Robert Kirkman is the man who has penned every single issue of The Walking Dead since it began in 2003 (first with artist Tony Moore and then, for most of the run with Charlie Adlard). In an industry of reboots, stunt variant covers, fake ‘deaths’ and ever-changing creative teams, the title has been, if not quite unique, something of a simultaneous mainstream name, outlier and yet industry-leader. Even those who might have grown weary of the pacing, would probably have to admit that it never tried to imitate its peers and instead, often resolutely stuck to being and saying something at odds with its shelf-mates.
But, all good things come to and end and after Kirkman recently promising something major that would change the comic-book forever, he’s done just that.
In perhaps the biggest comics news of the year, Kirkman has stunned readers and the comics industry by announcing that Issue #193 of The Walking Dead, out on Wednesday… will be the comic’s final issue (at least according to agitant website Bleeding Cool, who have cited official announcements contained in the special issue). All the ordering information and story-elements trailed for future months was a trick and that Kirkman has been planning this send-off for a long time with the full co-operation of publishers, Image. The final issue will be a feature-length, soft-bound edition running to almost three times the amount of material usually seen in the monthly, but after that – no more.
Last month, Kirkman and Adlard followed through on the sudden demise of their leading protagonist Rick Grimes, felled by a bullet from a minor-league petulant enemy and underlining the fact that even in a zombie-filled apocalyptic world, it’s sometime the devil in the detail that gets you – and that in such a scenario, no-one was safe. Many wondered how Kirkman would shape the story going forward (though he always said it was more about Rick’s son Carl and his world than Rick’s). There will be loyal readers who are upset over the sudden, unexpected loss of their favourite title, but it actually speaks highly of all involved that they wanted to – and importantly GOT to – finish the story on their own terms. Of course, The Walking Dead has also become a live-action phenomenon – with two series to date and another series and a set of tv movies (including oen featuring Andrew Lincoln’s very-much-alive version of Rick) to come over the next couple of years, also containing a lot of the characters Kirkman established over fifteen years but sometimes with different fates than their comic counterparts.
Kirkman has – at least to date – refused to address how the apocalypse happened, insisting that the title was about the people who survived a shift in the world dynamic and how they survived and reshaped it. It seems that remit and mission statement will ring true.
The Walking Dead #193 is out on Wednesday, published by Image.