In exchange for Image Comics releasing a print edition of the Eisner Award winning digital comic The Private Eye, Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin have been let loose in Robert Kirkman’s zombie-filled sandbox to create The Walking Dead: The Alien a unique stand-alone story available exclusively from Panel Syndicate that links to the main Walking Dead timeline in a quite unexpected way.
Publisher: Panel Syndicate/Image Comics
Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Artist: Marcos Martin
Price: Name your price
Our rating: [star rating=”5″]
Set in Barcelona just after the outbreak, The Walking Dead: The Alien is your fairly traditional zombie acclimatisation story, as two youngsters, Jeff and Claudia, cross paths and look to help each other escape from the walkers and hatch a plan for survival that involves heading for the USA.
This may sound pretty basic, but because this is from Saga scribe Brian K Vaughan it is anything but and you get much more than just a formulaic tale of the undead. In Claudia he has created a new and unique female character for The Walking Dead universe who has a touch of BKV magic, while American Jeff is linked to the main TWD timeline via a connection only the most dedicated fan would remember, and means that the story doesn’t feel completely out of context even though it is set on a different continent!
As you would expect with a writer of BKV’s quality, be builds his story towards a fantastic climax, and adds in a surprising conclusion that Kirkman himself would be proud of. However, with it only being a one-shot it does lack a bit of the depth you would expect from either series writer if given their usual amount of time.
As with The Private Eye, the true star of the book is artist Marcos Martin as he renders his home town of Barcelona in exquisite detail and manages to perfectly blend his own delicate Euro-infused style with the heavy shadows of Charlie Adlard’s to create a perfect hybridization of both books. He manages this without ever feeling like he is compromising on his own style or copying Adlard’s and is helped to create the necessary ambience by working in TWD’s signature, stark, black and white. Although this means he is without the dynamic coloring of regular colourist Muntsa Vicente, Martin’s beautiful line work is allowed to flourish as a result and gives the world of The Walking Dead a much needed sense of Euro sophistication with architectural shots and scenery that are just stunning and add a nice contrast to the fairly generic landscapes of the main series.
As with all Panel Syndicate titles it is rendered in a landscape orientation which makes it feel like something much more original than your usual spin-off. Although The Walking Dead has become much more than just your standard zombie book in recent years, thanks to characters like Ezekiel and the diversification of the TWD world following the war with Negan, Martin and Vaughan give things a real shot in the arm with their unique auteuristic take on the world and their shifting of the story to Europe.
Martin takes this unique sense even further by adding in some of the quirkiness of his own work – such as Claudia wearing a suit of armour to fend off the walkers – that feels utterly bizarre if you’re a Walking Dead fan but completely in keeping with the surreal world of The Private Eye.
There are few writers with a unique enough voice as BKV and a strong enough collaborator as Marcos Martin to take a book as iconic as The Walking Dead, and make it feel completely different but totally recognisable at the same time. If only all collaborations and spin offs could be as good as The Walking Dead: The Alien!