Review by Karl Verhoven
The Walking Dead hardcovers collect around a dozen chapters at a time, and there’s a pattern to them of a slow build up, heavy on the drama and character interaction, leading to something apocalyptic. It’s been a successful formula, so is it followed for the final stories where Rick Grimes and his group have located a massive city full of survivors, to which the dead are a casual nuisance? “If we can make things work here then we’re on the road back to normal” is his optimistic assessment.
Hanging over everything is opportunity. Given a chance to take a leap forward from the communities overseen by Rick, should humanity return to the way things were, or should there be a fairer, better society? Or given the way things have been, should there just be gratitude that things are almost back to normal, and any small cracks can be papered over? That depends on whether you’re in those cracks. The progress over Book Fifteen and this selection is so rapid that the zombies who’ve sustained the series for so long are now almost an afterthought. Sure, for old times sake Kirkman drops them in now and again, a cliffhanger ending in a rail yard an exceptional example, but the clear message is of a brighter future. It’s underlined in a final chapter jumping around a decade forward.
It’s repetition to note that everything is impeccably drawn by Charlie Adlard, but although he wasn’t the original artist, after so long it’s impossible to imagine anyone else bringing the same dedication and sheer talent to the party. There’s never a page where it’s difficult to figure out what’s going, nor one where it’s awkward distinguishing one character from another. He even takes care to individualise the walking dead. That’s the dedication on display here. He’ll draw anything, and draw it well.
As in every volume, there’s death. Kirkman’s not sentimental, and he’ll prioritise what’s best for the overall story every time, so the big question hanging over this collection is whether Rick will make it out alive. He certainly has a lot on his plate, acting as peacekeeper between various disgruntled parties and stepping into the unfamiliar world of politics. Worry not, he’s a natural, and almost an entire chapter is given over to his public speech assessing a potentially hazardous situation.
For fans an even bigger question is whether Book Sixteen provides the ending to the series they want. Broadly speaking, it does. Kirkman still has plenty of surprises in store, but he and Adlard end The Waling Dead on their own terms, with no-one telling them different. It’s the best way.
If preferred, this content is available separately as The Rotten Core and Rest in Peace, or concluding the massive fourth Walking Dead Compendium.