The Walking Dead: Days Gone By - Story Arc Summary & Review (Issues #1-6) - The Fantasy Review

The Walking Dead: Days Gone By – Story Arc Summary & Review (Issues #1-6)

The Fantasy Review’s summary and review of the Days Gone By arc of The Walking Dead comic series by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. This arc is the first of the series, including issues #1-6.

Jump to the spoiler-free review here. 

This is the first in a series of The Walking Dead Summaries & Reviews.

Summaries of Issues #1-6 of The Walking Dead

This summary includes detailed spoilers for issues #1-6 of The Walking Dead, so do not read on if you have not read these comics.

Issue 1

Rick Grimes gets shot in the line of duty, wakes up from a coma in hospital and no one is there. He finds zombies on a ward, escapes on a bicycle to home, and then gets knocked out on a street outside his home. 

Rick meets Morgan Jones and his son, Duane (who knocked him out with a shovel). Rick learns scraps of what’s happened in the world – Morgan says the cities are safe, so Rick wants to go to Atlanta to see if his family are alive. 

Rick, Morgan and Duane go to the police station, load up on guns and ammo, then Rick heads off, leaving Morgan and Duane behind. 

There is a minor arc of seeing Rick emotionally devastated by a zombie gurgling on the ground, unable to move on his escape from the hospital at the start of the issue – at the end he pulls up, with tears in his eyes he shoots the zombie, then drives on in the police car.

Issue 2

Rick runs out of fuel, gets a horse, and rides to Atlanta, only to find an army of zombies. He is trapped, the horse is killed, but he’s pulled to safety by Glenn and they escape together without any more problems. They walk to a camp just outside the city, and the issue ends with Rick finding Lori and Carl.

Issue 3

We are reintroduced to Shane (the other police officer there when Rick was shot in Issue 1). We are also introduced to:

  • Allen & Donna (married), and their children, Billy and Ben (twins)
  • Dale (keeping watch on the top of a camper)
  • Jim
  • Carol and her daughter Sophia
  • Amy and Andrea (sisters)

Rick and Lori catch up in the evening once Carl is asleep. Next morning, Rick goes for a shower and in the camper Dale says Shane has his eye on Lori and isn’t glad that Rick is back – Rick doesn’t believe him, as Shane is his friend. 

Rick and Shane go hunting. Lori goes washing with some of the other women while Andrea and Amy watch the kids. Rick and Shane find a deer being eaten by a zombie. They consider taking the meat and decide against it. Rick kills the zombie with a hatchet. 

Back at camp, Donna is almost killed by a zombie on their way back from washing the clothes. Dale cut the zombie’s head off, but it was still alive – so they shot it.

Issue 4

Rick wants to move camp, so he tells Shane. Shane says to stay, so they can be found easily by the government when they come to sort out the city. Rick admits defeat, for now, as Shane has been in charge for longer. 

Rick and Glenn go into the city again for more guns (Jim knew where the gun store was. Glenn tells Rick that Jim saw his whole family killed by zombies and was the only one to escape). 

Rick cuts up a zombie from the woods and he and Glenn smear gore on themselves to get through Atlanta without being smelt by zombies. They get to a gun store, filling a shopping cart, but then it starts to rain and wash away the gore off them. They manage to escape, but fire a lot of shots. 

Cut to Shane and Lori – Lori worries about Rick. Shane says he will “keep her company” while they wait, but Lori says no, saying it was a “mistake”, inferring they had sex – Shane looks crestfallen.

Issue 5

Opens with Rick and Shane teaching the camp members how to shoot, including 7 year-old Carl. Lori isn’t happy about it, but Rick wants his son to be safe and believes a gun will make him safer. 

Shane snaps at Rick while they are out cutting wood – this shows an increase in tension after Lori pushed him away at the end of Issue 4.

Later, they are all sitting around a campfire talking. Rick asks what people were doing before all this happened. 

  • Dale was a salesman for 40 years, then retired and bought the camper with his wife – 2 years later, the zombies came and his wife died at a campsite – Then he met Amy and Andrea outside Atlanta. 
  • Amy was a college student, Andrea was driving her to college – Amy did a P.E. major, and Andrea worked as a clerk at a Law firm. 
  • Glenn was a pizza delivery person, swimming in debt. 
  • Allen was a shoe salesman – his car broke down on the way to Atlanta, then they found the camp. 
  • Jim was a mechanic. 
  • Carol’s husband was a car salesman who killed himself at the beginning of the zombies coming; she escaped with the girls. 

