In a shocking move, series creator Robert Kirkman stealth-ended his long-running comic book series with no advanced warning with the latest issue on sale today.
In one of the most shocking moves in the history of the comic book medium, creator Robert Kirman stealth-ended "The Walking Dead" comic with the issue that hits store shelves today.
It's not just that there was no advanced warning, Kirkman went so far as to solicit future issues for retailers to order so they would absolutely not see this coming, and based on the response, they absolutely did not. The book is already sold out from the publisher and seeing its price start to spike on the secondary market.
It may prove even hotter than the recent ... well, we'll get to that in a second.
But first, we're going to drop a huge SPOILER WARNING right here so you know that we're not only going to be talk about how Kirkman ended his long-running comic series after 16 years, but we might just be hinting at things to come in the expanding AMC "Dead" universe. While the show has taken many deviations from the comics, in many ways they've stayed true to it as well.
Ironically, even as the source material for AMC's mega-franchise is coming to a close, the network was assuring its fans that "The Walking Dead" is nowhere near ending on their platform. TheWrap shared a statement received by AMC: "This extraordinary comic created a world that already lives in multiple forms, and in the hearts and minds of millions of fans around the world, and will for many years to come."
In fact, "Fear the Walking Dead" and "The Walking Dead" are currently airing, there is a trilogy of Rick Grimes movies on the way, and a third television series is currently in development. If nothing else, comic fans can rest assured there is still plenty of "Dead" material to come.
Below we're going to take a look at the final fates of all of the characters from the last issue of "The Walking Dead" comic book. Currently the television series is running about four years behind the comics, but they'll catch up before you know it. Oh yeah, one last time in case you missed it.
Probably the biggest surprise of this super-sized issue -- it's the size of four standard issues -- is that it takes place entirely in the future, jumping ahead somewhere between ten and twenty years from the previous issue. It's never quite made clear how far we are in the future, but a lot has certainly changed.
As fans of the comic know, Kirkman has just come off of breaking the internet a couple of months ago with the shocking death of Rick Grimes, murdered after trying to unite the Commonwealth and make it right for everyone. TV fans might compare it to the glimpses we've seen of the helicopter people who abducted Rick.
It may well be that this much larger society is where the show is headed after the Whisperers War, but they may also choose to go an entirely different direction.
In this comic future, Rick Grimes is the hero of the Commonwealth, "The Man Who Made the World." He is revered by the generation that knew him, but already the younger generations are starting to forget the world that came before. Nevertheless, there is a statue of him at Commonwealth One and bedtime stories told about all he was and did.
For years, Kirkman insisted that "The Walking Dead" was not the story of Rick Grimes and that it could and would survive without him. This issue proves that this was all a lie. Like the main "Star Wars" Episode films have been the Skywalker Saga, this is the Grimes saga from start to finish.
Carl, who did not precede his father in death in the comic series, enjoys the fruits of his father's efforts, but also lives on the outskirts of town. He married Sophia -- Carol's daughter who died in the barn on the TV show -- and they have a daughter named Andrea. In the comics, Andrea lived much longer and became wife to Rick Grimes and stepmother to Carl.
Carl works as a Messenger for the Commonwealth, which means he spends more time outside of the Commenwealth Safe Zone as anyone, and he makes it clear that it's almost as bad as it ever was outside that zone. And yet, his six-year-old daughter has never seen a walker. Never.
The era before society was reclaimed has been retroactively dubbed "The Trials," and Carl wonders if he is fit for this new world. His head is so much still in those dangerous times, which is what gets him into trouble in this issue for, of all things, killing a walker.
Maggie is president of the Commonwealth, a huge position with huge responsibilities. And while she's always been a tremendously strong and powerful leader, she apparently didn't do so good as a parent. Her and Glenn took in Sophia, so it's Sophia who is able to tell her that her tactic of giving everything to their son Hershel has backfired tremendously.
There is no clear resolution about Maggie, nor does she mend things with her children or even Carl. She continues to enable her son more than she should, which has created the issue's most awful person. Even then, he's a far cry from the likes of the Governor or Negan, so it's a further testament to the stability of this world.
