Spoilers for The Walking Dead issue #168 follow!
The Walking Dead continues to get more and more interesting in the wake of its Whisperer War story arc.
The six-issue arc promised to change the landscape of Robert Kirkman's series but when the biggest casualties were Father Gabriel and Lucille, some fans felt a bit let down by the time the final pages of the sixth issue had been turned. It was the issues which followed which became the most compelling content the book has offered in quite some time.
First of all, Andrea died in one of the most shocking turns of the series. Her still-living funeral was one stand out moment but her insistance that Rick continue to lead Alexandria in her absence created a rare uplifting moment for the conclusion of last month's issue, in a pleasant juxtaposition to the obvious grim nature surrounding her death.
Then comes Issue #168. Having accidentally killed Savior leader Sherry while her army is knocking on the door, Rick Grimes finds himself surrounded by an angry, short-tempered bunch. Luckily for Rick, Dwight remained loyal despite the death of Sherry (which he should really be thanking the leader for) but the most interesting turn came when Rick's back appeared to be truly against a wall.
Negan bursts onto the page, fresh off of saving Rick's life from the remaining Whisperer herd and having the favor returned for him, only to double down as an ally of Alexandria. His colorful word choices are as entertaining as ever, still managing to surprise readers with a particular sexual metaphor for this situation involving feet. When it looked like he was about to take charge of his old savage squad, the villain turned anti-hero spoke of the importance of Rick Grimes.
"It's about helping each other," Negan ultimately said to John.
The set up for Negan's alliance with Rick has been a long time coming but the payoff this time around, as Rick ordered his own people to step back and allow Negan to take the lead here. The payoff lands right where it needs to, especially seeing as Rick never lets his guard down as Negan speaks -- he is at the ready to ensure his leadership and the safety of Alexandria while providing this opportunity to Negan.
All in all, it's a little frustrating to see this entire issue unfold over the course of maybe 20 minutes before waiting another month for more new pages, but the solidifying of Negan and Rick's relationship was a more than welcome beat.
In the aftermath of Issue #168, two major questions arise.
1. What is Maggie going to think of all this?
With the Hilltop having burned to the ground, Maggie is inevitably calling Alexandria home again. When she sees what Rick is allowing Negan to do, there is no chance she is taking it well. This is the man who killed her husband, the father of her unborn son at the time, and showed absolutely no remorse for it.
Watching Negan in action as Rick stood by put a sour feeling in Maggie as she stood among the crowd watching everything unfold. While she has not addressed the issue with Rick just yet, likely realizing it is not the best time for such a conversation with the hurting leader, her opinion of the situation is likely not pleasant.
2. Does Rick want to lead this community anymore?
The final pages of Issue #168 see Rick taking his shirt and hook hand off to go lay on Andrea's grave for the night. He's is exhausted and now feeling the loss of the woman he loved.
With Negan stepping in to assist in his leadership and clearly doing a more effective job of it, in this case, Rick might be looking at this scenario as an opportunity to take a step back from all of his duties as leader.prevnext
Applied to TV
For the events of Issue #168 to happen on AMC's The Walking Dead, the series would have to continue well beyond its eighth season.
For perpective, the Season 8 premiere will be seeing story points equivalent to around Issue #116 which was printed in late 2013. Typically, the series moves at a pace of about 20 issues per season. Keeping that pace, the series would reach the events of Issue #168 around Season 10 or 11.
While the certain Saviors involved with the scenes of the most recent issue don't appear to have been cast just yet, Sherry has shown no signs of returning to the series since disappearing late in Season 7. Furthermore, the other catalyst for Rick's willingness to step back, Andrea, has been long dead on the AMC series with Michonne appearing to fill in for her. If the TV show continues to adapt the comics with such accuracy, the Whisperer War's aftermath might mark the end of the road for Danai Gurira's character.prevnext
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Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. The Walking Dead will return for its eighth season in October of 2017. The first trailer is expected to arrive at San Diego Comic Con in July. For complete coverage and insider info all off-season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.