Walking Dead 15: We Find Ourselves - a moment's respite after years of grinding, terrifying hopelessness

By Cory Doctorow

I've been reading The Walking Dead comic series for years now, with the kind of sick, compulsive horror that is the mark of great dramatic tension in narrative. One of the surest ways to establish dramatic tension is to have a characters in bad situations who are trying intelligently to solve their problems, failing, and falling into worse situations. Key to this is that the characters have to try intelligent solutions to their problems, because otherwise the story becomes an exercise in watching a fly batter itself to death on a windowpane.

The Walking Dead is one of those zombie stories in which the intelligent solutions attempted by each character represents a kind of local maximum, the best action for that person at that minute, but disastrous in combination. In that sense, it's a kind of extended riff on the collective action problem, the age-old conundrum of figuring out how to work together for a common goal that will improve all our lives in the end, when there's always a good, immediate opportunity to pursue one's immediate advantage -- and when, at any moment, someone else in the group might seize on that opportunity and shut you out of it.

So previous volumes of Walking Dead have demonstrated the problems and promise of strong-man authoritarianism, family groups, nomadic collectives, fortress societies, limited democracies, individual autonomy, and every other variation and permutation, presenting the reader with the twin fascination and horror of watching a group of characters each acting (more or less) intelligently, but collectively behaving like a fly battering itself to death on the proverbial windowpane.

Now, after 14 volumes, we have the fifteenth Walking Dead compendium: We Find Ourselves, in which the characters finally, finally figure out how to work for their common interests, after years and years of slaughter and tragedy and horror. I read the book over Christmas, and it was like a holiday gift from the creators to their faithful readers -- a respite in the relentless grind that these infuriating and brave people have had to endure and that we've had to watch.

And of course, I'm already feeling mounting anxiety at the thought of what will befall this embryonic glimmer of hope in the volumes that are to come.

And that's dramatic tension.

Walking Dead Volume 15: We Find Ourselves

Previous Walking Dead collections

Published 6:00 am Mon, Dec 26, 2011

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

10 Responses to “Walking Dead 15: We Find Ourselves - a moment's respite after years of grinding, terrifying hopelessness”

  1. Neal Starkey says:

    Unlike the TV series where it is just one unintelligent individual and group choice after another.  i.e. “Let’s lower Glen into the well even though we just mentioned that we have 6 other wells on the property.”
    Also, even though it feels like they have been through years of abuse, I don’t think the timeline is that far along. Lori got pregnant either right before Rick was in the hospital or right after. She had the baby in the prison so ~9 months after the outbreak. The baby was still pretty small when they left the prison. I am not sure how long they have been in Alexandria, but I don’t think it has been more than a few months. At most we are looking at 18 months from the outbreak to current events. Of course that makes it all that more tragic.

  2. L_Mariachi says:

    Key to this is that the characters have to try intelligent solutions to their problems, because otherwise the story becomes an exercise in watching a fly batter itself to death on a windowpane.

    That’s a good point, and probably why we wind up rooting for the slasher in a horror movie to kill all those idiots who insist on slowly walking into darkened rooms backwards, or splitting up to “cover more ground,” or dropping their weapon and running away after knocking the slasher down instead of finishing him off.

    No time to call for backup!

  3. Optimaximal says:

    Just got Vols. 10 & 11 from the fiancée. Such a fantastic series.

  4. dj BC says:

    I’ve read “The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 1″, which brings us less than halfway to this point. I think you may have just convinced me to get back into the issues and catch up!

    And I am actually digging the TV series- aside from a few moments like the Glen-in-the-well incident, I like the way the show is developing and I enjoy it every week. Put it this way- it’s a TV show which is miles better than most major motion pictures almost every week.

    • Neal Starkey says:

      Oh I like the TV show, which just makes it all that more difficult when they do stupid things like the well or what they did to Andrea’s character. I have to say it did make up for a LOT with the last few minutes of the last episode.

  5. zdislaw says:

    (Putting on my comic geek hat) This isn’t actually a “Compendium” edition.  This is Volume 15 which collects issues 85-90.  Compendium 1 was a collection of the first 48 issues.  Presumably Compendium 2 will come out soon and collect 49 through 90-something.  If you just finished Compendium 1 don’t get this edition as you’ll miss nearly forty issues.  Omnibus Volume 3 might be a good bet though, as that collects issues 49-72.  I’m holding out for Compendium 2 because I think my bookshelf will look good with the two side by side.

  6. Roy Trumbull says:

    All the Comic Code stuff in the 1950s was really aimed at war comics which were pretty graphic in the blood and guts department. They were a little too close to the reality of “Hamburger Hill” in Korea where a new officer lasted less than 2 minutes. Didn’t want to give kids to much to think about which might keep them from joining up. So we have safe cuddley zombies. Try another realistic war comic and watch how quickly the door closes.

  7. Mike D says:

    sorry but the last 5-8 issues (included in vol 15) werent a welcome respite from the action, they were just boring as poop! even the human relationship plotlines were boring!

    as someone who this past year got into TWD and read the series through loving the great characters and situations i have to say i feel like the best of the series is behind us :( in fact i actually stopped buying the individual issues after 87, and just flipped through the last few issues in the store. oh well, great things rarely last.

  8. Daemonworks says:

    I’ve heard good things about the characterization/etc, but I just hate zombie fiction too much to actually give it a look. Such a boring monster.

  9. Howlsthunder says:

    @Daemonworks – That’s what I thought as well, until I read “The Walking Dead” vol. 1. Then I immediately ran out and bought the first Compendium and have been keeping up via trade paper backs since then.

    Though it might help I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic dystopia stories…