As I mentioned in my review of the first installment in this series, it "ended with a twist I wasn't anticipating." I didn't want to spoil it for anyone by going into details, but I will do so here, under "spoiler" tags.
The first book introduces the Blake brothers--Philip and Brian--plus Philip's little daughter Penny and the brothers' childhood friends Bobby and Nick. Like many others in the Walking-Dead 'verse, these characters begin with the belief that there will be help for them and other survivors in Atlanta. They leave the relative safety of a gated community they have stumbled upon, leaving when Bobby succumbs to a "biter" attack and they perceive that they lack the resources to stave off the local undead. Once in Atlanta, they of course soon learn that there is no organized help to be found. For a short time, they take shelter in an apartment complex with an older man and his two adult daughters--formerly performers in a family band. Their tenure with the family ends once Philip fails to stop when an intimate moment with one of the daughters progresses farther/more quickly than she feels ready for it to (aka, he rapes her). Big sister drives them away at gunpoint the next morning. (Dad has already died of a chronic condition.)
The next place they are holed up is a remotely located mansion. This seems like an idyllic situation until a small group of raiders appears and attacks them. Penny dies in the skirmish (while Brian is in the nearby woods with her, trying to keep her safe). Philip, who has already been unraveling, gets further unhinged and beats Brian nearly to death. Those of us who have been recalling that the eventual Governor is none other than Philip Blake nod sagely and tell ourselves that he is well on his way to becoming that guy. This continues when he ties up and repeatedly tortures two of the people in the group of marauders, as well as repeatedly raping the female marauder. (In his head he has randomly dubbed them "Sonny and Cher.")
The knowing nods continue as Philip cannot bring himself to kill Zombie!Penny. When the group makes its way to Woodbury and Philip begins secretly feed Zombie!Penny and smuggles her into their apartment. Those nods continue even harder when Brian and Nick discover that Philip has kidnapped a girl, and it's not clear whether he means to rape her, kill her to feed her body to Zombie!Penny, or maybe both. But then--NICK KILLS PHILIP. And Nick is killed, too. And in the final scene--the one I alluded to in my linked review for the first book--Brian takes charge of Woodbury by shooting the crazy sociopath who has previously forced himself onto the town and spontaneously takes over by organizing others in the town to defeat his followers. Upon being asked his name, he replies, "Philip Blake." See what they did there? Brian Blake, the fearful, weak brother, refashions himself into his lost brother. WWPD? What would Philip Do?
And he proceeds to have a psychotic break of sorts--where he pretty well convinces himself that he really is Philip Blake. And even though he has previously been mortified that Philip has kept Penny around in zombie form, suddenly he's now Penny's daddy and takes over the role of feeding her and trying to maintain a paternal "relationship" to her. He grows out his hair and affects a fu manchu mustache.
As the series progresses, there are even times when the "Brian" side of self-named "Philip" battles with the "Philip" side. The "Philip" side is increasingly dominant. When Michonne is torturing him, his "Brian" side appears to finally die altogether. Just before he finally dies in the fourth book, his brain decides to remind him that Philip Blake is dead and has been for some time. He dies denying it.
To me, this all counts as a retcon. I realize that one could argue that it doesn't actually contradict anything that was presented in the graphic-novel canon. I know there are sometimes arguments that as long as that is the case, a retcon can be considered a "good" retcon. But I can't help thinking that this entire retcon was kind of gratuitous. Why have a Brian Blake who took on the persona of a dead brother Philip Blake, instead of just having the Governor be Philip Blake?
To those of you who have read this series: how to you feel about this Gubernatorial retcon?