A significant improvement over the first compendium in that the characters develop much more fully. The bloodletting continues unabashed through the first half of the volume, but seems more purposeful than a means to impress an audience inured to gore. The particular set of plot lines continues the stronger humans-as-a-menace-worse-than-the-living-dead theme by focusing on a building contrast between civilization and barbarism. There's a greater emphasis placed on society-building, moral relativism and fundamentality that makes this series grow more and more thought provoking by the issue. In addition, the transformation of Rick Grimes is a horrific, but realistic thing to watch. So far, we've identified with Rick for the everyman adjustments he has to make to his sense of self and moral code to survive and protect his family. The obvious question thus becomes: how far is too far? Does protecting your son still mean something if in the process your son is no longer recognizable? Is it just a fact of life that the next generation of humans will have to evolve and become something separate and other from their predecessors because of changing conditions? Doesn't that happen to a certain extent anyway? How do we select what to pass on and what to let go? All of these questions were lurking beneath the surface of the first compendium's self-revelry in gruesome violence and (I felt) being repressed by a greater desire to be "cooler" than other works in the genre.
This is a volume worthy of the Eisner Award its constituents received. It's definitely a page-turner and finally I feel like I'm turning the pages not to see who dies next, but to see how people live in this strange new world. The last plot line in particular opens a wider vista that provides some of the first real hope in the series thus far and the potential to make a personal story for survival into something far more epic.