As revealed to the public yesterday, “The Walking Dead” #193 marks the finale to the series that has run since October 2003. After the high quality of the preceding issues, how does the creative team finish up?
Warning: spoilers ahead.
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Charlie Adlard
Colored by Cliff Rathburn
Lettered by Rus Wooton
Out in the countryside, trouble is brewing for a certain someone.
“I can’t do this. Not anymore.“
Was this Carl Grimes talking in the penultimate issue of “The Walking Dead,” or Robert Kirkman? With the triple-size final issue of “The Walking Dead,” the writer has made his claim against the latter, saying that he wanted to keep going, but was stopped by the story’s natural flow. However, with how this epilogue plays out, it becomes somewhat difficult to believe that assertion.
Unlike the skip ahead following ‘All-Out War,’ the seemingly multiple-decade time jump in “The Walking Dead” #193 serves only to say the story is over, rather than actually provide any closure. In fact, the jump ahead is so massive that one could be forgiven for thinking it was made so as to avoid providing closure. The amount of time, on top of how the locations shown are, by and large, nearly completely new or close enough to it, makes placing anything in the story a fruitless exercise.
The tone is bizarre to say the least. There is an overwhelming sense of hope and messianic treatment of Rick Grimes, on top of, outside of some instigating factors, nearly no threat from the eponymous undead. Furthermore, the fact that only one person (and a very minor one at that) is shown to have died in the intervening period stretches credulity far beyond the breaking point, especially when many of them are only seen, sans dialogue, in a montage going over the various groups around the safe zone, as if Kirkman is calling them up for a curtain call rather than including characters as necessary for the current story as he had in the past. Are we seriously supposed to believe that nobody with a name ever died in conflict with any antagonistic group after Rick’s murder?
Perhaps the worst part of this final bow was the treatment of the franchise itself. “See The Walking Dead” is the name of a roaming carnival show with captive Walkers. Kirkman concocts a situation in which he can put the question “Do you know the market value for a walking dead?” and expects readers to be able to read said statement with a straight face instead of laughing at the all-but-inevitable commentary on the series’s value as a multimedia franchise as several of its adaptations are ending or otherwise dissolving around the same time as the comic’s conclusion. While that comment could possibly be excused to the tune of it being considered a ridiculous statement even within the world, the fact that the several sentences on the back of the various collected editions are apparently a famous in-world quotation shatters what suspension of disbelief could exist. Why would commentary on things like cable TV be included at the base of a statue like it were the Statue of Liberty? There’s no in-universe explanation at all.
The story doesn’t seem to even truly end, but to be making an attempt toward being the start of a new tale that will likely never come to pass, almost as though the words “The End” were meant to be a shocking twist before the fact that “The Walking Dead” #193 was the finale had been announced. Kirkman’s plot drives itself so far into left field that it appears to want to be an all-new “New West” zombie series that just happens to have characters with the same names as “The Walking Dead.” While the storytelling may work in that vein, it thereby fails at concluding the narrative of which it is actually a part. The only element that does seem to point toward it being the end is the extremely cliché final pages, which showcase how even in the process of trying to subvert expectations and work toward a realistic take one last time, Kirkman succumbs to expectation.Continued below
On the whole, Charlie Adlard’s illustration and Cliff Rathburn’s gray tones come together well for the majority of their run on “The Walking Dead.” Unfortunately, their quality level in the past makes the slips in “The Walking Dead” #193 all the more tragic. Various faces, especially those of older women, are given markedly less attention than before, making characters look different enough from their source that one could be forgiven for thinking they are completely new characters altogether, if not for said shifts only being one or two panels each before going back to a recognizable appearance.
Group shots are given even less detail, with characters in a crowd given only the barest distinguishing characteristics when far off, showing the apparent strain of having to get an entire seventy-plus page issue out on time. The work on the twice-monthly ‘All-Out War’ twelve-issue arc didn’t have these problems, so they are all the more glaring by contrast. Unfortunately, it seems that ‘The Farm House’ (as solicited on the issue itself) shows signs of encroaching decay, though whether the fault lies with Adlard, Rathburn, both, or neither is unclear.
Are we the walking dead? No, but this ending certainly is, and for all the wrong reasons. The creative team on “The Walking Dead” would have been better served to execute it at its natural death one issue ago, rather than have this rotting corpse shamble off into the sunset.
Final Verdict: 3.0 – Is any of this curtain call good? To paraphrase another negatively-received finale in 2019, ask us again in ten years. Or rather, don’t.