(Editor's Note: For more: The Doc also presents 10 facts why Lori is not dead on "The Walking Dead" TV show!)
The Rise And Fall(?) Of Carl Grimes
By:Chris "DOC" Bushley
Although AMC's The Walking Dead has just recently evolved the character of Carl Grimes past the sniveling, under foot brat that is consistently never "in the house," the comic book character of the same name has been a fan favorite since the beginning. A touch of exuberant youth that kept the group reminded of just how precious their lives truly were, Carl was also the reader's segue into the ever devolving vestiges of innocence in that world. This is a snapshot of Carl's life, from "birth" to badass and even his possible death!
(Warning: Spoilers Ahoy!)
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4166:]]From the moment of his introduction, Carl Grimes has been one of my favorite comic characters. The unbridled innocence that exudes from the character in the earlier books kept you believing that no matter how horrible things are in Robert Kirkman's world of zombies and human depravity, there would always be a spark of something good. The first meeting of Carl and his father Rick, after believing he was dead, is still one of my favorite moments from The Walking Dead comic book series. It is symbolically touching and the first step in Carl's long walk into darkness.
In The Walking Dead #5 five Carl receives his first gun, it is also revealed that he is SEVEN years old! Imagine yourself at seven years old with an actual gun, yeah I don't think I would be here either -- at least with all working parts! But, it is that father son bonding moment that will solidify Carl's turn from innocent child of the group into one of the most fearless killers in their ranks. For we all know what happens to those bullies that pick on Carl's daddy! Sorry, Shane!
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4171:]]From that moment, the sweet and naive Carl begins his transformation into a key character of the group. He sees himself as an equal to the adults, a "protector" and provider, someone that can steel himself against the horrors of their world and press on no matter what may occur. His fear and, most importantly, his need to be protected by others is alleviated in his eyes. He can do what his father can do, and eventually, even things Rick cannot!
But, to take a man's life is no easy feat, Carl breaks down in front of Rick and tells him that it wasn't like killing the dead ones, it wasn't easy. Rick responds, "It should never be easy."
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4173:]]Then, in issue nine, Carl has his first touch with his own mortality. While being overrun with a mass of Roamers (called Walkers on the show!), Carl is unexpectedly shot from behind by Otis! Rick and Tyrese run to him while Otis emerges looking bewildered at what has just transpired. When Carl eventually awakens from his wounds he is a far different character than the smiling boy we met in issue one. He has felt what it means to be on the brink of death and he will never let it happen to anyone he loves ever again. He has become hardened to the world, his moral compass has begun to swing out of control and after The Walking Dead 48, which sees the death of his mother Lori and newborn sister Judith, Carl is a shell of the boy he once was!
Cut off from the rest of the group, Carl must now take care of his physically and emotionally damaged father, and we begin to see the disdain that he now harbors for Rick. He feels that Rick has become weak, letting their family die at the hands of outsiders. The boy who once killed his father's best friend is now pondering if he needs to "deal' with his own father. As others join the group, Carl descends into the background again until The Walking Dead issue #57. While on the road, Abraham, Rick and Carl are attacked by bandits. Abraham is held at gun point and Rick is beaten and restrained. Rick tries to fight back and is told that for is defiance, Carl will be raped in front of him! As a bandit pins down Carl, Rick snaps and tears out his captor's throat with his teeth. Shocked at what has happened, the bandit holding Abraham at bay freezes long enough for Abraham to shoot him while Rick continually stabs the third. These horrific events change the dynamic of Rick and Carl's relationship again. Father and son begin to talk about all that has transpired between them, and Carl tells Rick that if he knew the thoughts he had in his head, Rick wouldn't love him anymore. They hug, the innocence may be lost, but their love for each other will always be strong.
