We also see death meted out between men in self defense, whether the threat is imminent or actualized; as a matter of vengeance and, as a matter of punishment. As tricky as killing zombies may be (what if there is a shred of humanity buried within the corpse forms?), the matter of death between the conscious ones is definitely messy. In “Days Gone Bye,” the power of death is given to a seven-year old boy who is then placed into a situation of imminent, but not actualized, threat. The boy acts instinctively, and perhaps correctly; but not without repercussions. After all, shooting a man is not the same as shooting a deer or a zombie.
In “Miles Behind Us” and in “Safety Behind Bars” adults react to an actual threat of invasion by pulling guns on the newcomers. Harkening back to the “Miles Behind Us” post [wherein I posit that every one wants to belong someone, somewhere,] this tension seems paradoxical. And yet, the instinct to define the pack, and thin the herd of threats is a key to survival.
In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see human-on-human lethal violence at fervor pitch. There is a death committed as an act of vengeance. The act is committed with bare hands in a strangle-hold upon the victim. Without premeditation, but tantamount to murder, this death is seen as justified; but nonetheless covered up – ostensibly to eliminate misunderstanding. Or perhaps to avoid creating a morally grayer area where death is concerned. As if the survivors weren’t already dealing with the complexity of zombie deaths :-/
We also see death via beheading committed by the hands of a (possibly) criminally insane character. Though premeditated, can the perpetrator be considered accountable for his actions owing to his mental instability? Is he truly insane? Does the horror of his deeds outweigh such consideration? And finally, there is the mandated capital punishment, death by hanging, decreed at one point. Does one person have the right to order an execution? Does a majority vote justify the decision? And again, does the heinousness of the crime override the moral equivocation of such a decision?
Death is enabled through bites, guns, knives, hammers and rope; but death is actualized by man’s will. There is not a little irony that, in order to survive, the survivors must kill.
Artwork: “Days Gone Bye,” cover and content, was primarily drawn by Tony Moore ; but his contribution is limited to the covers for “Miles Behind Us” and “Safety Behind Bars.” In volumes two and three we can see a consistent aesthetic applied: more detail to the characters’ faces, better application of gray tones for compositional balance and; a heavier, bolder use of black ink. To demonstrate the differences, I’ve photographed three panels of the same character in the same mood: Lori Grimes, mad. The top panel is from “Days Gone Bye;” the bottom left panel is from “Miles Behind Us” and the bottom right panel is from “Safety Behind Bars.”

See Also:

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye (Graphic Novel Review about identity, civilization and individual rights) 
The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us (Graphic Novel Review about about belonging on a personal level, a group level and a “preadiastic” level)

Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR

This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us

The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Charlie Adlard (penciler, inker);
Cliff Rathburn (gray tones);
Tony Moore (cover)
In The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye, the reader is introduced to Rick Grimes, as he wakes up from a coma in a hospital. He is by himself and immediately rings for assistance from the nurse and, then he goes in search of his home and family. He is alone and he reaches out to make a connection. In the Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us, we see an extension of that first intuitive search for the other.
Everybody wants to belong to someone, somewhere. This theme is developed on three levels in “Miles Behind Us:” on the personal level, on the group level and, on a “praediastic” [a word I made up from the root word, “praedium”] level. We see personal relationships develop within the small band of survivors moving on from their encampment outside of Atlanta, GA. Despite their disparate backgrounds and, the more tentative the odds of making a connection, the more tenacious the effort to establish an intimate relationship becomes. This goes beyond the group dynamics that need to be hammered out in ordered to survive; it is human nature. More importantly, it is non-zombie nature. While the zombies roam the landscape and will swarm their prey, there is no indication that they have developed any sort of societal bond, even at a pack level. There is no evidence that they recognize one another individually, much less that they can develop one-one-one relationships. But with Rick and the survivors, we see a range of personal relationships: Rick and his wife keep their marriage intact; two seven-year olds flirt; a May-December relationship buds; two teenagers declare their eternal love; two characters have a purely physical interconnection because they are lonely; two other characters look like they’re hooking up out of genuine chemistry… 
With every relationship started however, the group dynamic changes. Perhaps it is the herd instinct that asserts itself and compels them to think there is safety in numbers; but subjugating the individual interests to the group’s good is a struggle of identity on one hand; but a recognition that even though you can’t depend on anyone else, you also can’t do it (survive) alone. The closeness of life in the RV they have been operating out of is too much; but then again, when the opportunity presents itself to live at the abandoned Wiltshire Estates, they want to remain neighbors. When circumstances bring them to the farmstead of Hershel Greene, Rick’s group presumes integration into the household as a matter of due course and Lori is outraged when she encounters resistance.
There is a strong tradition of individuals identifying strongly with physical land. In English culture, the Earls and Dukes and such are often referred to by the names of their estates. In Rebecca (by Daphne DuMaurier) we see the strong correlation between Manderley and its master. In “Miles Behind Us,” Rick and the survivors seek more than a secured shelter. If that were not true, they could keep trekking across the landscape in the RV; but they want to settle down in homes with yards; in a place where they can be neighbors (Wiltshire Estates) or even work collectively toward a greater community (the farmstead.)
Against the odds and despite the risks, people reach out to each other and attempt to build communities. It’s a matter of both survival and desire.
The artwork in this volume contains less of the exaggerated features found in “Days Gone By,” though the black & white panels still depend on compositional values such has balance, clarity and perspective and; when they are lacking create confusion as to the action taking place. The scenes where couples kiss or are rendered hard-edged and unsexy, belying the established mood. Worse, you can’t discern whether the couples are kissing or attacking each other :-/ Again, in a couple of action panels (e.g. the zombie battle at the barn) the lack of contrast and/or perspective creates questions as to who or what is happening. Finally, the distinction between Lori and Maggie is too fine. Both characters have black hair and wear plaid at one point, making easy recognition difficult.

