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Review: ‘The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor’

Greetings and Salutations, fellow Fridge Nukers! Bradfield here – reporting from the weekly Nuke the Fridge Book Club meeting at the FatBurger in Downtown Burbank.

Available in Mass Market Paperback September 18th

In addition to an hour (give or take) of pure, unadulterated, post-apocalyptic goodness, participants in the Walking Dead Escape at PetCo Park, for two years running, have been able to look forward to access to exclusive merchandise, including free “participation prizes.” This year, after wrapping things up with a quick visit to a “Decontamination Center,” fans were treated to two freebies: an exclusive Walking Dead AMC poster, and copy of the forthcoming mass market paperback edition of the Robert Kirkman/Jay Bonansinga novel, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor.

To be clear, the book/story isn’t new to the mass market – it’s been around, in various forms, for a little less than two years. In fact, it is one part of a trilogy that wraps up early next month. However, ROTG debuts in MMP form next week, giving fans a chance to own an even more affordable hard copy of the story at $7.99.

Though, in terms of the overall story, the title doesn’t leave much to the imagination — and probably isn’t meant to — it is a solid riff on a “Frankenstein” story, with an excellent twist, offering a somewhat alternative take on one of the greatest villains in pop culture to come along in the last ten years. That is to say that it doesn’t so much present a kinder, gentler Philip Blake [a.k.a. “The Governor”] as it does play with a classic theme — whether a “monster” is born, or made — in a way that can only take place in the world of The Walking Dead.

While the second installment of the trilogy is entitled The Road to Woodbury, ROTG is, for all intents and purposes, a “road story,” with Philip doing the best he can to protect his older, frailer brother, Brian, and of course, his ill-fated daughter, Penny, as he and two old friends, navigate a familiar territory — the back roads of rural and suburban Georgia — under the entirely new “map” of the Zombie Apocalypse. It is almost a carbon copy version of Rick Grimes’ struggle in the series proper – with Philip’s primary motivation being keeping his family alive and together; the biggest difference being that, early on, Rick and company managed to run into a higher percentage of good people. Even when what’s left of the group finally arrives in Woodbury, it is a far cry from the functioning [even if dysfunctionally so] township as first seen in the graphic novels – literally under the boot of a trio of National Guardsmen on a power trip.

If I have one “caveat” for interested “Dead-Heads,” it has nothing to do with the quality of the work. It’s simply that ROTG is specific to the world of the comics. Walking Dead fans can be broken down into three basic categories: fans of the show; fans of the comic; and fans of both. How much of the material the show will incorporate, if any, remains to be seen. However, though fans of both series know that there isn’t a one-to-one relationship between what goes on in the book, and on the show, [The comic is, at best, about fifty percent predictive of what happens on TV. For example, the Dison Brothers won’t pop up.] one could easily see some of this backstory working its way into the AMC show, while still working for the two distinct takes on the character.

The MMP also includes a preview of the second volume, Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury. However, if after you finish ROTG, you don’t want to wait for the inevitable pocketbook editions, and are willing to spend a little more money, the good news is that the story is close to wrapping up. It just depends on how married you are to a uniformly sized book collection. The MMP of Rise of the Governor is simply another version of what’s already out there. It is already available in hardback, Kindle, and a larger “trade” paperback size – as is Road to Woodbury. The series will conclude with The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor — the “Woodbury War” from the other side — with hardback/Kindle editions available October 8th.

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor (mass market paperback) will be available online and in bookstores September 17th.

And word to the wise, Fridge Nukers – if you don’t like spoilers, don’t Wiki “The Governor”!