***Warning – major spoilers ahead. Proceed at your own risk***
The end of an era has finally arrived. When Robert Kirkman first created The Walking Dead in 2003, it began as one man’s search for his family in the midst of an unbelievable apocalypse in which the dead have risen to prey on the living. As the story progressed, it became clear that the true monsters were not the animal-like walkers, but the surviving humans. When civilization fell so did the moral constraints of humans. Through the years, the main protagonist, Rick Grimes, has struggled with his own moral compass in attempting to achieve his end goal – to rebuild society and return life to a sense of stability and security. He had to take down the likes of the Governor, roaming cannibals, Negan, and the Whisperers to do it (not to mention combat his own people’s doubts in his leadership ability at times). He has experienced profound loss. He has seen tremendous victories. His latest (and final) story arc involved a quaint little community in Ohio that was rotting from within. Once again he rose above everything to bring peace to the turmoil of the people set upon by the power hungry. He did what needed to be done, even sacrificing his right hand man, Dwight. In the end, his want to have the people self-govern was his demise.
At the end of Issue #191, we saw Sebastian, the spoiled brat son of the Commonwealth’s former leader, Pamela, confront Rick in his bed brandishing a pistol. After a heated discussion, he accidentally squeezes off a round, striking Rick in the chest, leaving readers with a month-long cliffhanger. Well, we find #192 with the knowledge that Sebastian fires off a few more shots for good measure. After 16 years and 191 issues, Rick Grimes is dead. The remainder of the issue is an example of what Rick (and Kirkman) have tried to create – a world where justice is not a never-ending cycle of blood, but of actual justice. A brave new world that through blood, sweat, and limbs, Rick Grimes finally gave his life for. The end of the world isn’t necessarily the end and the human spirit can rise above and survive.
Where Kirkman takes his iconic book now is wide open, Carl survives to carry on his father’s legacy. The world of The Walking Dead is always full of peril and new threats can rise from any source, but as long as Carl Grimes carries his father’s spirit with him, there is hope.