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‘Clementine: Book One’ GN (review)

Written and illustrated by Tillie Walden
Published by Image Comics

 

In a world of omnipresent “universe” building, fans are used to not only spin-offs, but spin-offs from spin-offs. On its surface, the Clementine comic book is one of those. Its lead character comes from The Walking Dead continuity, but the video game based on the comics. And now Clementine steps into comics, in Tillie Walden’s tense, atmospheric and heartbreaking story.

Not that you have to know this is connected to The Walking Dead. I didn’t when I started reading this title, but I was oriented quickly. Zombies show up on the first page and soon enough she calls them “walkers.”

Walden’s panel work and art create many blink-and-miss-it details. The mix of inked-over pencils and tablet grayscale add realism and texture. And her use of grubby linework to create patches of dirt and wear on each character sinks the reader into their world of tools-on-your-back survival.

As somebody who never got into The Walking Dead comics and did watch a few seasons of the TV shows, I don’t know how much more the world got built out. Clementine stumbles upon an Amish community living in the ruins of (presumably) Penn State’s main campus, and that’s the first time I saw Amish in this universe. You’d think they’re well prepared for “the cataclysm,” as Amos calls it.

Amos is an 18-year-old Amish kid setting out on rumspringa. He and Clementine team up through his sheer force of open-armed friendliness – something Clementine, who’s more savvy and more damaged by the world, can’t afford anymore.

Walden doesn’t recount all of Clementine’s history, probably for the best, as this is made for TWD fans who likely already played the game or are familiar with it. But we see flashbacks that mirror events in the main story’s action, as she and Amos head to a mountain in Vermont where a group is working to build a new stronghold.

With this being a Walking Dead story, of course, we’re waiting for when this all will fall apart. It’s a world of entropy, after all. The survivors both seem aware of that fact while also working to make something for tomorrow. Why? Because, what else are they gonna do?

You’ll fall for these survivors nonetheless. Walden does a fine job layering details and personality onto Clementine, Amos, and the fellow teens at the mountain: a cagey pair of twin sisters, and a brash Canadian girl in glasses named Ricca, who may or may not have a crush on Clementine.

Walden deeply understands who these characters are, and why they do what they do. As older teens, they remember pieces of the world from before. And when things do fall apart, they happen in a heartbreaking fashion but lead to what could be a beautiful new beginning.

Grade: A

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