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The Walking Dead Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars TPB Review

6 min read

Prison, sweet prison.

What They Say:
An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: there is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living. This volume follows our band of survivors as they set up a permanent camp inside a prison. Relationships change, characters die, and our team of survivors learn there’s something far more deadly than zombies out there: each other.

The Review:
The discovery of the prison at the end of the last volume was an amusing source of hope for Rick and the gang as the place can provide a real sense of security and some significant defense against the undead. While there’s a lot of them in there that they’d have to work through, it’s the kind of place that can definitely make a difference in what they have to go through if they can clean it out. While traveling in the RV has had its moments as they’ve gotten a better feel for what the world is like beyond the original encampment, it’s not suited to the number of people that are in the group and it’s getting pretty rank while adding tensions with everyone being so close together. Yet that closeness is needed in order to survive in a world where the majority of the population wants to eat you.

This set of issues provides for a great deal of tension as Tyreese and Rick do the majority of the cleaning at first as they work through the fenced area and try to discover what’s inside. With the captive population that was in the prison before, you can’t be sure ewhat you’ll get, but the revelations about how events in there unfolded as the undead problem became much more significant is an interesting way of dealing with it as it does show some level of humanity on the part of those in charge. That only a few of the prisoners stayed for different reasons and holed themselves up in the middle of one of the wings also makes a great deal of sense too. The look of relief on everyone’s eyes when they get a look at the food stores in there and understand that they can actually eat and rest for awhile is huge. It’s a palpable sense of relief to be certain. That’s not to say there aren’t issues though as they can’t be sure about the prisoners that they’ve come across, trust is hard to early in general in this new world, and there is some mild discomfort at the idea of sleeping in a prison cell. And knowing that they still have other sealed wings of undead to contend with as well.

Not unlike past issues, it’s the character drama that really makes this book work. With the dynamic changed by introducing a handful of new characters and a closed space in which to deal with the undead, tensions ramp up in different ways. Lori for her part is acting hormonal as she says because of the baby, though it’s more the stress of the situation and where they are and excessive upchucking. Tyreese goes through a particularly brutal period here with his daughter as she and her boyfriend end up concocting a scheme that goes very awry as their view of the world has definitely skewed since events have changed so much. It’s a difficult sequence to watch as the two of them hatch and carry out their plan, because you’re so assured it’s going to go one way and then it does a complete turn elsewhere that it does leave you shocked. As much as I like rick, the more that the series expands on Tyreese and works him through new situations, the more that character becomes powerful and fascinating to watch.

Where Rick does shine in his own special way is in dealing with the revelation that’s made about how even if you die without being bitten, you can come back because of whatever has been unleashed into the world. While the immediate impact of it is dealt with in the prison residence at first, it leaves a stronger impression on him because of something that happened earlier that he feels compelled to deal with. And that thing is Shane as he had buried him after his son had killed him. While they certainly had their issues, he still feels a sense of right and knows he has to go back there on his own to deal with it. But even that “right” involves a vengeance of sorts as he wants to put the finishing touch on the man that tried to kill him, even though he had spent the time burying him. It’s a great sequence to watch unfold once you realize where it is he’s going after passing other recent places the group has visited.

Of course, the most dangerous thing that the group has to face is itself, not the undead, and distrust rears its ugly head repeatedly here with a huge amount of guilt mixed into all of it as well. With the prisoners in there for different reasons, distrust is natural, but the group has its own issues when certain people die and it causes the prisoners to take the brunt of suspicion until things get figured out. It’s only natural to a degree, even more so now that the world has changed, but it’s a hard moment because they all need a certain level of trust in order to survive now. That frays and falls apart quickly and people like Rick have a very hard time with it, especially as he brought so many people here now with the promise of being safe. It’s ugly and brutal, yet so incredibly engaging.

Digital Notes:
This graphic novel compilation via Comixology contains issues thirteen through eighteen of the series in one file that has a total of a hundred and forty pages with no extras, alternate covers or anything else.

In Summary:
The Walking Dead hits up so many great plot points and angles in these issues that it’s an intense ride from start to finish, not that it truly finishes here as there’s always something else going on right up until the last panel. With the prison storyline getting underway, it covers a lot of ground when it comes to the action and the character drama and all of it works really well. Choices are made, consequences revealed and it continues to feel like nobody is truly safe. Characters are really becoming more fleshed out and interesting, particularly Tyreese, but also the various couples that are now forming up as the pressure of everything has them seeking relief and comfort where they get it. The book runs through a lot of great material here that knows when to let up, if just for a moment, before throwing you back into all of it hard and fast.

Grade: A-

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