Attack at the Greene Farmstead Barn
Adlard and Rathburn have chosen to eliminate the frames between the scenes in this panel, emphasizing the compression of time in the action sequence (everything seems to be happening all at once) and the confusion of the attack in progress. The lack of contrast and line of perspective, combined with the the fact that this is not a single scene frame makes the panel difficult to interpret without referencing other panels both before and after this one.The woman being attacked (“Daddy!”) is the same woman in the center of the frame (“No!”) and the figure on the right is not her father, but Rick Grimes!

[The curvature at the bottom right-hand corner is due to the  proximity of the  illustration to the spine and the owner’s unwilingness to break the spine for a flatter scanned image]

The artwork is better than in “Days Gone Bye,” though the ideas expressed in both volumes are often more sophisticated than the medium itself.
Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us from More Fun, a comic book store in Ashland, OR.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye starts out on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia.
View dogearedcopy map 2011 in a larger map

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Tony Moore (penciler, inker, gray tones);
Cliff Rathburn (additional gray tones)
There are zombies on the cover of The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye and; there are zombies inside the graphic novel; but this isn’t really a zombie tale so much as it’s a survival tale. In “Days Gone Bye,” the focus is on the human element whereas the zombies are incidental. Rick Grimes, a police officer shot in the line of duty, wakes up from a coma in the hospital. He wakes to an abandoned facility, town, home, and basically, life as he knew it. Something has happened and now the the landscape is littered with zombies, alive-dead and dead-dead. His first instinct is to retain his civilized sensibilities and to reinforce his identity as an authority figure. He makes his way to the police station, dons his spare uniform, metes out guns and ammo to the first survivors he meets, grants them the use of a police cruiser and admonishes them to keep an eye out on his place while he heads in to Atlanta, GA. Even as he exits Cynthiana, KY, there are subtle cracks in his civilized veneer. Eventually, Rick ends up in an encampment of people who tried to make for the safety of the city but were too late to make their way in. At camp, the need for food, clean clothes and, secure shelter takes precedent over the social ethics of their former lives. Various members of the group each try to retain their individuality while trying to adapt to a group dynamic.
Very little is discovered about the zombies in “Days Gone Bye.” People die, they come back to an animated state. They bite people and the newly bitten become zombies in turn. The zombies here operate purely on an animal level of survival, apparently having the ability to smell and hear, all in the pursuit of something to eat. In “Days Gone Bye” the difference between the zombies and the survivors is clear, if only by degrees and speed. We’ll see how long this lasts :-/
Excepting the cover, the artwork in “Days Gone Bye” is black-and-white. The survivors are drawn with near cartoonish qualities: outlines without a lot of facial subtleties, many wide-eyed expressions and near comical distortions of the mouth. The zombies are consistently drawn with more detail and realism. Go figure. Because the panels are b&w, the integrity of the panels rests on the composition of the shots and ergo the gray tones or ink washes applied. Some are more difficult to execute than others (a scene around a campfire at night while snow falls vs a single head shot against a blank background) and Tony Moore and Cliff Rathburn met the challenges with varying degrees of success. A panel showing Rick and Glenn on a fire escape displays sophisticated layers and tones; but other scenes (e.g. Rick and Lori talking outside their tent) show less artful effort. [I do not know either Tony Moore’s nor Cliff Rathburn’s work well enough individually to be able to assess the handiwork of either’s effort, only the combined effect in this volume.] In a couple of panels, characters were difficult to distinguish from each other. In a long shot, two characters are speaking; but there is not enough detail to determine who and, in another panel, I had to look very closely across several pages and, by the process of elimination, figure out who was speaking.

Rick and Glenn on the fire escape
The illusion of depth is created by using lines of perspective drawn from the top of Glenn’s hat down to the zombie masses below. Visual touchstones that serve as markers along the way include Glenn’s hat, Rick’s hand, the actual fire escape and, the zombie in the dark suit.The layers of proximity/distance create the the impression of a “drop” and the heighten the anxiety of what lies below and the overall tension of the scene.
Rick & Lori talking outside their tent
The tent serves two purposes: Its sets up the balance and symmetry of the panel. The dialogue balloon becomes the asymmetrical element and item of interest and focus. The tent also serves as a frame for the couple in this intimate moment, closing the conversation off from others and the natural elements seen in the background. The shadowing casts on their faces and on the tent further contrasts with the darkness beyond the campfire and emphasizes their isolation. But the tent, with its ruler-straight outlines and lack of texture also looks artless in its “blockiness” and draws attention to the artifice of the drawing.

The artwork isn’t great; but In “Days Gone Bye” there is a lot of thought provoking material in regards to the concepts of identity, civilization and individual rights.

Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye from More Fun, a comic book store in Ashland, OR.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye starts out in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
View dogearedcopy map 2011 in a larger map