After 16 years, 193 issues (And various specials) Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead (drawn for the majority of the run by Charlie Adlard, the person you’d least have expected in the 90s to have become one of the major, and richest, people in comics) is over as a comic.
KIrkman has been saying for some time that he has an end in place, but the feeling is he was after Dave Sim’s record of publishing 300 issues of Cerebus, though 193 issues for an independent comic is pretty good going for something which in 2003 was a risk, and anyhow, Aircel had already published a comic called The Walking Dead in the late 80s and it barely set things on fire. However Kirkman and Image were publishing this one at the start of the zombie revival of the early 21st century. It came at the right time and found an audience quickly as the zombie bubble expanded to the point where it became an amazingly popular TV series in 2010.
The comic still drove the TV series but by 2010 the comic was hitting a certain pattern; Rick and his crew would find somewhere safe. It’d be full of crazies or/and cannibals. Rick and crew would fight them. For the first 100 or so issues KIrkman tells a tale of survival horror intermingled with soap opera elements but on the whole the comic pushes forward with a relentless tale of survival and how one deals with their humanity, or lack of, in such a situation.
Then issue 100 happens. Glenn is brutally murdered by Negan, the latest badguy protagonist who although less comic booky than The Governor (whose TV version was much better than the comic) and like many villains becomes a fan favourite.
Negan is a great character but the problem is once Negan is defeated, Kirkman keeps him around and although the scenes between Negan and Rick act as two philosophical viewpoints however we’re then into fighting the Whisperers, and onwards to the point where the comic seems to be building to another quiet phase.
And then it ended.
I applaud Kirkman, Adlard and Image for ending this now. It isn’t an ending that closes things off as Kirkman smartly leaves it open just in case there’s a massive tax bill in the future.
Instead of years and years of following the same cycle we have an ending, and it works well. As a run, The Walking Dead never really captured the quality of the first decade but to maintain that level of quality for so long is an admirable task beaten only by Kirby and Lee’s run on the Fantastic Four.
The Walking Dead changed modern comics, saved Image Comics (who were floundering at the time in 2003), made rich men of the creators and has been at the front of the current ‘Geek’ bubble for nearly a decade. Kirkman continues to make comics as well as count his money, but nothing he’s done will ever match what he’s done with The Walking Dead.