It’s been years since I did a Walking Dead review on day of the latest issue’s release. This issue is big and worth the post.
I mean it, full spoilers. If you don’t want to know anything, stop reading now! Go back.
Alright. Here we are.
This is the last issue of The Walking Dead. No advance notice, no time for retailers to increase their orders. The issue has a $3.99 cover price and is selling for at least $20 on the day it came out. Comic shops are limiting shoppers to one copy per person.
Fans debated for years that the story might be Carl’s tale all along and not Rick’s. When Rick (again, spoilers) died last issue that theory seemed to be confirmed. The story will continue with Carl growing up. Maybe even another time jump to him as an adult. It doesn’t matter though because this is it.
Rick was murdered in the previous issue. Carl asks to take his body back “home” to be buried next to his late love, Andrea. This journey is by no means a solo one, as all the characters Rick has influenced over the previous 191 issues that are still alive show up to give their respects. It’s not only a send off for Rick, it’s a curtain call for the series.
Today’s issue shows what happens next. I have to guess around 10 years later, if not more. Carl is married to Sophia and has a daughter named Andrea. They live in a farmhouse on the edges of the safe zone, reminiscent of Hershel’s farm from the early part of the series. He has a more well crafted eye patch because he’s concerned his scars could scare his daughter. All seems well until a Roamer shows up. Carl’s instinct takes hold and he destroys the zombie with Michonne’s signature sword. Carl and Sophia talk about this surprise intruder and give great exposition. The area is safe, there are multiple check points, their daughter has never seen a zombie. What used to be commonplace is now so rare it’s a call for concern. Like growing up in the woods where bears are seen daily then moving to the city. Years later a bear walks through the city. Something that exists, something familiar, but so out of place it’s a symbol something is greatly wrong.
Carl asks if someone is in town and an answer appears. Maggie’s son, Hershel, is the owner and carnival barker of a traveling show of zombies. “Come see the walking dead!” The zombies are now so rare that they’re a sideshow curiosity. Carl is disgusted by this and repeatedly says “that’s not what my father died for.” True, but in this new world it is considered a destruction of private property and a trial takes place.
That’s right, the last issue of The Walking Dead is a trial. On many levels. The time of the zombies is now called “The Trials” during which everyone was tested. Carl has not one but two trials because he goes back to destroy all of the zombie pets. The story brings in everyone still living through Carl’s day to day journeys leading up to the trial. He rides to various areas of the new society as a post apocalypse Pony Express. Every cast member still alive appears in their new lives along the way – Eugene, Jesus, Michonne, Maggie, Lydia, Negan, and on.
Carl can’t completely trust or accept this new world. He’s seen society collapse once and worries as this new world gets more comfortable, it could happen again. He’s a man out of time in a way but his family name is hallowed. Thus his doomsaying is accepted on the same level as grandpa’s war stories.
In the end, that is exactly who the story is about. Not only does Michonne quote a statue that is literally the same word for word as the summary on the back of the first graphic novels. Also, Rick looms large as a statue in front of the courthouse. There are tributes, legends, even books about Rick and how he saved the world. The comic ends with Carl reading a children’s book about his dad to his daughter. The young Andrea is literally hearing her grandfather’s war stories.
Recently everyone wants to hate how a long running thing ends. Even going so far as raising money to film alternate endings. I’m not sure how I wanted The Walking Dead to end. This definitely isn’t what I would have predicted. If anything I thought we would see more of the world. The west coast, other countries, maybe even Rick finally finding someone like him. A reluctant moral leader.
Ultimately, it’s a satisfying ending. This is it for these characters. The world is not perfect but it’s better. Here’s where all the characters you know and love have ended up. While the story is over, it doesn’t feel closed. There are enough developments in this time jump to potentially be followed up on years from now.
The zombies are controlled, like a predictable natural disaster. Humans learn how to deal with snow, storms, earthquakes, fires and more. The walkers are no more than a force of nature that they have learned how to safely live with. But humans are always in flux. As the story ends The Walking Dead reminds readers that the thing to fear the most is other people.
When something long running ends, I like to look back at the beginning as well. Remember Rick waking up from being shot. Missing the start of the apocalypse. Before we met anyone. Before anyone was lost. The farm, the prison, the Governor, Negan, the war, the Whisperers, and on. Before any of it. Rick woke up.