A Look at The Walking Dead #174: “A Solitary Life”

Pretty sure Maggie didn’t expect that from Negan.

It’s interesting how much you can get out of an issue of The Walking Dead when you stick to a few characters.  Hell, Maggie and Dante don’t appear until a considerable amount of time has passed. Until then, this is all Negan’s story as we see him living, per the issue’s title, a solitary life.  No Saviors, no other survivors, just him, the occasional roamers, and him roughing it.

It’s a change of pace to just see Negan’s life when he’s on his own with no other companions besides Lucille.  Not even in bat form, but he’s still holding onto her memory, as if he can picture her without a thought.  That will become more important in a bit.  His dialogue is still fun to read, like when he says that vagina is probably the only word that can’t be twisted as another word that means ‘dick.’

Given how we’ve yet to see what Negan actually does outside of killing and ruling the Saviors, I like that we see him doing things like gardening.

It’s odd and seemingly out of place for a guy like Negan, but it’s nice to see him occupying his time in meaningful ways.  He acknowledges that there’s not much he can do to honor Lucille, but it’s enough to preserve her memory.

But with nobody around him and nothing but life ahead, all Negan has to look forward to is loneliness.  And it’s here that Kirkman digs deeper into Negan and picks his brain.  We experience his feelings as he speaks to Lucille.  He already regretted leaving her, but now he’s wishing that he died and she lived because he’s confident that she would have made smarter decisions.  More than that, she wouldn’t be alone.

So Negan’s left with two options: he can continue this life of solitude or he can return to his previous methods.  That opportunity presents itself when he decides that he wants to be young again.  A joyous occasion, no doubt.  So when he goes to grab the bat and finds some convenient barbed wire to create a new Lucille…sure, it’s not the best way to continue honoring his wife, but it’s enough in his mind.

And I wouldn’t call it a step backwards at this moment because he hadn’t abandoned Lucille- just put her aside for the moment.  The door always could be left open for Negan to bring Lucille out of retirement, even if he had no intention of using it to bash another human’s skull in.

Which is probably what Maggie expected him to do when she and Dante conveniently arrived just as he was wrapping Lucille in barbed wire.  A bit perfect timing there, but the last issue did establish that Maggie needed Dante for something, and now we know why.  So Maggie’s got all the motivation in the world for what she’s planning.  Regardless of how long it’s been, Negan is still the reason that Glenn is dead.

But it would be too easy and beneath this series to make the solution that simple. Maggie’s not going to just rush in, shoot Negan, and then flee with a feeling of accomplishment.  Plus, she realizes that it’s not going to be as simple as she wants it to be since Negan refuses to fight back.  This throws her for a loop, because you’d think a tough guy like Negan wouldn’t back down, even in the face of death.

Hell, remember one of Negan’s defining traits is that he gets off on people who resist his rule or try to take him down, like Rick.  So you’d think that when he’s staring down the wife of the man he killed, he would just taunt or egg on Maggie as a way to goad her into striking.  But this isn’t the same confident Negan from issue #100 who had no remorse when he based in Glenn’s skull.

This is something Maggie’s been wanting since the end of issue #100 and she finally has Negan cornered, but the fact that Negan doesn’t put up a fight stuns her.  Why doesn’t he gloat, taunt, or say something that would invite death?  You know, show defiance until the very end.

Not that this ruin’s Maggie’s entire day, but it does put a damper on what should have been a simple execution.  And it’s nice to see her react accordingly.  She thinks that Negan is just playing another game and trying to garner sympathy, even though he wouldn’t expect any from her.  But as Negan tells her, he’s had plenty of time to think about his actions, not to mention what he’s learned from Rick.

Negan knows that he deserves to die, not just for killing Glenn, but all the people he’s harmed.  Even though, as he remembers, some of the people who died while accompanying him were practically inviting death, he also knows what it’s like to lose someone close to you, as he can still picture his wife’s face and hear her voice as clear as day.

But so can Maggie, and therein lies the problem.  All Negan has are memories of Lucille, but Maggie’s last memory of Glenn is his bloody mess of a face as he was being beaten to death…by Negan, who is still alive and represents that final moment. Sure, there are other memories of Glenn as well, but her last image of him dying is seared into her brain and she receives a constant reminder of that with Negan still being alive.

It’d be poetic justice for Maggie to exact that same revenge on Negan by using the same instrument he used to terrorize others.  And it’s great how Maggie tells Negan that he reminds her of Glenn’s final moment, but also that she even considers using Lucille to beat Negan to death.  It would bring things full circle and Maggie probably wouldn’t have any guilt since Negan is practically asking her to do it.

So this puts her in an interesting predicament.  She’s got Negan right where she wants him.  He’s on his knees, just as Glenn was as he begged for his life before being beaten to death.  Negan is content here.  He’s not putting up a fight, but is offering Maggie to use the same weapon he used to be what kills him.  All Negan needs is a bow on his head to complete the perfect package.

Perhaps, in a way, she pities Negan.  She decides to leave him alone so he can keep on living with the consequences of what he’s done.  In a way, that’s somewhat crueler. Rather than be killed and put out of your misery, you keep on living with the knowledge that you’ve done something horrible that you can’t take back.  And it’s even worse knowing you were seconds away from death relieving you of that memory.

But no.  That would be giving Negan exactly what he wants.  And while Maggie may hate Negan to her core, may hate that he’s walking free, and that Rick chose to imprison rather than kill him, she won’t give into her hatred and allow Negan to have the last laugh.  Even with Negan sniveling and begging to get what he deserves, Maggie rises above her anger and decides that killing Negan isn’t worth it.

Then she kisses Dante…okay, I guess.

With Negan tossing Lucille into the fire and walking off with that content look on his face, it’s as if the Negan we’ve known since issue #100 is gone.  In his place is a new Negan.  Where will he go from here?  I have no idea, but I’m interested in following his journey as he heads down this new path.

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