Robert Kirkman will bring his blockbuster comic book series The Walking Dead to an end this week with issue #193, THR confirms after a letter from Kirkman to fans the surprise double-sized issue leaked online yesterday. This comes as a major shock to fans who expected the series to continue beyond the high-profile death of Rick Grimes last month. In fact, Image Comics went as far as to release fake solicitations for issues 194 and 195 to hide Kirkman’s true ending. Kirkman confirmed that these solicits were created to protect the secret.
“I hate knowing what’s coming,” Kirkman wrote in his letter to fans (via THR). “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.”
Indeed, Kirkman hid the series’ ending very well, often mentioning his plans for issue #200 and even 300 in interviews and on Twitter. The writer had teased that Rick might not make it all the way to the end of the series, and that ended up being true, but not in the way most fans expected, considering Carl Grimes had always seemed like the character who would pick up the story once his father was gone. Last month’s #192 even hinted at that creative turn, focusing heavily on Carl, who found Rick dead and zombified in the opening pages of the issue. Rick didn’t make it to the end of the series, but the series also didn’t live on past his death.
“The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise,” Kirkman continued. “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.”
The final issue will cover what became of the surviving characters after Rick’s death and how the world changed because of his work in Alexandria and later at the Commonwealth. To say more would be to spoil the landmark issue.
Will The Walking Dead ever rise back up from the grave? The history of comics tells us that no major blockbuster series is canceled for long. Being both Kirkman’s and Image’s bestselling comic, it seems unlikely that we won’t see another Walking Dead book in stands down the line. The question is, what might that book look like? Is it a new spinoff series from Kirkman or perhaps a whole universe of Walking Dead stories with new creative teams?
Or maybe we just have to accept the conclusion of the series and take comfort that Kirkman got to end his story on his own terms. As the writer said in the letter, that’s a “rare gift.”
The Walking Dead #193 comes out this Wednesday with art from Charlie Adlard. You can also watch the comic’s story continue to unfold on the screen when The Walking Dead season 10 premieres this fall.