According to the blurb, Phillip Blake (“the Governor,” although anyone who doesn’t know that will probably not be particularly interested in this book) is an “uber-villain” who runs the walled off town of Woodbury in a world overrun by the undead, “a man who is just as terrifying as the zombie menace outside.” The previous Walking Dead novels from Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, The Rise of the Governor and The Road to Woodbury, dealt with the evolution of the character, how he came to be the sadistic and violent leader that terrorised Rick Grimes and his group.
Arriving at a convergence of storylines, where the journeys of the Governor in the novels and Rick in the comics merge, the different routes taken become the biggest problem. Realistically, this book is going to appeal to two groups of people: fans of the comic and fans of the television series, but these are not mutually exclusive. As a collector of the graphic novel collections and a viewer of the series since launch I fall into both camps, but while it is likely that most readers of the comic will also be fans of the show, not many of the sixteen million people who watched the season four premiere will have read the comics.
Even without taking the actual writing into consideration, The Fall of the Governor is disappointing to both groups. Followers of the comic will find nothing new here, a story better told first time around in volumes five and six of the collected editions, yet Kirkman and Boninsinga choose not to show events from the comic for the first half of the story.
The Governor cutting Rick’s hand off and Michonne biting off the Governor’s ear are both mentioned but not shown, giving the reader the impression that they’re missing the important action and that what’s left isn’t all that interesting, before the second half returns to straight novelisation, retelling the tale of Rick, Michonne and Glenn escaping from Woodbury, a story that anyone who has read the comic already knows.
Those who have never read the comics won’t have a clue what is happening and will wonder why Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes still has two hands, and while the Governor of the comics has long hair and a beard, in the series has short hair and is clean shaven, yet the cover depicts the latter despite the entire novel being based on the former. It’s misleading, aiming to appeal to people that will, at the very least, find the content conflicting with what they already know.
Considering the intention was to delve into the psyche of the Governor he is pointedly absent for much of the novel, turning up every now and again to remind the reader that he’s still a badass psychotic but the new material consists mostly of a burgeoning relationship between a chap named Austin and a lady named Lilly, neither of whom are particularly compelling characters.
The writing itself is repetitive and lazy with all the best scenes nothing more than regurgitations of past highlights, and the rest is padding with no insight into the characters or events. Split into two parts, the novel could easily have been released as one volume, reflecting the trend for films to be split into multiple parts simply to increase revenue.
A fan of the comics would be better off revisiting their collections, and a fan of the series would find their money better spent investing in the original telling of the story.
The Walking Dead – The Fall of the Governor part one is available now from Tor