Warning: MASSIVE SPOILERS for The Walking Dead's final issue
The final issue of The Walking Dead has finally arrived, bringing the story of the Grimes family, the Walkers, and the fate of the world to an end. Robert Kirkman made it clear that his comic was the tale of Rick Grimes, and the final pages prove just how true that promise really was.
Leading into this final issue, the book proved it had surprises left to stun the readers. Fans were shocked when Rick Grimes was killed in The Walking Dead #192, fans knew things were about to change. What they didn't expect was for the comic series to surprisingly end with The Walking Dead #193. But Kirkman may have saved his biggest surprise for last, ending the story of Carl Grimes, and The Walking Dead, not in death or tragedy... but with a happy ending.
The issue begins by jumping decades into the future, in a twist that Kirkman admits in the final letters pages was kept secret from readers, down to cover art released in solicitations to suggest the series would chronicle the death of Carl, right after his father. Thankfully that is not the case. Instead, Carl grows into a man fittingly similar to his father, residing on a farmhouse with his wife Sophia, and their daughter Andrea. The only distinguishing detail is his eyepatch, now worn to keep the darkness of the past hidden from his six-year-old girl... who has never even seen an undead 'Roamer.'
The cover art for the image teased a surviving zombie striding towards Carl's home, and that's the scene into which Issue #193 opens. Fortunately, Carl kills it swiftly and silently with Michonne's blade, before seeking out an aging and deteriorating Earl. As Earl's mind goes, Carl admits to Sophia that it often makes him wonder if his own father passing in his prime was a blessing... which he soon regrets ever thinking. The truth of the biting menace is later revealed to be just one of several Roamers in a traveling show run by Hershel Greene--son of Glenn and Maggie--allowing townsfolk to "See The Walking Dead" for a price. Naturally Carl is disgusted at the show, claiming it to run against everything his father would have wanted (not to mention asking for humanity's doom to repeat itself).
To make a long story short, Maggie (now President) intervenes to settle the charges if Carl replaces the attraction. Instead, Carl slaughters the rest of Hershel's collection, and goes on one last tour of familiar faces across the open country. It seems like a case of Kirkman and artist Charlie Adler giving fans an update on surviving characters, like Eugene (building a railway to unite the East and West), Laura, Elias, an unseen Negan, and others before Carl returns home to face the music. But with the case rising to The High Court, the new and ultimate judge of the new Colonies, Carl gets one last chance to appeal to those who remember his father. It doesn't hurt that the lone authority of the High Court is Judge Hawthorne--better known to her friends as Michonne.
Not only is Carl allowed to go free, but Michonne rules his argument persuasive enough to bolster her own beliefs that the practice of owning the undead is to be abolished. Leaving Carl to return home to Sophia and Andrea in time for bed.
The time which followed the rise of the undead, and the horrible fight to survive is now referred to as "The Trials.' But as Carl laments that the statues of his father, 'the man who made this new world,' turn him from a living man into a legend, the book's final pages show a different but nonetheless hopeful vision for the future. As Carl reads Andrea a story before bedtime, the book he chooses encapsulates the entire run of The Walking Dead beforehand, with his father at the heart of it. Fittingly, the book is written as one would describe the story of Rick Grimes and the comic series to a child. Good people, bad people, and making friends the thing that finally saved the world. And as Carl informs a less-than-riveted Andrea that the man whose story is told in this book is her grandfather, she teases that Carl never fails to point it out.
The book ends on a single image of Carl and Andrea, together and happy, having survived for the world that comes after. In other words, the very future that Rick Grimes was always fighting to make possible.
The Walking Dead #193 is available now at your local comic book shop, and direct from Image Comics.