Today's issue of The Walking Dead by Skybound Entertainment and Image Comics features a lot of fighting, a surprising amount of talking, and a key character death that, weirdly, it seems was projected out nearly two years ago.
As you might expect, the issue revolved around Rick Grimes's group of survivors holding their position against an attack from Negan and his remaining Saviors. The latter rolled up to the doors, expecting Rick to be long gone by now, the result of Dwight's betrayal which injured the hero back in #123.
Negan's original sin in the series, of course, was that he set up an elaborate protection racket and would travel around to various settlements, offering them safety (mostly from retribution from himself and his ragtag army) in exchange for a share of their rations and supplies. Negan, then, could live like a king without actually adjusting to the changing demands of the new world much. He didn't have to hunt or scavenge or whatever else -- just roll in with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and a bunch of goons behind him and make demands.
When Rick and company resisted, the result was that they were surrounded, forced to their knees and Glenn was killed, while Negan made gleeful noises and racist jokes. And a good time was had by all.
Along the way, Rick was given an out -- sort of -- by Negan, telling him, basically, that he was welcome to take his shot at Negan, but that there would be consequences:
That's a kind of specific line, actually. "Stand up and put a knife in my throat."
And we get a payoff in The Walking Dead #125 this morning. For the first time in quite a while (he's mostly just been a "kill 'em all" kind of guy for much of his lifespan in the series, including "All-Out War"), Negan starts making sympathetic noises again about how he does all of this stuff for his people, so that they can survive.
Rick calls him on his crap, telling Negan that without a thug like him making things worse for everybody, the few remaining humans could work together against the threat of the walkers. His speech is a bit reminiscent of the one delivered in the TV episode "Too Far Gone," just before The Governor cut Hershel's head off. Surprisingly, though, the villain relents, and Negan has an epiphany.
"I've had it all wrong," he realizes. "I've been acting like a hungry dog, hoarding supplies, pushing others away for safety, for my people."
That bit of clarity doesn't do him much good, though...
Oh, look. A knife to the throat. Just like he asked for.
And, yeah, you would be right to point out that appears to be a pretty shallow wound, and that we've seen far more horrific injuries -- think of Carl's bullet hole through the head -- that did not result in character death.
But take a good look at the knife in the image above. Those little dots that the grey tones colorist added to them aren't to give it texture, or a feeling of realism, or even rust. That's how The Saviors' "mucked up" weapons have been depicted in this storyline. Meaning that even if the next issue doesn't start with Negan dead on the ground, it will certainly at some point include a zombified version of Negan.