The Walking Dead Volume 11: Fear The Hunters came out this month, and I happened on it this weekend and promptly fell into it, emerging an hour later feeling like the world was coming to an end.
For the uninitiated, The Walking Dead is Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore and Cliff Rathburn's superb and terrifying zombapocalypse graphic novel series, in which a band of survivors overcome zombies, internal power-struggles, traumatized family, zombie-bit lovers, and, of course, other survivors who've been turned even more feral by the walking dead.
The pacing never lets up — something amply demonstrated in this volume, where a new rival group of survivors has something awful planned for our heroes, a plan that involves terrorizing them as much as possible, keeping them off balance.
What makes The Walking Dead so compelling to me is the way it asks you to decide, over and over again, do you bug-out (get away with your loved ones) or bug-in (help your neighbors and let them help you), or both? I've always hoped that I'd be a bug-in person, that in a disaster I'd work for the mutual aid of everyone. But bugging in works best if the rest of the world does it with you — a few selfish buggers-out shatter the social bonds that make it possible for the most people to survive a terminal prisoner's dilemma. But even for us bug-in types, Kirkman wants us to ask ourselves, how far will you go? Who gets to come inside the shelter with you, and who gets left outside to die?
This is the kind of ethical question that underpins our responses to everything from humanitarian crises like the one in Haiti to the health-care debate to immigration and refugee policy. It's at the core of racism and sexism, at the core of xenophobia and discrimination. In its most extreme form, it can give rise to horrors like the American eugenics movement or Naziism, but who among us doesn't have a secret kernel of it lurking in our breast?
Reading The Walking Dead is never easy for me. I had to stop and put down the current collection several times, as the creators made my heart thud and my mind whirl. But when I was done, I immediately wished for the next volume to hit the stands.