Suddenly, Amy is bitten in the neck by a zombie. In the chaos, Carl has an awesome moment shooting a zombie in the head, saving his mum. Jim goes nuts, having an Oberen Martel moment with a zombie, but Shane calms him down. Issue 5 ends by showing us Jim has been bitten.

Issue 6

Opens with the burial of Amy. Carol is looking after Jim in a tent, but he’s getting worse. 

Shane, Rick, and Carl are hunting for food – Shane and Rick argue, Rick saying it’s Shane’s fault people are dead because they should have moved the camp earlier. 

Jim asks to be taken to a tree and left behind – “maybe when I come back I’ll find… find my family.” 

Just before Shane and Rick head out hunting again, Shane punches Rick. Lori calls Shane a “fucking lunatic” and Shane runs away. Rick chases after his old friend.

Shane pulls a gun on Rick. Shane feels like he has nothing without his normal life. At least he could have had Lori, but now Rick came back, he doesn’t even have her anymore. 

Shane goes to shoot Rick, but Carl shoots Shane through the neck, saving his dad: “Don’t hurt my daddy again!” Then, in the arms of Rick, Carl cries and says, “It’s not the same as killing the dead ones, daddy” – Rick replies, “it never should be, son, it never should be.”

Review of The Walking Dead: Days Gone By Arc

This review is spoiler-free for those who, somehow, have never read the comics or watched the TV show before. You can jump to the spoiler section here. All future reviews will have spoilers throughout.

Spoiler-Free Section

I absolutely love these comics. Like many people, I was introduced to The Walking Dead when the TV series from AMC started coming out. I think there had been two or three seasons by then. Only after a few years did I learn it was based on comic books, so I excitedly borrowed the first compendium from a friend and burned through the story!

Reading these six issues again, after not watching the TV show for several years (I intend to go back to it) and with almost ten years since I read the comics for the first time, I was blown away by how good they are.

Rick Grimes is an everyman. Like William Mandella in The Forever War, Rick could be absolutely anyone, making it ever so easy for the reader to imagine what it would be like to experience this horror in their shoes. 

As a police officer, he could have been corrupt or just working for a paycheck, but right off the bat you get the sense that he has a good heart, and cares a great deal about doing the right thing.

These six issues might not be packed with action, but that is a strength. Instead of basically every other zombie story out there, we instead get a character-driven narrative filled to the brim with a wide range of people – except a good number of them used to be salesmen!

I’ll end the spoiler-free section here – this is definitely a series worth reading if you have not already!

Spoiler Section

One of my favourite plot points in this arc is Rick going back to kill the zombie he finds outside the hospital, crawling along the ground. He has tears in his eyes, horrified not for himself but for what used to be a human being. 

This moment right here tells you everything you need to know about this character, and Kirkman barely needed to write a word down; instead letting Moore’s illustrations do the work.

Another character who I think deserves a special mention is Carl, Rick’s son. We see little of him, but from the glimpses we get you can tell he’s a resilient boy who has learned all he needs to know about right and wrong, and protecting the people you love from his father and mother. Lori’s full heart and fierce bravery in the face of everything will have given Carl a lot of strength to keep surviving.

Carl, a 7 year-old, kills two people. One was a zombie, and he didn’t even flinch. In doing so, he saves his mother. In Issue 6, he shoots Shane through the neck when it becomes clear the man will kill Rick. This hurts Carl a lot; he’s never killed a living person, let alone someone who has cared for him, but his father was in danger and there were no other options. These choices will define him for a long time to come, if not forever, and makes for an intriguing character to follow in the series.

Shane is a fascinating character. On the face of it, he’s just a dickhead bloke who wants his mate’s wife for himself. But when we look deeper we see instead a man who put on a strong facade but has been broken by what has happened to the world. He has nothing left; no job, few friends, not even a warm shower. He clung onto Lori and Carl as a new family, a future he could have, something to fight for, but when Rick came back alive, he took all that away from Shane. Shane, then, was left with nothing to fight for, and when Lori pushed him away, that was the final straw; he broke.

We see very little of anyone else in these first six issues of The Walking Dead as it is all a set up of the world and their situation. The story does a good job of showing us that no one is safe, and maybe not everyone is trustworthy either; something essential to understand for the rest of the series going forward.

Related to: The Walking Dead: Days Gone By – Story Arc Summary & Review

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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