Thursday, March 21, 2013

Walking Dead Whiplash

As of two months ago, I had read 48 issues of The Walking Dead comic book, (and reviewed them here. And here. And here. And here.) but had never seen a second of the TV show. Then came Super Bowl Sunday.

In a counter-programming marathon, AMC showed the entire first season on that day, and via my friendly neighborhood DVR, I watched those six episodes in the next 36 hours, and mostly enjoyed them. And then the next Saturday, they showed the entire second season, and the next day, to prepare for the second half premiere of season three, the showed the entire first half of season three. I took more than a week to get through all of those episodes, meaning that totally caught up on the show over about 10 days.

By mainlining the episodes in this way, I was able to fully dive into the world of the TV show, which is very different from the world of the comic books. Some of the changes were dramatic, some less so, but once I jumped into the TV version, its own internal consistency mattered more to me than the differences between the two versions.

And then I read issues 49-60. And then I watched another episode of the TV show. That was my mistake.

Bouncing between the two versions of the story made the differences tand out more. And not just the cosmetic differences of who loses what appendage, or which character dies who should hav elived and vice versa. But more significant differences of pacing, story, subplot, and character development.

And in those comparisons, experiencing both universes in a "back-and-forth" manner, the TV show suffers. Of course, telling a story in 22 pages of sequential, static drawings is quite different from telling a story in 44 minutes of live action, but my complaints with the TV show are not in how (or even what) they are adapting, but how they are telling their story. Both version of the story have a rhythm of mixing fast-paced (action) stories and slower-paced (character) stories. But the "slow" comic book issues are so much more enjoyable than the "slow" TV episodes. Things happen, character is revealed and developed, and most importantly, the tension is ratcheted up. In the "slow" TV shows, not much happens except that we move one episode closer to the season finale.

I imagine that I will continue to watch the show, as well as read the comics, but I realize now that combining those two endeavors is not a wise move.

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