As you might have heard, today’s issue of The Walking Dead, #193, is also the series finale. News broke earlier in the week about this surprise twist, which was confirmed by writer Robert Kirkman and Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson.
“I’ll say it again, I love (loved… oh, god, I’m not ready for past tense) writing this series. I really don’t want it to end. In fact, I’ve been… kind of unsettled since I wrote the script for this issue. The whole thing just feels… weird,” Kirkman said. “In a way, killing this series has been a lot like killing a major character. Much, much harder… but the same feeling. I don’t WANT to do it. I’d rather keep going… but the story is telling me what it wants and what it needs. This needs to happen. Whether I want it or not.”
I can still remember pulling the first issue off the shelf at my local comic shop back when I lived in Dallas, thinking “What’s this?” as I flipped through it. I was usually pretty up on the latest comic news, but I had never heard of this title and, truthfully, didn’t know Kirkman or artist Tony Moore at the time. But the cover, those first few pages … they drew me in, and I took it home. And I’ve been doing that for, what, 16 years now?
I kept coming back to it for many reasons, one being just how utterly unpredictable it was. Have a favorite Walking Dead characters? Not anymore! Kirkman wasn’t afraid to make you fall in love with someone, only to see them senselessly be slaughtered somewhere down the road. It made sense, in the bigger context of the book, as these characters faced living death itself to try and survive — and eventually thrive. (Hell, I’m not sure I ever really recovered from the death of Lori and Judith in the comics, and now this?)
Charlie Adlard eventually replaced Moore, and carried the torch to the end. I’ve lived with these characters now for a good chunk of my own life; I’ve seen them live, fight and die; I’ve seen them jump to television screens and video games and action figures; and I’ve seen them move away from just surviving to actually building a world again. We saw Rick Grimes, the series protagonist and guiding light, die over the course of the last two issues — the biggest hint of what was to come in issue #193 — and with this last issue, we see his legacy. The comic hits on this pretty hard, showing what life is like in this new world post-walkers, post-conflict, post-Rick Grimes. There’s a hint of danger still lurking, but for the most part, humanity is on the upswing. And so are many of the people Grimes helped along the way, in particular his son Carl, who grew into the man Grimes hoped for.
And now it’s over, despite the fact that subsequent issues were solicited. It turned out to be ruse, to keep the surprise intact until we got to issue #193. I respect that Image Comics was willing to go that far to try and surprise us (even if the press did what they could to spoil it). Issue #193 is a satisfying, fitting end to the world of walkers that Kirkman, Moore, Adlard and the rest built. Cheers to the team who told us this story and brought it to the conclusion they were hoping for.