Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler and Inker (Issue 193): Charlie Adlard
Inker for Chapters 25-32: Stefano Guadino
Distributed By: Image Comics
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
The Walking Dead comic book series has long been completed and the television series based upon it is coming to an end. All I wanted to know was how the comic series ended. Thankfully, I received the final compendium of Walking Dead comics for my birthday.
In Compendium Three, we watched as our favorite zombie apocalypse survivors faced off against Negan and the Saviors. When the Savior war was over, we flashed forward a couple of years to witness a consortium between Alexandria, The Hilltop, The Kingdom, The Saviors and more. The compendium ended with a big fair attended by all and an introduction to a new enemy, one with a strange affinity to wearing dead people’s skin and deadly intentions toward anyone who crosses their perceived borders.
Compendium Four picks up where the last left off with our heroes coming across the heads of their loved ones upon stakes delineating a border left behind by The Whisperers. Our consortium now finds themselves at war with a strange enemy who not only clothes themselves in dead skin, but also lives among the dead, mingling within the herds and manipulating them against their enemies.
From there, we move on to the discovery of the new and largest group of survivors Rick and his people have ever come across. The Community features quite a bit to offer – a home in which dining out is an option and living their lives as they once did before the dead came back to life is the norm. The big question: should Rick and company join The Community, or are the flaws of those in leadership roles too great? Can the world really go back to the way it was before it all fell apart or is it time to try something new?
This is the finale of The Walking Dead, so we get to flash forward a couple of decades in the end to see what our favorite characters are doing in the future, a future that has finally begun to move forward from the zombie apocalypse. The ending ties up all loose ends and we learn what happens to Rick’s family, Maggie’s family and more.
Just when you thought that you were used to the surprise injuries/deaths floating around in Kirkman’s imagination, you get hit with something shocking, some mouth-dropping, Oh S#$@! moment that leaves you shaking your head in amazement. There are plenty of these in Compendium Four. It was as if Kirkman was saving his best for last in that department. This compendium had me shouting out loud.
I loved the huge jump forward in time. We get to see how the world changes and what our favorite heroes are up to in the future. I love that Kirkman didn’t just have things go back to normal in the future. There is still some technology like electricity and HAM radio, but there is an almost western/Pony Express sort of feel to the new world order that makes us realize it’s going to take a while to get things back to the way they were…and maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. The final comic book in the series ended exactly the way it should have. You couldn’t drag out the apocalypse forever, but you can’t fix everything in those last few pages. Let the readers wonder how things will eventually turn out as more survivors find one another and recreate society.
I thought it interesting that the entire Walking Dead comic book series revolved around Carl when the television series killed him off years ago. Then again, I have always said that the television series was Kirkman’s ultimate “what if?” to his comic book series. He could tweak the television series to see what might happen if he didn’t let this one live, if he added a character like Daryl and more. I think some things worked better in the comic book series and some worked better in the television series. After all, who can’t deny the great add in Daryl or the badass character the television Carol became. Andrea’s survival in the comic books was definitely a plus and the way Negan’s people took out Abraham is different, but similar to the death of another character on the television series. Just like Stan Lee’s “What if…?” series, Kirkman makes us see the possibilities in both worlds.
I think the best thing about this comic book series is that it has always been in black and white. Keeping it in black and white didn’t take anything from the horror aspect – I still cringed and moaned when I saw Rick bite someone’s jugular to kill him (yes, he does it in the television series, but it happens much later in the comic book). However, it does make certain that the story is the most dramatic thing on the page. The gore is secondary to the horror of the lack of humanity present in the zombie apocalypse. That has always been this comic book’s main selling feature – the dramatic tale of how horrible mankind is to one another after an apocalyptic event, when all the rules and laws go out the window and all that is important is survival.
The Walking Dead reminds us just how cruel humans can be to one another and the most horrific realization coming from reading the comic book series is that it is true. If we look at the recent pandemic, much of the response equates – people attempting to leave whatever area was affected as if they could outrun it, people hording goods, price gouging, holing up in homes and attacking others seeking help, the paranoia and suspicion. That, unfortunately, is mankind at its worst and The Walking Dead comic book series shines a light on that reality and then some. One day we’ll look back at this series and wonder why we haven’t learned anything from it…and I’m not talking about survival skills.