Issue #61 is where we see how emotionally devoid Carl truly is and just how far he is willing to go to protect the group. In The Walking Dead #60, Ben, a boy around eight years old, kills his twin brother Billy. Ben is so mentally disturbed by the world they live in that he thinks it is all okay since his brother will just "return" to life anyway. As the group locks Ben in a van and ponders what to do with the youthful serial killer to be, Carl has his own ideas. In issue #61, Carl pretends to be sleeping while Rick lays down next to him. Carl then sneaks out to the van and carefully opens the door. He is greeted by Ben who says, "Aren't you afraid of me?" Carl responds "No" and shoots Ben in the head!
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4195:]]But the wheels of fate are always turning, as we see Carl and his "family" grow bigger and move on, we also see the threats heighten as well. Just as issue #83 shows us, when you think all is well -- fate comes knocking! The Walking Dead #83 is one of the few comics that I actually had to stop and catch my breath after reading, it is so jarring that it couldn't be helped! Although many characters die in this issue, it is Carl being accidentally shot in the head that, literally, took my breath away! No - almost - character death has ever moved me like that single moment. That young boy turned badass, Carl, becomes so frail in that moment -- that it is actually hard to read. It is one of Robert Kirkman's best skills to make readers care so much for these characters and at that moment, he truly moved us all!
As Carl recovered over the next twenty issues, the group dynamic swelled and changed. Another era of peace and prosperity began to develop, and with it a sense of safety. But we all know how Kirkman love to lure us into a sense of comfort before dropping a hammer into our skulls. This time the hammer is named Neegan, and the storyline was called "Something To Fear."
The Walking Dead #100, one of the most brutal books I have ever read, introduces Neegan to Rick, Carl, Glenn, Maggie, Sofia, Michonne and Heath. As this new tyrant plays "eenie, meenie, miinie mo" with the group, Neegan takes a look at Carl and the boy's world will never be the same again! As Neegan chooses Glenn and repeatedly bashes in his skull with his baseball bat "Lucille," everyone looks on in horror. After Neegan and his men declare their deal with Rick's group, they depart, leaving Rick crying over his fallen friend, while Carl steadies himself for what must come next!
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4178:]]After Rick tells the community that they will have to comply with Neegan's demands, Carl decides to confront Neegan himself. When Neegan's group comes to collect half of all the community's supplies, Carl greets them in a not so hospitable manner. Neegan asks Carl if he just threatened him, because he wants to be really sure when someone does! This is the point that may decide Carl's fate in the next few issues! A line has been drawn between these two characters and Carl decides to pole vault it in issue #104!
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4180:]]Seeing his father as making the wrong decision about how to handle Neegan, Carl stows away in the back of one of Neegan's trucks as they head back to their camp. When they eventually stop, Carl takes the group by surprise, laying waste to a bevy of Saviors before vacating the truck with his machine gun! As he slowly steps out of the truck, Carl announces that Neegan killed his friend and he only wants to kill him if the others back away. Neegan tells Carl that he is genuinely scared of him and comments about the gun he chose to bring with him. Carl fires again but the sheer weight and kick back of the gun knocks him to the ground and he loses his grip of the gun. Dwight (a Savior that was held captive by Andrea) quickly begins to beat Carl before Neegan asks him if he would kill a defenseless boy. Neegan then announces that they should welcome their new arrival as the issue ends!
Now, we may not know the fate of Carl just yet, but the next few covers suggest our little "badass" is in for some harrowing times! The Walking Dead #106 is Charlie Adlard's 100th issue on the book as artist, and he has promised something "big" is going to happen. Let it be known that the issue is also called "Revenge" which doesn't bode well for the lifespan of our hero.
And we also see the big reveal of the cover for The Walking Dead #107!
Check them out below and let your own thoughts "roam!"
"The Walking Dead" #107 goes on sale in February!
The Walking Dead #107:
As gut wrenching as the cover of issue #107 may be, I may just have an inside scoop about Carl's fate!
I met Robert Kirkman at last year's NYCC 2011 and chatted about Carl a little bit. After we spoke, he wrote this in my copy of The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor (right)! Then he slowly looked up and said, "You know I'm lying, right?"
So, I cannot say for sure whether Carl will make it to see issue #108 or not, but I can safely say that Robert Kirkman has suddenly filled my head with one word regarding Carl -- Fear!