So can plot armor protect Rick Grimes after being shot by Sebastian? Let’s jump into The Walking Dead issue #192: “Aftermath.”
So…while I didn’t want to rule it out, it did seem possible that this would be the last hurrah for Rick Grimes. Like with the series- more on that later- it seemed unreal that we could lose our main protagonist who we’ve followed since the first issue. Plus, that it would happen in such a sudden way from a character like Sebastian just made this feel off.
This issue has already stirred a lot of emotions in the fandom, and I’m sure that Robert Kirkman knows this. Even still, like with Andrea, this was his decision to make. We may not like it, but this is where the story has brought us to right now. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So we start right where we left off in #191, with a regretful Sebastian coming to terms with what he’s done. But rather than just dropping the gun and running, he stays. There’s a reason for this that we’ll get into later on, but for now, Sebastian puts a few more rounds in Rick and finishes him off.
Just like that. Rick Grimes, our heroic sheriff and fearless leader who we’ve followed since the beginning is now dead. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but unlike Andrea, we’re not dwelling on this death for the entire issue. At least not yet and the entire read isn’t a sendoff for the character. It’s very quick. Sebastian shoots Rick dead and rushes off, dropping his gun in the process.
The sight of a dead Rick Grimes is, admittedly, a bit off-putting. It’s made even worse by the fact that, unlike other major character deaths, Rick isn’t surrounded by loved ones or friends. He dies and his body is left to sit for hours until day arrives. It’s a quiet moment and one that I think would translate well to screen. The artwork does do a great job showing the transition of time, rather than just the next panel being daytime.
But the next day does come and it starts off as any other day would. Carl chats with Jesus about breakfast and then goes to meet up with his father…but then the horror happens. Unlike Andrea, we don’t get the moment in which Rick turns, so it’s even more of a shock for Carl when he walks in and finds his father is not only dead, but already reanimated.
With quick thinking and little time spent dwelling on this, Carl puts his father down. It’s a sudden rush for him and the artwork again really sells the emotional turmoil that Carl has just faced. There’s no time for him to stand back and come to terms with the fact that his father is dead. He’s a roamer, so before Carl can even think about how this all happened, his first and correct move is to just finish Rick off for good.
Like the panels showing the passage of day to night for Rick, the panels showing Carl on the ground do a great job showcasing time passing as he crumbles into tears. Carl is tough, but he’s not going to just lash out and start screaming. Not anymore, anyway. Rather, he would fall into a slump. The boy just killed his reanimated father, who he didn’t expect to turn up dead.
We don’t know just how much time passes, but I would wager it’s awhile that Carl is left on the ground, alone, paralyzed with the realization that his father is no longer among the living. How does someone process that, especially after you just had a heartwarming conversation with your parent a few hours ago?
Either way, some Commonwealth guards enter and recognize the gun by Carl. I like that, even with what happened, they don’t blame Carl for this. I imagine there’s still a bit of friction between our survivors and the Commonwealth, but the guards are able to see this situation for what it is and correctly figure out the potential culprit. As such, they send for Michonne, as they know that she’ll know what to do.
She does, as she’s there to comfort Carl. Strange. With both Rick and Andrea gone, Michonne is there to fill in that role, just as she’s done on the television series. Though in that case, there’s no Rick or Carl for her to help, and in the comics now, there’s no Judith or Rick anymore. Besides Maggie or Sophia, he’s known Michonne for a long time and she’s been a close friend of his and Rick’s.
As he tells Michonne, Carl just saw the dead. He didn’t think of it as his father anymore and is even reminded of a moment from issue #50. You know, when Carl and Rick were on the run after the prison fell. Rick was unconscious and as he began to mumble and stir, Carl thought that his father had reanimated. But no, Rick was just a bit groggy. This time, though, no grogginess. Just death.
Now, though as Carl is, he can’t envision a world where his father isn’t around. Sure, Carl’s grown so much stronger that maybe there was nothing left for Rick to teach him, but that doesn’t mean that Carl is ready to live without him. Right now, we see that he clearly isn’t. Sure, Carl was ready to live away from Rick by moving to the Hilltop, but Rick was still very much a part of his life.
But now Carl begins to second guess himself, wondering if he made a mistake. If he’d stayed at the Hilltop, could he have just not known about this? The news would’ve still stunned him, but not to the same extent as finding Rick reanimated. It’s a different experiencing seeing Rick dead rather than just hearing about it or finding his dead body already wrapped up.
The culprit is as clear as day. Pamela informs Maggie, Carl, and Michonne that Sebastian was the one who shot and killed Rick. Pamela’s walking a fine line right here. The people may not want her as their leader anymore, but she’s still calling the shots. Plus, Sebastian is her son. He’s a little shit of a son, but like any parent, she’d want to keep him safe.
So it makes sense that Pamela is concerned that Carl might take matters into his own hands. Then again, his father is dead. He’s got every right to ask Pamela if Sebastian will be punished. Carl is very calm and stoic in this scene. He’s not lashing out or in tears anymore. He just wants Pamela to be straightforward about what will happen to Sebastian.
It’s Pamela that breaks down because she knows that Carl would probably strangle Sebastian if he ever saw him. She knows what he did was wrong and he deserves to pay for his crime. What parent ever wants to be in the position of saying that yes, their child will be punished for murder?
Yes, Sebastian will spend the rest of his life behind bars. It’s better than dying, but like Negan, Sebastian will effectively be locked away from the rest of the world. Carl is…fine with this. Hell, you see the panel above. There’s next to no emotion on his face as he accepts Sebastian’s fate. But as we’ll see, he’s saving all of his emotions for what comes next.