As proof that the world has moved on from "The Trials," Hershel makes a living with a traveling walker show. The Safe Zone is so large now, and about to merge with something called the Western Alliance, that many who live within its walls have never seen a walker. The perimeter is well maintained and protected.
But while Carl thinks this complacency is dangerous as people will forget, Hershel argues that his traveling show serves as a reminder of how dangerous these walkers are. He believes he's doing his part, or at least that's what he tells himself. Mostly, he just likes making money and getting to do whatever he wants because his mother's the president.
That's why he has no fear about suing Carl for killing his walker.
After losing the first hearing and being ordered to replace Hershel's property (the walker), Carl proceeds to kill the rest of them, sending his case straight to the High Court, presided over by Judge Hawthorne.
Michonne has found peace in her life, finally, The comic version of her never got romantically involved with Rick, but she was reunited with her daughter in the Commonwealth. Now, she fights to continue Rick's legacy as a sitting judge. In this case, that means using her powers to outlaw the owning and displaying of walkers.
This, of course, is a double-edged sword. Rick was worried that the people of Alexandria had grown soft in their enclosure and he was right. And as Carl pointed out, the world is dangerous. Who's to say this strategy of recreating normalcy within a Safe Zone is the smart way to go? Already we see kids sneering at Rick and at Carl's injury.
What would those kids do if a walker herd stormed into the city? What will the next generation do?
Eugene has been hard at work on this train project since before we jumped ahead a generation, and he's still at it. Stephanie, a woman he met and fell in love with in the Commonwealth, has since passed away, but Eugene remains committed to his task, confident they'll hook up with the train tracks of the Western Alliance within a year.
Aaron & Jesus
Jesus lives on to fight another day and he and Aaron have built a home for themselves "down river." It's been a year since they've seen Andrea, though Carl gets down there more often with his Messenger work.
Lydia also works as a Messenger and she and Carl are still friends. They were lovers at one time, as she reminds him and teases him about his elaborate eyepatch, but that's in the past. Nevertheless, they have a close relationship still. Lydia is now involved with someone named Conner.
The Hilltop blacksmith who lost his wife Tammy to one of Alpha's pikes on the TV show lives a solitary life near Carl. He is retired from city life, having moved to the country to get away from the hustle and bustle of life.
Ironically, while his friendship means the world to Carl and Sophia, seeing him getting older and more frail makes Carl somewhat grateful that Rick died when he did, so he wouldn't have to watch his father whither away.
Laura is on the leadership council for the three communities on the television show, though she hasn't had a prominent storyline just yet. She also has leadership responsibilities in the comic book, helping lead up the Commonwealth resistance.
She now works in security with Eugene on the train project because she can't stand the Rick Grimes worship in town and still blames him for Dwight's death. She was in love with him.
There are other characters who have not yet been introduced on the television show, like Sheriff Kapoor of the Commonwealth, that we didn't bother to update (he's still Sheriff if you're dying to know). And there are plenty of TV characters who either never (Daryl) or no longer (Carol) exist in the comic world, so they're not here either, obviously.
What's interesting about this epilogue to Rick Grimes' story is that it is but a possible future for the television shows. It's also so far removed in time that there may be no reason to even consider working toward them.
With the source material now done, the show's creators have to consider whether they want to move toward the Commonwealth so quickly after the current Whisperer War or if it might be time to start making even more dramatic departures from the source material.
They're already in original territory on "Fear" and will do the same with their new projects and they'll have to do that sooner or later if they really are planning on keeping "TWD" on the air for years to come. There just aren't that many comic stories left to tell.
And it's totally possible that the bulk of the Commonwealth storyline will play out in the Rick Grimes movies. Or maybe they'll never play out at all ... or wait until AMC is finally ready to put the whole franchise to rest.
"Fear the Walking Dead" is currently teasing its own connections to the Rick Grimes saga every Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on AMC. So while "The Walking Dead" comic book has said "The End" it is still very much "to be continued..."