We’re back with another installment of The Walking Dead Deluxe: IN LIVING COLOR with an issue full of tragic character drama that marks a turning point in the series. TWD Deluxe #9 shows that McCaig is delivering some of his most impactful work ever on colors, but most of all, it proves that TWD is an iconic story capable of successfully evolving in a way few others have ever been able to do.
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of colors in horror as a genre and also what they add to the comics medium in previous installments, and I believe this retelling of TWD story in full color is arguably the best example of the type of nuance and complexity colors can bring to comics. It also makes the story that much more engaging by elevating the atmosphere and packing a punch with the gore. But TWD Deluxe #9 is also an example of how Kirkman utilizes his own progress as a writer to catapult the story into new levels of success.
Watching the series take shape once again from the beginning has been nothing short of a treat so far. While McCaig is defining a new way to engage with the story with remarkable colors, it’s also quite interesting to get another perspective on Kirkman’s own growth as a writer. In the “Cutting Room Floor” showing specific writing decisions in both plotting and scripting, we see some significant changes that Kirkman made to ensure the issue comes together in the best way possible. As a fan, it’s hard not to be enthralled with the process itself.
However, this also sheds light to something we haven’t really discussed much in this column, which is the constant state of change and evolution of TWD it has undergone since it’s original release. In our last installment, we talked about some of the ties to the great TWD Universe that had arisen, such as the introduction of the Wilshire Estates that helped to shape The Rise of the Governor novel and how the TV series adapted some major moments, but in a different way. TWD has undergone this state of change almost constantly since it exploded in popularity as a franchise and continues to do so. Now, in the Deluxe versions we not only get to see the next stage of that evolution bringing the comics into full color, we get an exciting look at the barebones narrative before so much changed for Kirkman and company.
Such a comprehensive look at where TWD came from and how we know the franchise today has turned out to be a surprising benefit of getting the opportunity to read through the comics again. Where many fans have come to despise changing original work in any way (just ask George Lucas and the Star Wars fans about certain edits post-release), it’s difficult to deny how Kirkman and everyone involved has been able to evolve TWD across multiple mediums and maintain both its originality and overall appeal.
The Walking Dead Deluxe #9 shows that precise evolution from the ground up within the comics medium, with large changes made transitioning from plotting to scripting, then elevated by McCaig’s colors literally years later. But we also see a narrative unfold that is uniquely different from what we see in the TV series with the death of Donna and Carl getting shot. It’s familiar but also starkly different. There just aren’t many creative teams, franchises or stories that can undergo so many interpretations and still maintain such high quality. But TWD is certainly an example of just how right this process can really be.
There is a lot to unpack in the story and it absolutely is a turning point for the group struggling to survive. They had just started to toy with the notion of safety before their lives were upended again and it’s something we will see a lot more of as the story continues. Carl getting shot kicks off so much in the story that I am eager to get a chance to talk about, but for now it’s a lot of fun just to think about how far everything has come since Kirkman plotted out those 22 pages and left himself a note saying “Maybe God’s punishing me for killing Shane.” Killing Donna, having Carl get shot, and eliminating any hope for safety at the moment feels like a dark turn but by this point we know it’s just business as usual for TWD.
Just because you’ve read it once doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about the story and The Walking Dead Deluxe #9 is a wonderful example of this concept. Kirkman brings a lot of insight from his own process of writing to the story behind this being Tony Moore’s last cover before exiting the series, and McCaig does his part in showing how it is never too late to continue elevating the series. It’s a creative concept that many don’t have the opportunity to take on and even fewer get it correct, so it only makes TWD Deluxe that much more special. It isn’t just rehashing the same material to score a quick buck, there is a creative direction and purpose here that does more than entertain. It proves that this iconic series and overwhelmingly popular franchise has both adaptability and staying power. That TWD Universe is a timeless platform for storytelling of which few franchises can compete with. And that a little zombie comic no one was supposed to care about can become one of the greatest stories ever told, reimagined and told again.