WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead#192, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, on sale now.
Almost every major death in The Walking Dead leaves a lasting impression on fans. We saw this in the past when Negan killed Glenn, when the Governor put a bullet through Hershel and when Andrea died after it seemed she and series protagonist Rick Grimes would have a happily-ever-after.
The most recent death was the biggest in the series to date, with Sebastian Milton killing Rick in The Walking Dead #192. Following the hero's attempt to usher in a new era of peace, Sebastian caught Rick unaware at the the Commonwealth and shot him in his bed. Carl Grimes is then forced to put down his zombified father, sealing his fate and leaving a lot of fans angry.
Writer Robert Kirkman has repeatedly stated it was just a matter of time until Rick would die. However, many held out hope Kirkman was lying, and the series would end with Rick alive and old. After all, Andrew Lincoln's Rick survived on the TV show, making him seem untouchable, even if last October Kirkman made clear the comics character would go out in a different way than the show. Many didn't believe last issue's cliffhanger would actually result in Rick's death, thinking he might recover and that the act was just a hook for issue #192. However, when the comic marks characters like Dwight, who Rick killed to maintain peace at the Commonwealth, for death, fans expect them to die. Conversely, when the comic makes clear Rick will die, it's hard to accept because he's the Superman of this apocalyptic world and able to survive anything.
The reason Rick's death is so shocking is because Kirkman created a true blue hero, one of those rare incorruptible symbols in comics that's hard to come across, no matter the publisher. However, the death is consistent with the shocking nature of the world Kirkman has created and the way the comic loves catching readers off-guard. As fans saw with Game of Thrones' final season, not all wars are big spectacles on the battlefield. There are those battles the underdog we never saw coming actually wins, and in the case of Rick, readers are clearly combining grief and denial as they rebuke Sebastian as a worthy killer.
Some believe Rick's death should have been grander and at the hands of a more prominent villain, but Kirkman always warned fans to expect the unexpected, which is why it's a tough pill to swallow. Fans expected Rick to go out in a blaze of glory. After all, he was the protagonist on which the franchise hinged. A spoiled punk ambushing him seems like an unfitting end, but it actually matches the universe Kirkman has created well.
Ultimately, what drives the fear and shock fans are feeling is the way Rick's death makes the Walking Dead feel more unpredictable than ever before. This gives way to fright and opens a path to unchartered territories that include new heroes, leaders, villains and, overall, an entirely different way of life we've never seen in the series. The comic's communities won't be the same, nor will Carl. Rick's death represents a real shift in the status quo, and that scares people. Change is what led Sebastian to kill Rick and, in the wake of this murder, the emotions stirring over this change is what makes us all human.
The Walking Dead #193 goes on sale July 3.