January 2013: Well, now I remember why I never made it past Vol. 3. This shit is bleak as hell, and extremely disgusting. Rick & Co. have moved into the prison they found at the end of Vol. 2, and despite even their own reservations about allowing themselves to hope for even a little bit of something good, they start to believe that this place could be the answer to all of their own problems. Even the four inmates they find holed up inside -- a murderer, a tax evader, a drug addict, and a robber -- don't do much to dampen their enthusiasm for having a source of food, shelter, and protection against the zombies who are roaming in even greater numbers over the countryside now that the weather is warming up. Rick even goes back to Hershel's farm to invite Hershel and his surviving children to come live in the prison with them as it's theoretically safer.
You'll notice how I used that word: 'theoretically.' Because here's what happens: Allen is slowly going nuts, talking about how he's going to die to his young sons. Chris and Julie carry out a double murder pact, and Julie's father, Tyreese, ends up having to re-kill both of them after they turn into zombies. Tyreese works out his grief in a zombie cage-match that no one thinks he'll come out of -- but he's so ragey and scary at this point that he actually survives. Lori's pregnancy is eating her brain. Rick's leadership is eating his. And the supposed tax evading inmate turns out to be a serial killer. He kills Hershel's two youngest daughters, and tries to go after Andrea as well. Then Rick beats the shit out of him. It's all just a big, fat mess. And on top of all that, they discover that they're most likely all infected with the zombie virus or whatever it is, which is abundantly clear when both Chris and Julie turn without being bitten.
This volume feels less cohesive than the first two, but the dialogue is improving. The art continues to be stellar. I was particularly impressed with a panel near the middle of the book where little Carl and Sophia were in focus playing cards in the background, and the main figures in the front were blurry and in shadow. I wasn't a huge fan of the cliffhanger ending (see above mention of this volume feeling less cohesive), but I think it was certainly the most tense sequence of events yet, in large part because the threats the characters face in this one aren't coming from the zombies themselves, but the breakdown of society around them, and the increasing threat of dangers from within the group itself.Excited for the volumes after this nonetheless, because I mostly have no idea what's going to happen.
January 2011: The same as the last two, overall, with the added weirdness of a new zombie plot twist. Is it normal in other "zombie literature" for people to become zombies without being bitten? Kind of threw me for a loop.