Clementine by Tillie Walden is a brand new graphic novel set in the universe of The Walking Dead. It is aimed at a YA audience – the characters in Clementine are teens – but can easily be read up. It also stands on its own well enough that readers unfamiliar with The Walking Dead will not suffer from a lack of context. I personally came to this with only the vague knowledge that it is a zombie story and the adaptation is very popular – I’m a huge Tillie Walden fan and was drawn to Clementine through that. I understand that the character of Clementine is one that pops up in the original story, and this is the first graphic novel that features solely on her.
A bleak world post zombie apocalypse, in which our characters are fighting for survival is a good baseline situation for a reader of grimdark. In this instance, this is made even more gruelling by setting most of the story on an isolated mountain top during winter. The story only features five main characters, and large swathes of story have them separate from the rest of the remains of humanity. This makes for a tense story. Clementine’s focus is on the small interactions between these individuals as they try to make it through the winter, work through their personal and interpersonal issues – and fall in love.
Tillie Walden managed to make me, the staunchest of zombie haters fall for this story. As Clementine and her friends fight for their lives and against these creatures, their humanity starkly comes to life. And so it is about growing up in contrast to this, about becoming an adult in a world where it never seemed possible to have a future. I think that’s a sentiment that will resonate with a lot of young readers these days, with people who experience a world broken in many ways, questioning how to find their way in the chaos. While our world doesn’t have quite the amount of destruction Clementine’s world does, there are parallels that can be drawn, and Tillie Walden expertly uses them to connect the worlds.
In this age where we’re all crying out for queer and diverse books, it is wonderful to see a grimdark graphic novel aimed at a younger audience featuring a sapphic relationship and a disabled protagonist. Clementine herself is missing a leg, struggles with her disability at times, and I loved seeing that in a mainstream graphic novel connected to a major franchise. In short, an enthusiastic five stars to Clementine from me and I hope you check this one out.