The Walking Dead #193
“The Farm House”
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Charlie Adlard
Gray tones: Cliff Rathburn
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
That Robert Kirkman opted to end this landmark series now is surprising. It’s such a cash cow, for Kirkman and the other creators on the book personally, and for Image Comics corporately, one would expected things to continue for as long as it was commercially viable. That Kirkman ended it ahead of that point indicates that storytelling is what truly drove that decision. It’s also surprising it’s ended so close to the 200-issue milestone, but undoubtedly, it would have been less of a surprise at #200 than #193. And I think Kirkman really did want to take his audience off guard. After all, that’s been one of the keys to the book’s success over the years.
Regardless of one’s position on whether The Walking Dead should have ended now, it’s safe to say it’s ended well. Kirkman’s conclusion is a quiet one, unlike the series as a whole, but it’s fitting, and it flows logically from the plotting and characterization that have come before this point. Perhaps what’s most impressive about this ending is how accessible it is. One need only have read an issue or two over the life of the series, or perhaps have taken in a commercial or two from the TV series, to follow, understand and appreciate this epilogue.
Charlie Adlard’s vision of a grown-up Carl Grimes is a powerful amalgam of his father and the scarred young man whom we got to know over the course of the series. His entire look sets him apart from the rest of the characters, who comfortably exist in the peaceful new world that Rick Grimes made possible. He still dresses like he’s immersed in the days of walkers aplenty. He wears the scars of the horrors visited upon him and that he witnessed years before. Everyone else looks more like they’ve just come from a time before modern society collapsed. Carl is unlike the others, because of his connection to his father, his dedication to his vision. His look isolates him as much as the remote farm house in which he lives.
Adlard’s vision of the rebuilt society is intriguing, as it looks like a combination of the modern world from before and frontier times, blending modern fashion with the limits of technology in the new world. My only qualm with the art is some wide shots, with characters on a smaller scale at times, are so loose that it’s difficult to discern who or what we’re seeing, giving those panels a rushed look.
One has to give Kirkman and Image credit for the value they deliver with this conclusion. Though priced the same as a regular issue of the series, it’s oversized, and there’s a lot of characterization and story to absorb here. They could have easily charged 10 bucks for this thicker, denser and important issue, but they didn’t.
I found myself conflicted about Carl’s time with Lydia, his ex, in this story. I found the injection of a potential love triangle at this distant juncture in their lives to be unnecessary, and it didn’t paint Lydia in a good light at all. On the other hand, Lydia always viewed and accepted Carl in a different way than other characters. Her insistence that his scarred face shouldn’t be hidden, that it spoke to his strength, is a valid character point, and Carl’s response, his reason for doing so as a father really resonated and spoke to who he is now as opposed to who he used to be.
Maggie gets pretty short shrift in this issue, but ultimately, I think it was important to do that here. Rick Grimes led the way to a better world, but not to a perfect world, and Maggie, representing privilege and an emphasis on what’s legal as opposed to what’s right, speaks to natural flaws in governance. The climactic court scene is a satisfying one and speaks to an evolution to how conflict is addressed in this new, seemingly utopian society, but for it to work, one has to overlook a different kind of conflict at play: a conflict of interest. It’s a minor point, because that conflict of interest is necessary to deliver the emotional and philosophical payoffs that are part and parcel of a satisfying conclusion for this story and the series as a whole.
The central theme of this final chapter is quite clear: the danger of forgetting the sacrifices and hardships that paved the way toward peace and prosperity. It’s a concept that’s resonant today, and it seems clearly designed to reflect our own reality. Is Kirkman pointing out that Trump’s America is one that’s regressed, that people have forgotten the idealism upon which the country was founded and for which it was hailed? Is he saying that forgetting the tensions of the Cold War has led to a world in Russia has been moving against the West with impunity and without real penalty? Who can say? But Carl’s vigilante actions and rhetoric in this issue certainly speak to a cautionary tale that extends beyond the post-apocalyptic scenario that’s kept so many readers engaged for so long. 8/10