The Walking Dead #193
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
”Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing… you’re there and you’re safe because of Rick Grimes.”
Robert Kirkman pulls off the impossible with the stirring stealth finale of The Walking Dead #193. Not only is this issue a wonderfully succinct wrap-up to the horror epic, delivered under clandestine circumstances for maximum impact, but it’s a pretty damn good single issue. Picking up years after the death of Rick Grimes, his legacy now upholds a brand-new Commonwealth: one prosperous and safe, and still expanding, with many fan-favorite characters in positions of power.
Evoking the tone and format somewhat of his equally legacy-focused conclusion to Invincible, Robert Kirkman, along with longtime collaborators Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, take a “victory lap” of sorts in this universe, wrapped in a story of a man coming to terms with his father’s “legend.” A legend that he himself lived, every terrifying moment of it. Tense, emotional, and always surprising, The Walking Dead #193 dies as it lived; constantly surprising us with great comic books.
When we last left The Walking Dead, the world was mourning the death of Rick Grimes. But as the recap page tersely says, “this is what happened next.” From there, the world of The Walking Dead #193 is an entirely new one. Carl is now an adult, still defending the Farm House with Michonne’s blade. He has a family now - a daughter who only knows the world before from storybooks. Her favorite being one about her grandfather, hero of the Trials, the name given to the events of the comic in this new society.
But even though the world is at peace, settling into a sort of new proto-western way of life, relying on horses, carts, and trains, there are still tensions. Old enemies that survived the Trials still live, and Carl finds himself at odds with the now grown Hershel, who enjoys a kind of “untouchable” status in the Commonwealth now that his mother Maggie is the President.
Like his Invincible finale, Kirkman is very much playing with large scale world building and a story about legacy. But unlike that finale, The Walking Dead’s finale is much more streamlined, providing a cohesive and shockingly accessible single story. Of course, longtime readers are going to get more out of it, but as far as a 'single comic experience,' it is a pretty damn good one. Anyone with even just a cursory knowledge of the franchise would enjoy this.
That, to me, is what makes this finale all the more powerful. While it adds a bit more pathos to the release knowing that the creative team got to end it on their own terms, those terms actually have to be good, right? And they very much are here. Every major surviving character, plus some surprises, gets a warm send-off, all in conjunction with Carl’s closure with the legacy of his father and the world Rick Grimes died to build. It is really stirring stuff, made even more so by the attention being paid to making this just a good single issue. When I said “victory lap” earlier, I meant it, and if anyone deserves it, it is this creative team.
Artists Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn also send the series out on a high note visually. Leaning fully into the Commonwealth’s Western-inspired design, Adlard’s regimented panels and expressive character models shine with the genre trappings. He also excels with the new expansion from the time jump. Aided by the shading and shadows of Rathburn, Adlard leads us carefully into the new world, starting from the quiet calm of Carl’s farm to the very halls of power in the new world, where a statue of his father stands over all. While I wish some of the scenes weren’t staged so intimately, rather than getting a better look at this new world overall, Adlard and Rathburn close the book on The Walking Dead with steady hands and incredible consistency.
Honestly, that should be the lasting legacy for The Walking Dead - consistency. Consistent shocks, consistent stakes, and consistent surprises. It was only fitting that their last one be the finale. And wouldn’t you know it, even that is a rock-solid experience, paying loving tribute to the universe it created and its characters. They say part of the journey is the end, and Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn made both worthwhile. Putting a heartfelt capstone on an incomparable achievement in creator-owned comic books, The Walking Dead has more than earned its time to rest in peace.