Five ways to fill The Walking Dead-shaped hole in your heart
In just a few days, The Walking Dead will close up shop for another season. The finale airs March 31, and whether you're watching at home alone or attending one of the watching parties (like Not Quite Dead Sundays at Jake's Food and Spirits), it will be the last last time zombies will invade your home via AMC's hit until next October. That means a lot of newly minted zombie fans are going to be left without their undead fix for the next six months, which is a shame given how much great zombie entertainment is out there. Of course, there's even more incredibly shitty zombie content out there, so to help the uninitiated find their way in this brave new undead world, we've compiled a list of five ways to fill the Walking Dead-sized hole in your heart. Everything on this list has been recognized by our staff of zombie experts (i.e. me) as being among the very best the genre has to offer, so no matter where you start, you can't go wrong.
5) The Walking Dead comics You did know the show was based on a long-running, critically lauded comic series, right? Well, now you can at least pretend you did. In any case, the comics are excellent, even if you aren't a big fan of the medium. Just like the show, they're heavily serialized, so you can't just pick up a random issue and start reading: You need to go back to the beginning and start, and luckily the readily available trade paperbacks and omnibus editions make that easy. And it'll be fun, too! Not only are they at least as good as the show (yes, seriously), they also have some pretty big departures from the plot, so for everything you've already experienced, there's likely to be a new thing you haven't. The only downside? No Darryl. That character was invented for the show.
4) The Walking Dead adventure game The Walking Dead has also appeared in video-game form, naturally. Avoid the tepid, cash-in first-person shooter game Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. It's bad. What you want is Telltale Games' The Walking Dead, a five-episode "adventure horror" game set in the world of the comics. It's an engaging game that makes you a criminal seeking redemption in a zombie-filled world. This is not a shoot 'em up -- it's an emotionally engaging, story-driven game that will leave you wanting more once it's over. Fortunately, there's a second "season" on the way.
3) Classic zombie films For all intents and purposes, The Walking Dead takes place in the apocalyptic zombie universe created by George A. Romero in his classic Dead films. Seriously, the zombies look and act just like Romero's, and they have the same strengths and weaknesses. There are some minor points of divergence, but nothing major.
That means Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead can easily be seen as paralleling the zombie mayhem of the series. Take Night as a prequel that shows what it was like when it first happened, Dawn as a look at what things must have been like while Rick was in the hospital and Shane was busy making eyes at Laurie, and Day to be more or less contemporary with where the series is now, or maybe just a little further along the apocalyptic timeline. Land moves the story years down the road and offers a look at what Woodbury might evolve into, given enough time. (Note: There are remakes of all of these except Land. Without exception, you want the original, not the remake.)
Once you're done with those, his recent Diary of the Dead is a decent reboot that brings the zombie mayhem into the modern day, and although the sequel Survival of the Dead has some issues, it's not terrible. There's also Shaun of the Dead, which isn't Romero but also follows his blueprint and somehow manages to be both a great zombie film and a better romantic comedy/bromance movie than anything Judd Apatow has ever done.
2) Zombie lit Someone you know has probably told you to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but fuck that gimmicky bullshit. There's only one place to start with zombie lit, and that's the work of Max Brooks. His Zombie Survival Guide is exactly what it sounds like -- a step-by-step handbook to surviving the inevitable zombie apocalypse. If Rick and Co. had read it, they'd be in so much better shape.... Equally great is his novel World War Z, which tells the story of that zombie apocalypse as an oral history. Once you're done with those, check out David Wellington's Monster Island and its sequels, and if you're in the mood for a little 24 meets The Walking Dead, try Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero.
1) We're Alive Need a good, weekly zombie yarn that you can enjoy on your way to work, while you walk the dog or work out? We're Alive, about to start its fourth season, is a serialized zombie podcast in the style of old-time radio plays. It's a largely amateur production, so the acting can be a little rough at times, but the writing is solid, the story is engaging and it actually does a few new things with the zombie genre, while still delivering the kind of face-eating story beats you've come to know and love. Download it via iTunes or the show's website.
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