Say goodbye to the Grayson family.
How often do we get the opportunity to see one writer and two artists remain on board a comic for 15 years and 144 issues straight? This series has been allowed to grow and evolve over the years in ways that simply wouldn’t be possible on a traditional, company-owned project. All of that only adds to the weight and significance of this final issue, as Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker give fans one final outing with the Grayson family. It’s not a flawless sendoff for the series, but an emotionally fulfilling one all the same.
The pacing of this final 12-part story arc, “The End of All Things,” has been all over the map. For a time it seemed as though the book had reached its dramatic climax too soon, leaving little material to fill these final few issues. But now, with the surprise debut of a son Mark never knew he had and the pressures of becoming emperor weighing on our hero, it’s as if the series suddenly has the opposite problem.
Kirkman’s final script covers a great deal of ground in the span of 48 pages. Not only does it unfold over a number of years, it splits its attention between Mark and his family in space and young Marky’s struggles on Earth. For the most part, Kirkman covers that ground efficiently and elegantly. Yes, there are times where I found myself wishing the creators still had several issues left in which to work and expand on these events. The clunky, overly wordy dialogue also becomes annoying at times. But by and large, the focus is less on plot and more on the emotional journey of the Grayson family.
The further along the story gets, the more sentimental and wistful it becomes. Characters age and experience tragedies and triumphs alike. Kirkman doesn’t attempt to bring a definitive end to this story so much as remind readers that nothing ever truly ends. Kind of like Watchmen, if that book were attempting to be optimistic and uplifting. There’s a nicely cyclical quality to this issue as the parallel stories of Terra and Marky mirror their father’s own journey early in the series. Kirkman manages to give numerous characters the farewell they deserve while also introducing enough new loose ends that he could easily pick back up with a sequel if the mood ever struck. There’s both closure and potential in this finale.
In many cases, having an issue split evenly between two artists would lead to a disjointed overall feel. But that’s not a problem here. Walker may not have drawn nearly the number of issues Ottley has over the years, but he’s still been a vital force on this book over the long haul, and it’s only fitting that both artists share in the responsibility of closing out the series. Both do a great job of keeping this fast-paced tale clean and visually dynamic. Both also do their part in maximizing the emotional intensity of the issue through facial work and body language. And whatever stylistic differences the two may have are more than covered by the warm, unifying colors of Nathan Fairbairn.