[***WARNING: I simply cannot review this issue without SPOILERS, and from the very get go too. As ever, you have now been duly warned!]
As this first paragraph usually appears as the first thing you’ll read upon visiting our home page, I’ll try and waffle a bit and pad this first paragraph out a bit so I’m not giving anything away. But, what I can say is that this issue is not only a surprise (maybe not as much as Rick’s death last issue, but a surprise nonetheless) and its already burning up on eBay. That cover was designed for signatures and the odd sketch, wasn’t it? And to think, when I met Charlie Adlard only a few week ago at Comics Salopia, he didn’t say a word. And neither did Eric Stephenson either. Although after the Liverpool Champions League win, I wouldn’t have known what anyone was saying! Comic book creators would make for some great spies methinks. Especially with all that international travelling.
Anyway, are we okay now? Is the coast clear? I think so. Then, let’s dive in shall we?
Just like Watchmen, the cover to this final issue pretty much acts as the first panel of this story, and it’s only after a few pages that we get to see our first familiar face: Carl; the last person we saw at the end of the last issue and the first living being we see in this issue. Only, he’s aged. A great deal. What we are witnessing is a time shift in which the dreadful, dangerous dystopian world we have become so familiar with has dramatically developed. And it’s all thanks to Rick Grimes who is revered as not only a hero, but almost like a saint. Certainly a saviour of the Commonwealth and the man who has allowed his community – and others – to survive and protect one another to the point that the walking dead are rarely seen, and even then it’s a rare sight. The zombie we see Carl making swift work of turns out to be the property of the spoilt brat that is Hershel, all grown up and running a travelling freak show of sorts which he claims he’s doing to remind the younger generation what they should fear. A reminder of a past that is slowly being forgotten. And, its a testament to Robert Kirkman’s writing that Carl is the ‘villain’ of the peace. And, even then, he’s hardly a threat. That’s some vindication of Rick’s effort of this brattish kidult is the worst this society has to serve up as an enemy. But then, this whole series was never about the walking dead, but rather the people we are, and the people we become in difficult circumstances.
Maybe it’s because we recently celebrated the D-Day landings and the very few surviving servicemen who were there, before they slip off and become the stuff of dusty text books, that this issue weighed more heavily with me that otherwise, but there is certainly a parallel to be had here, as the elder generation of The Walking Dead are still living and breathing and there to remind the younger ones how this society was won. And – just like the generation to follow mine and yours – recent history, as told by living, breathing survivors, will disappear into the annuls of time. The fear is, as we can see in contemporary Britain and America today – with the frightening rise fo the far right – we continue to make the mistakes that history should have taught us never to repeat. The heroes and champions of yesteryear are down graded and – as in this issue – lambasted. Where’s the respect for the eldest these days. eh?
But, here in this final issue, the overall narrative is one of optimism and looking to a brighter future in which America, and then the world, will be united through the hard work of the likes of Eugene, who’s further on toward completing that railroad network he’d started in the past. Another reminder of Rick’s legacy looming large even here in the future and a great echo of America’s open past and how it too was build (albeit on the backs of slaves and exploited migrants). After all, in effect, America is being rebuilt once again and the old ways of blood, sweat and toil and new once more; minus the exported workforce.
It’s not juts Eugene who has found peace and meaning in this brave new world and what we are given – thanks to cleverly making the adult Carl a messenger sent out across the country to drop off provisions and, well, messages – is a journey through familiar territories and a catch up with friendly, albeit aged, faces. In this road trip we are given a summary of everyones whereabouts with only the slightest of melancholy moments, and the odd few surprises. Especially when Carl returns home to face justice for his slaughter of Hershel’s whole band of zombies. One such melancholy stand-out moment for me, is the moment Carl drops off supplies to the hermit-like Negan, who we never get to see. He made peace with himself years ago, and maybe that’s enough. But, it’s a great, albeit sad moment and one of many emotional highs and lows you’ll have when reading this book. I certainly recommend you plan around reading this issue. Find the time and allow yourself to soak it all up as you devour each and every page of this heart-warming, but poignant issue. It’s worth it.
A fitting ending and a use of time shifting in a series that works well. Extremely well. And, after the tragic, emotional rollercoaster ride of last issue, its great to see this issue go out not only on a high but in doing so, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard have created one of the greatest issues of this already great series. A book that will be remembered for ages top come and, without a doubt, a series that will weather the ages to be seen as one of the best this medium ever offered.
Gentlemen, I bow to you and thank you for this ride. Here’s to a bright future for all those who have survived. We’ve seen them grow, mature and, in many, many case, die too. I won’t lie, even writing this review is giving me goosebumps even remembering what I’ve only just read.