The Walking Dead #192 saw protagonist Rick Grimes die after being shot by Sebastian Milton at the Commonwealth, leaving some to wonder about the future of the immensely popular zombie franchise in the wake of his death.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, issue #193 -- which releases on Wednesday -- will be the final issue in Robert Kirkman's long-running zombie saga. That outlet reports The Walking Dead #193 will be an extra-large edition and serve as an epilogue to Rick's story.
"I hate knowing what's coming," Kirkman wrote in the issue's final pages. "As a fan, I hate it when I realize I’m in the third act of a movie and the story is winding down. I hate that I can count commercial breaks and know I’m nearing the end of a TV show. I hate that you can feel when you’re getting to the end of a book, or a graphic novel. Some of the best episodes of Game of Thrones are when they’re structured in such a way and paced to perfection so your brain can’t tell if it’s been watching for 15 minutes or 50 minutes ... and when the end comes ... you’re stunned."
"I love long movies for that very reason," he continued. "You lose track of time because you went in convinced that you’re going to be there for a long time, but the story moves at such an entertaining and engaging pace that by the time the movie’s wrapping up ... you can’t believe it’s already over. Surprise, it’s over! All I’ve ever done, all a creator can really do ... is tailor-make stories to entertain themselves, and hope the audience feels the same way. That’s all I’ve ever been doing ... and it seems to work most of the time."
"The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise," he concluded. "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."
First published in October 2003, The Walking Dead was created by Kirkman and Tony Moore, who left the series after six issues, replaced by Charlie Adlard. The immensely popular series has spawned two TV shows, The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, with a trilogy of movies centered around Grimes planned.
The book ending is a particularly major shock, as there was no formal announcement made beforehand. In fact, issues #194 and #195 were even solicited, and there's nothing about the -- admittedly vague -- summary for The Walking Dead #193 to suggest it would serve as the final installment in the series.
The Walking Dead #193 goes on sale July 3.