Spoilers for The Walking Dead issue #164 follow.
Robert Kirkman may have just published his best issue of The Walking Dead to date. No one got shot. No one got eaten. No one had their brains bashed in by a baseball bat. But The Walking Dead #164 put character at the forefront for several standout moments in an issue subtly packed with intense action.
Picking up in the immediate moments following issue #163, the issue titled "A Fallen House" sees Rick fleeing from the series' largest herd of zombies at the gates of Alexandria. The fearless leader who has been attempting to rebuild the world for years now was not going to make it out alive -- until the most unlikely hero came to his aid. The man who Rick had made into a prisoner after he bashed in the skull of Glenn Rhee, killed countless Alexandrians, and manipulated Rick into submission for all too long became the man who saved Rick's life.
The potential alliance between Negan and Rick has been brewing for some time now. It started in issue #150 when Rick used Negan's advice to rally Alexandria's faith in him against the Whisperers and he sat in his jail cell, whispering, "Atta boy." Since then, Negan has put in several bids to earn Rick's trust, including literally cutting off the head of Alexandria's biggest enemy, Alpha. This, of course, lead to a war but was the first real sign of Negan's trustworthiness when most readers expected him to offer tips on taking down Alexandria to the Whisperers.
In issue #164, the details of Here's Negan pair with The Walking Dead's story in brilliant timing which is no coincidence. Kirkman has been publishing Negan's fall and rise from the early days of the apocalypse four pages at a time with the backstory special but has also pulled the curtain back on his true colors in the last dozen or so issues of The Walking Dead. If burying his Lucille bat and talking to his late wife wasn't enough recently, issue #164 sees Negan open up to Rick in a touching manner. Describing his guilt over shaming his wife by leaving her as a pile of bones on the floor was one thing but forcing Rick to reveal that the two characters actually have a few things in common showed us Kirkman has plenty of emotional plot twists up his sleeve.
Rick, reluctant to offer even the slightest forgiveness to Negan, didn't want to buy into any conversation with him at first and rightfully so. If not for his war with Negan and the Saviors years ago, several of his closest friends would be around to see the thriving community they've built. Negan is fully aware of this fact, though, and came close to apologizing for the slaughter of Glenn in issue #100. "I just lost all respect for the human race," Negan said in his vulnerable moment with Rick. "Makes it really easy to bash a man's brains in when you think it might actually save all his friends."
Negan has previously remarked about killing Glenn to Rick but never in a genuine manner. While it's fun to see Rick and Negan's continuously growing and tense dynamic, it will be more fun to see Rick try and explain to Maggie that he is now working with the man who bashed her husband's head in.
Rick and Negan were far from the only characters given spotlights in The Walking Dead #164 which to this issue from being great to being a masterpiece. Maggie, Andrea, Jesus, Michonne, and others are out trying to wrangle the herd away from the Alexandria Safe-Zone to the best of their abilities but what stood out outside of the walls was Carl.
After being forced to stay behind because he is not as good of a rider as others, Carl Grimes saw his moment to rally the people of Alexandria who can still help the cause. "The herd is thinning," Carl called out. "Let's do our part!" It was his Grimes family moment as people literally looked up to him atop the wagon, including his girlfriend Lydia who has been holding back any and all feelings for the one-eyed survivor.
Along the way, we also were treated to a hearty moment with Eugene and Heath. Two characters who come in and out of relevance throughout the series reminded us that they are on their own important journeys. Heath revealed he feels more complete while riding a horse while Eugene opened up about how lacking leadership skills of the Rick and Andrea's of the world makes him feel almost useless.
The Walking Dead #164 packed action into its pages but peppered more important character-driven scenes throughout, making it one of the series' best issues to date. All taking place in a matter of minutes, the latest installment to The Walking Dead comic book saga should have readers thirsting for more not only between Rick and Negan but also with Carl's leadership, Eugene's ties to an unknown group over the radio, and just what the remaining Saviors plan to do once the herd is cleared out.
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The Walking Dead #164 is available now at your local comic book shop. The Walking Dead TV series airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. For complete coverage and insider info all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.