The Walking Dead, one of the longest-running indie comic book titles ever, is coming to an end this week with issue #193. The zombie saga of a group of survivors in a changed world began in 2003, and would go on to become a massive media franchise.
Since its onset, The Walking Dead has provided an ongoing storyline with many different characters. The series has been praised for its compelling writing, and unexpected plot directions. Whereas it can be hard for readers to take superhero deaths seriously, death in The Walking Dead is final. From Lori to Andrea, creator Robert Kirkman has surprised readers a number of times throughout the years by killing off characters. The biggest surprise happened in the previous issue. Rick Grimes, the focus and protagonist of the series, was gunned down. It seemed the series would continue on without him, with perhaps Carl stepping up or Negan returning to the cast. Alas, Kirkman had one more surprise up his sleeve: the sudden ending of the popular comic.
The Walking Dead #193 marks the end of the series. At the end of the issue, which releases tomorrow, Robert Kirkman wrote a detailed letter (via IGN) confirming the conclusion of the saga.
"THE WALKING DEAD has always been built on surprise. Not knowing what’s going to happen when you turn the page, who’s going to die, how they’re going to die... it’s been ESSENTIAL to the success of this series. It’s been the lifeblood that’s been keeping it going all these years, keeping people engaged."
"It just felt WRONG and against the very nature of this series not to make the actual end as surprising as all the big deaths... from Shane all the way to Rick."
Kirkman also revealed the comic's original planned ending. During the storyline, "NO WAY OUT," Rick made a stand at Alexandria, stating the place was worth settling in and fighting for. According to Kirkman, this would have been the end, with one final twist. The comic would zoom in on Rick's face, and then on the next page, show that a statue had been built in his honor. However, the panels would keep zooming out, showing that the statue, along with Alexandria, was old and rundown.
"We’d keep zooming out until we saw that the statue was in Alexandria, the same place where he gave the speech, but it was different. It was old and rundown, broken windows and missing doors. We would keep zooming out until a zombie walked by, then another... and we’d see that Rick had brought them to Alexandria, given this grand speech about rebuilding civilization and SUCCEEDED to the point that they built a statue to honor him... but in the end, the dead won, society crumbled again, this time seemingly for good... and that was it."
Fans are no doubt in shock over the news, and rightfully so. Although a series like The Walking Dead must have an ending at some point, it didn't seem it would be anytime soon. Readers will debate if the original planned ending is superior to the one in tomorrow's issue. The original one definitely would have been unexpected. At the same time, as Kirkman notes, the ending would have made the overall story bleak and pointless. The Walking Dead may be grim, and features plenty of death, but there was always hope in the end. The ongoing theme was that if humanity bands together, and does not succumb to the ways of the dead or lose any sense of morality, hope survives. Tomorrow, readers will see how the story that began 16 years ago comes to an end.