Vol. 32: Rest In Peace
SPOILER ALERT: Everything about this collection was very carefully kept secret--especially the issue number of the final issue. Even now the solicitations for the collection avoid mentioning that it is the finale! There is no way to discuss it without revealing lots of spoiler-y details. So if you intend to read it but have not yet, stop reading now! You have been warned!
Rick and the crew traveled to the Commonwealth in the previous volume. They had become aware of political unrest, which came to a head when Dwight threatened the life of Governor Milton. The story continues with the Governor publicly thanking Rick for saving her life, and asking him to say a few words to the crowd. Back home, both Magna in Alexandria and Maggie at the Hilltop have become concerned that the group has been gone too long, so they send a scouting party to the Commonwealth.
The scouting party comes across Princess (who ran away from the Commonwealth to avoid the building tension), and they inadvertently send a walker herd straight at Eugene and Stephanie, working by themselves in the old train yard. As they approach the city they hear a huge explosion, which turns out to be head of security Mercer being broken out of jail (after being arrested for promoting insurrection among the guards). Rick helps Milton and most of her staff get to safety--and then it's one thing after another.
The herd marches into town, attracted by the noise (we also learn that in the Commonwealth it's called a "swarm"). Maggie has brought an army, which clears the town. Milton marches in at the head of another army from a nearby town, convinced that Rick was leading a revolution. She orders an attack, but Rick successfully argues for peace, uttering the ringing phrase "We are not the walking dead!"
Governor Milton is arrested and imprisoned for her own safety from the ugly crowd of citizens. In the midst of the optimism and hope that takes over afterwards, everyone forgets about the Governor's spoiled son Sebastian. But he visits Rick's room, and Rick finally meets his end in an unexpected and random way. This is very much in line with the "no one is safe" aspect of the series, although Rick always seemed to be an exception to that rule. His death is memorialized with a huge funeral procession back to Alexandria, where he can be buried alongside Andrea.
There are ways to imagine the series finding a new status quo and continuing from here, as has happened with the TV series. This ending could never be the ending of the TV show: Carl has died, and Rick is alive but off-screen somewhere. But given that the comic never stopped being centered around Rick Grimes, it is ultimately not surprising that Kirkman could not find a convincing way to extend it. So for the final issue the story takes another time jump, with Carl an adult, married to Sophia. It begins with Carl killing a walker on his land, using Michonne's Samurai sword. For a moment it looks as though nothing has changed in all this time: but it turns out the walker is an escapee from Hershel's traveling show--of course he is the son of Rick's friend Hershel--now the only way citizens of the safe zone can see the walking dead.
Carl goes out on his messenger route, which takes him far and wide. This gives an opportunity to see what has become of many of the characters as they have aged along with him. He returns home only to be immediately arrested for slaughtering the rest of Hershel's sideshow exhibit. There he faces Judge Hawthorne, who is Michonne, having taken back her late husband's name. After Carl's defense, she declares the exhibition of owning and displaying roamers for profit to be abhorrent, and makes it illegal throughout the Commonwealth.
Carl returns home to his wife Sophia and daughter Andrea, accompanied by more scenes of the cast's new everyday lives. And finally he reads Andrea a story about her grandfather:
It's a lovely way to end the series. In an end note Kirkman gives a rare bit of insight into the structure of it: after an earlier possible ending (much darker), he conceived of this one a few years back. Having reached this point a bit sooner than anticipated, Kirkman was unable to think of a way to extend it to Issue #300 as he had hoped. So the best he could do was make the ending a complete surprise, which he accomplished, partly by soliciting issues beyond the actual final one. An amazing feat to pull off in these days of leaks and spoilers all over the Internet. And a great final surprise in a series that has been marked by many of them.
I bought the v16 harcover but haven't read it yet (nor your review). I remember v15 as being a pretty good jumping on point, so I'll probably read v15 and v16 together soon.
I haven't read your review yet, since I've yet to read the comic. But the collection is sitting on our breakfast bar...I'm just waiting for Kathy to get to it first. (I've known about the series ending since it was reported, but I'm pretty sure that Kathy, a big WD fan who doesn't follow comics news, doesn't know. So it's just sitting there...waiting.)
I've been reading in the HC "Book" form, which is I think what Jeff is talking about, since 16 is the number I'm on. I think. Anyway, it hasn't arrived from Amazon yet.
The Book format collects more issues than the TPBs, so those buying in that format were already ahead of me. I knew about the ending, but I don't remember knowing much about Commonwealth politics, the head of the guards hadn't been arrested, and so forth. So I've more to read than y'all to get to the end.
Which I don't mind, BTW. The larger "civilization" gets the more ordinary the story becomes and the less the fantastic elements come into play. TWD has lost its frisson of terror and just become a book about politics. I don't really fault Kirkman for that; I don't see any way around it. (The alternative is for civilization to never rise at all, which means constant repetition of the first 50 issues or so.) Anyway, I've grown increasingly restive with the book, and while it's been a great trip, I'm not distressed to see it end.
I loved the series, and I liked the ending just fine. Kirkman was wise to reconsider the previously planned ending. This one is much more positive and sensitive, while also believable.
There were a few missteps along the way, and at least one of those makes its way to the final issue, even if in a mostly symbolic way. But all in all it was a very worthwhile experience.
I hope that some sort of offshot happens at some point in the future. And I fully expect that now that the TV series will have less reason to try and restrict itself to the comic series plots it will find a firmer footing in the future; I have long felt that the TV series is at its very weakest when it attempts to approach the comic series' plots.
Finally, someone who has read the thing! ;) I agree about the comic plots on the TV show. Although I would say it's because they often choose to amp up the action. My favorite example is Negan's murder of Glenn. It was a brief, very sharp shock in the comic. On TV they turned it into an hour and a half of harrowing psychological and physical suffering. Way over the top.
I'm really looking forward to the Whisperers plot concluding, since that's the last major comic book plot they can follow at all closely. But I suppose the Commonwealth could still happen with a changed set of characters.
I assume the Commonwealth is already happening: The helicopter, wherever Rick is, the leather-clad people in FTWD. Even the TWD reference to "As" and "Bs" sounds like the Commonwealth -- As would be white-collar elites, and Bs would be grunts.
You may be right about that. The comic does not include anything as high-tech as a helicopter, nor are the terms "As" and Bs" used. But the class distinction certainly rings true. Like everything else, the TV show seems to be ramping up the extremes.
I'm halfway through Book 16, and enjoying it. I think I might be enjoying it more knowing it will end, because I know that some of Kirkman's odd characterization and story beats aren't going to matter. Also, people I don't remember because it's been so long since Book 15 aren't going to matter either. There is a serenity to knowing the end is coming, a lack of anxiety about things I don't remember or don't care about. And it's a pretty good story about class struggle. (Although I'm kinda gob-smacked about Rick's solution to the Dwight problem. That seems stuck in there for shock value.)