Before leaving this scene, it’s worth noting that Michonne gives Pamela a warning: circumstances may have changed, but that doesn’t mean Pamela will find herself back in the governor’s chair…actually, wait a minute. Why is Pamela back in the power seat? Shouldn’t Mercer or someone else be taking charge?
Is Pamela just assuming power again because no one else would? If she keeping the seat warm for whoever wins the election? Will there even still be an election?
Whatever. Let’s move on to a great scene with some equally great artwork. Seriously, for all of the controversy that this issue has already stirred, the artwork is great. I like how Carl is drawn in the darkness, almost monster-like as he stares down the frightened Sebastian. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised he’s already in a cell and hasn’t just been put in safekeeping.
Then again, now that I say that, if he was kept somewhere other than a prison cell, Carl would come looking for him. But he does just that here as Sebastian cowers, knowing that Carl wants him dead.
Sebastian gives us his sob story about how he’s always felt entitled to power. Because the Commonwealth apparently didn’t function as well before Pamela, she made rules that helped keep people in line. As Pamela told Rick, her rules are what help the Commonwealth survive. For Sebastian, though, that’s been an excuse for him to act like a little shit to…virtually everybody.
He’s remorseful over killing, yes, but he’s just shocked at how easy it was. They say that the first kill is the hardest, right? Well, for Sebastian, it might be his last one.
But Carl isn’t here for Sebastian’s sob story. This little shit just killed his father. All that anger Carl no doubt had repressed when talking to Pamela? Here’s his chance to lay into Sebastian. He knows that Sebastian isn’t sorry for what he did- just that he got caught. While Carl would have no problem snapping Sebastian like a twig, he follows his father’s example.
Like Rick imprisoning Negan, Carl can see Sebastian whenever he chooses. This way, he can watch Sebastian’s misery. It’s a more civilized manner as opposed to just killing him outright, even if he might deserve it. That said, Carl does warn Sebastian that if he ever escapes, there will be hell to pay.
The added cherry on top is Carl’s ‘Ta-ta’ to Sebastian as he leaves. Carl takes after his father, but that’s not his only influence. He takes on just as much after Negan. Think about issue #134 when he used a shovel to beat up the two bullies that attacked him and Sophia. There’s just as much darkness in Carl as there is light. The ‘Ta-ta’ may not have meant much to Sebastian, but you and I know what that means.
Carl didn’t even have to bash someone’s head in before uttering Negan’s ‘Ta-ta,’ either.
Let’s move on, though. So what to do with Rick’s body? Carl tells Michonne that Rick would want to be buried in Alexandria next to Andrea. I honestly couldn’t think of a better resting spot for him, in all honesty. In addition, it’s the best spot for people from the other communities to pay their respects. However, Maggie tells the two of them that a few people want to pay their respects. But how many is a few people, though?
Damn near everybody is packing up and ready to head to Alexandria to pay their respects and say farewell to Rick Grimes.
Kind of like the cover spread on issue #144 with the border reveal, it’s a nice spread here as we get a collection of solemn faces, all reacting in one way or another to the loss of Rick Grimes. Even people who barely knew Rick as well as we have can still respect his leadership abilities. The Commonwealth didn’t have Rick for long, but he made a hell of an impression.
It’s also great to see how the loss of Rick has managed to unite everyone. That shows the true amount of influence Rick had on their lives, even if some knew him for longer than others.
As the entourage heads to Alexandria, though, Carl…falls off? Stumbles? It’s hard to tell, but it’s something that gets him off of the wagon. Now in tears, he tells Michonne about how much his father sacrificed for the world. His selflessness was so that others could survive and live on.
Plus, going back to Andrea, she got a chance to say her goodbyes to everyone. Rick, though, having been killed in the middle of the night, never got that chance. It’s a terrible feeling, not being able to give a proper goodbye. Sure, there’ll be a memorial to remember Rick, but it’s not the same. Carl tells Michonne that he can’t do this anymore or go on without his father, and that’s where we leave the issues.
Chances are this will be resolved within the first few pages of issue #193. I don’t see Carl just suddenly giving up because his father is gone, but we’ll get to that next month.
So…yeah. Rick Grimes is gone. I still struggle to come to terms with that. As with Andrea, I never thought this day would come. The Walking Dead gave us a protagonist in Rick Grimes who fought tooth, nail, and claw to survive and make a better world for those close to him.
That all of this would come to a close because of a little shit like Sebastian is sudden, but not unlikely when someone can be killed at any moment. Rick doesn’t get some heroic sendoff or die defending a community. He’s snuffed in his bed by a brat who couldn’t handle someone challenging the Commonwealth. Like Andrea, the world of The Walking Dead moves on, but the loss of Rick is major.
It’s rare that I talk about the Letter Hacks, but Robert Kirkman does give us some information in regards to the death. Like with Andrea, he notes that he’s known about this for quite some time. He also makes it clear that Rick exiting The Walking Dead had no influence on the decision to kill him in the comic. Not that the comic has ever taken cues from the show.
It’s telling that this issue has a Letter Hacks section for Kirkman to talk about Rick’s death, but we didn’t get one for Andrea. That issue was basically a eulogy for Andrea, and it makes me wonder if issue #193 will be the same for Rick.
However, it turns out that Rick isn’t the only staple of The Walking Dead that we’re losing. Kirkman revealed that this would be the very last issue that Stefano Gaudiano would ink. Between Gaudiano, Charlie Adlard, and everyone else working on the illustration and art, we’ve gotten some great images with this comic. This issue is no exception. It’s nice that he mentioned that at least.
Still, Rick Grimes is dead. The world soldiers onward without him, but there are many who are will carry on his legacy in the world of The Walking Dead.
See you all in July for the goodbye.