The Walking Dead – Vol. 7 & 8: “The Calm Before” and “Made to Suffer” Review

(Note: This was written a few months ago so it’s still in the old review format. Oh well, at least all of Omnibus 1 will match!) Never before has a title rang quite as true as Volume 7 “The Calm Before” because, yeah… Volume 8 is a hell of a thing, that’s for sure. It’s no wonder the comic fans at the time were so upset with how the finale of the Prison story arc was handled at the end of Season 3, and even when they tried to recoup it in 4. It’s nothing like the shocking sudden onslaught that happens here… So let’s take a look!

Synopsis:

The group attempts to settle down again after their nightmarish experiences at Woodbury. Relationships among the survivors at the prison continue to grow as Lori enters the last stages of her pregnancy. All the while, the group tries to prepare themselves for the sure revenge of The Governor and his town of psychotic survivors.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Awww… they’re so calm and happy, I’m sure their future will be nothing but smiles and sunshine…

In terms of building a false sense of security you have to hand it to Volume 7. After surviving all the horror at Woodbury everyone starts off on edge about a possible counterattack but it doesn’t really happen. Tyreese, Andrea, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne and Axel all head off to find the guard station that was mentioned by the Governor and successfully capture a bunch of equipment and a large truck (then blow it up for good measure) and on the way back they encounter some of Woodbury’s men at a shop while grabbing some food and end up killing them in a firefight, but again, no immediate reprisal. Glenn and Maggie get married, Lori successfully gives birth to little baby Judith, really the only things that go wrong are Dale being bitten on the leg and ends up getting it amputated and Carol finally loses the plot and intentionally gets her neck bitten by a zombie they had stringed up. So there goes the original Carol, it’s certainly funny how much the two characters diverged between TV and comic there! The peace all comes crashing down in an amazing series of panels as while laughing together Herschel and Rick slowly drop their jaws and say “oh fuck!” as they spot a huge convoy of vehicles and a tank heading their way, the now one eyed and one armed Governor poking out of the top of the tank giving orders to fire. That’s how Vol. 7 ends! Perfect writing the whole way through, that’s how you build up a big event!

So Volume 8 “Made to Suffer” is where the shit really, and I mean REALLY, hits the fan. After an extended flashback showing us how The Governor survived his encounter with Michonne and eventually convinced the town of Woodbury to up arms and fight (basically saying the people at the prison were wild savages and it’s us or them) before all hell breaks loose. In the first skirmish Andrea is hit but not fatally as she takes out a bunch of Woodbury people by sniping from the tower, eventually causing them to temporarily retreat given they’re mostly comprised of regular people who had never fired a gun before. Rick reveals he was also shot in the crossfire, as was friendly biker-looking man Axel, all three are treated as everyone wonders what to do next. Dale, Andrea, the twins they look after (Billy and Ben), Glenn and Maggie (along with Sophia, who they look after) all flee in the RV while Michonne and Tyreese decide to try and sneak attack the Governor’s men in the nearby forest.

Awww, I’m sure…. oh no, wait, this is a pretty bad time actually…

This doesn’t go well and Tyreese is captured and later decapitated (with great effort) by the Governor who had hoped Rick’s group would let him in to save his life, but they weren’t that stupid. Michonne gets another hit on her mortal enemy but has to flee into the forest. This all leads to the second attack on the prison and an all-out war as people start dropping left and right. Axel is cut down, Patricia too, Herschel’s son Billy is killed which makes the farmer finally give up on life and willing accept being gunned down himself, all while the admittedly much lesser developed people of Woodbury are being killed as well. Andrea arrives in the RV to try and help but only succeeds in getting the faithful vehicle destroyed. As Rick, Lori, Carl and Judith all try and escape with their stolen doctor Alice the latter is killed and much to the horror of our lead, Lori is rather brutally shot-gunned as she runs, crushing baby Judith underneath her body as it hits the ground. Rick and Carl make it out of the prison to safety as Lilly, the woman who shot Lori, is horrified to find out her leader got her to kill a baby so turns on the Governor instead, eventually killing him before rallying the Woodbury survivors into the prison, a prison that is soon swarmed with the undead.

Rick and Carl embrace as the prison burns behind them to end the volume (and the first compendium, for that matter!) It was quite the roller coaster, that’s for sure. Brutal and extremely well drawn too. These two volumes are pretty perfect, if I’m honest.

The Bad:

Safe to say Carol’s time in the comics is a tad different to the one on the TV show…

Not much, if anything to be honest. Volume 7 is a bit slow in places but that’s intentional as it lulls you into a false sense of security before the madness that is Volume 8.

Overall Thoughts:

Rick and Carl realise their future is uncertain once again… and they’ve lost their wife/mother and newborn daughter/sister, so plenty to cry about, really…

While I’ve enjoyed a lot of the comics up to now these two volumes are where it really “clicked” for me as I was frankly stunned at how well Volume 8 was done, mostly thanks to the build up it received in 7. It was brutal to look at sometimes but not in a horrible way like the Governor torture scene from the previous double bill, it was just great and visceral storytelling. Hats off to all involved, both writing and the artwork. I’m looking forward to what Compendium 2 brings later in the year…

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