Some Comic Spoilers Below
In the back half of the seventh season of The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes and Co. will begin building up their alliances so that in the eighth season, Rick’s army will be in a position to take on Negan’s army of Saviors in the eighth season. We know that Negan will survive this season, at least, and spoiler, Rick Grimes — who is under contract for at least another two seasons — will ultimately survive the war with Negan, as well. In fact, in the comics at least, Negan also survives the war. Remember that jail cell that Morgan built in the sixth season? That’s probably where Negan is going to end up for a while.
However, in the comics, Robert Kirkman appears to be heading toward another huge, iconic moment, not unlike Glenn’s death in Issue #100. February is going to be a huge month for The Walking Dead. Not only is Robert Kirkman selling Issue #163 for only a quarter, but it’s arrived with a variant cover, and there will be a second issue of The Walking Dead in February (typically, Robert Kirkman releases only one issue a month).
With the television series due back in February, Kirkman may be doing this to re-energize fans of The Walking Dead — some of whom have abandoned the show — but he’s probably also trying to create one of those signature The Walking Dead moments that we can all look forward to in two or three seasons on the show.
Such moments typically involve a major death and/or the introduction of a new threat. I will say this (again, spoilers): In the most recent issue, Negan is still alive, and he had to bury his bat Lucille after he broke it over the back of an enemy. (Negan is in an uneasy alliance with Alexandria.) Negan also showed a real sense of humanity in the episode. With Rick wearing Negan’s jacket and holding Lucille on the variant cover, it might be a good time in the comics to kill off Negan, because it feels like he may have fulfilled his character arc. He’s been redeemed.
Some fans of the comic, however, are concerned that this could be the end not for Negan, but for Rick Grimes. The character is looking down the barrel of yet another downward spiral (his third or fourth over the course of the character’s run), his son, Carl, has taken on a bigger leadership role, and with other characters — Dwight, Negan, Maggie, Michonne — taking on a bigger role in the series, it might be time to hand it off to a new generation of characters.
Granted, death scares with Rick are not new in either the televisions series or the comics. People were afraid Rick would die in Issue #100, and again in Issue #125. But this issue comes at a precarious time for the series, which is hoping to reverse its downward trend in the ratings. The death of Rick would give comics readers heightened emotions about the show’s lead, as well as something to be anxious about. It could also provide another opportunity for the series to diverge the comic. If Rick dies in the comic and survives in the TV series, it will offer new mysteries going ahead for comics readers.
Kirman has been clear, after all, that not only is no one safe, but that Rick will die in the comics. In fact, at a Hawaii Comic Con a couple of months ago, Kirkman revealed that not only would Rick die, but so would Carl, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, and even Daryl Dixon. He didn’t say when they would die, only that they would eventually. He did not mention Carol — whom Kirkman has admitted is the one series’ character he will not kill off — nor did he mention Negan.
It’s possible that Negan not only outlives Rick, but Carl, which would put the kibosh on Michael Rooker’s perfect ending for the series. Fans of the television series may have to wait until the 10th season to find out, but comics fans may get an early preview of that future death on February 1st when Issue #163 goes on sale. Better still: It will only cost fans a quarter. Knowing Kirkman, however, #163 will end on a cliffhanger and the next issue, which comes out only two weeks later, will cost $40 to buy!