Spoilers for The Walking Dead issue #169 follow. The issue is now available at your local comic book shop or digitally online.
Robert Kirkman is now 169 issues into his The Walking Dead comic and priming the series for a long-lasting and complex new story arc. The aftermath of the Whisperer War is still being carried out, which is taking months for readers to experience, but a few days for the characters within the series.
Alexandria appeared to have fallen after an "ocean of the dead" reigned down upon them. It was a group large enough to take down the Alexandria gates simply by pressing their mass against it. Walkers were literally squeezed through the bars until the community was completely overrun. In the moments which followed, the villain turned anti-hero Negan saved the life of Rick Grimes and had the favor returned only moments later.
While the Whisperer War turned out to be more action-driven than compelling with its story, the issues since have proven that Kirkman's series is not going anywhere. Opening up Negan as one of the most conflicted characters has provided a new angle for the series to explore, which also opened the doors for conflict between Rick and the community he is leading as the events of issue #100 have not been forgotten.
Issue #169 is largely a filler issue of sorts. Many of the characters are coming to terms with Negan's heroics in turning the Saviors away from their attack on the community, Rick is still reeling from the loss of his wife, and people are beginning to question whether or not he is capable of keeping the community in check.
There are several emotional moments which serve as the issue's more memorable. Rick and Carl say "goodbye" as the growing Grimes boy elects to head back to Hilltop and rebuild the community, while Jesus has developed a life of his own within Alexandria and hopes to keep it that way. Not to mention, Carl has a certain conversation with Lydia to open the book which touchingly reveals how devastated he is over the loss of Andrea. A character death hasn't had such an impact on The Walking Dead in years.
Many of these moments, however, were either major reveals or set up the complex story ahead -- or both.
It's been a long time coming but Aaron and Jesus have finally sealed the deal on becoming an item. The level-headed Hilltopper has long had a connection with the scout from Alexandria but the two have been reluctant to admit to one another or other survivors.
Finally, Jesus says outwardly to Rick Grimes that he and Aaron have developed a relationship.
"When I said I have something worth staying for -- it was a someone," Jesus said. "A specific someone, actually. It's Aaron. I was talking about Aaron. He's not going to want to go either."
For Jesus, this is a major pivot. The character has always been quick to advise and assist Rick and Maggie in any venture they find themselves burdened with. He has been a valuable asset in each conflict he has been present for. Now, he is looking to build a life of his own within the walls of Alexandria with a significant other.prevnext
While Jesus sees this rebuilding period as an opportunity to change his life to one which is less action-packed and dangerous, Dwight sees the chance to rise as a leader.
The former leader of post-All Out War Saviors is hungry for power, apparently. In the aftermath of Sherry's death and Negan's leading at Alexandria, Dwight reveals his resent towards Rick Grimes in the form of coming for his throne. "I feel like we'd be better off with me here," Dwight told Rick. "I think I should stay -- and run things. I think your time is done, Rick."
This is another classic example of the people around Rick being idiots and not allowing him to successfully rebuild civilization. If it's not one thing, it's another. It finally appears there are no threats to the community (except Beta, who is probably lingering somewhere in the distance) and an internal feud has to come up for Rick.
Rick, who has long been subdued from his do-anything-to-survive days unleashed a touch of the fire which helped fans fall in love with him, though.
"I have a rage boiling inside of me," Rick said. "At times like this it's really hard to control and it wants out. Don't give me a reason to let it out Dwight!"
Boom! Rick still has it and, given his ability to control that rage, he might be better than ever. "Because at this point... What's one more f---ing grave?"prevnext
Despite his recent heroics during the Whisperer War, Negan is being kicked out of Alexandria as Rick promised he would be. The former villain was given ample supplies on his way out and bitterly had one last name to call the community when nobody was sad to see him going.
The events leading up to his farewell were the more important bits, however. Specifically, Maggie and Rick's conversation regarding Rick allowing the man who killed Glenn to roam the community freely. "I look at Negan now, and honestly... I think of how many husbands I've killed... How many wives," Rick said. "I'm not excusing what he did. I still think about Glenn every single day. It still hurts. But I can't help but be haunted by the fact that I don't really see what makes me so different."
While Rick and Negan are undeniably different in their methods of leadership, the two Alphas both have hands which are very dirty. Any person who emerges as a survivor, let alone a leader, in the world of The Walking Dead will have to do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their people. The series has made this much clear. However, Rick has managed to hold onto his conscience throughout the journey. Negan only realized he had one long after committing such atrocities and having his power stripped from him.
While Negan is currently on his way out of Alexandria, the character will certainly remain a staple in the series. Maggie is playing her part in ensuring as much, as she sent Dante to keep an eye on him. As smart as Negan is, he'll likely catch on to the plan fairly quickly.prevnext
The biggest development of the series appears to be setting the stage for the biggest expansion to the world of The Walking Dead since the Alexandria community was introduced and lead to the Hilltop and Kingdom's inclusions.
For the past few months, Eugene has been chatting over the radio with a woman who claims to be Stephanie from Ohio. He has kept this a secret in an effort not to break the woman's trust but Siddiq discovered the radio and quickly revealed the communications to Rick. Immediately, Rick insisted on talking to the woman and getting some answers.
By the end of the conversation, the stage has been set for Rick Grimes to send a team to meet this woman and her group which claims to be from Ohio -- a journey which would could take "weeks" according to Jesus. Such journeys haven't taken place in The Walking Dead since the group developed its roots in Alexandria nearly 100 issues ago.
This shows that not only is The Walking Dead ready to broaden its horizon and expand the world once again but might also be huge reason for longtime fans to get excited. Some of the best content from Kirkman and his artist Charlie Adlard over the years has come in the form of survival stories on the road. An upcoming cover sees the group doing just that before teasing a possibly extravagant an unexpected introduction of Stephanie (or some other interestingly dressed female character).
169 issues in and The Walking Dead has still got it. In fact, it might only be getting started.prevnext
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MORE WALKING DEAD: TWD Season 8 Trailer Details Revealed / Why FTWD Is So Good Now / Dayton Callie Explains Jeremiah's Complexity / Ross Marquand Promises A Massive TWD Season 8 / Negan's Complete Backstory Coming In October / Madison Clark Is Officially FTWD's Rick Grimes
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.prev