Could The Walking Dead continue in comic form with Old Man Carl taking over as lead character? Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic ended suddenly last month with one surprise final release following the death of Rick Grimes in the issue before. Set years into the future, The Walking Dead concluded with an epilogue that focused on Carl as a grown man with a child of his own. The Alexandrian safe zone has grown so large that many inhabitants have never before seen a zombie, and the U.S. is well on its way to restoring civilization.
The epilogue provides a mostly heart-warming conclusion to The Walking Dead's story and paints a hopeful picture of the future. Elsewhere, however, the franchise is continuing to expand. As AMC's live-action The Walking Dead and its spinoff, Fear The Walking Dead, continue to blaze forward, a third youth-focused series is also in the works. Not content with dominating the small screen, The Walking Dead is also heading to the movies, resuming the story of Rick Grimes following his departure from the TV show. With the franchise growing, it's a strange time for The Walking Dead's comic output to wind up, but Robert Kirkman has remained open about the possibility of a spinoff.
If a second The Walking Dead comic is eventually published, the conclusion of the original comic neatly sets up an Old Man Carl premise. Long before The Walking Dead was brought to a close, fans theorized that the whole story was being told by an older, grizzled Carl Grimes, who had outlived everyone else in similar fashion to Wolverine in the Old Man Logan comics. Although not quite an old man, the final issue of The Walking Dead does incorporate elements of this theory by positioning Carl as the last true remnant of the apocalypse's early years - the one man who still sees a deadly threat around every corner.
However, this chapter arguably serves better as a beginning than it does as an ending. Grown-up Carl is a fascinating character, and one that issue #193 barely scratches the surface of. He's a man of action and a rebel with a loner streak, simply seeking to protect his family. This characterization is similar to that of Carl's father, Rick, but includes several unique elements that would make Carl a fascinating protagonist in his own series.
While Old Man Carl (or, more accurately, Middle Aged Carl) is ready-made to lead his own series, what's the point in a second The Walking Dead comic if the zombie threat has more or less vanished? The Walking Dead's final issue provides a solution to this too, setting up a neat jumping-off point for a potential sequel comic. In the future timeline, the residents of the Alexandria safe zone and beyond have become complacent, so much so that Glenn and Maggie's son actually puts lives at risk by parading zombies around like a circus attraction, and then has Carl punished for killing them.
Clearly, the new world is falling into bad habits, and if The Walking Dead has taught viewers anything, it's that bad habits and complacency lead to zombie bites and hordes of undead knocking on the door. Glenn's son even threatens Carl, claiming that their feud isn't over, but this isn't developed in the final issue itself, paving the way for repercussions in a future series.
Kirkman has expressed an interest in a Negan spinoff comic, and the Old Man Carl setup would facilitate this desire too. Negan isn't seen in The Walking Dead's final chapter, but is confirmed to be alive, albeit living an isolated existence, with only Carl attempting to make contact. As the only two people who seemingly still bear the scars of the zombie apocalypse, Carl and Negan could make an interesting double act in a future series, either continuing on from The Walking Dead's epilogue, or filling in the gaps left by the finale's time skip.
The Walking Dead's comic series was a huge seller for Image, and is therefore unlikely to remain dormant for long, even if Kirkman himself doesn't continue as its writer. Promisingly, however, the Old Man Carl provides fruitful material if the series ever does make a return.
The Walking Dead season 10 premieres October 6th on AMC.