[Some Spoilers Within]
Safety Behind Bars is the third collected volume of Robert Kirkman’s excellent The Walking Dead comic book series from Image Comics. This volume collects issues 13 through 18 and it continues that journey and travails of surviving in a world overrun by the undead. As the tagline of the books proclaim, in a world ruled by the dead we are forced to finally start living. This is so true in Safety Behind Bars as Kirkman and returning artist Charlie Adlard tell the story of Rick Grimes and his band of survivors as they come across what they think will be their salvation from the threat of the hungry dead: an abandoned prison complex.
The last we saw Rick, Tyrese, Lori and their ragtag band of survivors they had just been forced off the the presumably safety of the Herschel farm after the tragic events which transpired within its fences. But Safety Behind Bars starts off with the group discovering an abandoned prison complex that may just solve their shelter, safety and food problems. Once again, Kirkman’s writing is tight and to the point. The characters of Rick and the rest of the survivors continue to evolve as the days and months pass by in the journey to survive. What they find in the abandoned prison is both safety and danger, but not in the way of most people thought it would come in. Sure there are still zombies both inside and outside of the prison’s security fences, but as the enormity of the crisis finally crashes on everyone — that there won’t be a rescue — the survivors reach the threshold of their breaking points to the detriment of everyone involved. It’s especially tragic for Tyrese as a tragedy pushes him to act on his base instincts in an act of vengeance that is both understandable and horrifying.
More people are introduced to the group in the form of surviving group of inmates left behind by fleeing prison guards. This new group acts to change the group dynamics and even add more conflict to what Rick and his group thought was going to be safety from the dead. Instead, human nature — as Kirkman sees it — causes more problems and danger than the dead represent. The events of The Walking Dead has really changed everyone involved and we lose more people to both living and the dead.
The volume ends in an even bigger cliffhanger than the previous two collected volumes. Like the best drama series on TV, The Walking Dead hooks you in with great writing, well-drawn characters and a great hook that pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go. Whether the upcoming AMC and Darabont-produced tv adaptation of this series follows this particular story-arc is still up in the air. To deviate from the prison would definitely involve a new story-arc that surpasses what Kirkman has written in these 6-issues and that would be quite a tall order.