The Best of Robert Kirkman
The Walking Dead has become a worldwide phenomenon since the television adaptation first aired in 2010. Alongside the Telltale game series nearing the end of its second season, TWD has entered the social lexicon on every level of pop-culture nerdom. The man behind it all is the author – Robert Kirkman. Before he became a partner at Image Comics, Kirkman wrote very broadly, and was notable for penning Marvel Zombies, among other popular series’. This article focuses on his best ongoing work, but don’t let that stop you from trying out Kirkman’s extensive back-catalogue.
The Walking Dead – (2003 – Ongoing)
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room first. The Walking Dead exemplifies the comic book medium. Over a fairly long period of time, it has and continues to be the most detailed and captivating depiction of a potential zombie apocalypse ever created. If you wish to catch up on TWD be prepared for a few things. Most importantly is the sheer volume of content to get through. Currently there are over 120 issues, with so many characters being introduced and killed off that reading it all becomes a daunting task. More intense than the time commitment is the cost. But if you can afford to buy the past content, go in with an open mind, especially if your only experience is with the television show. Some characters and plotlines often end up taking completely different turns than you may expect. The storytelling and overall quality dwarfs the TV series in every way, with the primary reason being consistency and skilfulness in character development . There’s also no racist white-trash brothers, which is a plus.
Outcast – (2014 – Ongoing)
Outcast is Kirkman’s newest project, taking the familiar process of appropriating a well established genre, and raising the intensity and scope, while also providing some of Kirkman’s signature storytelling. Outcast shares the highly adult themes consistent throughout Kirkman’s main work, but with a darkness and emphasis on mystery that sets it apart from the more adrenaline, action focus of its counterparts. Kyle Barnes has been followed by Demons all his life, eventually destroying everything he ever loved. What Kyle doesn’t realise is that demon possession and other supernatural events are becoming more and more apparent. In his small southern town, he must find answers to why the demons have continued to single him out, while helping other afflicted people on the way. If TWD is the amalgamation of all those great zombie films of the past, à la Dawn of The Dead, then Outcast is the parallel for horror-exorcism movies. As of this writing there are only a few issues of Outcast available, so now is a perfect time to jump on.
Thief of Thieves – (2012 – Ongoing)
If you liked the Oceans 11 remake film, or television shows like Burn Notice, then Thief of Thieves is the perfect comic for you. This time round the genre is a mix of drama and action, coupled with a suave noir heist aesthetic that trickles down TOT’s themes and character design. Despite the high-stakes shenanigans and ridiculous ways characters escape seemingly impossible situations – there is a level of realism that just isn’t seen in stories about zombies, superheroes and demonic possession. This may be in part due to Robert Kirkman’s relative offhand approach to TOT compared to the other titles talked about. A hefty part of TOT’s success can be attributed to writer, Nick Spencer. Together, Spencer and Kirkman have created a series that echoes its forebears, while honing a quasi style that blends drama and family, alongside smart and exciting action scenes that show off clever writing and distinct moody art from Shawn Martinbrough and Felix Serrano. Thief of Thieves is also a fairly easy series to catch up on, and is yet to wane in quality and pacing.
Invincible – (2003 – Ongoing)
While Marvel and DC arguably continue to pull punches when it comes to their content – Invincible is ready and willing to redefine the superhero comic formula for the modern day. Watchmen was similar, but while it tackled some very existential topics with a succinct and sustained story of violence and depravity – Invincible can take the time to laugh in the face of serious situations. Humour is present throughout, even sporting the occasional break of the fourth wall. This is interspersed with shocking moments of knockout punch plot twists and extremely unsettling imagery. Invincible is a comic of unexpected extremes. The main character Mark is an average high school kid with a superhero for a dad. He soon develops his own hereditary powers and sets out to establish himself and manage his growing school, family and heroic responsibilities. Soon after, a bunch of crazy stuff happens and the status quo is forever changed. You’ll have to start reading to learn more, but as with TWD, Invincible has over 100 issues to keep in mind before diving in.