10th Jul2019

‘The Walking Dead #193′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Robert Kirkman | Art by Charlie Adlard | Published by Image Comics

twd-193-cover

Robert Kirkman was crazy. That was pretty much the consensus when he decided to launch this ongoing title in 2003. What’s so crazy with that, I hear you ask. Well, an ongoing horror comic just doesn’t really sell. An ongoing black and white series just doesn’t really sell. An ongoing black and white horror series? You do the maths. Except here we are 16 years later, and the book is still going. Or was (we’ll get to that). Not only that, The Walking Dead has become a cultural phenomenon. The TV show, the novels, the games, the conventions, all exist thanks to Kirkman’s belief that the ideas from a horror film could be extended to an open ended story. Another interesting thing to note is that Kirkman has written the entire book since inception, and Charlie Adlard has drawn all but 6 of those issues. For them, this issue was bittersweet, as it is the last ever issue of The Walking Dead.

Say what now? Yep, last issue. Kirkman rather sneakily had had Adlard mock up future covers for the preview orders for future issues, so that nobody knew the end was coming. In this day and age, of social media and industry gossip, this was a pretty amazing achievement. If you haven’t been following The Walking Dead of late, it doesn’t really matter, as it follows long story arcs that develop slowly and fluctuate between great character development and outbreaks of extreme violence, both from the undead and the even more dangerous other survivors. If you only watch the TV show, things are slightly different in that Carl Grimes is still very much alive in the comic book version. Indeed, you’ll see this final issue couldn’t exist without Carl. Also, Rick Grimes is definitively dead, shot dead by a fellow survivor, and briefly a walker before Carl himself put him out of his misery. So, let’s check out ‘The Farm House’.

We start with a motif we have seen many times, a lone walker lurching towards a house. A farmhouse. Michonne’s blade swiftly dispatches it, but it’s not Michonne wielding it. It’s Carl. An older, bearded Carl. Carl now lives with wife Sophia, and daughter Andrea, in relative safety now. This is a world where the walking dead have now been reduced to nothing more than a fairground attraction, where this walker had escaped from. Carl is chastised for both killing the walker, or roamer as they are called here, and is in trouble for destroying private property. Turns out the travelling showman Carl annoyed is Maggie’s grown up son Hershel Greene. In court, Rick is ordered to find another roamer to replace the one he killed, and Maggie, now President of the Commonwealth, arrives in town to meet with Carl and her son.

All of this is a good plot device which allows Kirkman to give us little glimpses of this future time, how people have become lazy with their new found safety, how human nature always comes full circle. Appropriately enough, a very George Romero-esque way of looking at things. Roamers are now commodities, not to be feared, and Carl regrets the world that he and his father helped create. He is the past now, and time moves on. Kirkman gives fans an affectionate last look at this world, as Carl does the rounds dropping off supplies around the communities. This is a world in recovery. Where trains run, where authority and lawfulness is re-established, where society is becoming more ‘normal’. At every point Kirkman emphasises the parallels with the old West, with the frontier mentality. This is highlighted by Eugene building the railroad further and further westward to link up with the Western Alliance.

Characters come and go, with an affectionate nod here and there. Carl decided to kill all of Hershel’s roamers, he is Rick’s son of course, and is taken to the highest court in the land, one presided over by a certain Judge Hawthorne. Michonne, to you and me. Michonne of course will not allow Carl to go to prison, and exonerates him, leaving the two to have a nice heart to heart, followed by a less nice one with Hershel and Carl. But, at the end of the day, this is Rick Grimes story, and this is the world that Rick Grimes built. The final ten pages, with Carl reading to his daughter, couldn’t be better in terms of summing up the past, and giving us a glimpse of the future. Not a perfect future, but why should it be, in the image of Rick as it is. Rick was fallible, he made mistakes, he made errors of judgement, but when push came to shove, he always fought the good fight. Rick is, in essence , all of us.

This was a delight from start to finish. Kirkman and Adlard delivered perfect script and art, as consistent nearly two decades later as when it all began. This was a perfect love letter to the world Robert Kirkman created and like all love affairs, it hurts to leave. But leave we must. When you leave with both a smile and a tear, it’s been the perfect journey.

A perfect end for a near perfect journey

***** 5/5

The Walking Dead #193 is out now from Image Comics.

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