The death of Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead #192 sent shock waves through the fanbase, as it wasn't telegraphed at all. We knew writer Robert Kirkman was angling toward his protagonist's demise, it at some point, but this was a sudden move that left readers pondering the future of the comic series without its talisman. That future was revealed in an even more shocking manner, with news that Issue 93, on sale today, is the last.
We won't even get to 200 issues, because Kirkman and longtime collaborator Charlie Adlard have ended The Walking Dead immediately following the title's biggest death. What that move signifies, however, isn't just that Kirkman wanted to close the doors as quickly and unexpectedly as possible so he could frame an unpredictable narrative; it means that, at the end of the day, this was a Rick Grimes story all along.
Pulling the plug right after closing Rick's chapter is an inevitably divisive decision. Some fans will undoubtedly view it as cop-out, while others may think they're being "cheated," as they hoped to witness Carl and Michonne lead the new generation, for years to come. Theorists were even hoping they could find new societies -- whether foreign or domestic -- or perhaps a cure for the outbreak.
Honestly, fans expected the end of Rick, and The Walking Dead, to arrive further down the road. Rick's surprise death offered potential, as it seemed to signal a shift in the status quo, which the comic needed. It had become a bit redundant, with warring societies we've seen time and time again, and the idea of The Walking Dead without Rick provided an intriguing blank page.
But by ending the title right after Sebastian Milton shot Rick at the Commonwealth, it supports the notion the story wasn't about humanity as a whole, or the generational epic some fans anticipated; instead, it was about Rick. He lost his wife, Lori, to his best friend, Shane, and then lost them as well. Baby Judith was killed when Lori was killed by the Governor's army. Rick also parted ways with dear friends, such as Hershel and Glenn, and even sacrificed a hand, proving he was ready to endure whatever it took to keep Carl alive.
Admittedly, Rick's story has been brutal, and with the comic beginning with him waking up in an abandoned hospital, looking for his loved ones, it's understandable why this tale inevitably ends with Rick's passing. We began the journey from his perspective, then grew with him as he transitioned from a virtuous sheriff to a cynical and cutthroat soldier, while still trying to be a pseudo-husband to Andrea and role model to just about everyone else. But looking back at all the tentpole moments, they did revolve around Rick, especially with antagonists like Negan, the Whisperers and the Governor. We may have been distracted by the supporting cast, but it really was Rick dictating how everyone should live, and how most should die. We're not saying he had a god complex, but weighing everything that happened, this was his world. And the series finale, set years after Rick's death, drives that home.
Rick Grimes wasn't a Superman; he was fallible. At times, he even displayed outrageous behavior, because he was determined to survive. Rick struggled as a true blue hero, and occasionally succumbed to darkness. However, he kept coming back, which is the hope Kirkman dangled in front of readers over the past decade and a half. He used Rick to mirror the humanity in us, flaws and all, and ensured the future was shaped the way he wanted it to be. Ultimately, the other characters were merely clever misdirection as Kirkman deconstructed Rick, and felt that, when his time came to an end, so too would the heartbeat of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead #193 is on sale now.