SPOILER ALERT: This article includes key revelations from issue No. 192 of The Walking Dead, which goes on sale this week.
Ex-lawman Rick Grimes has been M.I.A. on AMC’s The Walking Dead since last November (when star Andrew Lincoln left the powerhouse series to focus on the upcoming tie-in feature film trilogy) but that’s not the case in the original version of The Walking Dead, the monthly Skybound/Image Comics series that will reach its 200th issue early next year.
Every issue of the history-making Image Comics series has been written by Robert Kirkman, the creator of both The Walking Dead universe and its most beloved citizen, Rick Grimes. The flinty Kentucky lawman became the earnest everyman hero of the brand but Kirkman maintained over the year that he never envisioned Grimes outliving The Walking Dead saga and its savageries.
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Last month, The Walking Dead issue No. 191 hit store shelves and sent fans into a tizzy. The issue depicted Grimes, now bearded and more severe looking (especially with one of his hands missing), making a rousing speech about keeping hope alive (and keeping the living hopeful) before the issue ended with a resentful young gunman shooting the befuddled Grimes in the name of a political vendetta.
That issue ended with a maddening cliffhanger question: Was Grimes dead when he collapsed in his bloodied bed or merely wounded? The answer is in issue No. 192, which hits store shelves over the next 24 hours. We got an advance copy of the issue and it’s a powerful and poignant example of Kirkman’s gifts for evocative pacing, dramatic staging, and heart-rending dialogue. The artwork by Charlie Adlard is pitch-perfect and imbued with emotion without needless bombast.
Beware, spoilers ahead, after the cover image.
AMC’s The Walking Dead started as a fairly loyal adaptation of the namesake Image Comics series written by Kirkman but over time the screen saga and its source material veered from each other as the imperatives of an ensemble primetime drama and a monthly black-and-white comic book led in different directions.
The fate of Rick Grimes the screen character remains up in the air (quite literally, since he was last seen boarding a helicopter of cryptic origins) but in the comic book saga Grimes meets his end (as widely feared) with the fatal gunshot wounds he suffered in a sneak attack by a living, breathing assailant.
After surviving the soul-crushing trials and life-threatening travails of the most detailed zombie apocalypse in the history of screen horror, Grimes was capped by, of all things, a petulant kid with a still-beating heart. The shooter was Sebastian Milton, the son of Pamela Milton, the Commonwealth leader who had just been successfully unseated by Grimes.
(The heartbreaking assassination in a mundane setting evokes the final-act scenario of American Sniper, which depicts Bradley Cooper as a battlefield hero who survives war only to be murdered on the home-front by a disaffected fellow veteran.)
The tragedy doesn’t end when Grimes bleeds out. The next day, the crime scene is discovered by the deputy’s one-eyed son, Carl, who had finally begun to feel the warmth of optimism in his unrelentingly grim life. The horror goes deeper: Grimes the elder has already transitioned into snarling walker-mode. So the terrified Carl is forced to say goodbye to his father with gunfire by shooting the cannibalistic cadaver before it starts gnawing on him.
Time will tell how and when the screen version of the Grimes family will spend their own final moments but it will be hard-pressed to top the forlorn horror and disquieting circumstances of Kirkman’s page-turning farewell to his most famous creation.
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