The Walking Dead Book Sixteen collects issues 181 through to 193 of Robert Kirkman's post-apocalyptic comic book series The Walking Dead. The book was published on 4 September 2019 by Image Comics. It was written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Cliff Rathburn, Charlie Adlard and Stefano Gaudiano. It is the final hardback edition of the Walking Dead and contains Volume 31 "The Rotten Core" and Volume 32 "Rest in Peace" which includes the final issues of the series. This review will contain spoilers for the Walking Dead comic book series and TV show. Robert Kirkman surprised everyone when he ended the Walking Dead with issue 193 which was released on 3 July 2019. He had kept it a secret that the issue was going to be the final one and had even released several fake issues for the next couple of issues to fool people into thinking that the series would be continuing past 193.
I was surprised when I heard that issue 193 was going to be the last one but also relieved. I've been a fan of the Walking Dead comic book series for years. I've also been an avid viewer of the Walking Dead television show as well. In the past few years, the quality of the Walking Dead television show and its spin-offs has declined sharply, but the quality of the comics did not. As the TV show got more ridiculous and less enjoyable, I kept comparing it more to the comic, and feeling frustrated and disappointed that the show was drifting more and more away from the original source material.
In the comics, Carl Grimes is a major character, but in the TV show, he was killed off years ago, much to the outrage of fans. In the comic book series, that does not happen, he remains a major character and is given a satisfying conclusion to his character journey in Book Sixteen. I suspect Judith will take his story line in the TV show once it adapts the final issues of the series, which annoys me, because it would be better if it were Carl. A big theme running through the Walking Dead comic series right from the start was the relationship that Carl had with his father, Rick. Judith has grown into an interesting character on the show, but she was never meant to steal Carl's spotlight. I keep thinking how much better the show would be if they'd just stuck to the story in the comics and kept Carl alive.
Another issue I have with the TV show is how repetitive it has become. The survivors keep getting into violent clashes with other survivors and committing acts of murder just to survive. The line between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" in the TV show has gotten so thin, I don't know who to root for sometimes. In the comic book series, there is a scene when Rick calls himself and the other survivors "The Walking Dead" because they are not thriving, they are just surviving, and that is no way for them to live. In Book Sixteen, he tells them that they are NOT the Walking Dead anymore. They are no longer surrounded by the dead and living on borrowed time. They can be happy and live in peace again. He has seen what life is like within the Commonwealth and is confident that they can re-build society and reclaim their humanity and create a world that was better than what existed before. Their trials are over. It's a powerful scene that wraps up Rick's story and his character journey and delivers a strong ending to the comic book series.
One interesting thing that I noticed about the front cover of this book is that Rick Grimes is standing front and centre in front of the Walkers. In all of the previous books, the character pictured on the cover was always in the foreground and barely visible among a group of Walkers and trying not to draw attention to themselves. But in the later books, the characters began being pictured closer to the front of the group of Walkers and standing more out among the dead. This symbolizes to me that the survivors are becoming stronger, more adapted to the new world, and less frightened of the Walkers.
The powerful image of Rick Grimes on Book Sixteen standing in front of the Walkers, completely unafraid of them, shows what a bold and prominent figure he has become among the survivors. He has survived the Walking Dead to make a new, better world for him and his son. I'm impressed that Robert Kirkman chose to end the Walking Dead. He could have kept the series going and let it become stale like the TV show has become, but instead he decided to wrap it up nicely, and give it an ending that was positive and pleased most of his fans.