Over the years, comic book fans have speculated on when the phenomenon of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead would end. Some speculated issue 50, then they said issue 80, now the rumors are issue 100. The reality is, nobody can tell you when The Walking Dead will end except Robert Kirkman. That being said, there is a part of my brain buzzing around the idea that issue #85 is setting us up for the end. Don’t quote me, don’t start posting it to chat rooms, it’s just a feeling. Something in the way the last five issues of Walking Dead have been written, and something particular with issue #85.
Since the beginning, the little band led by Rick Grimes has been a community – a fucked up and massively disturbed community, but a community nonetheless. Prior to them arriving at the gated sub-division the group currently resides in, the participants didn’t share the feeling of community. Rick seemed ready at any moment to abandon everyone and leave with his pregnant wife and son. His thoughts were of getting through the next day, possibly the next week and that was as far as he would look into the future. The constant moving, the near death escapes, it’s all been part of the forward momentum for The Walking Dead.
Issue #85 opens a new reality for Rick, the old community he’s always led and the new one he’s been pushed into leading. The events of the past few issues, the violence, the death, the horror of the zombie attack, the shooting of Rick’s son Carl, have put things into a new perspective for everyone. 85 begins with Rick sitting by Carl’s comatose body and relating a decision he made during the onslaught that should be haunting him. Instead, Kirkman has Rick recite it very matter-of-factly, as though it was the only choice to make. The entire opening is chilling and it goes down with zero zombie attacks.
Pressing on, issue #85 lays out where the survivors in this new community, made up of old and new members, are standing. It’s a psychological issue, an issue where harsh truths are bared and the fragile construct of the band of survivors is on display. It’s make or break time here, either the community structure is made stronger or everybody goes their separate ways. Rick takes the lead on this idea, spurred on by his weariness and his desire to try to live and not just survive. He calls a community meeting and decides that the sub-division is worth fighting for, that he wants ideas from everybody on how to fortify their new home and even expand it. For the first time Rick talks about re-establishing humanity and defending his home. It may seem like a subtle point, but for those who have followed Walking Dead from issue #1, it’s an enormous one.
To me, Walking Dead #85 speaks to the idea of the end of the series. The people who spent so long living like animals are starting to remember what it means to be human. Love has always permeated the trials and tribulations of Rick and the group, but here it has a chance to grow. I know Kirkman won’t end Walking Dead on some easy note and what could be better than humanity trying to rebuild itself against what is really just another natural disaster.
Only time will tell.