- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2011

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video (compatible with Blu-ray-enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

The Walking Dead: Season One (Anchor Bay Entertainment, not rated, $49.99)  A zombie apocalypse sets the stage for a human drama that easily was one last year’s best television shows.

I’m particularly proud to report that an ongoing comic series written by Robert Kirkman acted as inspiration and often as storyboard for AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Now available on Blu-ray, this all-too-grim-and-gory human experience plays out over a brief six-episode season, brought to disturbing life in the high-definition format.

Although the series boasts the best-looking undead ever brought to any screen, thanks to makeup-effects wiz Greg Nicotero, viewers were riveted to the lives of the survivors, beginning with the Gary Cooper of this modern-day zombie massacre, Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes (perfectly played by actor Andrew Lincoln).

The guy gets shot and wakes up in a hospital room to find his world has ended. While searching for his wife and son, he eventually finds other survivors. I won’t divulge anything, but he and this band of too-normal humans must cope with one another and an extreme level of hopelessness, desperation, unimaginable loss and those pesky flesh-eating creatures.

It should be noted that series writer, director (first episode), executive producer and macabre muse Frank Darabont pulled no punches in ramping the gore factor as high as allowable for cable television.

This is no more apparent than in the episode “Guts,” in which Rick and his new friend Glenn must too closely mimic the zombie menace to get through a pack of them.

Fans of the comic will find glimpses of sequential artists Tony Moore’s and Charles Adlard’s stark black-and-white art faithfully re-created in gritty live action in nearly every episode of the series.

Be it Rick on horseback riding on a deserted expressway into Atlanta, the tragic yearning of Bicycle Girl or a decapitating encounter with the undead, it’s an appreciated adaptation of potent illustrated visuals.

Best extra: Once viewers get past a 30-minute overview of the series and a look at creating the incredibly grotesque zombie Bicycle Girl, they will find an unsatisfying collection of short featurettes that act merely as marketing pablum.

I find it inexcusable that viewers don’t get a featurette starring the creators discussing the comic book or some type of digital comic for new fans to appreciate the original source material. (Even a minicomic in the package would have been nice.)

I fear that now that the consumer is stuck with the Blu-ray format, Hollywood is abandoning many of those great interactive extras that were built to help define the technology.

Read all about it: Since 2003, Image Comics faithfully has published the ongoing Walking Dead series every month ($2.99 each). To read precious back issues, I particularly like the three omnibus deluxe hardcover editions (in a slipcase, no less) that each compile 24 issues of the series into one volume ($100 each). The larger-size format (almost 13 inches tall by 9 inches wide) gives true art connoisseurs giant pages to appreciate the artists’ work.

All-Star Superman (Warner Home Video, rated PG, $24.98)  I’ll give DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation’s unholy alliance credit. Despite a string of mediocre to abysmal comic-book-to-cartoon adaptations, they keep trying to deliver a winner.

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