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The Walking Dead #174

Review by Paul Bowler

It’s a solitary life for some in The Walking Dead #174, as the spotlight falls on the series’ infamous big bad and former Saviors leader, Negan. Because of his help during the Whisperer War, Rick granted Negan his freedom, on the condition that his lived alone and away from all of the surrounding communities. Negan’s solitary existence has given him time to reflect on the past, but not all off Rick’s allies agreed with his decision…

The Walking Dead #174 is a challenging, unexpected, and welcome change of pace from recent issues as writer Robert Kirkman offers us a powerful insight into Negan’s character and what he’s been up to since the Whisperer War. Some might say it’s about time we had a Negan centric issue like this, others might worry it will demystify Rick’s foul mouthed, bad-ass, nemesis too much, but they’d be wrong on both counts.

Negan’s been around for seventy five issues now, but here we finally begin to get an idea of the inner rage, torment, and grief that drives him. Never in a million years would I have dreamt that Negan would have green fingers either! However, the glimpse of Negan simply living day-to-day in the Zombie apocalypse ultimately proves as moving as it does unsettling, especially when dark echoes from the past start creeping in to tarnish his new found freedom.

Charlie Adlard’s art in this issue magnificently captures the uncanny blend of ordinariness and the macabre that seems to permeate every scene. Negan’s life away from Rick and the other communities plays out amidst a series of seemingly unrelated events, the inks by Stefano Gaudian and gray tones by Cliff Rathburn stylishly accentuates the emotional beats of this issue, and the way an old love from Negan’s past returns – albeit briefly – hits home with chilling clarity as we realize exactly where the narrative is leading us.

The final confrontation in this issue between Negan and Maggie is one that I’m sure many will think has also been a long time coming. Love him or hate him, Negan’s impact on the Image Comics series (and indeed the TV series), has led to some of The Walking Dead’s most talked about storylines. He’s been a divisive character at times, his actions have been heinous, evil, and truly horrifying, and his ruthless glee in dealing out death with Lucille is probably only matched by the rapturous barrage of four letter words and twisted comments that constantly pepper his dialogue at every given opportunity.

Although the main storyline has had a few up’s and down’s since the Whisperer War, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard get things back on track with The Walking Dead #174’s great story of revenge, redemption, and closure to make it one of the best issues of TWD of the year. Where Negan’s character goes from here will be interesting to say the least. Whatever the future holds for Negan, one thing’s for sure, with the six-part New World Order story-arc beginning in January, big events are in store for The Walking Dead in 2018!

Publisher: Image

Writer: Robert Kirkman / Pencils & Cover: Charlie Adlard / Inks: Stefano Gaudiano

Gray Tone: Cliff Rathburn / Letterer: Rus Wooton / Cover Colors: Dave Stewart