Disclaimer: As always, there will be major spoilers in any TWD comic review.
The Walking Dead issue #163 is the largest TWD comic ever, with preordered numbers exceeding 750,000. This makes it one of the highest sold comics in nearly two decades and there are a few reasons for this. First, the comic is selling at a price of 25¢ and it is a 40-page extended issue. Second, and this may be an even bigger reason, this is the book that is rumored to be Rick Grimes final stand, where he will meet an untimely death at the hands of 10,000 zombies. Finally, if Rick does indeed perish, then Negan would obviously be a big player in both this issue and in the future of Team Alexandria.
So, did our favorite protagonist get crushed, as one of the covers leads you to believe? Read on if you dare!
The issue begins with fear. Dwight and Rick are overlooking the outside of Alexandria when they hear the overwhelming roar of the zombie horde that was unleashed by Beta in the previous issue. The Whisperers made a promise to mow the city down with a massive herd of undead, before the time that Negan beheaded their old leader, Alpha. Beta, the new leader, has fulfilled that promise, and Alexandria appears to be doomed.
Andrea joins Dwight and Rick to give them the hope of survival, and runs off to get prepared. Rick then meets up with the also hopeful Eugene, and they go put a plan in place. So what is this plan one may ask? It is the same as always, split the group with one team to run the Walkers off, and the other group to pick the remainders off 1-by-1. Ok so right here, I knew this was a terrible idea. This horde is bigger than anything they have ever seen, and my first thought is that the zombies will simply push through the gate. But, they get the plan in motion and Andrea leads her team with Jesus, Eugene, Heath, and Dwight. They quickly get blocked in the street and have to rush off into an alleyway.
Back in Alexandria the secondary team set up with all of the ammunition that Eugene has been working tirelessly to make. Rick, Siddiq, Annie, Paula, and "others" make ready as the massive horde slam into the gate. The one person missing in all of this seems to wake up from a nap, as Negan strolls in and ridiculously asks, "What the hell is everyone freaking out over?" Rick refuses to give him a firearm but realizes that they need to do something about the undead pushing against the gate.
The comic switches to Team Andrea, and very quickly the group realizes that they are in over their heads. They are not attracting enough of the Walkers to make much of a difference, so they resort to fighting 10 zombies one at a time in an attempt to slowly lead them away. Another bad idea, but we will have to wait until next issue as this is their last appearance in this book.
Rick, in an uncharacteristic manner, begins to panic as the zombies start piling up, and it is Negan who gives a small speech and rushes to the gate with a knife. With a shocked look, Rick yells, "Listen to the man," and everyone rushes forward. Then the Walkers push over the gate (told you I saw this coming) and poor Paula gets gobbled up pleading for Rick to, "Find Mikey, keep him [safe]." Rick sounds the retreat, but his bum leg trips him up. The zombie horde closes on top of him, and Rick's fate is finally revealed. They reach for him, claws inches away from his throat, and just as he is about to die...
Negan saves his life with the knife using it to kill Rick's attackers, and then Negan drags Rick to safety. During this time, Negan asks if they are square; hoping that this is enough to make him a permanent member of the team. It seems that Rick's fate is to have Negan as a trusted friend. Negan does seem to have changed his ways, but keep in mind, this could simply be a "long con" from Kirkman. Eventually, I still would not be surprised if Negan slashes Rick's throat in his final revenge. Kirkman did say that Rick will die eventually, so only time will tell.
The issue ends with John and Tara, of The Saviors, spying on the whole ordeal, ready to pounce in to finish off any remaining survivors.
This was an interesting issue, and I had a feeling Rick would survive -- as the covers are often misleading. Did you like the issue? Do you think Negan has fully changed his ways? February is a double-ship month, so we may find out soon enough. Let's hear from you.