Stew’s Reviews: Clementine

My wife was upset at me when I let it slip that I recently played the final season of TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead without her.

She has never been much of a gamer herself, but she really enjoyed the character and story driven narrative of that series as it followed a young girl named Clementine through the zombie apocalypse. As the first three seasons of the series came out, she’d get together with me and just watch me play and make big reactions to everything that happened. To this day, we will occasionally see something mundane and point at it and say “It’s a shed”, reminiscing about how Lee had such silly reactions in season one.

Right when the final season started, there ended up being a whole kerfuffle about TellTale Games closing down. So while folks (like me) paid for the final season in advance, the game wasn’t finished, and now it wasn’t positive it ever would be.

At some point, Skybound got involved and picked up the slack to finish the game, but I had honestly forgotten all about it. I hadn’t wanted to start a Final Season I may never see resolved, so I just left it on my PS4, buried in my game library.

I recently got sucked into the black hole of a game streamer on YouTube, and I came across his playthroughs of the entire Walking Dead series. I didn’t want to watch his final season videos before I knew how the game, though, and I proceeded play it out myself first.

But, unlike how seasons 1-3 went, I didn’t tell my wife so she could watch the story.

She is still a bit upset that I didn’t alert her. I should… I should probably replay it with her so she can heal from this intense trauma.

But really? I’m kind of glad she wasn’t there because the last chapter broke me the hell down. No one needs to see that. She laughs at me when something makes me cry more than her. Good storytelling just HITS me, okay?! I’m a sensitive guy!

Oh, by the way, this comic is SPOILERS for the last season of TellTale’s game, so if you haven’t played it yet… this article will ruin some things!

TITLE: Clementine, book one

Writer and Artist: Tillie Walden

Publisher: Image

Protagonists: Clementine

Antagonists: Walkers and typical TWD stuff

In the wake of the finale to The Final Season, Clementine, minus half of her left leg, is on the move again, continuing the journey north from Georgia that all TWD series seem to make (probably excepting Fear The Walking Dead, which I’ve hard is good, but have never watched). She has left the Ericson school behind, which is kind of a decision made out of necessity for the book so that Walden does not have to create a world TOO strikingly different from where the reader might have left Clementine in their own play through.

She first comes across an Amish community where she gets a new prosthetic leg and meets Amos, a boy heading to Vermont with the promise of helping to build a community there and… getting a plane ride in return. It’s his Rumspringa, so… I guess he’s allowed to ride in a plane. Also, the rules of the zombie apocalypse are different even for the Amish.

When they arrive in Vermont, they meet two twins (later revealed to be named Georgia and Olivia) who are looking for people to help build this new community on an Appalachian mountain, safe from walkers. There is actually only one other recruit, a girl named Ricca who is just two years older than Clem herself.

It’s The Walking Dead, so OF COURSE things are never as good as they seem (and even at their best here, they seem pretty rotten; Clem and her new partners are stuck building houses in the winter of a New England mountaintop). Some characters are harboring secrets. Others don’t make it to the final conclusion.

But Clementine gets a kitten at the end of the story! Which is nice. I REALLY thought they were going to eat the kitten when they found it.

First of all: I have a problem!

Getting Clem out of Ericson is a necessity, and I said I get that. But in the universe of this story, Clem has just up-and-up LEFT A.J. BEHIND, and neither of those characters I know from playing the final season would have allowed that to happen. I’m relatively sure there’s no way you can play season four that would see AJ die, so he has to be alive in this world. Not only does the book just have Clem say she left the school, she never even MENTIONS AJ (you get a glimpse of him in a flashback to a scene that happens in the game, and that is it for any kind of presence from him)!

Now, I get that this is Book One of however-many-there-will-be. It’s impossible that Walden isn’t going to address AJ more in depth later on in the series, but it’s a HUGE elephant in the room here, and it rings as disingenuous to the character.

That’s my biggest problem. It’s just hard to accept this reality after playing the games. Clem and AJ leaving Ericson together? Sure! But Clem on her own without him? I don’t buy it. Let’s go back in time and assume that in season one, Lee had survived. And then season two started with Lee on his own, having left Clem behind? And not even mentioning her? No one would accept that!

Aside from that nugget that I kept expecting the book to give me some details on when it never does, I will say the art here… it works for the story. I’m not saying it’s bad art or anything. It’s not polished, and sometimes the characters and objects not in focus are little more than stick figures.

Why do you keep turning into a scarecrow, Amos?

At other points, the art is just unclear. There were multiple moments where I had to read and re-read pages to figure out what was going on. Some moments are just illustrated well enough to make it obvious; others don’t seem to have a good storytelling flow.

But if you get past the art and the lack of AJ, the story here is more than adequate. It does feel like a deserving entry in an established universe, and I could 100% hear Melissa Hutchinson’s voice in my head for Clem’s dialogue. It felt authentic to the character (at least as I played her). At a point, Walking Dead stories are what they are, and while I do think that the TellTale series has told the best contiguous arc of the whole franchise… it’s all ultimately “There are walkers and there are evil people and WHICH IS WORSE?”. You can only do so much with that, right?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

OVERALL

Would I like this as much if it didn’t feature a character I was already attached to? Or would I like it more because I wouldn’t have the stupid AJ stuff clogging up my brain? Honestly, it’s probably the latter. This is a solid tale with some fitting, albeit very flawed, art.

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