This review includes spoilers for the entirety of The Walking Dead #192—do not read any further if you do not wish to learn what happens in this issue.
After 192 issues of comics, nine seasons of television, and 16 years of stories, Rick Grimes is dead. It would be insincere to place much poetry around that fact, because that has never been the approach of The Walking Dead. This was a series that from its very start in 2003 embraced a worldview where life was a brutal and unjust affair. The first story arc ended with Rick watching his pre-adolescent son Carl execute his best friend Shane. Now Carl is a man, one who has now executed his own father, even if his father is already undead.
These events play out in a fashion familiar for any long-time reader. Deaths occur quickly and opportunities for final speeches are exceedingly rare. Rick’s death is as mundane as many of the series’ most iconic characters, and this choice feels both difficult and rewarding. It would be out of place for Rick to have died heroically or delivered an extended monologue that ties a bow around his story. Like most assassinated leaders, his death was sudden, unexpected, and leaves no obvious path forward. In this way, The Walking Dead #192 strives towards a meaningful sense of realism, grappling with the dull realities of death and conflict. Even the initial treatment of Rick’s assassin seems less dramatic than most episodes of Law & Order: SVU, and somehow feels more resonant than that drama for this banality.
Assassinations may be horrible in their normalness, but death does not prevent the living from paying homage. Rick was beloved by a relatively large community, and he is paid the honors one would expect for a man of his standing. It’s possible to imagine future, fictional histories of The Commonwealth discussing this moment like we now talk about funeral processions for Kennedy or Lincoln. Adlard and Gaudiano take ample space across multiple spreads to interpret what it means to honor a fallen leader, and use these large, textless moments to create real impact. A sprawling image of men and women lining up behind a coffin captures the sentiment perfectly, but still not quite as well as the individual faces each held in their own panels.
Adlard and Gaudiano remind readers how effectively they have built characters together. Each face is instantly recognizable thanks to a mix of clear silhouettes, notable features, and efficient design. This is the glue that made The Walking Dead with its overall cast of hundreds function, and what allows the life and death of Rick Grimes to feel so important. His status was not purely symbolic; it was in service to this array of faces that readers have come to know him exceedingly well. This is a moment where one more death still feels important, even after 16 years filled with so much death.
The Walking Dead #192 allows readers to experience what will likely be the biggest change to ever affect this series along with its surviving characters. Only Carl and Michonne are given much room to speak, besides Rick’s assassin, as the two people who knew him best. Their growth and resolve helps set a tone, while following them allows readers to soak in and process quickly unfolding events. It’s only in the final few pages that the comic changes its style, attempting to establish a clumsy cliffhanger. Carl despairs and claims that he is unwilling to go, a moment in direct contradiction to what he says and does throughout The Walking Dead #192, as well as across the entire series thus far. This final page “reveal” is forced and disrupts a meaningful coda with an absurd bit of drama. It makes the bittersweet conclusion lean a bit too heavily towards the bitter, and denies this issue the ability to stand alone as an epilogue for such an important character in pop culture.
Can The Walking Dead continue after Rick Grimes? Should The Walking Dead continue after Rick Grimes? These questions may only be answered with time as Grimes’ story shifts from focusing on the difficult choices he made in life to the legacy he leaves in death. No matter what happens in the wake of this moment, The Walking Dead #192 provides an excellent ending point for his story -- excusing a few pages at the end. It is both an acknowledgement of how fragile life is, even within a seemingly civilized society, and how we honor our dead in capacities that exceed their deaths. It is a story well told and an earned conclusion for the moment.
Published by Image Comics
On June 5, 2019
Written by Robert Kirkman
Pencils by Charlie Adlard
Inks by Stefano Gaudiano
Gray Tones by Cliff Rathburn1comments
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Charlie Adlard
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