The Walking Dead comic book series is giving up the ghost. Just seven issues shy of No. 200, and without fanfare or warning, the bestselling monthly series from Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment will conclude with the special expanded issue that reaches stores on Wednesday.
It’s an abrupt death for a long-running series and a shocking one for a publishing brand that became a pop-culture dynamo as the source material for two hit television shows, video games, novels, toys, audiobooks, and soundtracks. That list will soon expand to include a feature film franchise starring Andrew Lincoln as the mythology’s signature character, Rick Grimes.
The final issue will be The Walking Dead No. 193, which will be released tomorrow in an expanded format (an 84-page edition, up from typical 32 pages) with a cover price of $3.99. The last half-dozen pages are an essay by Robert Kirkman, the creator of the zombie epic and the only writer for the monthly publication since it premiered in 2003.
Kirkman’s macabre saga is sold in 60 countries and read in 30 languages but its widest reach has been as source material for the wildly successful namesake AMC series, which premiered in 2010 and became a sensation as a wrenching survivor tale with ghastly visual effects used for endlessly inventive atrocities. AMC introduced a spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, in 2015.
The surprise death of the series is, of course, entirely appropriate for a comic book series that dispatched beloved characters in abrupt and gruesome fashion. Fans were already reeling from the happenings in the previous issue when Kirkman dispatched Grimes, who was unarmed when he was gunned down in his bedroom by the son of a rival.
Kirkman’s collaborator on the comics series is artist Charlie Adlard, who has handled the saga’s bleak black-and-white interior art since issue No 7. The first six issues of The Walking Dead were drawn by Tony Moore. Bracing for a Wednesday surge in demand, many comic book merchants are setting limits on the number of copies that would be sold per customer.
At Comic-Con International later this month, Kirkman is an announced panelist on AMC’s back-to-back Hall H panels on July 29: Fear the Walking Dead at noon and The Walking Dead at 1 p.m.