With this being the penultimate issue of the All Out War story arc, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It could be a total tease with the action being set up for the last issue. Or it could be packed with action with the last episode polishing things up. Well, it was a hybrid.

My favorite thing from this episode (besides the last page) was the maturation of Carl. As a boy, he was thrust into this world. He spent a lot of time with his dad and others trying to shelter him from everything, but the truth being that he needed to grow up fast. He never got to have a growing up “process”. That makes it difficult to be a well-adjusted adult. But when speaking to a boy that just lost his father, Carl was able to articulate his feelings and relate to where the boy is at. It was a pretty touching scene.
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We also get a glimpse back to what Rick had been: a consummate leader. Everyone is shaken by the battle. Maggie is relating the stories of people too scared to leave their homes. Andrea is crying because she’s scared to lose Rick. Even Carl is showing fear. But Rick rallies everyone and has a plan and settles Andrea down with one line:
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Until this point, Negan has been a complete maniac, but he has never gone over the deep end. He has been able to stay rational enough to always be one step ahead of Rick and his people. He has displayed that balance of evil genius and complete monster. It’s a scary combination. But in the end of the last issue and throughout this issue, he has begun the spiral into full-on maniac. He is so over excited about the thought of a dead Rick and what he will do to the body, he doesn’t care how close they are to the enemy camp or that Eugene and Carson have escaped and stolen the truck. Nothing matters to him other than the death of Rick. It has been the first time he has left himself vulnerable. Finally Rick’s plan has traction to possibly work. Are we about to see the downfall of Negan?
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Finally, we have the ending of the issue. We’ve all read the episode and know what the last panel has to offer. But pick up your issue. Skim back a few pages to when Negan first shows back up to the camp…before he knows Rick is alive. Although he said they weren’t planning to kill anyone, all of his men are fully armed. We are lulled a bit because there are several pages where the action solely focuses on Negan and/or Rick. So when Rick shanks Negan, the two of them are not in a bubble. Rick is surrounded by pissed off, trigger happy Saviors with assault weapons. He doesn’t have Andrea on sniper duty or Carl ready to shoot. Jesus is meant to flank the action, but who knows if this conversation took long enough for that to happen. I suspect this will be the end of Negan, but will it also signal the end of Rick, too?
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Some thoughts:
Was everything Rick said to Negan bullshit? I know he wouldn’t trust Negan, but will he offer his truce to the rest of the Saviors or is it just a clever ruse (nod to Kevin Smith/Clerks).
Whose side is Dwight on? Is he stringing this on long enough to see who wins? Will we ever know the full truth?
If Rick is killed, how will the leadership evolve? Will it be Jesus? Will it be Ezekiel? Maggie? Andrea? Will there be groups splitting into different factions?
With Negan likely to die, how will the series continue? How will the book progress? Will there be a new villain? Will it go into a very slow progression of building and establishing a new life?
I honestly think Rick has to die to continue the story. They can spend the next few months mourning his death, in-fighting, lobbying for who will lead, and get back to focusing on the walkers.
All I know is that these next two weeks are going to be so difficult. This issue really set up a cliffhanger for the arc finale.

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