Writer- Brian K. Vaughan
Artist- Marcos Martin
The Walking Dead. Indie comic success story, television juggernaut, pop culture empire expanding from novels to toys. No matter what you first think of when this franchise is discussed, creator Robert Kirkman’s name will eventually come up. Since 2003, Kirkman has been the only writer in the history of the comic, and has been deeply involved in the writing and production of the show since its debut in 2010 as well. In interviews, Kirkman has made it clear that if he ever decides to stop writing the comic, there will be no new writer, as this is his story alone. That being said, it was a surprise when at last year’s Image Expo, Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Ex Machina) was announced to write a one-shot story set in The Walking Dead universe, something no other writer has done in-canon. The digital-only release would be made available from Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin’s (The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil) PanelSyndicate.com, a name-your-price store for downloadable comic books. In return for this story being made exclusively available to their site, Image gets the rights to print Vaughan and Martin’s digital-only series The Private Eye in trade format.
The Alien takes place in an undead-ravaged Barcelona, immediately answering the question as to whether the zombie epidemic has spread to places other than the U.S. We follow an American abroad named Jeff as he struggles to stay alive in the face of the first days of this new horror. After witnessing a child being ripped apart by a horde of walkers, Jeff is saved by a knight in shining armor. Her name is Claudia, and she’s a native of Barcelona and museum curator, explaining the actual medieval armor she uses to protect herself from the undead. Jeff and Claudia hatch a plan to escape via boat, and the story follows their attempt to procure a vessel. Just as the story gets to within a few pages of the ending, and we think this is an unrelated tale set in the same universe as the main series, we are given a vital piece of information about one of these characters that ties it into Kirkman’s book beautifully. No spoilers here, as the reveal was truly fun and surprising.
Vaughan turns in a good script which makes us quickly care for these two characters and their plight. Jeff and Claudia have a chemistry that could have sustained a longer storyline than this one issue. Martin is the true all-star here as he takes a crack at interpreting a universe that’s been visually defined by Charlie Adlard’s art for over one hundred issues. Martin’s already gorgeous linework is amplified in black and white, and the last few pages do something no prior WD issue has done in-continuity: use color, and to great emotional effect, leading to a memorable ending.
The Walking Dead will remain Kirkman’s baby, and in all honesty it should. If every few years, we get a team as talented as Vaughan and Martin to produce a supplement as good as The Alien, I can see nothing wrong with that. This story succeeds as a one-off, but also offers a very low chance of eventually tying into the main series eventually. If you are a hardcore fan of The Walking Dead, get over to PanelSyndicate.com and take advantage of their pay-what-you-want strategy. Be mindful, though, that the artists and writers involved take no pay up front, so your contribution goes towards their salary.
5 Barcelona Sewers of 5