Clementine: Book One by Vermont’s Cartoonist Laureate, Tillie Walden, is technically a sequel to The Walking Dead video game from Telltale Games. This YA graphic novel follows the eponymous teenager as she attempts to navigate a zombie apocalypse already in progress. But no matter what your familiarity with the many other TWD adaptations may be, Clementine is an outstanding opening for a coming-of-age graphic novel trilogy.
Context for Clementine
Clementine appeared in all four seasons of the TWD Telltale Games video game, based on the comic created by Robert Kirkman. Originally introduced at age 8, Clementine grew into a teenager over the course of the video game’s run. A few key characters with whom Clementine formed relationships within the game are referenced over the course of Clementine. However, as a reader who did not get a chance to play any of the TWD video games, these allusions did not detract from my enjoyment of the graphic novel.
In July 2021, Clementine made the jump to the comics page in “Clementine Lives!” Like the graphic novel, it features art, writing, and lettering by Walden and tones by Cliff Rathburn. This 12-page prelude to the graphic novel was included in Skybound X #1, the first issue of Skybound Entertainment’s anthology series. It provides the connective tissue between the video game and the graphic novel. Like the context from the video game, readers don’t need to have read this short comic to enjoy the graphic novel.
Clementine: Book One
In June 2022, Clementine: Book One was published. The story takes place in the world of TWD. I am personally familiar with the original title, having read the first fifty issues of that series. However, this background isn’t necessary for readers of Clementine. All that’s necessary to understand the graphic novel is a basic understanding of the common “rules of zombies,” specifically the slow George A. Romero-type subset.
Beyond taking place in the same undead-overridden world as TWD, the way that Clementine most resembles the original TWD series is its black, white, and gray tone color aesthetic. That, and the ability to weave a zombie tale that grabs you and doesn’t let go until you’ve reached the end of the book.
In addition to Clementine, the book is filled with instantly intriguing characters. These characters are deftly introduced, and readers are immediately offered interesting details about them. This is true even when they appear for only a few pages. Walden utilizes her ability to quickly make you care about characters to devastating effect.
Not everyone is eaten by the conclusion: there is a sequel slated for release in June 2023, after all. However, as befits a zombie story, there are some shocking deaths over the course of the graphic novel. This only serves to make the survival of the remaining cast seem more perilous than ever.
A Spooky Snowy Setting
When readers are introduced to the eponymous Clementine, she is heading north. However, her path becomes intertwined with that of another teenager, an optimistic Amish boy named Amos. While Amos has a different destination in mind than Clementine, circumstances conspire so that they both end up at the mountaintop camp where Amos had been heading.
There, they meet three more teenagers, rounding out the graphic novel’s main cast. A location that can only be reached by ski lift, the mountain camp affords a unique setting for a zombie story. In addition to the isolation, the group of teenage survivors faces food shortages, freezing weather and avalanches. It’s sort of like a nightmare inversion of summer sleepaway camp.
Like many zombie stories, most of the conflict is derived from conflicts amongst the living. Fortunately, Clementine balances positive character connections against the conflict, generating drama that lasts throughout the story’s pages.
No matter what your experience with the TWD franchise may be, Clementine is an exciting graphic novel that is sure to keep you up reading long past sundown. Best of all now is a great time to catch up on Book One before Clementine: Book Two arrives in June 2023. If you’re looking for a double feature, the book’s isolationist themes and the small cast of characters strongly recall the seminal 1978 classic zombie movie Dawn of the Dead.
Clementine: Book One is available now.