WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead #193, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, on sale now.
The Walking Dead has never flinched in its brutal depiction of the zombie apocalypse. Rick Grimes alone lost his wife, his daughter, his hand, his best friend, his second wife and, finally, his own life over the course of the comic series. However, the final issue reveals his sacrifices, and hope, made a better world possible.
The series' penultimate issue left off with Carl Grimes leaving the Commonwealth to bury his father beside Andrea in Alexandria. The Walking Dead #193, on sale today, picks up more than a decade later, with Carl and Sophia living together with their daughter, Andrea. Carl, who works as a messenger and is implied to be relatively poor, puts down a stray walker, which is revealed to be from a traveling show owned by a now-adult Hershel Greene. In the future, the undead have become so rare inside the massive Safe Zone created in the intervening years that people actually pay to see them.
After a confrontation with Hershel, and the law, Carl decides to kill the entire caravan. Immediately after doing so, he goes on a delivery run, meeting up with Lydia. The two observe a massive flock of birds flying overhead, with Carl revealing their numbers have recovered nearly to those of pre-colonization.
The revelations don't stop there, as Carl and Lydia then take a train to what's called the "Western Front," showing just how much the borders of the Safe Zone have expanded. They meet up with Eugene, who reveals his railway will soon connect with that of the "Western Alliance," an unexplained group that also seems to have recovered from the apocalypse.
Carl returns to town, where he's arrested and brought to trial in the Commonwealth. However, Michonne, now a judge and using her married name of Hawthorne, presides over his case. Carl makes the argument walkers should still be exterminated, cautioning people that they must maintain the new world they built by overcoming the dangers of the past.
After quoting the words at the base of Rick's statue, "in a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living" (which served as something of a thesis statement for the comic), Michonne expresses her view -- admittedly controversial -- that "The Trials we lived through ... gave us a better world than the one we had before. The dead made us live." She describes the new world as "quieter, simpler, more fair... more just... and happier." Michonne then bans the owning of walkers throughout the Commonwealth, explaining the practice dishonors what happened.
Afterward, Carl returns home to his family and reads Andrea the story of her grandfather, who has assumed something of a messianic quality for the people of the Commonwealth. There are a lot of hints throughout The Walking Dead #193 that there are still a lot of problem areas across the globe, but humanity is on the upswing, after having nearly been rendered extinct. They even have ice cream again. Carl's closing monologue reveals the story of The Walking Dead to have been about how compassion, tenacity and community will lead to a better world.